The capital city of Slovenia
(and in fact its only major conurbation – though still relatively small at under 300,000 inhabitants) and the country's main hub, including in terms of transport and tourism. Its Old Town centre is a true gem of European architecture, and for the dark tourist there are two historical museums that are worth seeing too.
What there is to see: From the point of view of dark tourism, these two museums are the main attraction in the city:
In addition, there is a Trail of Remembrance and Comradeship
(in Slovenian: 'Pot spominov in tovarištva'), also known as Trail along the Wire. This is a walkway of over 20 miles length (33 km) that rings the city of Ljubljana following what used to be a ring of barbed wire fences and later bunkers during the city's occupation first by Fascist Italy
and then by Nazi Germany
. The trail is mostly symbolic these days, though there are supposed to be a few monuments, bunker relics and plaques along the way. Since I did not have the time to do this time-consuming walk (OK, one could also cycle it), I cannot say anything from first-hand experience about it yet.
The same goes for Ljubljana's Žale Cemetery
north of the centre, which contains some interesting architecture and sepulchral art, as well as war graves and monuments and also a small Jewish section. Also in the category of graves are several sites of mass graves
that have been discovered over the years. Some are now marked by special crosses or monuments, such as the one at Šentvid Cemetery or the side of Castle Hill.
Other than that there isn't much to my knowledge that could count as properly dark. However, the famous Dragon Bridge may perhaps appeal to some people for reasons vaguely related to dark, if only mythological.
Possibly also of interest to some dark tourists are the vestiges of socialist-era architecture and statuary that can still be found within the city, for instance on Republic Square (with its brutalist high-rises and the Parliament).
almost exactly in the very centre of Slovenia
, some 25-40 miles (40-65 km) from the borders with Austria
to the north, Croatia
to the south and Italy
to the west.
Google maps locators:
Access and costs: not difficult to get to; not necessarily cheap.
Getting to Ljubljana is relatively easy, either by plane or overland. Slovenia
's busiest international airport (code LJU), and home to the quasi national carrier Adria Airways, is located just 15 miles (24 km) north-west of the city and has several connections to other European cities. You can also reach Ljubljana by train or bus – or private car: the road network within Slovenia is excellent. Parking with the city, however, can be a bit tricky, at least in the centre.
Getting around within the city is mostly possible on foot – it really isn't a big place and within the inner centre everything is walkable. For greater distances there are buses – and bicycles: Ljubljana is a very “green” city, and part of this is the popularity of bicycle rentals.
Accommodation options are plentiful, from budget to luxury levels. Shopping around can unearth some good bargains.
Food & drink
are very important to both locals and tourists in this city and it certainly offers a good range of eateries where you can try Slovenian specialities or sip local wines or beers (see also under Slovenia
in general). You can even go on guided tours with food & drink themes which come highly recommended!
Time required: One day would be sufficient to see the main dark sites mentioned here, but you can easily enjoy a day or two more here before running out of things to do and see.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Slovenia
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Ljubljana is primarily a non-dark tourist destination, and for its small size has quite a few attractions. The main picture-book element is the Sava River running right through the Old Town centre, lined by weeping willows and riverside bars and cafes. It's easily one of the prettiest inner-city river scenes anywhere.
Adding to the river's status in terms of mainstream tourist sights are a few bridges, amongst which the Dragon Bridge is the most famous. Its four copper-clad dragon sculptures are the most popular symbol of Ljubljana and you can find them in numerous forms as souvenirs: on postcards, as fluffy toys, as chocolates and even on bottles of liqueur. The unusual Triple Bridge forms the very heart of the city centre and its main pedestrian crossroad.
A visual focal point to the south-east of the bridge is Castle Hill
, and the eponymous castle at the top – see also under History Museum at the Castle
! The funicular taking visitors to the top is located on the north-eastern side of Castle Hill.
The cobbled streets between the foot of the hill and the river are amongst the most olde worlde picturesque in the city. But the best turn-of-the-century and art nouveau architecture buildings are located on the other side of the river, e.g. off the square north of the Triple Bridge and the streets fanning out from here.
Finally and on a less mainstreamy theme, the counter-cultural artists' quarter of Metelkova Mesto
is definitely worth a look for those in search of such alternative scenes. It has even been likened to Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Ljubljana 01 - model
- Ljubljana 02 - river
- Ljubljana 03 - river and market
- Ljubljana 04 - Sava River
- Ljubljana 05 - Dragon Bridge
- Ljubljana 06 - dragon
- Ljubljana 07 - Three Bridges
- Ljubljana 08 - Old Town and Castle
- Ljubljana 09 - unusual facade
- Ljubljana 10 - another interesting house
- Ljubljana 11 - Jugendstil
- Ljubljana 12 - probably a Yugoslav partisan
- Ljubljana 13 - the castle towering above the city
- Ljubljana 14 - view down from the castle
- Ljubljana 15 - hanging from a crane in the rain
- Ljubljana 16 - un-refurbished house
- Ljubljana 17 - library
- Ljubljana 18 - wooden street art
- Ljubljana 19 - weeping willow
- Ljubljana 20 - city centre by night