Congratulations! You’ve made it to our city in the middle of Europe, but with the worst public transport connections with other parts of civilization. I guess you really wanted to visit Ljubljana and that means a lot to us. There are countless possible explanations for why we became this black spot on the map of European transport network. Just for fun let’s say, that this is the only way, how we could keep our utopian tiny bubble of happiness to ourselves…
We also tried to keep you away with our unpronounceable name, which is the biggest nightmare for any non-Slavic speaker. Forcing foreigners to pronounce it in the right way is for sure one of the best methods of torture. We usually feel sorry, when you lose your mind (and your will to live) after countless failed attempts. That’s when we tell you, that the name of Ljubljana derives from the word “ljubljena” (beloved in Slovene), which couldn’t be further from the truth, but at least it makes you happy.
If you’re successful at conquering the barriers and you become one of the chosen ones, you will be rewarded in the best possible way. Ljubljana will accept your persistence and will provide you, as a sign of gratitude, with some of the most memorable moments of your life. So, without any further ado, let’s see what Ljubljana has prepared for us this weekend.
Day 1: 09:00 – 14:00
First, you will need a bike, since it’s the best and quickest way of getting around. I’m not gonna lie to you, your bike ride will sometimes be more like a rodeo than a smooth city ride, but I guess that’s just a part of the bigger Ljubljana experience. You can rent a bike for a week at the Library of Things. Although the library is not opened on Friday, you can just send an email in advance and the librarian (yours truly spotter Jošt) will take care of it.
Now let’s get some breakfast! Paninoteka+ is the perfect spot to start your Friday. They make some of the best sandwiches in town and you can also enjoy the beautiful view at the castle and Ljubljanica river. Oh, don’t forget to drink some coffee. It is obligatory in Ljubljana to drink at least 3 coffees a day. Once we’ve fed our bodies it’s time to feed our soul, that’s why we’ll stop at graffiti and street art gallery, Universal Atelier of Street Art or at Institute for Contemporary Art Aksioma.
Day 1: 14:00 – 19:00
Now we will take our bike for a ride to the outskirts of the city. But first, let’s check the western part of the city centre, where we can find some fine examples of 20th century architecture, such as Glavna zadružna zveza from the 1950s or Nebotičnik and Mali nebotičnik from the 1930s. This way you will bring back home more than just postcard pretty photos of the castle and the Old Town. Now that we’ve seen all this beautiful architecture, we will make a quick stop at the nearest shop and buy some cans of tomatoes, shampoos and few chocolates.
At the south-western edge of Ljubljana, we will find Humanitarian Centre of the Red Cross, where a young group of volunteers organizes special event Izmenjevalnica every third Friday of a month. At Izmenjevalnica you can swap your donations (food and hygiene products) for vintage clothes or some other items, that were donated to the Red Cross, but weren’t chosen by the recipients of social aid. The main goal is to reduce waste of clothes and transform them into essential donation.
Is all this cycling around the city making you hungry? Lucky for you, we’re heading back to the centre to Odprta kuhna, food market that occupies half of the Central market and takes place every Friday and it hosts basically half of Ljubljana population. Over there, you can find stands from different restaurants, serving Slovenian, Russian, Turkish, Asian, raw food and others. You can also order a glass of wine to start your Friday evening.
Day 1: 19:00 – ???
For one the most romantic moments of our 48 hours in Ljubljana, we will climb 115 steps of Reber and enjoy the sunset from the top. I know, it’s adorable. And after all of the “oh-s” and “ah-s” we will scroll down to local’s favourite hangout Prulček, where we’ll grab a beer or two and maybe catch some concert.
At one point, there will be the time for the most important decision of the night. Old military barracks or abandoned bicycle factory? Oh wait, we can do both! Metelkova and Rog are two important centres of alternative culture. You can choose between different socio-cultural events or just decide for some 70’s funk club night, it’s up to you. In every case, you will find a lot of interesting people, who will be more than willing to help you spread your horizon. Also, pay attention to the explosion of art installations at both spots.
Before you go to sleep, we will just make a quick stop at Burek Olimpija where you can grab the best burek in town.
