With fewer than 300,000 inhabitants, Ljubljana is a very small capital by European standards, and virtually everything in the center is reachable by foot. The heart of the city is Ljubljana Castle, sitting about 240 feet above a crook in the Ljubljanica River. Most of the city radiates out to the west, north, and northwest of the castle; the oldest neighborhoods line both sides of the river. For most locals (and visitors), the action takes place at Stari Trg (Old Square) and Mestni Trg (City Square) on the eastern bank, just below the castle; Hapsburg-era neighborhoods, the parliament, and many university buildings lie on the western side, as does Prešernov Trg.
WHEN TO GO
Visit the riverside cafés and stroll among the wooded hills of the Slovenian capital in September, the least rainy month, when temperatures are still reliably warm. April and May are also agreeable, but tend to be soggier.
Summer isn't too hot, but the word's getting out on lovely Ljubljana, so crowds have started picking up in June, July, and August. Keep in mind, too, that this tiny capital of about 270,000 people owes most of its liveliness to the university population, so local life can go a bit dead in summer when the students have fled town.
HOW TO GET THERE
Brnik airport is 14 miles northwest of Ljubljana, with service from many European capitals (www.lju-airport.si). Flights from the United States often connect via Paris, Prague, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam, making Ljubljana a good option for a two- or three-city tour. Transfers from the airport to the city center run hourly on standard municipal buses (50 minutes) and slightly less frequently on faster shuttle buses (30 minutes). A taxi from the airport is the fastest option; expect to pay about 35 (around $55).
Ljubljana's modern train station lies just north of the city center on Trg Osvobodilne Fronte, less than a 15-minute walk down Miklošičeva Cesta to Prešernov Trg, the main square. Direct trains arrive daily from Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Zurich, and Thessaloniki, among others, as well as from around Slovenia.
The city's position in the very center of Slovenia means that you can't miss Ljubljana from any of the major roadways. Expect about a six-hour drive from Vienna or Salzburg, two to three hours from Trieste or Venice. Thanks to recent EU funding, Slovenian highways like the A2/E61 from Kranjska Gora and the A1/E57 from Maribor are some of the best in Western Europe.
The center of Ljubljana is compact and fairly easy to get around on foot; it's a 20-minute stroll from the train station to central Prešernov Square. Otherwise, a fleet of efficient, fairly priced taxis can get you anywhere in town. Or rent a bike from the Slovenian Tourist Information Center; the cost is 1 for up to two hours or 5 for the day (Krekov Trg 10; 386-1-306-4575; firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Slovenian Tourist Board publishes various information leaflets (www.slovenia-tourism.si). There are tourist information centers around the city (Stritarjeva ulica, 386-1-306-1215; Krekov trg 10, 386-1-306-4575; www.ljubljana-tourism.si).View Slovenia Factsheet