9 Things to Know Before Visiting Slovenia

Bled Castle over the Lake, Visiting Slovenia

I keep finding myself returning to Slovenia. The country just seems to have a hold on me.  Since first visiting in 2013, I returned twice last year and I really wouldn’t discount another visit in the coming year. To me it’s kind of crazy how Slovenia isn’t a bigger deal for travellers to Europe considering all that it has going for it. I mean location, affordability, and ease of visiting, not to mention all of the wonderful sights the country has to offer.

Even the parts that I didn’t particularly like the first time, I found myself coming around to with a chance to reexamine them and see them in a new light on my return trips. From the nation’s breathtaking landscapes to its historical monuments, a visit to Slovenia is full of plenty memorable destinations. Visiting Slovenia has all the ease and perks of visiting any major European destination, while still offering a hint of an exotic, under-appreciated gem. Here are just 9 things it’s worth knowing before visiting Slovenia, but also why you should visit in the first place.

 

1. A Green, Mountainous Country

Hills by Celje, Visiting Slovenia

Everyone loves those views of green hills and valleys you see from Switzerland right? Well I like to think of Slovenia as a sort of mini-Switzerland. Sorry, a much cheaper, mini-Switzerland. Now it might not be great starting off with a direct comparison to a nearby country but I think it’s the best way to get a better picture of the country.

In Slovenia, you’ll find a country bordered by the immense Alps in the north. There’s the stunning alpine lakes like the incredible Lake Bled and it’s mountainous backdrop. Elsewhere, there’s the rolling, undulating green hills that spread across the countryside. In the more rural parts of Slovenia, you’ll find small farmhouses and chalets that you would swear were actually in Switzerland. Oh and there are quite a few ski fields to be found like the one over the city of Celje, further encroaching on the Swiss. Basically, if you are a fan of the outdoors and pristine, verdant nature, Slovenia is the place to be.

 

2. Entry and Getting Around

Slovenia is a member state of the European Union and part of the Schengen Area that allows free movement between countries. Together this means that Slovenia is a very straightforward country to visit as it has the same requirements for entry as many of its neighbours, including Italy and Austria. This means no passport control between these borders and your stay in Slovenia counts towards your 90 days of your Schengen Visa, or Visa-free period for countries like Australia. As always, you should check your visa requirements before travelling and for more information, a good place to start is here.

As a relatively small country, it’s possible to get from one side of the country to the other without too much hassle. the country has a train network centred on Ljubljana and connecting across to both Austria and Croatia, but sadly not Italy. The country is also connected by a decent bus network that reaches parts the train network doesn’t. Last of all, Slovenia has some quality roads and driving may be your best move for getting about. Do note that you will need to purchase a vignette to be allowed to drive on Slovenian motorways.

 

3. Classic Castles and History

Ljubljana Castle Night, Visiting Slovenia

To be honest, I knew very little about the country’s history before my first visit and each visit seems to serve as a reminder of that. It’s only by repeat visits that I’ve come to learn the complex and often messy history of the region that now calls itself Slovenia. If you want to learn of Slovenia’s history than the best way is to head straight for its many awesome castles. Each that I’ve been to has been both visually stunning, but has also offered plenty of history on the castle and the region.

Visiting the castles at Celje, Skofja Loka, Velenje and even Bled taught me about each of their individual complex medieval histories. The fantastic castle museum at Ptuj actually covered the history for much of the country’s entire eastern part. Two that stood in particular for me were the World War II section at Skofja Loka Museum, detailing the fierce local resistance that actually liberated the country itself, a rare feat. The other is the extensive museum in the castle over the capital Ljubljana, which takes you through the country’s entire history right up to independence in 1991 and the modern day. All are well worth the cost of admission.

 

4. It has a Small, but Scenic Coast

Piran Town View, Visiting Slovenia

Squeezed between Italy’s coast along the top of Adriatic Sea and the long, extensive coast that Croatia is so well know for, is a small slice of Slovenian coastline. Many people don’t even realise that this small country even has a coast but they are definitely missing out. Now I’m not talking about soft sand beaches, but it is still super scenic and the water’s clean and clear.

While there is the city of Koper and smaller towns like Izola and Portoroz on Slovenia’s coast, I think the pick of the litter has to be the quiet and lovely town of Piran. Just a small old town, Piran sits on a peninsula jutting into the Adriatic, giving it plenty of waterfront and some really scenic views. Beyond its main square and several churches are plenty of small lanes that work their way up the hill towards the old town walls, where you’ll find the best view of town. A sublime, lesser seen part of the Adriatic coast.

 

5. Money

Given all that it has to offer, you might expect Slovenia to be a far more costly destination that it is. Despite adopting the Euro and being an overall success story of the positive impact the European Union can have, Slovenia is surprisingly affordable to visit. It may not be as cheap as other parts of the Former Yugoslavia, but your money will definitely go further than in neighbouring Austria and Italy. It may just be one of the most affordable spots in Central Europe in fact.

The cost of intercity transport is pretty average for this part of Europe, with a trip of several hours costing between 10-15€. Accommodation prices are also middle of the road and you should be able to find a fairly standard room for around 35€. The one thing in particular I noticed was that food was cheap, with meals in one of the best restaurants in Ljubljana costing the equivalent of a far more humble restaurant in some of the neighbouring countries.