Day 2: 09:00 – 14:00
For breakfast we will stop at the Central market and buy some fresh local products, some seasonal fruits, strudel or maybe some cheese at Gligora cheese shop. Around the corner from the market we will find Pritličje and order our morning dose of coffee. While we’re there, we can also check comic book shop Striparna and Abandoned plants sanctuary in the first room of Pritličje. After the coffee, we can check the Saturday Art market and say hi to Ljubljana spotter Mankica.
It would be difficult to think about Ljubljana without at least few traces of Yugonostalgia. On our search for nostalgic memories we will bypass different museums. Instead of that, we will head to two thrift shops and a candy shop. Stara roba – nova raba is a thrift shop funded by the Kings of Street, non-governmental self-help and support organization for the homeless. They get used items for free and sell them at symbolic prices. Collected money goes to the homeless. The second thrift shop Center ponovne uporabe was funded by public waste disposal company and it promotes reuse of all possible items. In both thrift shops you can find some treasures of Yugoslavian industrial design. The last stop of our yugonostalgic tour is Kraš shop, where you can buy some chocolates and candies from Croatian factory Kraš. If you wanna be as nostalgic as possible, you will buy some 505 s crtom candies.
Day 2: 14:00 – 19:00
We will spend the afternoon in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, Šiška (the neighbourhood where I’ve been living for the last year). On our way through Šiška we will pay attention to wonderful exterior of Kreativna cona Šiška (also, feel free to check their program). Next, we will check some street art of graffiti crew 1107 (1107 is the old postal number of Šiška) at the pedestrian underpass and smile back at Tina.
Both locations are near Kino Šiška, an old cinema, transformed into centre of urban culture, where we can have some beer and maybe a toast, if you’re getting hungry. You can check their schedule for some interesting events or exhibitions. Don’t forget to pee, while we’re here, since the toilet is also a special exhibition. Kino Šiška is also a part of Gallery quarter Šiška, that connects different smaller galleries in the neighbourhood.
Did you know, that Ljubljana has a special ring? The green ring POT, which is also known as Pot spominov in tovarištva (Path of Remembrance and Comradeship), is a World War memorial. It’s a 33 km long path around Ljubljana that marks the line of barbed wire fence. The fence was supposed to destroy the resistance of Ljubljana during occupation. My favourite part of the path connects Šiška with Vič. We will cross the part that goes through post-war modernist housing estates and this way we will reach Koseski bajer pond, where we can just chill for a while on the wooden dock.
On our way, back to the centre, we will stop at hotel Bellevue, which was once an important social and cultural spot for the locals. You can see, that it’s slowly decaying, and I find this sadness hauntingly beautiful. It’s also a perfect spot for an alternate panorama of the city.
Day 2: 19:00 – ???
But enough of melancholia, let’s eat! When I spent my semester in Prague, I had a flatmate with Lebanese origin and she was cooking for us all the time. Since then, Lebanese cuisine is one of my top choices and that’s why I’m taking you to Libanonske meze
Now you can choose. We can head to Ziferblat, where the only thing you pay for, is the time you spend there. You can make yourself some coffee or tea, play some board games, read a book or maybe run into some event (move night, poetry reading etc.). Our other option is to check the program of Stara Elektrarna, the old power plant, that is now home to different performative arts, such as modern dance.
For the last few drinks, we will return to Trubarjeva street and spend some time at two legendary establishments. First, we will stop at the very end of the street and order a beer at Galerija Bar Trenutek. Try to embrace as much of its atmosphere as possible and don’t worry, that you will reveal yourself as a newbie. The regulars will already know and maybe they will even share some stories with you, if you’ll be pleasant enough.
We will finish our 48 hours in Ljubljana on the other side of Trubarjeva street in Respect. This place used to be a Chinese restaurant (as it is still visible from the interior), but it’s now every smoker’s favourite place, as it’s one of the only places, where you can enjoy your cigarette inside. I’ve spent countless nights over here, those that usually start as “just one beer and then I’m going home”. Because Respect is not just a bar, it’s an institution. For you, it will also be your final exam. I will buy you few shots of rakija and afterwards you will have to pronounce the name of our city. If you will still be able to flawlessly say Ljubljana, you will be rewarded with permanent membership. Otherwise, we will send you back home with our slow Slovenian trains.