What makes Ljubljana such an amazing city, to visit or live in? Many visitors of Ljubljana spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the architectural buildings, beautiful bridges, castles, crowded restaurants with nice views and the great museums that this city of Slovenia has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists.
According to our Spotters: the charm of the small city with its green areas and bike-friendly streets; it’s that Ljubljana still has some hidden areas that remain untouched by tourists just waiting to be discovered; it’s the kindness of the locals and their willingness to help. Here are some of our picks for some of the most unique, locals gems in Ljubljana, in the words of our very own team of Spotters.
Old mixed with modern
Stara Elektrarna is an old power station, that nowadays is a technical monument! It was built about one hundred years ago and remained active until after WWII. In the 80’s and 90’s the building was discovered by artists, and ever since then, it has been housing all sorts of arts-related activities.
If you walk through the gorgeous entrance hall, which doubles as a museum, you will find a large stage in the main hall. The shows hosted here are very varied, anything from modern dance to theatre to lectures.
Here you can still see part of a big chimney, turbine and some measuring tools that were used in the power plant.
Good old fashioned fun
Dobra Poteza is the first board game café in Slovenia. The place opened up in 2017 in Ljubljana, and the concept is (you guessed it) playing board games! They have 350 games to choose from, you only have to pay 2 euros per person and then play any game you want.
They serve great coffee, only fair trade or direct trade coffee and they have nice sandwiches and cakes for when you get hungry from playing all those board games.
Dobra Potexa has a great beer menu, offering over 60 different types of beer! The majority is in bottles, but their tap beer offer is very interesting as well, as they have mostly craft beers from Pelicon brewery, like their Out of China, 3rd Pill or Yess, boss!
Save the plants!
The Abandoned Plants Sanctuary started off as an art project and turned into a great and very cute initiative. The sanctuary is volunteer-based, and the volunteers rescue dying flower-pot plants from the streets of Ljubljana before its too late! They usually find these plants next to dumpsters of flower shops and malls because the plants are no longer attractive to customers (not pretty enough).
They also take in plants of which the owner doesn’t have the time or means to take care of it anymore. They nurture the plants back to health and then pass them on. If you want to adopt a plant you have to sign an adoption agreement, in which you promise to take proper care of the lovely new plant. The idea behind the project is to realize that plants are living creatures, and therefore shouldn’t be treated as objects!
Swap till you drop
“Have you ever thought about buying a second-hand shirt with a few cans of vegetables or shampoo?”. In Ljubljana you can!
Izmenjevalnica (“swap shop”) is a project realized by a group of creative volunteers. It is hosted every third Friday of the month at the Red Cross. Here you can donate imperishable food items or hygienic products, for each item you bring you get a coupon. With the coupons, you can get some nice clothes!
This way you are getting rewarded for helping others in need. Check their Facebook page for the exact dates.
Hidden music bar
Prulček Bar is hidden away between high blocks of Prule, but could not stay unnoticed due to their amazing music program. On Mondays you find great classical and acoustic music, on Wednesdays they have jazz jam sessions and on Thursdays they have blues and rock music. And on the weekend you can find exhibitions, art fairs, bazaars and different types of music at this bar.
Next to their great music they also have a large assortment of beers for good prices. During the day you can also stop by for a nice cup of coffee in their garden.
Although the bar often gets very crowded, the dedicated and heartwarming staff take care you get what you want when you want it and this makes you come again and again.
When walking along Truberjeva cesta in Ljubljana make sure to look up every once in a while for a fun surprise. Here you can find multiple wires spanned across the street, filled with shoes dangling from them. Of course, this is quite a strange sight, luckily our Spotter did some investigating for us.
So it turns out that a shoemaker on this street started the tradition, she hung up her shoes and then her shop started doing better! Then a lawyer gave it a try, and got his first job the next day! And the tradition continued from there on, worth a try!
Our Spotter once hung a pair of his worn-out sneakers and left barefoot. “For the time being nothing has changed yet, but you never know…”
An alternative culture oasis
Klub Gromka is the alternative heart of Ljubljana. The collectives and organizers working there present culture on a wider scale – their events include everything from poetry, art, theatre, music … an alternative “mumbo jumbo” that will help you ascend into becoming a true Gromka “follower”.
And if this alone won’t persuade you, walk yourself to Gromkas bar and order “psychotherapy” – a cocktail that always helps our Spotter Tina relax and get into that groovy vibe.
Street artists united
Ljubljana sports some great pieces of street art, many of them made by Slovenian artists leaving their mark on urban spaces. 1107 klan from Šiška quarter is a group of street artists that stand out from the crowd. They have been very active in the graffiti/street art scene in the last few years and keep on improving their work.
You can find their works at Metelkova, Roga and their tags are spread throughout the city center. One of their biggest, and most impressive, works can be found at the pedestrian underpass in Šiška, their local ground. They often overpaint their old works, keeping the observers on their tippy toes waiting for a new piece.
If you are a graffiti and street art lover this place full of colorful murals, which changes all the time, is definitely worth seeing and taking a walk through this underpass under the Celovška street is a must.
Let your inner scientist loose
In the core of Ljubljana, you can find Hiša eksperimentov (“House of experiments”). This place is based on one rule: do it yourself. It promotes science and learning through actively doing it yourself, experimenting. Experiments are done and everyone can participate, hands-on!
They cover many subjects from biology to mathematics to computer sciences. Every year in the last week of May they also organize a festival of science, Sciencetival.
Being surrounded by young, older, young at heart people gave off strength, confidence and showed me that science can be much fun when discovered and experienced by your own hands and mind.
St. Michael’s Church – A Plečnik marvel
In Ljubljana’s marshlands, away from the tourists on the road to Črna vas, you’ll find St. Michael’s Church designed by none other than Jože Plečnik. According to our Spotter Kevin this is one the renowned architect’s most original creations (built between 1937-1940). It’s definitely the quirkiest Catholic church in Ljubljana.
The whole realization of this project had its limitations due to a tight budget. Some of the local farmers even donated wood to complete the structure. It didn’t hamper Plečnik’s creative ingenuity!
An bench in the sun overlooked by tourists
There’s much more on the centrally located hill in the city of vines and wines than touristy Ljubljana castle. The castle vineyard (Grajski Vinograd) is one of our Spotter Kevin’s favorite spots to chill out and do some reading in the sun.
Chances are that the gates of the vineyard will be closed when you stop by. The Agricultural Institute of Slovenia maintains these vines and rarely leaves the gates unlocked. But, the bench near the gate is excellent and free for all to use. It provides a bird’s-eye view of suburban Ljubljana.
Mirrors with a story
Artist Danilo Milovanović creates interventions that are sometimes so subtle, so in-place, that they might remain overlooked. Yet they are incredibly strong.
He installed 3 mirrors at the Bleiweis Underpass where lots of traffic accidents occurred. But the mirrors you see there today were installed by the city. They took Danilo’s mirrors off to put up their own.
Only these weren’t JUST mirrors. They destroyed an art piece. Their answer was that Danilo didn’t get the permission and the mirrors weren’t appropriate…