At the start of 2016 Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana, was declared Green Capital of Europe.
By the end of the year, Slovenia itself had become the first country in the world to be designated a Green Destination.
If that alone doesn’t make you want to book your next family holiday here, you may be tempted by Mediterranean cities that easily rival the neighbours in Croatia, a magnificent Alpine landscape, spa towns in the north and a single ski-pass that covers upwards of 12 ski resorts.
But don’t leave it too long to decide: affordable, uncrowded and lovely Slovenia is now on the map.
Direct flights from the UK to Ljubljana take just over two hours.
Home to the 'Green Capital of Europe'
In 2016, Ljubljana was Green Capital of Europe and Slovenia became the world’s first country to be designated a Green Destination.
Great for ski holidays
One single ski-pass accesses Slovenia’s ski-areas which are all within an hour and a half, or less, from Ljubljana airport.
Lipica in western Slovenia is the birthplace of Vienna’s legendary Lipizzaner horses and home to the world’s oldest stud farm.
Small country with many different regions
Slovenia is small enough to base a holiday in the capital Ljubljana and spend time in each of the country’s other regions from the Mediterranean coast to the Alps. Slovenia has a Mediterranean coastline and shares borders with Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary.
Triglav National Park
Triglav National Park is one of the oldest in Europe, covers an area of 840km² and is home to the impressive Julian Alps.
Where to go
Ljubljana’s one of the European cities people are always torn about: on the one hand they want to rave about how lovely it is and, on the other, are tempted to just keep quiet. The second option’s becoming increasingly difficult, since a year as European Green Capital revealed to the world everything from graceful Ljubljana Castle and the red roofed medieval quarter to Baroque architecture that rivals Salzburg and the city’s collection of truly remarkable Art Nouveau buildings.
Ljubljana’s less than an hour’s drive from Slovenia’s ski resorts; just over an hour from Alpine Bled or Piran on the Mediterranean coast and less than two hours from the spas, vineyards, ancient towns and unspoiled countryside of the Pannonian region.
Every year the city hosts dozens of international festivals and thousands of cultural events. It’s filled with exceptional museums, galleries and historic sights.
The average age in Ljubljana is round about 30 so it’s a youthful and energetic city too with excellent shops, restaurants, cafés, bars and interesting places to stay.
Bike-friendly and easy to walk about, don’t miss: Ljubljana Castle; Tivoli Park; summer-long Open Kitchen; BTC City; Križanke Monastery; National Gallery and Museum of Slovenia; Jože Plečnik’s Art Nouveau architecture and design; Tromostovje; Levstik Square and Rožnik Hill.
Affordable Ljubljana has hundreds of free family and kids’ events all-year-round, WiFi for all in the city centre and even spring and summer outdoor libraries in its parks.
One of Slovenia’s best family ski resorts, just over an hour from Ljubljana on the Austrian border. Several major international downhill and slalom events are held here every year and advanced skiers have altitudes of over 1200m and spectacular Alpine scenery. Good for beginners and intermediate too, with a wide range of kids’ activities, several ski schools and excellent childcare and kindergarten.
Like most Slovenian ski-resorts, Kranjska Gora has held on to its traditional Alpine charm while extensively upgrading facilities over the past decade.
18 slopes ranging from black to beginner across a compact ski-area with a network of 20 lifts.
One hour and 10 minutes by road from the Ljubljana Airport.
Cerkno’s the most advanced and award-winning resort in Slovenia. The ski-area’s on Mount Srni Vrh with altitudes of 1300m, 12 slopes and 10 lifts – it’s the only resort in the country with covered lifts and 100% snow-making.
Excellent family-friendly reputation with good childcare, ski schools and a range of beginners’ slopes close to the resort centre.
Cerkno also has a terrain park, bike park, swimming pools, leisure centre, kindergarten and winter event programme.
One hour and 20 minutes by road from Ljubljana Airport.
Slovenia on the Med isn’t enormous but manages to pack an astonishing number of breathtaking seaside resorts, natural phenomena and pretty beaches into a small space. The coast’s less than two hours drive from Ljubljana but, with temperatures of 27˚ and plenty of sunshine, it’s a summer holiday in its own right and far less busy than nearby Croatia.
Choose to stay in Piran: heartland of Slovenia’s ancient salt-making industry and the loveliest town on the country’s Mediterranean coast.
