With its wonderful food markets, pedestrian-friendly streets, superlative gardens and ambitious zero-waste strategy, it’s no wonder Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital for 2016. When I first visited the Slovenian capital last year, I was blown away by its gloriously accessible historic centre, delicious fresh food and extremely drinkable wines. Why Ljubljana – and wider Slovenia, for that matter – isn’t more well-known on the tourist trail, I don’t know, but as the city celebrates its eco-achievements with a packed calendar of themed tours and events, there’s no better time to visit. Here’s five ways to support the city’s green movement on your trip.
Whether you’re self-catering or just fancy a snack, head to Ljubljana’s Central Market, which consists of an open-air market located in the Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg squares, a covered market situated in between the two squares, and a series of small food shops along the Ljubljanica River. It’s open every day except Sunday, but swing by on Saturday morning for the biggest range of fresh produce, from seasonal berries to homemade pumpkin oil, freshly-baked breads to dry-cured meats. Each Wednesday, the Pogačarjev trg square hosts an organic market where you can buy straight from Slovenian farmers.
Ljubljana is also home to several good vintage fashion stores; I had a good rifle through the racks at Divas Preloved and Moje Tvoje (What’s Mine is Yours). There’s also a good flea market that runs along the river embankment between Triple Bridge and Cobblers’ on the Old Town side on Sunday mornings.
From modern interpretations of traditional Slovenian comfort food to inventive new dishes highlighting fresh local produce (including seafood from Slovenia’s Mediterranean coastline), there is some great eating to be had in Ljubljana. On Fridays from mid-March to October, Ljubljana’s Central Market hosts the Open Kitchen food market, offering the perfect opportunity to you taste fresh local produce dished up by Slovenian chefs.
The city has no lack of cute cafes (I had a lovely fairtrade latte at Čokl while I waited for the funicular to Ljubljana Castle) and good restaurants, either. Don’t miss newcomer Organic Garden, a street food-style cafe specialising in fresh produce from a nearby farm; try the black wild salmon burger. To discover more great eating and drinking haunts, consider taking a food or craft beer tour with Ljubljananjam.
Earlier this year, Ljubljana’s Hotel Park became the first Slovenian hotel to be awarded a Travelife Gold certificate for environmental friendliness. Conveniently located between Ljubljana’s train station and the city centre, the hotel is strongly committed to recycling and even has its own beehive; other eco-incentives include discounts for guests who arrive by train or drive a smartcar. Better yet, a superior double (the best room type) will only set you back €92 per night, including breakfast.
In June, the city’s quirky Hostel Celica – housed in a former military prison – became the world’s first eco-certified hostel, and by the end of the year, Ljubljana’s sustainable tourism offerings are set to include an additional six internationally eco-certified accommodation establishments.
Thanks to the removal of vehicles from its historic centre almost a decade ago, tiny Ljubljana is easy to explore on foot. If you’re pressed for time or simply keen to explore further afield, consider renting a bicycle. Thanks to the city’s BicikeLJ bike-share scheme, there are 360 bicycles at 32 stations to choose from, and the first hour of rental is free. You’ll just need to register online, which costs €1/week or €3 for a whole year. Less mobile visitors can hail a Kavalir, complimentary electric carts that ply Ljubljana’s pedestrian zones every day from 8am to 8pm, while road-trippers can now take advantage of Avant2Go a new electric car-sharing scheme introduced in July this year.
Almost 50 per cent of Ljubljana’s city area is covered by native forests. In between, there are plenty of pretty parks. In celebration of its Green Capital status, the tourist board is hosting a series of twelve green, sustainability-themed tours of Ljubljana (a new one launches each month) that meander through the city’s various green spaces. If you’re keen to go for a run (or a ride), hit The Path of Remembrance and Comradeship. Also known as The Green Ring, this 35km recreational path that runs along the course of the barbed-wire fence which surrounded Ljubljana during the Second World War is popular with both walkers and cyclists.