Inspiration Andrea González

Escape to Ljubljana, Iberia’s new destination

Iberia will be flying to Ljubljana from 29 July to 5 September. Slovenia’s capital was chosen as a new destination by Iberia’s own customers, captivated by its picturesque landscapes and the open and cosmopolitan character of the whole country. Travel with us to a city perfect for a summer getaway.

Ljubljana is a small city, but it’s filled with history. Founded 2,000 years ago by the Legio XV Apollinaris of the Roman Emperor Octavian, since then, it has accumulated a surprising historical and cultural heritage. Following the course of the River Ljubljana, visitors can explore gems that dot the city like the Dragon Bridge. An emblem of the city – the dragon is its symbol –, this bridge was inaugurated in 1901, becoming an outstanding show of technical innovation and one of the best examples of the Art Nouveau style in the world.

Ljubljana Castle has served as a fortress to defend the capital

The other great icon of Ljubljana is its Castle, an impressive mediaeval building that dominates the city from on high. The circular complex was developed gradually as a fortress since the twelfth century, when new towers were added and its walls were raised even more, until the nineteenth century. The Castle can be accessed by road or by a funicular; from its different spaces you can enjoy some of the most beautiful panoramas of Ljubljana; when the weather is fine, even of the Julian Alps. You can choose between different itineraries to visit it – the castle even has an Escape Room – and enjoy the best Slovenian cuisine there. Strelec Restaurant received 1 Michelin Star in 2022 thanks to the work of Chef Igor Jagodic, who accompanies the incredible views of the Archers Tower with his tasting menu. And the Gostilna Na Gradu restaurant offers a tour of traditional Slovenian recipes with a contemporary touch and local products at very competitive prices, which have earned it a Michelin Bib Gourmand mention.

Restaurante Strelec
Strelec Restaurant. ©Mr.Dejan Dubokovič

If you like art, check out St Nicholas Cathedral, recognisable above the rooftops by its unmistakable green domes. Its imposing Baroque decoration inside includes frescoes by Giulio Quaglio and sculptures by Angelo Putti. Very close to this church is Ljubljana’s Central Market, where open-air stalls fill the two adjacent squares, Pogačarjev Square and Vodnikov Square, next to the covered market located on the banks of the river. This is the best place in town to try the local cuisine. Every Friday, the Odprta kuhna takes place. Translated as “open kitchen”, it’s a gourmet market where Slovenia’s top restaurants come together to offer an incredible culinary experience. In addition, the Market stands out for its architecture. It’s the work of Jože Plečnik, considered the Slovenian national architect and one of those responsible for the construction of its identity as a nation. Completed in 1944, it was designed to naturally adapt to the flow of the River Ljubljana and boasts a complex of shops, restaurants and even an art gallery.

Vista nocturna del Mercado Central de Liubliana
Night view of Ljubljana's Central Market. ©Luka Esenko, Courtesy of Ljubljana Tourism

Other works by Jože Plečnik – who took part in the complete remodelling of the city in the first half of the 20th century – include the National and University Library of Slovenia, whose exterior is inspired by the Italian Renaissance palaces, the Triple Bridge, which was built after one of the central bridges of Ljubljana was remodelled, and the Žale Cemetery, from 1940, whose entrance is formed by stunning monumental archwork. Architecture lovers can also visit the house-museum of Jože Plečnik, designed by the architect, where you can appreciate his incredible talent for interior design and his works from other European capitals such as Vienna or Prague. For lunch, don’t miss the JB restaurant, located in another of Plečnik’s buildings, where you can taste the creations of Chef Janez Bratovž, a leader in modern Slovenian cuisine.

Interior de la casa-museo de Jože Plečnik
Interior of the Jože Plečnik's museum

Ljubljana, on the other hand, has some of the most picturesque cityscapes. Prešeren Square, dedicated to Slovenia’s most important poet, is located at the foot of the Castle and can be accessed via the aforementioned Triple Bridge. In the square is the Church of the Annunciation, whose Baroque façade is a much more colourful reinterpretation of that of the Church of the Gesù, in Rome, or the Central Pharmacy of Ljubljana, an impressive neo-Renaissance building also known as the Mayer Palace. The most alternative face of Ljubljana is Matelkova mesto, a cultural centre born in the former barracks of a Yugoslav army garrison, active between 1945 and 1991. In 1993, the collective of intellectuals Mreža za Metelkovo decided to occupy the space and thus prevent it from being demolished, founding an Autonomous Social Centre. Since then, the artists themselves have been installing their workshops, headquarters of organisations in defence of the LGBTI community, art exhibitions and even concerts, which have turned the place into the avant-garde epicentre of Ljubljana. In addition, many clubs have opened in the area, leading to an alternative space.

For single-day excursions from Ljubljana, it’s best to visit Lake Bled, just a 45-minute drive from the capital. Considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, it’s the perfect destination for a dip or some paddle boarding. In the picturesque village of Bled it’s traditional to enjoy Kremšnita, a delicious cream cake. You can also visit Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave, which are part of the same park. The mediaeval fortification, witness to legends such as that of Erasmus of Predjama, was built at the very mouth of one of the huge caves in the area and overlooks a cliff more than 123 metres deep. A short distance away, Postojna Cave is a very interesting visit to do with children, because inside they’ve built a fun tourist train that runs through a good part of the most majestic limestone formations.

El Castillo de Predjama se levanta a los pies de una gran cueva y al filo de un impresionante acantilado
El Castillo de Predjama se levanta a los pies de una gran cueva y al filo de un impresionante acantilado. Cortesía del parque de Postojnska Jama.

To top it off, some summer plans await you that make Ljubljana a very special destination for the season. Until 3 September, the Ljubljana Festival will take place. In 2024, it will celebrate its 72nd edition and, like every year, it will bring together international figures from classical music, opera, ballet, theatre and art.