Slovenia is a spectacular country with amazing diversity, and narrowing a list down to the best places to visit in Slovenia was never going to be an easy task. With one foot in the Balkan Peninsula, another in the extraordinary Alps, all tucked in among several famous neighbours – Italy, Austria and Croatia – Slovenia can’t be summed up in one easy description. Formerly part of Yugoslavia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before that, it has a fascinating and occasionally brutal history, with a wide range of museums and architecture telling these stories with visual panache. Meanwhile, the Julian Alps offer pristine wilderness and shocking scenery. Slovenia’s awesome mountain ranges, raging rivers and picturesque lakes provide an outdoor wonderland. Meanwhile, their recently completed long-distance hiking trails are quickly gaining popularity with intrepid international hikers.
Of course, you don’t have to be an eager outdoor enthusiast to enjoy Slovenia. There are also many more relaxing activities to enjoy during your visit to Slovenia. Slovenian food is as terrific as it is unique, and all over the country locals and tourists alike embrace food culture and lovely terrace dining. Also, while Slovenia lacks the endless coastlines of nearby Italy and Croatia, the small but spectacular Slovenian Riviera is a great place to enjoy sunny beaches, calm swimming bays and impressive seafood.
In addition to all the outstanding destinations, Slovenes are as friendly and welcoming as any you will find anywhere in Europe. I swear, even the bus drivers seemed happy to see us. Throw in the fact that food, accommodation and activities generally cost less than half what they would in Austria or Italy, and it is difficult to find a reason not to make Slovenia your next holiday destination.
As an incredibly diverse country, Slovenia offers endless variety for those who have the time to explore. To help you plan your future trip to Slovenia, we have enlisted the help of 11 other bloggers to put together a comprehensive list of top destinations to add to your itinerary. And, while we would highly recommend extending your list beyond just the big highlights of Ljubljana and Lake Bled, these two unbelievable destinations more than live up to the hype and should still be the focus of any Slovenian holiday.
Best Places to Visit in Slovenia
One of the most beautiful lakes in all of Europe, stunning Lake Bled is the Slovenia’s standout attraction. Its calm, clear waters are surrounded by tree-covered hills up close and snow-capped mountains in the distance. The two unique features that really set Lake Bled apart, though, are Bled Castle and Bled Island. The impressive medieval castle looms over the lake like the background of a movie scene, and within its walls offers a museum, café and a number of terrific viewpoints. Meanwhile, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria takes up much of tiny Bled Island, providing visitors with the opportunity to explore this historic building and even ring the bell which, legend has it, grants you a single wish. Regardless of whether you want to try your luck with that, the trip over in a traditional “pletna” (small boat which the gondolier paddles using his feet) or on your own in a rented rowboat, it is, as they say, all about the journey.
A flat, paved 6 km path circles the lake, allowing visitors an easy way to enjoy its beauty from all angles. It only takes a little extra work, however, to climb up into the hills and reach the really spectacular viewpoints. Popular spots such as Mala Osojnica and Mala Ojstrica offer up picture-perfect views of the lake, island, castle and distant mountains, but there are also many more great spots to be found in the nearby hills for those willing to explore.
The town of Bled itself features plenty of affordable accommodation and a wide range of excellent restaurants. It is best if you can spend several days to fully explore the area, but even if you only have time for a short stop, no trip to Slovenia is complete without a visit to world-class Lake Bled.
We tend to have pretty low expectations when it comes to large, capital cities around the world. Often, outside of a handful of historic sites, they only serve as necessary transportation hubs to be endured. Which is why we were so thrilled with Ljubljana, Slovenia’s outstanding little capital. With a population just a shade under 300,000, it is already much easier to navigate than many cities, but it feels even smaller than that. Nearly all the main attractions are concentrated in a 10-block section of the Old Town, making it a perfect destination to explore on foot.
