Slovenia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world; a statement that anyone who has visited will surely agree with. A small country in central Europe with a population of around two million, Slovenia borders the Alps to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, so visitors are blessed with spectacular mountain ranges, gorgeous beaches and a variety of climates.
Everything in between is not too bad either: shimmering lakes, ancient caves, plush green forests meet plenty of fascinating culture within the Gothic churches and baroque palaces, leaving no question as why tourism is sharply on the rise.
Although it’s a country with a surface area of 20,000 sq. km, there is so much to do and see, so to do Slovenia justice, this guide will focus on two of the main areas of interest: the capital city of Ljubljana and the iconic Lake Bled.
Slovenia’s capital is a city not to be missed. With an entirely pedestrian city centre, Ljubljana contains the hustle of a capital without the honking car horns and pollution. If you’re on a mission to explore its sights, the city is compact enough to cover it all in just a few days, but it’s a place that can easily be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace too.
What to do
The first port of call has to be Ljubljana Castle. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the castle was constructed in the 11th century and contains much of the history of modern Ljubljana. Private tour guides can be arranged on arrival if you want to avoid big groups and provide a fantastic insight and personal view into the castle.
Next, take a private cruise down the Ljubljanica, the river that splits the city down the middle where tour guides will explain all the interesting historical reference points as you gently glide along the water.
The rest of Ljubljana is best enjoyed on foot, be it wandering around the National Gallery and Ljubljana Cathedral or relaxing in one of the many cafes or bars in Preseren Square or setting up a picnic in Tivoli Park.
Where to eat
Michelin only started awarding stars to Slovenian restaurants this year, such is the rise of Slovenian cuisine, and one of the nation’s first recipients is Atelje in Ljubljana. Also check out Strelec located in one of the towers of Ljubljana Castle and there are also numerous restaurants dotted along the riverfront all serving Slovenian and international dishes.
Where to stay
The recently opened Intercontinental Hotel, Ljubljana’s first five-star hotel, is the choice for most affluent visitors to Ljubljana, while Grand Hotel Union also offers fine accommodation. For a more boutique experience, Lesar Hotel Angel in the heart of the old city would be a great choice.
Lake Bled is undoubtedly Slovenia’s most famous location. Aerial shots of the glass-like lake, with the small church island located in the middle and the sprawling, rugged mountain range in the background, are Instagram favourites. No surprise then that the value of the houses that surround the lake are among the most expensive in Europe that only people with a Euro Millions jackpot bank balance can afford. Once you arrive on the edge of the lake, you will see what these residents are paying for.
What to do
No visit to Lake Bled would be complete without hiring a wooden rowboat and rowing across to the church island, so get practicing! Though, if you prefer for someone to row you across, you will be pleased to know that private rowers can be arranged at one of the docks.
To capture those magical aerial views, follow the trails up the hills – they are well marked and will take you to various vantage points, so you can look down on Lake Bled in all of its magnificence.
If you want to experience similarly spellbinding views without the trek, then head up to Bled Castle, Slovenia’s oldest castle dating back to the early 11th century. After exploring the grounds, savour the views by perching on the edge and to take a closer look at the world below, put a few coins in the binoculars.
For golfers, Lake Bled has one of the best courses in Slovenia. The stunning 18-hole championship course of Royal Bled plays host to European Challenger Tour events and offers panoramic mountain views that will distract even the most focused players.
Where to eat
Lake Bled is blessed with many gorgeous restaurants with the views to match. Bled Castle Restaurant offers Slovenian and international fine dining to enjoy while gazing out over the lake, while Villa Bled Restaurant is set on the water’s edge. Julijana Restaurant is another that provides great good and views, while Penzion Berc is set back from the lake but the food is worth sacrificing the view for.
Where to stay
For luxurious comfort and perfect views of the lake, then look no further than Grand Hotel Toplice. Elsewhere, Villa Bled offers similar levels of luxury and was the hotel of choice of former Yugoslavia president Tito as well as visiting dignitaries.
Elsewhere in Slovenia
Here is a quick-fire guide to some other must-visit places in Slovenia:
Slovenia’s most famous restaurant (it featured in the first series of Netflix’s Chef’s Table) is the only restaurant in the country to hold two Michelin stars and is run by celebrity chef Ana Ros, who has twice been named the best female chef in the world. Located on the outskirts of a small town about a two-hour drive north-west of Ljubljana, Hisa Franko is a must for those who want to experience one of the best restaurants in Europe.
Wine tasting in Sempas
Slovenia offers the perfect climate for vineyards and as such has a very underrated wine industry. There are many places to go in the country for wine tours and among them is the Lepa Vida winery in Sempas, where guests can take an extensive tour and sample wines, including the unique orange wine (white wine but orange in colour) while taking in the views.
Hit the slopes in Triglav
Slovenia’s highest mountain is set inside Triglav National Park, the nation’s only recognised national park. Inside the park is Vogel Ski Resort, which welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all different levels including Slovenia’s many Olympians. If you visit Slovenia outside of ski season, then the national park is a popular place for hikers.
One of the top tourist sites in Slovenia is the Postojna Cave, the country’s second-longest cave system. Go deep underground and discover how this vast and expansive cave was created over millions of years, before taking a cable car to the top of the surrounding landscape to peer back down into the abyss.