The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana echoes so many other cities, with chocolate box pretty medieval streets up there with Prague, grand townhouses that would charm the Viennese, remarkable Italianate churches and some of the finest art nouveau you will set eyes on anywhere.
The spectacular international influences may abound in the architecture and deliciously in the remarkable local cuisine, but Ljubljana is also brilliantly, defiantly, itself, a modern hub where the local farmers’ market stocks vegetables grown just a stroll away by old ladies in their allotments
It’s culture and cuisine are second to none, it’s been named as Europe’s Green Capital, and there are year-round festivities to celebrate – here’s every reason you need to explore Ljubljana...
1. It’s set in a romantic fairytale setting
The first thing you see as you approach is the sort of dreamy castle you used to read about as a kid. The funicular ride up is all part of the fun, as are the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.
Back on street level, you ease along the cobbles half expecting to see people in medieval garb as it really feels like time has been turned seriously back. In Ljubljana, the fairytale always has a happy ending with a romantic stroll along the river.
2. It was named Europe's Green Capital
Named the Green capital in Europe for 2016, green living has always been important in Ljubljana as mayor Zoran Janković has painstakingly untangled the traffic problems that blight most cities and made the core almost entirely pedestrian.
New bridges have been crafted, urban spaces spiced up with public art and real thought has gone into how people use and enjoy the city. Ljubljana sports two glorious green lungs too in Tivoli Park and Rožnik Hill.
3. Prague is rated as the New Ljubljana
Well, sort of. Travel pundits often proclaim cities the ‘New Prague’. Well, mercurial, visionary local architect and urban planner Jože Plečnik hailed from Slovenia and went on to create some seminal work in Prague so it should really be Prague, the New Ljubljana. His best work, though, was in Slovenia.
Few cities bear the glorious imprint of one man as much as Ljubljana. Essential works to check out include the city’s landmark Triple Bridge, the monastery complex of Križanke and Žale Cemetery.
His influence is everywhere on the riverside he revolutionised and his style lives on in today’s architects too. His most striking work is the National and University Library, a totally unique creation you cannot fail to be struck by.
4. It's home to world-class cuisine
Ljubljana offers remarkable cuisine, at the heart of which is superb fresh local produce and underpinning it are eclectic dishes with influence from across Slovenia and also neighbouring countries such as Austria, Italy and Hungary.
The country’s wine is stellar these days too and the city also boasts its own large brewery (Union) as well as craft breweries. Italians come here on foodie trips, which says it all.
One brilliant Ljubljana creation is Open Kitchen on Fridays from mid-March through October, which sees the city’s Central Market burst alive with food stalls from all over the country. This being Ljubljana there is live music and entertainment as the ideal backdrop to this top-notch foodie experience.
5. It's a capital full of culture
Ljubljana is a deeply cultural city where history is revered and art hailed. The grand National Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art are essential stops on any visit.
As night falls it is time to drift off to the Opera House or Philharmonic Hall for a performance by internationally famous acts or a celebrated Slovenian performer.
Just walking around in Ljubljana is a cultural experience, as young musicians perform in the streets and you’ll often hear the strings of a violin drifting through an open window right in the city centre.