Nearly all the best parts of Ljubljana can be found on or near the gorgeous Ljubljanica River, including three famous bridges. Triple Bridge leads onto Preseren Square, the main tourist plaza, and it is a favourite photo spot. Dragon Bridge features fascinating dragon sculptures at both ends (sadly, there hasn’t been a real dragon spotted for years) and Butcher’s Bridge connects the Central Market to Petkovsek Embankment and is where smitten lovers go to declare their eternal affection by placing a “love padlock” along the side of the bridge. The most obvious highlight, however, is imposing Ljubljana Castle, which looms over every section of the Old Town. Climbing up to the castle itself offers tremendous viewpoints over the city, while nearly every scenic spot along the river is enhanced by having this classic castle in the background. Maybe the best part of any visit to Ljubljana, though, is simply wandering around the Old Town, getting lost in the maze of cobblestoned streets and stopping off occasionally to enjoy the sunny terrace of one of the many great restaurants and bars.
A fantastic narrow canyon with a rushing river and dozens of picturesque boardwalks, Vintgar Gorge (also known as Zgornje Gorje) is located very close to the popular Slovenian tourism hub of Lake Bled. Carved out of the ancient rocks over the course of millennia by the impressive Radovna River, this stunning gorge is a photographer’s dream. Crystal clear water and steep rock walls draped with lush greenery make Vintgar an essential stop on any visit to the Bled area.
Of course, these very attributes mean that it can also get quite busy at times. The boardwalks leading visitors up through the gorge are pretty but not very wide so if you go in the middle of a nice day you should be prepared for slow going. Throw in all the great photo ops and the line of people gets even slower. It is possible to experience Vintgar Gorge without the crowds, however. The best starting point, of course, is to go in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Then, if you plan your visit for either first thing in the morning or late in the day you can further avoid the main crowds (open from 8 am – 7 pm from April to November). Entrance fees are €10/€2 for adults/children, which represents pretty great value for such an iconic natural attraction. Plus, it is close enough to walk from Lake Bled (approximately 1 hr) or is just a short drive, taxi or bus trip.
There are a lot of beautiful places to visit in Slovenia, and one of the best is Lake Bohinj. Less famous than its nearby neighbour, Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj makes a fantastic day escape from Ljubljana. You can easily reach Lake Bohinj by public transport from Ljubljana or, if you rent a car in Slovenia, by driving there in just about an hour. The road is very picturesque, passing small villages dotting the foothills of the tall mountains.
Lake Bohinj is surrounded by Triglav National Park and offers fantastic views no matter which side you are on. There are two small villages located at each end of the lake, Ribcev Laz and Ukanc, where you will find a few local restaurants and also some good hotels.
One of the best things to do in Bohinj is to experience nature by walking around the lake. The path follows the side of the lake passing through alpine forests where sometimes you can spot wildlife such as deer, foxes or hares. It takes around 4 hours to complete the 12-kilometre trail. From Ukanc, you can also follow the path to Slap Savica, a spectacular 78-metre high A-shaped waterfall.
In summer, Lake Bohinj is a perfect destination for swimming and water sports. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks and canoes to enjoy the still waters of the lake. In winter, Lake Bohinj is the gateway to Vogel – one of the most popular ski resorts in Slovenia.
By Joanna at The World in My Pocket
Kranjska Gora is set in the Julian Mountains in northwestern Slovenia and is a chocolate box little town packed full of character. If you are into some of the great outdoor activities you will particularly love it here. In summer it is particularly ideal for mountain biking. You can take the Vršič Mountain Pass to the Soča Valley passing the beautiful Russian Chapel, built by prisoners of war during World War Two. This is also a great area for mountain walking with plenty of trails and rest cabins. For gentle strolls, the beautiful Lake Jasna is just a 10-minute walk away.
In winter, Kranjska Gora is one of the best ski resorts in Europe for families with a fantastic ski school and fun challenges across the nearby mountains. It’s not just great for gentle skiing though, as it also has the internationally renowned Podkoren black run. There are also more great winter sports including husky sledding, snowshoeing and even an ice climbing centre for those looking for more than just skiing in winter. At any time of year this is a welcoming little town with gift shops nestled side by side with bakeries and restaurants and, overall, represents a glimpse of Slovenia at its best.
By Nichola at Globalmouse Travels
If you’re into outdoor pursuits then you will love the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park. The towns of Beld, Bohinj and Bovec are a mecca for adrenalin junkies where you can easily enjoy things like zip-lining, trekking, canyoning, mountain biking and rock climbing. This region is also home to one of the best places to white water raft in Slovenia.
