Seven touristy and not so touristy things to do in Slovenia
Slovenia has hardly ever been on my list of places to visit. It is so close to Italy and fairly easy to reach (not too easy when you actually live on an island like I do, actually), that I thought I would visit Slovenia one day anyways, and never really made an effort to find out the things to do in Slovenia that may be worth the trip.
Then I received an invitation from Big Berry, a luxury landscape resort located in Bela krajina, on the border with Croatia, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit Slovenia. I started researching on the things to do in Slovenia, I started rummaging through social media in search of pictures of places to visit in Slovenia, and realized I’d be in for a good time.
In the very limited time I spent there, I understood that there are many more things to do in Slovenia than the very few ones I managed doing, and many more places to visit in Slovenia than those I eventually visited. I concluded that all along I had been underestimating this beautiful country. Mine was just an appetizer on Slovenia attractions, and I will have to go again for a full meal. In fact, I am currently planning to visit Ljubljana in December, to soak in the Christmas atmosphere.
Using Big Berry as my base, I roamed around Slovenia for a week and discovered a country that is full of character, history and atmosphere, where people are welcoming and where nature is untouched. Although I recommend spending way longer than a week, I understand that most people who have a regular job won’t have as much time to visit Slovenia.
With this in mind, and knowing that there are way more places to visit in Slovenia and many more things to do in Slovenia than those I am about to mention, here is a very minimal list of the touristy and not so touristy things to do there.
Seven touristy and not so touristy things to do in Slovenia
One of the most obvious things to do in Slovenia is to visit Ljubljana. The beautiful capital of Slovenia is a gorgeous small city packed with interesting sights, good museums, architectural gems, gorgeous parks and lots and lots of good restaurants, bars and shops that dare even the least shopaholic of women like I am.
More than anything, Ljubljana is incredibly pleasant to explore. I enjoyed my time in the capital walking around and taking in the beautiful sights. What I liked the most about Ljubljana is that despite being very lively, it is incredibly laid back.
Among the things to do in Ljubljana, one of my favorite was walking along the river and observing the many bridges. The Triple Bridge is the iconic one, and it connects the main square to the Old Town and the market, and got its last addition – the pedestrian bridge – in 1931 thanks to the work of famous architect Jože Plečnik, whose work may soon be inscribed in the list of UNESCO sites of Slovenia.
The legacy of Jože Plečnik can be seen in many other quirky buildings around town, and especially appreciated during a guided walking tour of Ljubljana – which is why I think this is one of the best things to do in Slovenia.
I really like street art and try to look for it wherever I travel. Lots of people who visit Ljubljana head over to the Metelkova area, which is the best known in town for its street art. Here, an old abandoned barrack has been taken over by street artists who decorated buildings and squatted in them. It took a good decade of negotiations to convince the local government not to demolish everything. The area is now packed with art galleries, and visiting it is one of the greatest things to do in Ljubliana.
One of the things that impressed me the most about Ljubljana is how green the city is – by which I don’t simply refer to the number of parks (more about this later). The entire city centre is pedestrian, people move around by bike and those with mobility issues can call the kavalir, or gentle help. This is a small electric car, similar to a golf car, that those who visit Ljubljana can often see roaming around the Old City.
With regards to parks, my favorite in Ljubljana is Tivoli – and I wholeheartedly recommend visiting as it is one of the nicest things to do in Ljubljana. The park is big, relaxing to walk around, and it is a favorite of the locals who go there to jog, to bike around, with their children and with their dogs. During my visit, there was an open air (and free) photography exhibition by National Geographic, with pictures of Slovenia and National Parks in the United States.
In order to get a panoramic view of the city, one of the nicest things to do in Ljubljana is going to the Skyscraper (yes, it is simply called Skyscraper!). While many opt to go to the Castle, which is certainly a nice place to visit, the view from the Skyscraper is actually the best as it also embraces the Castle. Going up is actually free and there is a nice café at the top where it is nice to get a sunset drink.
Go to lake Bled
I must admit that the biggest selling point for me when I was invited to visit Slovenia was the possibility of going to Lake Bled. I had seen lots of pictures of it on Instagram, and it seemed so amazing that I would not want to miss out on that – this also goes to show the great power social media have in influencing the travel market. After having been there, I can say that Lake Bled is one of the top places to visit in Slovenia.
Unfortunately, the day I visited it was overcast, but this didn’t put me off. Regardless of the lack of sun, the views from Bled Castle were nothing short of impressive, as well as the ones of Bled Castle from the shore of the lake. To me, one of the nicest things to do in Slovenia is taking in the view of Lake Bled from the castle.
Drink lots of wine – and craft beer
I should have known this, because I love wine, but for some reason when I decided to visit Slovenia I had taken into account that Slovenia has a great wine tradition. Driving across the countryside, especially in Bela krajina, I spotted lots of vineyards, that made for a lovely sight.
What I do know, however, is that where there are vineyards there are also wine tasting tours, and I made sure to join one of them: I have traveled all the way to Mendoza, in Argentina, just for a wine tour so why not doing one in Slovenia since I happened to be there? I can confirm that one of the nicest things to do in Slovenia to learn a bit more about its history and traditions (and get a bit of a buzz) is doing a wine tour.
Read more about Mendoza on my post “Why I am going back to Mendoza in 2016.”
