Slovenia came next on our itinerary after Croatia and was particularly exciting for the simple fact that we’d never been there before. It did not disappoint. We spent a few days each in the capital Ljubljana, the seaside town of Piran, and the famously beautiful Bled, ducking into Italy to see Trieste in between the last two.
Everyone I knew that had been to Ljubljana said it was lovely but one or two days would be enough. It probably is if you just want to whip around the main sights, but we were enjoying our accommodation so much we could easily have spent more than the 3 nights that we did. I really do find that your accommodation plays a big part in your enjoyment of a particular place. Our accommodation in Ljubljana was our second airbnb venture and we were once again delighted. We stayed with a lovely person called Katja who has a beautiful flat walking distance from the train station and the centre of the old town and it was just nice hanging out and chatting about life. We did get around to some sightseeing as well though – nice things to do in Ljubljana are:
- Wander around the old town, near the river. Particularly explore the cobbled backstreets which are almost pedestrian-only (i.e. watch out for bikes!).
- Hike up to the castle (or take the funicular if you’ve run out of energy). You can get a pretty good view of the city but for the best view it will cost €6 to climb the castle’s tower. That ticket also gives you entry to a short film about the castle’s history and an exhibition about Slovenian history. If you don’t want to spend any money you can still wander around the rest of the castle complex which includes a few free art exhibitions.
- Visit Metelkova, particularly during the day so you can take some good photos of the cool street art and sculptures.
- Check out the Ethnographic Museum. This was recommended to us by a guy we met on the train from Zagreb to Ljubljana and it really is excellent – we spent several hours there and still didn’t see everything. (If you’re limited on time start on the top floor and skip the middle floor.)
- Good places to eat: Julija’s is in a picturesque street and serves authentic Slovenian cuisine (some of the best goulash I’ve ever eaten – also try the zlikrofi). Svetilnik does huge, delicious pizzas – one between two is plenty.
It’s well worth the effort to visit the incredible Skocjan Caves on the way from Ljubljana to Piran!
Piran is a popular summer holiday destination for Slovenians and Italians but apart from that it’s not particularly touristy. It’s a beautiful seaside town on a finger of land that extends into the Adriatic. It’s just nice to wander the narrow, pedestrian-only streets lined with warm-coloured houses covered in wooden shutters, to stroll along the seaside promenade at dusk, or to climb the hill that leads up to the Church of Saint George at night.
We stayed at Miracolo di Mare, a B&B which was out of our normally very tight accommodation budget for this trip but there weren’t any cheaper alternatives available at the time. It turned out to be well worth it though for the friendly staff, excellent breakfast and perfect location. When we weren’t wandering around town we grabbed a spot on the concrete near the water’s edge and alternated between sunbathing and swimming in what is a contender for the best water we’ve swum in… ever. Super clear and full of fish and other interesting things to look at, plus you can swim out quite far and get some decent laps in.
If while in Piran you get tired of Italian-esque food you can get some cheap and filling Bosnian eats from Sarajevo 84.
Normally you can get to Trieste from Piran by taking a bus to Koper and then a second bus to Trieste. But not on Sundays. Which is when we were trying to get there. We ended up with no choice but to take a taxi which we haggled down to €30 (the final price was €38 on the meter so we did pretty well). We later discovered that we could have gone by boat for only €7… ah well!
At first Trieste was a little disappointing after Piran, but it had grown on us by the end of our 2 night stay. Also, we found that a lot of the eateries are a cut above your standard Italian food. We had some excellent salads at a cafe near Piazza della Borsa (possibly the end of Via San Carlo) but unfortunately I can’t remember its name, which isn’t very helpful. Another place which I do remember the name of is Super Bar Stella, who serve generous toasted piadini and focaccie, but equally unhelpfully I can’t seem to find their address. Okay, but I can give you the website of a great place for dinner: it’s called Un Bacio Sul Canale (“a kiss on the canal”). They served us complimentary sparkling drinks (possibly Prosecco) to start as well as digestifs to finish, their menu was quite unique, and the food delicious (especially the homemade melon semifreddo ahh!).
A nice thing to do in Trieste is to go for a ride on the Opicina Tramway, a unique combination of tram and funicular railway. (A similar experience to riding the #28 tram in Lisbon – but this one is even steeper!) Get off at the stop Obelisk (indicated by the big obelisk right near the stop – if you miss it you can easily get off at the less interesting Opicina terminus and walk back) for a great view of Trieste. If you have time and it’s not overbearingly hot (like it was when we were there), there are some lovely walking and cycling paths starting from Obelisk – one of them will take you to Prosecco in about an hour. If you want to ride, you can hitch your bike to the front of the tram and it will carry it up to the start of the trails with you.
There’s a long “beach” (concreate shelf next to the sea) a short bus ride from the centre of Trieste called Barcola but the water is quite rough and rocky. The same bus (#36) will also take you to Miramare Castle.
As far as Bled is concerned, this says it all!
It surpassed all my (actually rather high after so many recommendations from friends) expectations. It is such a beautiful place, and there is so much to do there and in the surrounding area. For a perfect summer’s day in Bled I highly recommend hiring bikes and riding up to Vintgar Gorge. Walk along the trail and back then ride back down into Bled and head for the lake. Ride around to the rowing club (Veslaški Klub Bled) and grab a spot on the grass to spend the afternoon. Whenever you need to cool off jump from the wooden decks into the clean, clear, fresh water. You could even try swimming out to Bled Island. Have a traditional Slovenian meal for dinner at Gostilna Murka then walk up to Bled Castle after 8pm when you can wander in for free and admire Bled’s twinkling evening lights.