You can raft on either the Soča River or the Sava River. If you have a choice, opt for the Soča River as it’s the more extreme of the two, however, the Sava is great for nervous rafters or families.
Because Bovec is in the mountains, you can only raft at certain times of the year as the rivers are fed by the snow melting off the surrounding Julian Alps. The rafting season typically runs from April through to October. Early in the season it can be chilly, with the water being just 7 degrees, but in the summer months the water can get to around 15 degrees. You do get a wetsuit to help keep you warm.
Although Bovec is still a hub for tourists, it only sees a fraction of visitors that nearby Bled gets. So this is certainly the better option of the two if you’re looking for a more tranquil stay. There are ample accommodation options in the town, as well as restaurants and nearby walking trails. Due to its proximity to the mountains, there are also loads of outlets for booking adventure sport. It is good to book in advance as it can get busy during peak times.
Oh, and a note about getting into your rafting gear, there are no changing rooms! So take a gigantic towel with you if you’re modest. Alternatively, you can get changed in the bushes 😉
By Becki from Meet Me In Departures
Slovenia is a nature-lover’s dream and the Soca Valley shows why it’s also one of the greenest countries in the world. With miles of hiking trails and waterways to explore, this region is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Kobarid Historical Trail, nearly 10 km long, takes you through some of the area’s prettiest nature trails, meandering past stunning waterfalls like the Kozjak waterfall and through interesting WWI history. Still visible trenches from the Isonzo Front, the main battlefield between the Austro-Hungarians and the Italians, add unique interest to the hike.
History lovers will find even more sights at the Kobarid Museum, where most of the exhibits offer a closer look at the WWI fighting. And the Sacrario dei Caduti di Caporetto, a memorial to the Italian men who lost their lives at the Soca front, is a must visit as well.
Foodies will also love Kobarid for who’s in the kitchen. Chef Ana Roš, renowned as one of the Top Female Chefs in the World, creates unique local dishes at her home and restaurant just outside the town of Kobarid. Hiša Franko is one of the best restaurants in Slovenia! If you’re keen to taste the flavours of the Soca Valley and enjoy an unforgettable foodie experience, dining here is a must — and an overnight stay will be a highlight of your time in the Soca Valley.
By Lori at Travlin Mad
Kranj, fondly known as the Capital of the Slovenian Alps, is one of the most beautiful places in Slovenia. With its mind-boggling blend of history, culture, nature, and food, Kranj is well worth a visit when in Slovenia. It is one place in Slovenia that is not overrun by tourists yet and thus, remains a hidden gem.
The best way to feel the pulse of Kranj is by walking the winding streets and open squares of the Old Town. The attractions worth a stop in the Old Town are the Špital Tower, Prešeren’s House, Pungert, and Khislstein Castle. You can join a guided tour where they walk you through the historic underground tunnels built during WWII, and whether you love hiking or not, a walk through Kokra River Canyon (the second-highest city canyon in Europe) is a must!
You can explore Kranj as a day trip from Bled or Ljubljana but if you would love to spend a night in this offbeat town, Apartment Na Skali is a beautiful accommodation right in the heart of the Old Town. The strategic location of Kranj, midway between the cities of Bled and Ljubljana and next to the Ljubljana Airport, makes it a great base to explore Slovenia.
By Anjali of Travel Melodies
Škofja Loka is a charming little town in Slovenia, easily visited on a day trip from Ljubljana or Bled. Its picturesque location, colourful facades, and historic castle make it a must visit on any trip to Slovenia. While the town is made for wandering, you will also want to stop at the beautiful Capuchin Bridge for photos of the picture postcard scene. In town, the Church of Saint Jacob adorns the main square, and is worth visiting for its frescoes.
The main street in the town features gorgeous facades with frescoes and detailing, many from medieval times. Side streets are beautiful as well, so feel free to branch off to explore! At the far end of the town is the path that leads up to Loka Castle. The hilltop fortress is stunning and houses a museum of exhibits and artifacts relevant to Skofja Loka’s history. The views from the hilltop over the red roofs of the town are spectacular. You can also see across to surrounding hillsides, with homes and churches dotting the green hills. In fact, if you have the time you can walk across to Pustal, on the hill opposite, for views of Loka Castle from afar!
