Things to Do in Slovenia - page 2
The highest mountain in Slovenia is Triglav, ascending to 2,864 meters (9,400 feet) in the Julian Alps and forming part of the country’s one and only national park. An alpine region of spectacular natural beauty, Triglav National Park is a landscape of river gorges, waterfalls, lakes, plateaus and cave systems carved out of the limestone bedrock as well as a paradise for fly fishing, hiking, cycling, trekking, skiing and climbing.
The rivers Soča and Sava rise in the Julian Alps and feed the pristine, emerald waters of lakes Bohinj and Bled. The former is Slovenia’s largest lake, swelled by glacier melt and spring waters that race through tumbling gorges on their way down to Lake Bled. Ribcev Laz is Bohinj’s laidback base for cyclists and hikers in the mountains, where rare ibex and golden eagles can occasionally be spotted.
Lake Bled is the summer playground of the Julian Alps, a center for sailing, fishing, kayaking and swimming based around the red roofs of Bled, the photogenic spa town squeezed between the snow-clad peaks and the lake. It is watched over by a ninth-century castle perched atop a rocky crag, while back down on the lake, traditional wooden pletna boats ply to and from the craggy islet home of the Baroque Church of the Assumption. Pretty as a picture, it is one of Slovenia’s most romantic wedding venues.
Winter sees a thick mantle of snow carpet the Julian Alps, when a dozen purpose-built resorts fill up with skiers. Foremost among these are Kranjska Gora, Kobla and Vogel, which all offer over 20 km (12.5 miles) of prepared piste for downhill and cross-country skiers as well as a modern, efficient network of lifts.
Located in Ljubljana’s vast cobbled square of Mestni Trg, the Baroque Magistrat was built in 1719 by Slovenian architect Gregor Maček and today contains the office of the mayor as well as being a popular landmark with visitors to this elegant, pocket-sized city. The town hall is approached by an impressive flight of steps, has an ornate whitewashed façade incorporating an arched Venetian-style balcony, and is topped with a fancy pediment and clock tower. This incarnation replaced the previous Gothic town hall, which was built in 1418 but subsequently destroyed in a violent earthquake in 1511.
A monument to Yugoslavia’s first king, Peter I, was erected in the entrance hall in the mid-1920s but this was destroyed by Italian Fascist troops when they occupied the city in 1941 – nowadays a 17th-century statue of Hercules the lion has taken its place. The walls are covered with oil paintings and there are often a couple of art or history exhibitions on the go in the pretty inner courtyard. Outside the Magistrat stands the Robba Fountain, one of the city’s best-loved Baroque monuments. It was the last masterpiece of Ljubljana sculptor Francesco Robba, completed in 1751 and depicting three river gods representing Slovenia’s main rivers.
With pretty landscaped gardens, shaded woodlands, and peaceful walkways, Tivoli Park is Ljubljana's most popular green space. The 2-square-mile (5-square-kilometer) expanse features walking and cycling trails, mini golf courses, and playgrounds as well as important cultural institutions such as Tivoli Mansion and the Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia.
While the romantic position of the lovely Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary (Bled Island Church) on a minuscule mound in the middle of Lake Bled is enough to attract thousands of visitors to it each year – it is one of Slovenia’s most popular wedding venues – it is also feted thanks to its internal ornamentation, 177‐foot (54‐meter) tower and dedication to the Virgin Mary. Starting out as a pagan temple many years before the advent of Christianity, the church has at various times been a small, wooden structure and a single‐aisle Gothic church, which was consecrated by the Bishop of Ljubljana in 1465. The freestanding bell tower appeared later in the same century and the church was reconstructed yet again in 1685 in its present Baroque style, with a deliciously OTT gilt‐encrusted altar and black marble and wood‐carved pulpits contrasting keenly with its serene white and cream aisles. Two legends surround the church: that men must carry their partners up the 99 steps of the 15th‐century stone staircase leading up to its entrance to ensure marital happiness; and that ringing the wishing bell – which dates from 1534 – on the left of the altar makes wishes come true.
Uniting Ljubljana’s historic and colorful Baroque center with Jurčič Square, the 13th-century Cobblers' Bridge (Cevljarski Most) is an integral part of Ljubljana, past and present. Once a point at which to collect tolls on foodstuffs, spices, and textiles, today, theoldest bridge in the city is a gathering point for street artists and stallholders in summer and a popular stop on many city walking tours.Redesigned by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnikin 1931, thestone bridge is adorned with six pairs of pillars and crosses over the Ljubljanica River, connecting to the imposing Three Bridges (Tromostovje) by walkway along the Ljubljanica.
