Slovenia: A Hidden Gem

Slovenia: A Hidden Gem

We took the Flixbus from Zagreb to Ljubljana. It was fast (2 hours!), cheap (€18 for the two of us!), and had wifi! In all honesty, we had no idea what to expect from this town. We had no idea how to pronounce the name (it’s lee-yoob-lee-yanna) and we had not really heard much about Slovenia. I think this is probably the best way to be introduced to a place because you have no expectations. We loved it!

We got in early afternoon and checked into our Airbnb in the old city. Our host told us there was some food festival going on near where the farmers’ market is held. She said it was “tonight only, all the best restaurants in town”. We weren’t entirely sure what was happening, but decided we’d go there for dinner. Boy were we in for a treat.

Essentially, all the best restaurants in town each got a stall at this street festival where they could provide whatever they wanted. Beer and wine were flowing (no open container laws, no carding), and there were tons of locals hanging out having a good time on a Friday. It was awesome.

Street festival!
Yummy local craft beer


Enjoying a dosa from a local Indian spot
Hangin’ with the locals
Burgers being made
Yummy burger

We saw a place was serving tacos. Being from Southern California, we were a bit skeptical about the quality, but also intrigued. The owner of the place (Pop’s Place!) starting talking to us and it turns out he’s from Newport Beach (right near where Shawn grew up). They don’t normally serve tacos (they’re a burger joint), but they wanted to give Slovenians a chance to experience something new. Still the skeptics, we ordered two carnitas tacos. We really weren’t let down. I mean, they weren’t the best tacos I’ve had, but they were still pretty delicious – the flavor was right and they were served properly with cilantro and onion. Plus they were real corn tortillas. We had a nice time chatting with the owner and learning a little about Ljubljana before moving on. We told him we’d swing by the shop for a burger later on.

Tacos being made
Tacos! For real, legit tacos! <3

In an effort to scarf all the most delicious food in town, we decided to try a Zimbabwean place. We really didn’t need to eat this food, but it looked delicious and there was a huge crowd there all night, so we said fuck it and tried it out. It was pretty tasty.

Zimbabwean food! (Some sort of chicken and rice dish)

With our bellies way too full, we called it a night and slept really hard. The next day, we had a leisurely morning at our apartment before venturing out. We walked through the farmers market and there were so many delicious fresh vegetables that we picked up salad supplies for our dinner.

Stocking up at the local farmers’ market

We then headed up to Ljubljana castle. Nestled on a hill right over the old city, the castle is surrounded by gardens, forest, and a few walking paths. We enjoyed strolling up there because the weather was so beautiful and sunny. Spring has definitely sprung in Europe and we are loving it! We had heard from our friends that you didn’t have to pay for the castle to go into the grounds, so we walked in and relaxed in the square where there were a few cafes and restaurants and a bunch of locals enjoying the sunshine with friends.

Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle statue – in the square
View from the castle
Two happy people at the castle
Views from the castle grounds
Wandering around Ljubljana Castle

After walking around the hilltop for awhile, we headed back down to town to explore more of the town. The old city is pedestrian only, and it turns out, Ljubljana was awarded the “Greenest City in Europe” for 2016, so lots of bicycles. We had the most beautiful weather and the locals were out in force to enjoy it, too. Everyone was out having drinks at cafes and eating ice cream, strolling around with their dogs or children. It was great to see and made us fall even harder for this town.

Lovely Saturday afternoon in Ljubljana
Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL Ljubljana!!!
So in love with this gorgeous city!
The Dragon Bridge of Ljubljana
Shawn enjoys some local gelato

That evening we had a lovely salad dinner and then my phone died – like brick-dead. Normally, this might be a bit fun to detox from my phone for awhile, but I am our primary navigator (I love me some maps!), my phone is my camera, and it’s also my connection to my friends and family back home. (Side note: the next day Shawn called Google and got them to send me a new phone – though I won’t be able to get it until we see my friend Stephanie in Ireland.)

The next day, we got up early (damn you spring forward!) and caught the bus to Lake Bled. Lake Bled is a lake in Slovenia near the Austrian border. The lake has an island in the middle of it that has a church on it. You can take boats out to the island to visit. There is definitely some Bavarian influence here with architecture and food, and there is a castle on the hill looking over the area.

Despite excellent weather the previous day, this day was cold and gray. We got to Lake Bled (about 80 min bus ride) and we were so cold that we popped into a cafe for a cup of tea in hopes that it would warm up. After about 30 minutes, we decided to start wandering. We had intended to make a picnic sandwich (we had salami left over from the previous day), but needed to find a bread shop. There were tons in Ljubljana, but we had no luck in Bled, so after freezing our butts off for what seemed like way too long, we went a local restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, we decided we were going to walk around the lake to warm up. We started walking and realized we only had an hour until the next bus left, otherwise we’d have to wait two hours past that for the following one. We didn’t think we had three hours left in us with the cold weather and not really wanting to ride the boat out to the island, so we booked it and walked around the lake. We made it back to the bus stop with about 5 minutes to spare.

Lake Bled Castle
Walking around Lake Bled
Island Church on Lake Bled

Overall, I think we would have enjoyed Lake Bled more if we weren’t so reliant on the bus schedule, but also if the weather were better. We thought we might do some hiking in the area, but it was so cold and we hadn’t brought extra layers due to the previous day’s weather. It was a beautiful place, and going there only made me want to explore Slovenia more. We found out there is a national park right near there that apparently has really good hiking. We’ll have to wait until next time.

That evening, we went for a local dinner and strolled around beautiful Ljubljana again. We were both blown away by this place and would love to go back to Slovenia. If you’re traveling to Croatia, or any country nearby, we highly recommend visiting Slovenia, too!

Ljubljana at night

The next morning (okay it was noon), we grabbed some burgers at Pop’s Place and actually ran into the owner again. He was really excited to see us and even brought us a free dish (fish from the fish n chips dish). The burgers were really delicious and the place had awesome decor (even though we sat outside). We highly recommend you stop by this spot if you’re in Ljubljana and after a burger!

The local
The veggie

After lunch, we hopped on another Flixbus and headed to Vienna. More on that soon!

Farewell Ljubljana!
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