Getting to Skofja Loka is easy. You can drive, of course, but the buses that run between Ljubljana and Bled stop at the town, and it is an easy walk from the bus station into the old town.
By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Known as Queen of the Caves, Slovenia’s Postojna Cave just might be the most spectacular of all of this country’s amazing natural wonders. Which is why, since opening 200 years ago, Postojna has been visited by 40 million people.
What makes this cave, an hour from the capital Ljubljana, so special? It’s partly how you enter it – via an underground railroad, which debuted all the way back in 1872! Once you board the train, the colourful red and yellow engine transports you almost four kilometres into the cave, which continues another 20 kilometres beyond the end of the tracks. Once inside, guides accompany you along a paved, 5-kilometre trail showcasing the best of the cave system. But dress warm as the cave remains at chilly 10 C all year round. The trail passes through an astonishing assortment of sights, from an endless array of stalagmites and stalactites to soaring cathedral-sized vaults. But the cave narrows too, into intimate galleries filled with tiny “spaghetti” tubes of stone. At one point, the trail even passes over the Pivka River, at the bottom of a dramatic gorge. The river is what has carved this cave over millions of years.
Despite traveling deep underground, you needn’t worry about lights. Perfectly placed spotlights illuminate the cave, making it feel as if you’ve stumbled into a mysterious netherworld. Tour highlights include “Brilliant”, a bright white five-metre-tall stalagmite. Water dripping down from above over millions of years deposited a thin layer of “flowstone” over the column, giving it this amazing colour. Also not to be missed is “Concert Hall”, a cavern so large it could hold ten thousand people, including a symphony orchestra. And, in fact, many concerts have been held here over the years. But don’t worry if there isn’t one while you’re visiting. Mother Nature will happily dazzle you with her own performance.
By Michael Jensen of Brent and Michael are Going Places
Built into the side of an imposing cliff in the heart of Slovenia, Predjama is the largest cave castle in the world. This fairy tale fortress is about an hour by car from the capital Ljubljana and is just up the road from the famous Postojna Cave, so it makes sense to combine the two in a day visit. It dates back to the 12th century and was most famously occupied in the 15th century during a siege by Erazam, a robber baron who spent more than a year hiding here after committing murder. The castle was designed to be impenetrable and had secret tunnels so the inhabitants could stealthily access food and water from the outside. Erazam eventually met his end as he was sitting on the toilet, when a carefully aimed cannonball struck one of the towers.
Visiting Predjama Castle is one of the most popular things to do if you’re spending a week in Slovenia. Curious tourists can explore the many rooms inside the castle and climb up into the massive cave at the back to imagine what life must have been like during the siege. The far-reaching views out over the surrounding countryside are worth the visit alone, and during the summer there are tournaments held in the grounds below to recreate medieval festivals. You can also explore the tunnels on a guided tour if you’re feeling adventurous. Allow around 2 hours for your visit, plus time to walk up from the bottom car park if it’s busy.
By Heather Cole at Conversant Traveller
Centuries ago, Venetian ships dominated the entire coast of the Adriatic Sea, spreading their influence in dozens of ways, including food, language and architecture. Well, it has been a long time since the Venetians held sway in southern Slovenia but their legacy lives on in the breathtaking fishing town of Piran. Many people don’t realize that despite its close proximity to the sea, Slovenia has just 46 km of coastline, an area sometimes referred to as the Slovene Riviera. Lovely little Piran, perched at the tip of a small peninsula, is the crown jewel of this popular stretch of maritime beauty.
Piran is small enough to explore entirely on foot and cars aren’t even allowed in the Old Town area. There are numerous outstanding viewpoints, from the relaxed promenade to impressive Tartini Square to the great vantage point at the top of the Bell Tower, attached to classic St. George’s Parish Church. The highlight views, though, are found along the magnificent Walls of Piran, amazingly preserved remnants of Piran’s embattled military past. And with an entrance fee of just €2 you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal.