Explore the city's most famous bridges and architecture on a guided day tour of Ljubljana and the Alpine town of Lake Bled, with included round-trip transportation departing from most nearby cities.
Ljubljana’s funky, graffiti-strewn enclave of Metelkova is the alternative epicenter of the city, an area stuffed full of grungy clubs and bars that lies north of the Ljubljanica River. Whether they’re into rock, punk or folk, gay bars or beery dives, this is the place of choice for party animals amid the harsh military architecture of Metelkova’s former army barracks. These were abandoned by the defunct Yugoslav army in 1990 and were on line for demolition when a band of squatters moved in to save them; now they are run as an autonomous cultural center, along similar lines to Christiania in Copenhagen. In addition to being a mecca for late-night revelers, Metelkova is the destination for flea-market fans, pop-up street entertainment and edgy art exhibitions; the streets are packed most days of the week but the action really kicks off over the weekend, when kids flock in from all over Central Europe.
One of the city’s coolest hotels, the Hostel Celica, has its home in Metelkova, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, which opened in 2011, is on its fringes in the newly christened Museum Quarter; it offers exhibitions of avant-garde European works, pop art and photography.
Established in 1774, the National and University Library of Slovenia (Arodna in Univerzitetna Knjiznica) is one of the country’s most prestigious institutions. Tucked away in Plečnik Palace on the edge of the medieval center of Ljubljana, the Jože Plečnik-designed, four-story building is patterned with contrasting limestone and brickwork and centered around a pair of internal courtyards. The impressive library reading room fans out around a monumental marble staircase scattered with 32 gray and black marble columns.
Open to guided tours, the library holds some 1.3 million books, 8,700 rare manuscripts, and other multimedia resources. It also contains five major collections of Slovenian artifacts, from medieval manuscripts to maps, all of which are available to view in a series of ornate exhibition rooms. The National and University Library is included on many walking tours of Ljubljana, and a visit can be combined with a cruise down the Ljubljanica River or local beer tasting for an experience that's one for the books.
Portorož, which means "Port of Roses," is a city for those looking for a relaxing escape on the beautiful Gulf of Trieste. Enjoy the lovely beaches during the day, and then delve into Portorož's extensive nightlife in nightclubs, discotheques, casinos, and pubs.
Good music is always to be found in Portorož, as it is a cultural center of the Slovene coast. Another cultural asset is the International Sculpture Symposium Forma Viva, where the public can view artists creating their work right before their eyes.
The city is most famous for its health and wellness spas and thermal pools, making your Portorož experience one of pampering and well-being. Being a part of one of the biggest saltpans in the world, the natural elements of salt, brine, and fango mud make Portorož an ideal place for a spa, and is known as one of the most comprehensive spas in all of Europe.
If you're one for adventure, there are daily boat excursions into the Gulf, as well as diving, sailing, and windsurfing opportunities.
Butchers' Bridge (Mesarski Most) may not be the most romantic sounding attraction in Ljubljana, but it's certainly popular among lovers. Since its construction in 2010, couples from around the world have adorned this footbridge over the Ljubljanica River with hundreds of locked padlocks to symbolize their eternal love. The city's answer to Pont des Art in Paris, the bridge is locally known as 'lovers' bridge,' and is the most recent of the 17 crossings over the river, connecting the Petkovšek Embankment to the Central Market.
More modern than Ljubljana's more famous bridges, Butchers' Bridge features a simple design, with two glass walkways, steel wire railings, and several bizarre bronze statues by Slovenian sculptor Jakov Brdar. Though recently built, the bridge gets its name from its first incarnation in the 13th century, when it occupied the area now covered by Shoemaker's Bridge. Home to the city's meat markets, the original bridge was moved out of the city after hundreds of complaints about the stench around the stalls. Romantic! Given new life in the 21st century, this bridge is now smell-free and an integral part of city walking tours.
Despite its relatively small size, Hrastovlje is home to two of Slovenia’s most-unique features. The karst spring of the Rizana River, which flows through this quiet destination, is the only major spring in the entire country. And while this quiet body of water draws visitors because of its beauty, the Holy Trinity Church is Hrastovlje’s main attraction.
