Our fourth stop in the Eurotrip was Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana — with a lazy old town clustered around a castle-topped mountain — is often compared to Salzburg. It’s an apt comparison, but only if you inject a healthy dose of breezy Adriatic culture, add a Slavic accent, and replace Mozart with local architect Jože Plečnik. Ljubljana feels much smaller than its population of 265,000. While big-league museums are in short supply, the town itself is an idyllic place that sometimes feel too good to be true.
Napoleon put Ljubljana on the map when he made it the capital of his Illyrian Provinces, a realm that stretched from the Danube to Dubrovnik, from Austria to Albania (for only four years, 1809–1813). A half-century later, the railway connecting Vienna to the Adriatic (Trieste) was built through town — and Ljubljana boomed. But soon after, much of the city was destroyed by an 1895 earthquake. It was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style so popular in Vienna, its capital at the time. A generation later, architect Jože Plečnik bathed the city in his distinctive artsy-but-sensible, classical-meets-modern style.
Ljubljana’s biggest attraction is its ambience. The Ljubljanica River, lined with cafés, restaurants, and a buzzing outdoor market, bisects the city, making a 90-degree turn around the base of the castle-topped mountain. Most sights are either on or just a short walk from the river. Visitors enjoy the distinctive bridges that span the Ljubljanica, including the landmark Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) and pillared Cobblers’ Bridge (Cevljarski Most).