Also, if fresh seafood and cold beer sounds appealing to you, get ready for a treat. As a working fishing town, Piran is loaded with terrific seafood restaurants, most of which have comfortable outdoor terraces where you can enjoy a local Laško beer on a relaxed square or overlooking the incredible sunsets along the promenade. There are also a number of nice walking trails in the area and a few nearby beaches that are popular in the heat of summer. Considering it is just an hour and a half drive from Ljubljana (or a still manageable 3 hours by bus), Piran is definitely worth adding to your Slovenia itinerary.
One of the best hidden gems in Slovenia has to be Bela Krajina on the border of Croatia in the southeastern region of the country. Bela Krajina is filled with vineyards, lush countryside, countless turquoise rivers and plenty of local traditions. From Ljubljana it is a one-hour drive or you can take a 2.5-hour train trip to the town of Metlika, the slowest but cheapest way to travel (€16 return).
The best place to stay has to be Big Berry in Bela Krajina. It is a luxury glamping site that focuses on connecting with nature through local experiences. This means they will happily organise everything from wine tasting to yoga to bread-making classes. However, the most unique activity has to be oil tasting at Oljarna Pečarič, where you can sample 20 different cold pressed oils and learn about their health benefits.
For nature lovers, Bela Krajina offers plenty of great hiking spots such as Mina Gora and Krasnji Vrh hills. It is also a great place for water sports along any of its many rivers, and is home to the source of the Krupa River spring, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Slovenia.
By Roshni of The Wanderlust Within
Kostanjevica na Krki
Since 1252, Kostanjevica na Krki has had the status of a town. Today it has just 703 inhabitants and it is one of the smallest towns in Slovenia, but is protected as a cultural and historical monument. It is located between the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, and the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. To arrive there you will need less than an hour from both directions. As a part of the Dolenjska region, it is established in the northern foothills of Gorjanci. The town is on a small island 450 metres by 180 metres on the river Krka. One can enter the island by 2 wooden car bridges or one that is just for pedestrians. The circular road is a great way to see this “Venice of Lower Carniola” with its medieval buildings (Slovene: Dolenjske Benetke). The inn Kmečki hram has a nice garden perfect for a rest and a great duck meal. Many activities are possible on this green river, like swimming, fishing, stand-up paddling or canoeing. Gallery Božidar Jakac in the Cisterian Abbey is also close by if you are looking to add a cultural experience. Nature lovers will enjoy Kostanjevica cave, just 4 minutes away, or primeval Krakov oak forest, just 10 minutes away. For accommodation, we would recommend B&B Castanea on the island.
By Džangir Kolar of Dr Jam Travels
Located on the left bank of the Drava River, Maribor is Slovenia’s second-largest city. It offers plenty of scenic views and outdoor activities despite being overshadowed by the cultural appeal of Ljubljana. The colourful parks and streets, elegant architectural buildings, and long winemaking tradition are the main highlights of Maribor.
Maribor is around 126 km away from Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. You can reach here by car or train within two hours. Maribor has a small-town charm and it is very compact. You can easily get around the city on foot as most of the city’s popular attractions are within walkable distance. It is an underrated city in Slovenia and not nearly as crowded as Ljubljana and Bled. But the city is colourful, vibrant, quiet and has lots to offer its visitors.
The Main Square in the southern part of the Old Town is a picturesque attraction surrounded by some elegant old buildings in pastel hues. It is a romantic place where you can walk around and take some amazing pictures. There is an ornate Plague Column at the center of the Main Square which was built in 1681 in memory of the people who died of the plague. Another popular landmark in Maribor is the Maribor Castle, located in the northwestern part of Castle Square. This 15th-century castle looks more like a palace from the outside and features many old paintings, sculptures, traditional costumes, and wine-making tools.
Slovenia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe and as underrated city in Slovenia, Maribor has a lot of budget accommodation as well as some mid-range hotels in the centre of the city. I would recommend Anna House, which is just 1 km away from the Maribor train station and offers great service.
By Trijit Mallick from Budget Travel Buff
Well, this list of best places to visit in Slovenia should give you plenty to think about when you start planning your next trip. With a vast array of extremely varied destinations, Slovenia has something for every type of traveller. Of course, as with every list, there are many more terrific spots we haven’t discussed. We’d love to hear your suggestions!
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