“Some are calling it the best kept secret of Europe, others a hidden pearl of Europe, but I call it HOME.”
Few years ago nobody knew what Slovenia is let alone the location of the country. It was more known for the country that you pass by if you are visiting Croatian coastline or Venetian Grand Canal. Nobody paid attention to the country that is located between Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary. But lately things have changed. Before I started witting this, I read some articles about Slovenia and I was smiling. All of the sudden this unknown country is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe and everybody speak about it with a big amount of admiration and that makes me proud.
From the rising peaks of the Julian Alps and the hidden magic of Postojna and Škocjan Caves, to emerald rivers and lakes and short but charming coast, Slovenia has it all. I’m well-traveled and I can honestly say that Slovenia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, especially because of incredible mix of climates and the fact that more than half of its total surface is covered in forests. Ohh, and I forgot to mention it is known as one of the greenest countries in the world, which even Chronicles of Narnia took advantage of.
During my short stay back home I did a Slovenia tour just to prepare a Slovenia Travel Guide for you, as I got so many requests. I visited Maribor, Ljubljana, Otočec and Bled, but unfortunately there was no time to visit coast. So for those who has never been in Slovenia, let me introduce my home and take you to my favorite spots around there.
But first some travel facts
SAFETY: Slovenia has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and trust me, it is the safest country I’ve traveled to. But I would advise the same as for any other country, try not to look like a typical tourist and be cautious.
WEATHER: Slovenia has 4 seasons and it is perfect for travelers each month through the year. My favorite time is in spring, when you can already enjoy warm weather and blooms but can still visit mountains and experience a day at ski slopes.
PRICE OF FOOD: For a meal you will pay around 7-10 Euros, but meals are half cheaper if you eat in lunch hours (from 11.00-14.00, depends on a restaurant).
TIPS: It is not obligated but it is welcomed.
USEFUL TIPS: If you rent a car and you drive on motorways than you must buy and display a ‘vignette’.
Of course I will start with Maribor, as it is my hometown. It is a very small city with only 96.000 inhabitants, but it has had a big impact on me and who I am today. I would say that there is only one month of the year when you shouldn’t visit Maribor, and that is November, when it is cold and grimly. Any other month is perfect and there is always something to do, from world-class skiing in winter (Pohorje hill), Carnival time in spring (Kurent Carnival, known for outlandish mythological figures), to summer where we host festival Lent, one of the biggest festivals in Slovenia, full of musicians, traditional folklore dance groups and street performers. And not to forget autumn, when surrounding vineyards reveal their harvest. Did I mention that we are a vine region? Our big pride is the oldest vine in the world (according to Guinness World Records), which has been producing grapes for 450 years.
My favorite place in Maribor is Castle Square (Grajski trg), square where I usually get together with my girlfriends for a lunch or a glass of wine, but for you travellers, the most prominent site I would say is Maribor Castle, from 15th– century, transformed to Maribor Regional Museum and the Main square (Glavni trg), that is located close to the River Drava and Lent and where you can find ornate Plague Pillar (Kužno znamenje), that was made to remember a plague that killed a third of the population in 1680–81. The main square is also the place of Town Hall, a white and gray building from 16th century and just a few minutes’ walk away you can find Colorful Vodnikov Square that holds open air market.
WHERE TO STAY: If you prefer a hotel with a view, I recommend you to book Hotel City, that has a roof terrace overlooking the river Drava and it is only few minutes’ walk to the city center. As well it is known for one of the city’s best a la carte restaurant, called Restavracija Terasa.
WHERE TO GET A COFFEE AND EAT: As I have already mentioned, I love spending time in Main Square and Castle Square where are plenty of restaurants, tea, coffee and ice cream shops for every mood. But if you prefer a glass of wine with a great view of Maribor, go to LUFTARCA.
For lunch I would recommend one of my favorite restaurants, that is actually a small family restaurant, called Villa Rustica. It is located at the edge of city center under the slopes of Pohorje. But what makes it special is the fact that it was built on the archaeological site of Roman remains from 3 centuries ago. Try filled calamari with homemade gnocchi.
But what I would really advise you to try is one of the best ice creams in town, which is in ILICH Caffee. (Address: Slovenska ulica 6, 2000 Maribor)
GETTING THERE: We have our own little airport but is being revamped, so the best option is to fly to Graz Airport (Austria), which is 45 minutes’ drive away or Zagreb Airport (Croatia), that is an hour and a half drive away. Just have in mind that flights to Zagreb are less expensive.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Maribor is a small city so there is no subway. In fact Slovenia doesn’t have a subway overall. But the bus lines are pretty connected, so I would recommend you explore a city by bus. If you are staying longer in Slovenia and you plan to visit more cities, then renting a car would be the best option, since the railway connections are very slow.