This impressive stone structure was built before 1500 and contains a world-famous Danse Macabre fresco that is truly impressive to see. Extensive restoration of the plaster walls and interior murals took place in the 1940s, and today, travelers can check out the church’s nave, where scenes from the Book of Genesis, saints, and the famous “Dance of Death” sequence line the walls. The church, which is located on a hillside just above town, also offers beautiful views of Hrastovlje and the Slovanian countryside.
More Things to Do in Slovenia
The Renaissance-cum-Baroque castle in Ptuj stands over Slovenia’s oldest town on a bend in the Drava River and its site has been occupied since pre-Roman times. In the 16th century the castle began to take on its present shape, replacing the medieval fortress commissioned by an archbishop of Salzburg, of which only the Western Tower now remains. It has been extended piecemeal since then and was transformed into the Ptuj Regional Museum in 1945, showcasing a host of treasures from Slovenia’s cultured, aristocratic past.
The six permanent exhibitions are woven into a tour of the castle apartments and include Slovenia’s biggest collections of ancient armor and handmade musical instruments on the ground floor plus a series of fine paintings of the Habsburg Imperial Family in the Castle Gallery. The most sumptuous chambers are found on the first floor, where period furniture, Chinoiserie, tapestries and paintings are laid out in reconstructed rooms dating from the late 16th to the 19th centuries.
The Festival Hall houses a rare collection of Turqueries, which are 17th-century Turkish portraits of military commanders, dignitaries and fine Ottoman ladies. However, the real stars among the museum’s collections are the traditional shaggy costumes and animal masks worn during Ptuj’s Kurent (Shrove Tuesday) carnival to stave off winter spirits; they are displayed in castle’s former stable block.
The mid-20th-century Slovene architect Jože Plečnik was responsible for much of Ljubljana’s rebirth as a cultured, elegant city; he built bridges over the Ljubljanica River as well as pathways along it and in the 1950s was also given the remit to design the Križanke Summer Theatre (Poletno Gledalisce Krizanke). It is located in the former Monastery of the Holy Cross, which dated right back to medieval times but was sacked by Yugoslav Communist leaders in the aftermath of World War II.
Plečnik set about creating a Renaissance-style entertainment venue with a vast entrance courtyard, paved with patterned cobbles and surrounded by arcaded walls etched with sgrafitto; his bust is also found here as a memorial to his designs, while some artifacts from the monastery are on display in a small museum next to the church. Today the complex offers four spaces, ranging from the Courtyard of Hell, where chamber-music concerts are held, to a sizeable stage where orchestral concerts and full-blown theater productions are held as well as rock concerts – it has a retractable roof in case of rain. The theater has a total capacity of 1,270 and is administrated by the Ljubljana Festival as the city’s most popular outdoor venue.
Located at the confluence of two rivers in northern Slovenia, Tolmin Gorge is one of the gateways to Triglav National Park. Known for its stunning scenery, crystal clear waters, moss-covered canyons, and rocky outcrops, Tolmin Gorge is one of Slovenia’s best natural attractions.
Challenge your mind and test the limits of your perception at Ljubljana’s immersive Museum of Illusions. The museum—which features a series of interactive exhibits, mind-bending optical illusions, stereograms, and holograms—provides an entertaining and educational experience for all ages.
Housed in a restored 16th-century Renaissance castle, the Ljubljana Museum of Architecture and Design is one of the city’s most intriguing museums. The museum’s vast collection of design plans and model structures of Slovenia’s most celebrated buildings draw visitors interested in architecture and design. An exhibition of works by celebrated Slovenian architect Jože Ple?nik is the museum highlight.
Located close to the center of Bled, Straza Bled hill offers year-round entertainment and panoramic views of Lake Bled, Bled Castle, and the Julian Alps. In winter, you can go skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, while tobogganing, hiking, and an adventure park are available throughout the rest of the year.
Named after the Slovene writer and political activist Ivan Cankar, the Cankar Centre (Cankarjev Dom) is Ljulbjana’s arts and cultural hub. Designed by postmodernist Slovene architect Edvard Ravnikar, this vast complex features several performance venues and hosts hundreds of annual events such as the Ljubljana Jazz Festival and the Ljubljana International Film Festival as well as numerous conferences and other cultural events.
Perched on top of Castle Hill overlooking Slovenia’s capital city, the mighty medieval Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski Grad) dates back to the 11th century. This well-preserved fortress is visible from most everywhere in town and is a must-see for unbeatable views of the city. Tour the castle’s Museum of Slovene History for a fascinating introduction to Slovenia’s past.
