8 Things To Do In Ljubljana On A Budget
March 11, 2019
by Marii Moves
For some, Ljubljana is the birthplace of dragons, for others, the city of love: ‘ljubljena’ is a Slovenian word for ‘the beloved’. For Europe, however, Ljubljana is a sustainable, recycle rocking capital. How to experience that on a budget? Stay tuned.
Free City Tour
The one thing everyone seems to associate with Ljubljana is dragons. What about them? To be honest, each local will tell you their own interpretation of the story. Which is why, I highly recommend hearing it from the professionals – the tour guides. Every morning at 11.00 worker bees wearing yellow shirts and warm smiles greet visitors on the Prešeren square. It is not required to register beforehand or to pay a fixed fee to join the tour. The energetic tour guides keep you entertained for two hours, telling you war tales of dragons and love stories of poets; and only then, at the end of the tour, you may or may not show your appreciation with a tip that fits your budget. I loved it so much I went more than once!
Free Museum Day
The best things in life are free; this also applies for museums, right? Some of the largest museums and galleries in Ljubljana are free for everyone visiting on the first Sunday of the month. I may not be a regular visitor of art galleries, but I was undoubtedly eager to go to the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. The Museum displays two remarkable permanent exhibits – an Egyptian mummy and an almost complete mammoth skeleton. The human mummy was a worshiped priest of Amun’s temple, and was given to the museum as a donation by an Austrian consul in Egypt. The immense mammoth, however, has a better story – it was dug up accidentally by construction workers building a bridge around 15 kilometres from Ljubljana. A true treasure hunt!
Rent a City Bike
Ljubljana is not a giant city, so walking will do just fine. But why settle with fine, when you can experience wonderful. Imagine having a network of automated bike rentals that are budget-friendly, accessible at all times and cover the whole city. There you go, Ljubljana has it. Accessing the service is quick and easy with a transportation card, called Urbana card, and involves only a small subscription fee: 3 euros for a year, 1 euro for a week. Cycling around the city is scenic and safe – the city centre is closed for cars, and bicycle lanes are built as part of the sidewalk. The heart of the city is the beautiful river Ljubljanica, surrounded with bridges, boats and river side cafés – plenty to see while enjoying the wind in your hair.
Night in a Cell
How to make a hostel sustainable and funky? Your hosts at the Celica Art Hostel (‘celica’ stands for ‘a cell’) have the perfect recipe. They built a hostel into an abandoned military prison, made it affordable and social, won a handful of awards and lived happily ever after. This hip hostel, that accommodates guests in prison cells, is at a walking distance from the city centre and shares the back yard with cult bars, pubs, galleries and museums (known as the Metelkova area). Celica Hostel is appreciated for its lively atmosphere and weekly social events. Prices start from 13 euros per night. Moreover, there is a small museum in the hostel’s basement and a free tour starts every day at 14.00 – ideal for those, who prefer to sleep on a friend’s couch or simply do not seek a night long prison experience.
Plant Based Food
I was surprised to see a graffiti that encouraged veganism in Ljubljana to begin with, but the more I looked, the more I found. Bridges, walls, even stairs advise you to ‘Go vegan’ in Ljubljana. With all this inspiration lying around, is there a place to grab a plant based bite? Yes there is, and it’s called the greenhouse. Out of the numerous vegan-friendly restaurants in town, my utmost favourite is Café Rastinjak (‘rastinjak’ translates to ‘greenhouse’). It is full of flavour, heart-warming hospitality and sits right in the main train station building. How convenient! The fresh and go menu includes a variety of juices, smoothies and salads, but if you enjoy something that warms you up, grab a sandwich, a cinnamon roll or soup. For a fellow sweet tooth, I recommend trying the raw chocolate hazelnut brownie.
As soon as the sun pops up in March, so does the Open kitchen (Odprta Kuhna) food market on the Pogačarjev trg square. Local chefs open their kitchens for visitors every Friday, preparing diverse and fresh food from all over Slovenia. There are around fifty food stands and no two are the same. Get to know the local culture in the yummiest way!
Second Hand Souvenirs
Travellers are keen on buying gifts from their trips, and that is no news for the souvenir shops, where you can easily spend 12 euros on a spoon, because it has a dragon drawn on it. Why not try something different this time. Center Ponove Uporabe is a beautifully decorated second hand shop, where you may find the most unique gift for yourself or a loved one. I bought a steamer pot for 0.5 euros, an extraordinary choice for a souvenir, I know. The centre runs on the good will of people who recycle their old and donate the reusable. Local artists contribute by designing the interior, and sewing handmade fabric bags from recycled materials. It is a worthwhile visit even if you don’t intend buying anything.
Although, postcards are not an expensive gift, sending them to a friend in Tajikistan may make it costly. To lighten the burden, grab an adorable free postcard from the Škuc student union office on Stari Street. Each colorful postcard has an original ‘What makes me happy…’ message on it. My favorite was: What makes me happy – a stone in my shoe, because it reminds me that I am unstoppable.
See you in Ljubljana,