I have to admit that I’m quite smitten with the compact country of Slovenia. It’s a country that sits at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe with all the benefits that location provides. What I mean is that it has the conveniences found when travelling in Western Europe, while still being a bit of an unknown quantity like much of Eastern Europe. That Slovenia also has some fascinating and inspiring history, spread across a rugged landscape means it really has a lot to offer those who choose to visit it.
My problem is that too often visitors to Slovenia narrow their focus to just Ljubljana and Lake Bled. Now don’t get me wrong, Ljubljana makes for a charming and petite capital city. Lake Bled may just be one of the most magical places in Europe, as I’ve suggested previously. But these aren’t the only intriguing destinations found in this lovely country. So I’ve decided to share a handful of other spots that I think travellers should consider when planning a trip to Slovenia. This is by no means a complete list, but one I believe that flaunts many of the facets belonging to the nation of Slovenia.
When it comes to old towns in Slovenia, I think Škofja Loka has to have one of the most enchanting. Despite only lying about 20km away from Ljubljana, Škofja Loka doesn’t seem to receive many visitors. This small town on the Selska Sora river boasts a charming medieval old town, including the picturesque Capuchin Bridge that dates from the 14th century. Throughout the old town are houses painted with vibrant colours and in summer, plenty of blooming flower boxes in windows. Above the old town is the impressive Škofja Loka Castle, with some nice views out over the city and plenty of interesting exhibits. Reading about the local resistance against the Germans in WWII was especially enlightening.
Although its overshadowed by the coastlines of its neighbours Italy and Croatia, Slovenia does have several charming coastal towns. Probably the most interesting and attractive town on Slovenia’s brief coast is Piran. The town of Piran rests on a sharp peninsula with an endearing old town and port. While it won’t take you very long to explore the town and its small maze of streets, the easy pace of Piran means you won’t mind taking it slow. Piran is a popular spot for locals in summer to sunbathe and swim in the calm Adriatic Sea. A visit to Piran isn’t complete without stopping for a meal at its many waterfront seafood restaurants supplied with fresh local produce.
Those seeking out a cultural and historical destination really should give Ptuj a look. This city in the country’s northeast is one of Slovenia’s longest settled spots. Ptuj grew to prominence under the Romans and did quite well for itself over the centuries, particularly the 14th century. It did suffer under repeated Ottoman invasions and the World Wars, but thankfully still has many historic places intact. Of great interest to tourists is the city’s walkable old town and particularly Ptuj Castle. The castle is part of the Ptuj Regional Museum and explores the region’s history, culture and music. It also has an engaging exhibit on local and foreign cultural masks and costumes, including the Kurenti, a sort of demonic furry beast. These masks and costumes are still used during the city’s annual carnival festival, Kurentovanje.
For the second largest city in Slovenia, Maribor is probably not what people expect. In fact it’s quite the contrast to the nation’s capital. Ljubljana may not be a big city, but Maribor is really quite small. It also lacks the considerable old town found in Ljubljana, instead favouring a more modern city. That’s not to say it doesn’t have any historic sights, but most are found in the old Jewish neighbourhood of Lent found by the banks of the Drava river. In Lent you’ll come across some medieval towers, but also the city’s most famed attraction: The World’s Oldest Vine. Housed in an equally historic house, Maribor’s Old Vine is over 400 years old and there is a festival surrounding the annual harvest of the vine. For lovers of wine, Maribor is a wise choice for exploring the region’s offerings.
The small city of Velenje may seem like an unlikely place for tourists to venture. The city sits in the country’s hilly north, roughly halfway between Ljubljana and Maribor. For most of its life, Velenje was a minor town before becoming an industrial centre in the 20th century. Although it is now the fifth largest city in Slovenia, it is lacking a bit in tourist attractions. That is except for Velenje Castle and the museum it hosts. Velenje Museum is a surprisingly expansive one but also incredibly idiosyncratic. As would be expected, it covers local history from ancient to modern with recreations of an old local tavern and Yugoslavian council meeting. But the museum also has some truly unusual exhibits, from the rooms full of African tribal masks to the locally excavated Mastodon tusks. With such a broad array of subject matter, you’re bound to find something of interest.
Slovenia happens to be the home to some immense caves dotted throughout the country’s west, with one of the best spots being Škocjan Caves. A visit to these vast subterranean chambers will honestly astound you, especially when you take a look at the original “paths” used by the first explorers of the cave network. Wandering through, I immediately made the comparison to the mines in Lord of the Rings. The guided tours there take several hours, leading you deep under the surface to admire not only stalagmites and stalactites but also the rivers and ecosystem. But to me at least, it was all about the sheer size of these karst caves. As someone with claustrophobia, I found the caves quite comfortable to visit, even if I couldn’t distract myself by taking photos.
Celje really puts how small the nation of Slovenia is into perspective. The country’s third biggest city is really quite compact, which does make exploring Celje pretty easy. Celje’s town centre has an interesting mix of old and new, with some interesting historic buildings to be found like the ivy covered Old Manor House. That Celje lies at the joining of several valleys and is surrounded by some impressive hills only adds to its cosy feel. The hills play an important role for local life, teeming with hikers in summer and skiers in winter. They also host the masterfully restored ruins of Celje Upper Castle, once the ruling seat of the Counts of Celje. The castle is quite nice to explore as you get some stellar views from the ramparts and towers.
Have you visited Slovenia before and visited any of these places? Is there somewhere I’ve missed? Please share in the comments below.
Why Not Pin It For Later