The green capital of Slovenia works family holidays every which way. It has some of the world’s loveliest urban architecture in an easy to walk historic centre and hosts dozens of festivals kids will love all year round. There are Mediterranean beaches just over an hour away. And if you want to spread your wings just a tiny bit further, you can walk, climb and ski in the Alps or explore the largest forests in Europe – all in a day, if you want.
Direct flights from the UK to Ljubljana take just over two hours all year round.
Slovenia has 12 family ski resorts within an hour of the city centre and slopes are snow-sure from December to March.
Ljubljana city centre is described as, ‘one of the 20th century’s most important works of art’.
The city’s famous for an astonishing collection of architecture ranging from, medieval castles and baroque churches to Art Nouveau apartment buildings and spectacularly ornate bridges.
The Ljubljanica runs through the heart of Ljubljana and kids can paddleboard from one end of the city to the other. The cafés and restaurants on the riverbank, known as ‘The Lounge’, are a favourite hang-out spot in summer.
Ljubljana, European Green Capital 2016, is also the official capital of Slovenia: the world’s first ever Green Tourism Destination.
Slovenia’s Mediterranean coast and historic beach resorts are just over an hour’s drive west of Ljubljana.
Where to go and stay in Ljubljana
For four star hotels and soulful heritage apartments, look to the historic city centre: north and west of the castle. Self-catering’s always good value for families in Ljubljana and Slovenia’s relatively small size makes staying in one of the city’s pretty neighbouring towns another option with kids. The mountain resort of Krvavec is just 30 minutes away for cute cabins and lodges, summer and winter.
Lorded over by medieval Ljubljana Castle, the historic city centre could easily fill an entire holiday with architectural wonders alone. It’s here that Jože Plečnik made his mark in the early 20th century and his influence is seen everywhere from bridges to street plans, market halls and department stores.
Few cities in Europe do as many, and varied, walking tours as Ljubljana. Pick any theme in the historic city centre and a local guide will let you in on the secrets.
Look out for colourful Art Nouveau buildings like Vurnik House on Miklošičeva Ulica Street and Hauptmann House on Prešeren Square.
Along the riverbank to the west of the castle complex is where to find the hub of pretty pavement cafés, rising-star restaurants and cool bars.
Don’t miss: Ljubljana Castle; the Dragon Bridge; Triple Bridge; Sunday flea markets on the riverbank; Central Market; Saint Nicholas Cathedral; the baroque Town Square.
Enormous Tivoli Park stretches west from the city centre and covers an area of over 5km². It’s the city’s largest green space and famous for grand avenues of chestnut trees, ornate statuary and fountains, walking trails and extravagant flower beds.
Most major museums and galleries are round and about Tivoli Park.
The park contains a sports’ complex with indoor pool and bowling alley and there’s an excellent running track round the perimeter.
Don’t miss: Jakopič Promenade outdoor gallery; Ljubljana Botanical Gardens; Tivoli Mansion; the fish pond playpark.
Back in 1993, 200 protestors took up residence in Metelkova’s army barracks and refused to leave. From an impromptu squat-in, it became a movement and symbol of creative and artistic freedom in a city that was short on both at the time. Today the district’s one of the most visited in Ljubljana and the heartland of alternative performance, exhibitions, events and indie festivals.
Hub of club-nights, gigs, pop-up galleries and place to hang-out at weekends for just about everyone from local students to tourists.
Visit during the day to see the astounding graffiti and creative building work.
What to do and see with kids in Ljubljana
The imposing medieval castle at the heart of Ljubljana’s oldest district is one of the city’s most famous sights. Guided tours are great fun with kids.
The city’s largest green space is also one of the loveliest parks in Slovenia and packed with interesting places to explore.
Plečnik House, 4 – 6 Karunova Street Jože Plečnik is the 20th century Slovenian architect responsible for much of Ljubljana’s remarkable city centre design. This wonderful museum in his former home gives a fascinating insight into his life and work.
Central Market Slovenia’s best known market is also one of Jože Plečnik’s masterpieces, so the building alone is worth a visit. But it’s also an amazing shopping experience and another place where guided tours are great fun.
National Museum of Slovenia Slovenia’s most important museum contains a vast cultural and archaeological collection spanning 60,000 years of history, including the world’s oldest musical instrument: a Neanderthal flute.
This stunning gallery contains over 600 works of art from the Middle Ages through to the 20th century. The beautifully designed space also hosts visiting exhibitions and events all year round.
SUP on the Ljubljanica Ljubljana’s the only city in Europe where kids can stand up paddleboard right through the centre. Great fun in summer and the best way to see the sights along the romantic Ljubljanica Riverbank.
Ljubljana Time Machine Take kids travelling through six different eras of history round and about Ljubljana Castle with professional re-enactors guiding them every step of the way.
Ljubljana Family Bike Tour
Decide what you all want to see in the Slovenian capital and local guides will tailor an individual family tour. Bike hire’s included and the easy-going pace is geared towards the youngest cyclist.
Krvavec Summer Park Krvavec Ski Resort’s snow-sure from December to March and just 30 minutes from Ljubljana. Visit in summer for the family adventure park, rope challenge courses, marked hiking and cycling routes and the Bike Park.
Educational value for kids
Visit the Slovene Ethnographic Museum where the core concept is, ‘Man and his Place in the World’. The permanent exhibition explores people and their actions and interactions with objects, events, customs, tradition and culture throughout history. Another Ljubljana museum with good learning facilities for kids and a year-round calendar of family activities.
Head to the City Art Gallery in the centre with teenagers and check out who’s creating what, right now, in the world of Slovenian contemporary art.
Ljubljana’s reputation for restaurants is growing greater all the time. But for a taste of how cool the city really is, drop into Oopata Kuhna (Open Kitchen) at Central Market every Friday from 8 until 8 in summer. Go hungry, the pop-up cooking stalls are amazing and eating as much as possible is the only rule.
Ski schools in Slovenia are roughly half the cost of their French counterparts. The nursery slopes at Krvavec are less than half an hour from the city centre and open in December. So it’s perfectly possible to fit a day’s skiing into a winter weekend break – Ljubljana’s Christmas Markets are some of Europe’s prettiest.
Take complete advantage of Slovenia’s compact size to go beyond the city boundaries: Postojna Cave Park is an hour’s drive west, and so is Lipica; home of the legendary Lipizzaner Stallions. Triglav National Park’s less than 40 minutes from Ljubljana Airport.
Spend Sunday in the Old Town, it’s like a day long festival of flea markets; music; eating; drinking and just hanging out. Sometimes it seems as if the whole city’s here in summer, but the atmosphere’s great.
Library Under the Treetops celebrates books and reading every Sunday, all summer long. It’s a city institution and there’s always music and performance as well as stuff to read. Plus, everything’s free, so just turn up at Ljubljana Castle’s lovely tree-lined courtyard, and see what’s happening.
Getting about with kids in Ljubljana
Easiest and best way to see Ljubljana is on foot. The city centre’s compact, well-signposted and quite a lot of it’s now pedestrianised. Cyclists are well-respected here too and city bike hire’s cheap and operates the way it does in most European capitals. Catch the cute tourist train from Prešeren Square through the historic city centre to Ljubljana Castle. Hire a car to visit the nearby Mediterranean coast, Alps within 40 minutes of the city and legends like Bled, under two hour’s north of Ljubljana.