I can’t say the wines I had were the best I have ever drank – I am very picky, I come from Sardinia, a region of Italy that has an excellent wine production – but they were nice, and the overall experience was worth it. What I surely wasn’t expecting, however, was the incredible quality of the craft beers. Indeed, one of the things to do in Slovenia which I am glad I did is going to a brewery.
I went to Vizir, one of the emerging and fast growing breweries in Bela krajina, and learned a lot about the process of beer production. And, more importantly, I tried lots of fragrant, refreshing and delicious beers. It was definitely one of the most fun things to do in Slovenia that I managed squeezing in my short time there.
One of the most fun things to do in Slovenia is joining a food tour. I took one with Ljubljananjam in Ljubljana, and it was a great way to learn a bit more about the country and its food culture. It was a walking tour, meaning that I also got to visit Ljubljana. I explored the local market and ate at many local eateries – the kind of places which have a very limited menu that changes daily.
During the tour, I tried many local specialties, starting with the local bread to then have the kale soup and the ajovi krapi, which are buckwheat ravioli with cottage cheese – they were mouthwatering. The štruklji (dumplings), pork tenderloin and mushroom sauce that I ate at Gostilna dela convinced me that doing a food tour is among the top things to do in Slovenia. They were delicious, just as the mixed plate of local charcuterie I ate at Altroke and the pumpkin seed oil with cottage cheese spread I had at Repete with the best sourdough bread from a bakery called Osem.
The tour continued at a local pub called Tozd (more of a really trendy place, actually – it looked really cool) where I had a few local craft beers – and as I have mentioned before, drinking craft beer is one of the things to do in Slovenia).
Dessert was at a lovely gelato shop, called Romantika, and although I was a bit reluctant to try gelato (I come from the gelato country!), I have to say that the use of local ingredients and flavors gave it a really interesting twist and in fact eating gelato there is one of the nicest things to do in Ljubljana.
Finally, I had coffee at Buna at Ziferblat, a lovely fair-trade and organic coffee shop located in a place that looks like a giant, cozy living room: in fact, I think that those who visit Ljubljana should make it a point to go there. Other things I tried during the tour were the pogaca, a local sweet, and the delicious chocolate with salt from the Slovenian coast.
Visit Slovenia off the beaten path
I am hardly obsessed with traveling to off the beaten path places. I normally just stumble upon them, like the time in Peru when I ended up in Marcahuasi. Yet, getting off the beaten path is one of the top things to do in Slovenia. Sure enough, Bela krajina is the most unexplored region of Slovenia. I actually didn’t even know of its existence before I found myself there, and I’d dare say that not many more people do know about it.
Find out more about my adventure in Marcahuasi on my post “Off the beaten path Peru: Marcahuasi.”
Albeit being little geared towards receiving tourists, I consider Bela krajina one of my favorite places to visit in Slovenia. This is the kind of place that hasn’t been polished up for the sake of visitors – and why should it, when it is totally gorgeous? It’s one of those places where what you see is what you get, where customers (tourists and locals alike) have to wait for up to one hour for their food after ordering at a local restaurant – my advice is to actually go an hour before planning to eat.
Bela Krajina is one of nicest places to visit in Slovenia, thanks to its gorgeous nature, its many quiet and hidden gems, its welcoming people, its culture and slow pace of life.
Find out more about Bela krajina on my post “Why Bela krajina is the hidden gem of Slovenia.”
Stay in a beautiful resort
If Bela krajina is one of the top places to visit in Slovenia, one of the nicest things to do in Slovenia is getting pampered at a lovely resort. Wait, I don’t mean the kind of resort where all one does is getting up in the morning, laying on the beach, and eat or drink. I am talking about a different kind of place, completely immersed in the gorgeous nature of Bela krajina, and that is friendly to the environment, soothing to the eyes and ears, and good to local people, local businesses and guests alike.
Big Berry Luxury Landscape Resort, in Primostek a tiny village in Bela krajina on the border to Croatia, is all of this and much more. It is a fantastic base to explore more of the region and to also visit Slovenia.
Find out what I think of Big Berry on my post “Why Big Berry is the ultima place to stay in Slovenia.”
Learn to respect the environment
I am always very respectful to the environment. I differentiate all my garbage and try to leave as little footprints as possible. Those who visit Slovenia are normally impressed with how clean and how environmentally friendly it is, and I felt the same way. There is no trace of garbage in the streets, people go around by bike, there isn’t traffic as we know it in the rest of the world.
This is why I think that one of the most interesting things to do in Slovenia is to take their system as an example and try to implement it at home. In Ljubljana, a system by which people pay taxes based on the weight of residual garbage (the one that is left over after glass, aluminum, plastic, organic waste and paper are separated) has been put in place and it has been a complete success, where more than 60% of the waste produced is recycled.
Although I live in Sardinia, in a city which is one of the best local examples of recycling leading to waste reduction, I often travel to places where recycling is unknown and the amount of waste (and its impact to the environment) incredibly high. I saw this in Vietnam, for example: the garbage on UNESCO protected sites such as Ha Long Bay was disturbing. I really wish that those who visit Slovenia take it upon them to learn to recycle and to do it wherever they are.
Have you ever been to Slovenia? What of the things to do in Slovenia did you like the most? Which of places to visit in Slovenia would you recommend?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Big Berry during my stay in Slovenia, and a guest of the Tourism Board of Ljubljana during my tour there. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.