We knew very little about Slovenia before we stepped off our train in the capital city of Ljubljana. We were aware that the country was home to beautiful Lake Bled and that the name of the capital looked like a tongue twister (it’s pronounced lyoo-BLYAH-nah). What we didn’t know was how deeply we were going to fall in love with the city.
Slovenia is a land of majestic castles, mystical dragons, and human fish. The last of that bunch is actually not a fish at all, but instead a type of cave-dwelling salamander only found in parts of Europe. Google it, it’s terrifying! Luckily for us, our only encounter with this creepy looking flesh-colored amphibian came in the form of a local Slovenian beer (which is named after it).
Our three days in Slovenia were spent drinking said beer, exploring Ljubljana Castle (the mighty medieval fortress that looms over the city), scouting for dragons (an integral part of the city’s coat of arms and a symbol of the city), and immersing ourselves in the local art scene.
We found Ljubljana to be a city of undeniable charm. We were enthralled with the local art scene and how we happened to stumble upon a different work of art around every corner. Our favorites were the street performers; even though we visited in winter, we chose to take our coffees outside so we could enjoy the music from Spanish guitar buskers and watch as a ballerinas impressed the crowd with their rhythm and flexibility.
A vendor setting the scene by playing the accordion
We realized early on that Slovenians have an innate appreciation of art. This is a country of writers, poets, dancers, and painters; a nation of people who love to express themselves through their unique language and cultural identity.
This pride in the local culture is reflected in the arts. In fact, Ljubljana’s love of the written word won the city the title of UNESCO World Book Capital 2010. It should come as no shock that Ljubljana is home to a number of international literary festivals, including Vilenica, Fabula, and Days of Poetry and Wine (a combination I fully support).
Ljubljana offers a plethora of museums, theaters, and galleries just waiting to be explored. We highly recommend visits to the City Art Museum, the Slovenian National Drama Theatre of Ljubljana, and the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre. However, in our opinion, the best way to explore the city’s art scene is to simply walk around.
Viewfinder Tip: Every hour, catch a special performance outside the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre.
Lucky for us, our first full day in Ljubljana was a Sunday–just in time for the weekend flea market. At the market, we strolled among vintage finds, antique kilim rugs, old pocket watches, and more. The experience was heightened by one of the vendors playing an old accordion.
As we walked along the river, we took in the art of the various street performers. In just a few short blocks we witnessed a twirling Flamenco dancer, two boys strumming on their Spanish guitars, and an extremely talented sketch artist. Everywhere we looked, local Slovenians were expressing their creativity vibrantly.
If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys experiencing a destination through its culture and art, look no further than Slovenia. It’s a country that oozes history, culture, and charm.