Ljubljana See And Do
1 Dolničarjeva Ulica
Tel: 386 1 231 0684
This is as close as Slovenia gets to St. Peter's. The vast Baroque wedding cake was built in the first years of the 1700s after the Turks destroyed Ljubljana's original cathedral. Inside there are eerily lifelike trompe l'oeil frescoes by Giulio Quaglio and graceful altar angels by the sculptor Francesco Robba from 1750. In fact, many of the most attractive features were added after the building was completed. Until 1841 the domed ceiling was another trompe l'oeil painting on a flat ceiling. The Italianate fresco there today was actually painted by Slovene artist Matevž Langus in 1844.
One of Plečnik's greatest designs is the colonnaded Central Market along Adamič-Lundrovo Nabrežje, just behind the cathedral. The stalls of the market fill the squares of Vodnikov Trg (mostly fruits and vegetables) and the adjacent Pogačarjev Trg (crafts and spices). A lot of the produce is imported from Spain and the Netherlands, but there is local stock, too. Some stalls sell nothing but salad leaves, great sacks of arugula, frisée, and oak-leaf lettuce. There are displays of honey and beeswax candles, dried mushrooms, hand-made farm implements, baskets, hand-knits and sheepskins (Mon.–Sat.). On Sundays, there's an eclectic flea market running south from the Triple Bridge along the Cankarjevo Nabrežje riverside walk, where there are lots of enticing café tables.
3 Pod Turnom
Tel: 386 1 241 3800
The sprawling hall in the middle of Tivoli Park is the home of the International Center of Graphic Arts (Mednarodni Grafični Likovni). The permanent collection of artistic prints and books includes works from the revolutionary '50s-era Cobra group (a Copenhagen-, Brussels-, and Amsterdam-based collective that took inspiration from primitive drawings as well as Joan Miró), vibrant 1960s counterculture broadsheets by New York City's William Copley, and contemporary Slovene artist Vladimir Makuc's modernist drawings of the country's rural landscape. The center also organizes the Ljubljana Biennale, a graphic arts festival that takes place in September and October of odd years.
Gallery open Wednesdays though Sundays 11 am to 6 pm; Prints and Books Room, Mondays through Fridays 9 am to 3 pm.
1 Grajska Planota
Tel: 386 1 232 9994
Though there's been some kind of a fortification on this site for more than 3,000 years, the existing castle is largely 16th- and 17th-century. There's not much to it these days, other than the grand old roomswhich host concerts, temporary exhibitions, and other eventsand the Virtual Museum, which tries to re-create Ljubljana's past with the help of computers and 3-D displays. But the vantage point from the stone castle is exceptional, and a drink at the outdoor castle café is the perfect way to recover after trekking up the tower's 150-step spiral staircase. Directly below you is a panoramic view that stretches from the snowcapped peaks of the distant Julian Alps down to the terra-cotta-tiled roofs and the lazy green Ljubljanica River. The castle is reached via a steep hike through woodland that's carpeted in springtime with wild orchids and violets, though late 2006 saw the opening of a modern funicular that zips you up the hillside in just over a minute.
Tel: 386 1 241 5434
Slovenia's national gallery is housed in a pair of 19th-century museums connected by a glass building. One of the old structures displays a collection of Slovenian paintings, mostly unsophisticated portraits of 19th-century dignitaries wearing fancy earrings, but there are some impressive landscapes and intriguing genre paintings hung here and there. The "modern" section is a Slovenian homage to—and poor imitation of—French Impressionism. The unexceptional Flemish scenes and still lifes of the European collection in the other edifice, spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century, is no more impressive, but it helps pass a rainy afternoon. For more modern Slovenian art, try the Moderna Galerija (14 Tomsiceva; 386-1-241-6800; www.mg-lj.si).
23 Celovška Cesta
Tel: 386 1 300 9610
This well-curated collection of photographs, artifacts, and amazing displaysincluding a life-size World War I soldiers' trenchilluminate Slovenian history and culture over the past 100 years. The variety of presentations is staggering, from exhibits on the communist-era economy and its ever-rising prices to video installations on the interwar period and the damage wrought by the struggle for independence. The building itself is also a significant draw: The stately Baroque mansion was built in the mid 18th century for a local count.
4 Karunova Ulica
Tel: 386 1 280 1600
The house and studio where architect Jože Plečnik lived and worked feels like the master just stepped out of the room: His glasses, bedclothes, blueprints, and designs are all exactly as he left them. Outstanding guides with excellent English from the university's department of architecture explain Plečnik's numerous quirks. (He took alternately scalding and frigid showers, smoked scores of cigarettes each day, and designed the entrance hall to be the coldest room in the house in order to scare away unwanted visitors.) This all helps bring to life the man who built modern Ljubljana. Because of the small rooms and delicate materials only seven people are allowed in at a time, so arrive early or phone ahead for reservations.
Open Mondays through Saturdays.
Prešernova Cesta at Cankarjeva Cesta
This splendid church was built in 1936 at the edge of Tivoli Park. The bright, creamy yellow exterior is compact and Eastern-influenced. The dark interior is heady with incense, and every inch of the walls is slathered with frescoes in the bright primaries of the iconic Byzantine era.
Formerly the recreational grounds of Tivolski Grad—a 17th-century stately home that is now the International Center of Graphic Arts—Tivoli Park has a zoo as well as acres of formal landscaping, bisected by a grand Plečnik promenade. Better still, there are paths that climb the densely wooded hills protecting the western edge of the city, and the air is fragrant with pine. It may only be 15 minutes' walk from the center of this capital city, but it feels a world away.