WHERE TO SHOP: Close to the city center there is a big mall called EUROPARK that holds stores like Zara, H&M, Boss, Transport, Lisca, Bershka, Mass and many more. But if you want to go brand shopping I would advise you to drive one hour away to Ljubljana. (Adress: Pobreška ulica 18, 2000 Maribor)
One of the smallest European capitals is our big capital. Over the years, Ljubljana has truly evolved into a metropolitan city with lively spirit, yet kept the reputation of the elegant and historic town. It may be squeezed, but it boasts countless architectural styles, a charming Old Town and a youthful population gives the energy of a much bigger city. While seminal Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik shaped the core of how the city looks, Ljubljana has also been heavily influenced by the Hungarians, Austrians and Italians.
For me, one of the most charming and lively spots represents Triple Bridge, that connects the Ljubljana’s historical town to the modern city of Ljubljana. It is one of the most frequently crossed bridges in Ljubljana, as there are lot of tourists, street performers and locals crossing the city for work. If you are visiting old Town, Main Square and the Market, Triple Bridge is a perfect place to stop and feel the city. As well the famous Prešeren square with the statue of Slovenian greatest poet France Prešeren, is right next to it.
WHERE TO STAY: I love to stay in hotels that are in the city center but have peaceful surroundings. If you look that characteristics in your stay than Hotel Lev is perfect for you. Plus it has one of the best views in the town and it is very close to all the main attractions. Read more about my stay here…
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK: I love going for a coffee at Ljubljana’s Castle, a mighty medieval fortress and a symbol of the Slovenian capital. You can walk up the hill to the castle, which will take you about 5-10min. Entrance to the Castle Courtyard, Chapel, Wall and Gift shop is free, but there is a charge for access to the tower, that has a magnificent view all over the city.
WHERE TO SHOP: The main shopping streets in the city centre are Mestni and Stari Trg at the base of Castle Hill, Trubarjeva, Wolfova Ulica and Miklošičeva on the opposite bank. As well there are stores in the grid of streets between Slovenska Cesta and the river.
But if you would like to go to one place where all the stores are, head to BTC CITY, that has one enormous mall plus plenty of warehouse outlets stores.
Even if you are struggling with time or just passing by, make a quick stop at Ljubljana, since the castle, Roman ruins and old part of the town usually take just few hours to visit. If you are planning to visit more places in Slovenia, Ljubljana is the best position, as it is idyllically located in the middle of everything. Just an hour away from the coast, half an hour to Bled and 40 minutes to Postojnska cave.
If you have already booked your trip to Slovenia, there is no need to represent Lake Bled, since it is one of the most visited attractions, next to Postojnska Cave. But for those, who never heard of it, let me impress you and convince you to put it on your travel wish list. There is no need for words as picture is worth so much more.
Are you already convinced? The church on the island and castle at the top of the hill with surrounding forests and town really gives the place a kind of magical beauty. Nature in all of its grace.
Distance to capital: 30 minutes drive
WHERE TO STAY:
For those who would like to spice up the daily trip to Bled with forest fairytale I recommend Hotel Vila Triglav. I stayed there in February and I have to say it has been one of the most romantic stays in Slovenia by far. Do you want to know why? Read more about here…
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK:
If you prefer something really close, that I recommend VILA PREŠEREN, but for those who are willing to spend few extra bucks for a lunch with the best view then RESTAURANT 1906 at HOTEL TRIGLAV is the right place for you. But no matter where, when in Bled you have to try traditional dessert called “Blejska Rezina”.
After few days of touring around, I needed a peaceful place, where I could completely relax and take a fresh breath outside the city. It has been years since my last visit of Dolenjska region and that is why I decided to visit Otočec. There are not plenty of attractions around here, but there is one worth visiting this place and that is Grad Otočec- the pearl of Dolenjska region.
Distance from the capital: 40-50 minutes drive
WHERE TO STAY:
You won’t believe me, but my actual stay was in a medieval castle turned into a luxury hotel. Castle Otočec Hotelwas one of the most memorable stays in all of my travels over the years. Read more about it here…
WHERE TO SHOP AND EAT: There is actually one small shopping mall called Qlandia 5 minutes’ drive from the castle. You will find plenty of restaurants and stores there, but if you want to do some serious shopping, then I would advise you again to go to Ljubljana. (Address: Otoška cesta 5, 8000 Novo mesto).
I hope my favorite spots and tips will help you plan your next vacations in Slovenia. If you have any question feel free to comment in comment section or connect with me through Instagram.
Connect with me on Instagram: @takeoffwithlove