Visit Izola for its historic centre, waterfront restaurants, Venetian architecture, ancient traditions and lovely harbour.
Visit Postojna for the legendary caves and Predjama Castle.
Take horse-mad kids to lovely Lipica, homeland of the Lipizzaner Horses and where they’re still bred today at the world’s oldest stud farm.
Bled Lake is the largest in Slovenia and has the country’s only island, it’s also the most famous area in the Alpine region and a fantastic base for outdoor adventure holidays in spring and summer.
Bled’s only an hour by road from Ljubljana and on the edge of Triglav National Park – fantastic for a day out but worth considering a few days for walking, climbing and exploring.
The east of Slovenia is where to find terraced vineyards, gorgeously pretty villages, traditional country festivals, amazing rivers and some of Europe’s finest spa towns. Again, it’s an area close enough to the capital for days out and good for touring around with older kids.
Don’t miss: wine country round Maribor on the River Drava; Ptuj, Slovenia’s oldest city; walking in the Slovenske Gorice hills; the nesting storks of Prekmurje; Bela Krajina on the River Kolpa; Prlekija for thermal springs.
What to do
National Museum of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The country’s biggest museum has loads of appealing artefacts from the world’s oldest musical instrument to ancient magic charms. Holds kids’ events all year round and has free daily guided tours.
Postojna Adventure Park This forest park’s just 40 minutes west of Ljubljana and packed with high tree-top walks, ziplining activities, sky bridges and over 70 extreme (and not so extreme) challenges.
The Škocjan Caves, Matavun 40 minutes from Piran on the Mediterranean coast, The Škocjan Caves are spectacular and among only a few of this size in the world where you can explore on foot.
Kranjska Gora Bike Park
Mountain bike beginners and kids ready for intermediate rides will love this exciting bike park in the naturally challenging Kranjska Gora hills.
Lipizzaner Stud Farm, Lipica Birthplace of the Lipizzaner horses, world famous stud farm and a brilliant day out for kids. There are guided tours and performances all year round and family events during the summer.
River Rafting, Soča Valley In terms of natural water features, Slovenia has everything from Europe’s largest intermittent lake (Cerknika) to a lake designated as a natural museum (Divje Jezero), so of course it’s wonderful for river rafting, kayaking and canoeing.
Enigmarium Escape Rooms, Ljubljana Choose your puzzle room, enter if you dare and then try and escape in an hour – as the clock ticks. One of the most popular attractions in Ljubljana for older kids and teenagers.
Predjama Castle Awe-inspiring Predjama is the world’s largest cave castle and has protected the entrance to enormous Postojna Cave for over 800 years. Visitors can see both on a linked guided tour from nearby Ljubljana.
Triglav National Park Slovenia’s only national park is also one of the world’s oldest and home to the country’s highest peak and the spectacular Julian Alps.
Aqualuna Thermal Park, Podčetrtek Tucking a spa day or two into a Slovenian family holiday is perfectly possible if the spa happens to come attached to one of the country’s best waterparks.
Educational value for kids
Visit the town of Velenje, an hour’s drive east of Ljubljana, in mid September for the annual Pippi Longstocking Festival.
The Kranjska Gora region in eastern Slovenia’s ideal for kids first attempts at hillwalking and easy hiking.
Spend a day on the coast at Sečovlje Salt Pans, the museum and displays are fascinating but the wonderful, time-stood-still atmosphere is best of all.
Visit the Ljubljana Marshes to see the UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric pile dwellings – there are examples in France, Germany and Austria too but Slovenia’s are remarkably well preserved.
There’s an easy, marked walking trail right through the Polhov Gradec Dolomites Nature Park surrounded by some of Europe’s rarest, wild medicinal plants and flowers: breathtakingly pretty in spring and early summer.
The Lipizzaner riding school in Lipica has a range of riding classes from beginner to advanced.
Ljubljana has festivals all year round, visit in December for Animateka (International Animated Film Festival); February’s the month for the city wide Dragon Parade; Ana Desetnica street theatre festival’s in June; and the City of Women contemporary art festival is held in October.
Getting around with kids in Slovenia
Hire a car in Slovenia and take advantage of the country’s small size to explore almost every region. The roads are excellent even in rural areas and you won’t drive far without coming across a town or village. Ljubljana is just over an hour from the coast and even the furthest reaches of Pannonian on the Hungarian border are less than a couple of hours drive away.