Built in the first half of the 12th Century Podsreda Castle (Grad Podsreda) is a classic example of traditional Romanesque architecture. Though this iconic hillside structure fell into disrepair during World War II, exhaustive renovations have since taken place in an effort to restore Podsreda to its original splendor.
Travelers can tour the grounds, which are tucked into a rustic mountain slope that overlooks the quiet, picturesque township that shares the same name. Well-kept gardens, towering white columns, impressive double windows and decrepit remains of original interior paintings are just some of the highlights of a visit to this whimsical destination. Travelers who tour the grounds during summer months are likely to stumble upon wedding ceremonies, too, since the castle serves as a popular romantic backdrop to exchanging vows.
The coastal wetlands of Secovlje are also home to the nation’s largest saltpans. Thick, murky green walkways wind between expansive wet water areas that capture and hold vast amounts of salt that naturally occurs here. While the pans alone are a site to see, the Secovlje Salina Nature Park has been attracting travelers for decades, thanks to its extensive biodiversity, natural beauty and picturesque landscapes.
With more than 270 different species of birds, the nature park draws ornithologists and birders to Fontanigge, the southernmost section of the park, where vegetation is perfect for white herons and a picturesque estuary leads to a quiet river. But Secovlje Salina offers plenty of options for travelers who aren’t so interested in our flying friends. An extensive network of bike and walking trails as well as the Lera Salt Shop and the Saltworks Museum round out a visit to this Mediterranean destination.
Mt Kozjak (‘Mali Kozjak’ in Croatian) is a mountainous ridge sitting above the town of Kaštela near Split and forms part of the Dinaric Alps; it is 9.5 miles (16 km) in length and its tallest peak is Veli vrj at 2,556 ft (779 m). From the top of Mt Kozjak there are spectacular glimpses across the Bay of Kaštela to Split and Trogir and on towards islands including Brac and Hvar scattered in the sparkling Adriatic Sea. The region is an enormously popular leisure destination with climbers in winter and there are several mountain lodges for overnight stays, including one at Malačka. In summer walkers and cyclists flock onto the mountain to follow the trails; one of the best-known in the area is around South Rock, a scenic hike with amazing views across rural Dalmatia.
Jeep tours leave Split daily for an exploration of the wilds of Central Dalmatia to discover its rural villages and unspoiled countryside on unmade lanes. One of the highlights is the carefully restored rustic hamlet of Škopljanci, which offers a couple of restaurants and a delightful garden planted with plants mentioned in the Bible. There’s also a small ethnographic museum where traditional costumes embroidered in red thread are displayed along with ancient farming implements.
The quiet town of Bohinj is a favorite destination for winter amateurs, with its ample opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, and ice skating. Located in the Julian Alps, stunning views are abound, and the natural attractions are the valley's biggest appeal.
In the summer, swimming, rafting, rock-climbing, hiking, fishing, andhorseback-riding are the primary forms of entertainment, along with a thrilling opportunity for cave exploration.
Bohinj also offers the occasion to pamper yourself: its health and wellness spas are considered to be some of the best in Slovenia, and after a long day of physical exertion, relaxation will be well deserved.
Not limited to a specific municipality, the Karst (sometimes referred to as 'Kras') region is the land situated between Trieste Gulf and the Vipava Valley. The limestone plateau is so picturesque, and is famous for lending its name to a specific topographical phenomenon wherein fusible stones are affected and shaped by water. The lakes, springs, swallow holes, caves, and potholes that qualify as Karst make up a large portion of Slovenia.
As such, Karst is most famous for its incredible caves. These include Vilenica, Lipica, Divača, Kacna Jama, Postojna, and the Škocjan Caves, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These are the main tourist attractions, and are certainly not to missed during a visit to Slovenia.
There are around 100 municipalities within the region, the center being Sežana. The main rural centers include Divača, Dutovlje, and Komen.
Cerknica Lake appears between October and June, and provides a wonderful atmosphere for fishing and bird-watching.
Formed by the Reka River, which still flows through this underground canyon, the Škocjan cave system is a 4-mile (6-kilometer) network of interconnected caves and one of Slovenia’s most impressive natural attractions. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes cavernous chambers, pools, sinkholes, and jumbo-size stalactites and stalagmites.
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