 

6. Mix of Influences

Ljubljana Church, Visiting Slovenia

One of the more interesting things I find about Slovenia is the country’s mix of influences. A lot of that ties into its history and geography of course. Because it was part of the Habsburg Empire for many centuries, you’re bound to see some hints and reminders of Austria in parts. This of course comes through a fair bit in the architecture of the cities. Then there’s the strong Italian influence in the west by the coast, where you would have a hard telling it apart from many coastal Italian towns. This is both because of the proximity to Italy, but also the fact that Italy gained control of a sizeable portion of Slovenia after World War I.

Lastly there’s the slavic influence, which is the basis for the name of the Slovenian ethnic group. This is of course shared in part by neighbouring Croatia, but also throughout portions of the former Yugoslavia. If you visit several of these nations you’ll probably realise that those influences are probably a little more subtle in Slovenia than some of its southern counterparts. Still, it’s the blending of all these influences that makes Slovenia such an intriguing place to visit.

 

7. Language

The national language of Slovenia is quite simply Slovenian, a slavic language with similarities to languages like Croatian and Czech. If you know another Slavic language you might find some overlap which can be useful. If not, don’t fret, as English is widely spoken in my experience and you should be able to get by with it. You’ll also find that languages like German and Italian are spoken with some frequency closer to the borders of Austria and Italy respectively.

If you do want to learn a little Slovenian, which local people always find welcome, here are a few basic phrases to get you started. They include Zdravo which means ‘Hello’; Hvala for ‘Thank you’; Prosim for ‘Please’; Oprostite for “Excuse Me” and Ja and No for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

 

8. Food and Drink

I have to be honest, Slovenian cuisine is not enchanting on the level of say, Italian food. A large part has to do with the similarities it shares with Austrian, Croatian and a little with Italian food. Again it’s that interplay of regional influences, but this time it leaves the country a little lacking in stand-out dishes of its own. Don’t get me wrong, the food has been great when I’ve visited, from fresh seafood pasta to sausages and meat stews. It’s just you can also have that food elsewhere. That sadly goes for the beer as well. Lasko the national beer is perfectly drinkable but it wouldn’t rank near the top of many lists.

The one exception to all of this that I can think of is the beloved, devilish Kremsnita or Bled Cream Cake. A deliciously decadent vanilla slice with a generous helping of whipped cream, the Bled Cream Cake is a must if you spend any time at all in the picturesque lakeside town. While it can come in flavours like chocolate, if it’s your first, then you have to go with the original.

 

9. Wondrous Caves

Skocjan Caves, Slovenia

While they may not be my cup of tea (claustrophobic), I know there are plenty of people out there that are absolute fanatics when it comes to cool, spectacular caves. That being so, those people should make a beeline straight for Slovenia, as it boasts some truly remarkable cave networks. This is largely due to the significant limestone plateau that the Karst region of the country sits upon. Yes, Slovenia is in fact where the term “karst” comes from.

The two most popular cave sights in Slovenia are Postojna Caves and Skocjan Caves in the country’s south-west. Postojna is known for the castle found at the entrance to the cave and the fact that you actually take a train down into the caves. Skocjan is perhaps a little less popular, but equally incredible with immense caverns and subterranean cliffs high above underground rivers. Despite my claustrophobia, I went down into Skocjan Caves and loved it! It looked like the mines straight out of Lord of the Rings.

 


What other things would you like to know before visiting Macedonia? Have you visited Macedonia and have other insights to share? Please share them in the comments below.

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A land of many surprises, Slovenia is home to stunning green landscapes, fantastic castles and awe-inspiring caves. From Ljubljana to Bled to the coast, here are 9 Things to Know Before Visiting, via @travelsewhere

 

 


This post is part of Weekend Travel Inspiration at Albom Adventures. Please head on over for more great posts.

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23 Comment

  1. Love this post! Also, I really appreciate your attempts to write in Slovenian language. You’ve got the most of the phrases correct, but there are few mistakes. I’m afraid “Blagodaram” doesn’t mean anything. “Hvala” is Thank you! and “Prosim” is “Please”. 🙂

    1. David says:

      Thanks for reading Urska! Thank you for pointing out the mistakes, I had actually written “Hvala” but it didn’t save for some weird reason! Hvala indeed 🙂

      1. Prosim. 😀

  2. Great post. This is on our bucket list, Slovenia looks so beautiful!

  3. Sadly I know so little about Slovenia! I know a bit about Croatia and the Croatian language, which is similar, because my father-in-law is Croatian, but alas my knowledge of the rest of the former Yugoslav states is sadly lacking! I don’t know if Europe is in the cards in the future, but if it is, I should put Slovenia on my list. 🙂

  4. I have not visited any of the former Yugoslavian countries but they are enticing. I have seen so much on your blog from this part of Europe that I do plan on visiting someday. The green countryside and Slovenia’s history are a big draw for me.

  5. Slovenia is on my bucket list and these tips are so useful, David! Excellent post!

  6. I totally agree with you, David. I keep expecting Slovenia to become the next big destination in Europe, but am secretly glad it isn’t. Thanks for linking up this week with #wkendtravelinspiration!

  7. We visited Slovenia last year on our trip from Croatia to Switzerland and were totally enchanted by the country- it is so beautiful and we were so surprised it isn’t somewhere many people think of visiting. We will definitely be back at some time!

  8. Really cool introduction to Slovenia and plenty of reasons to visit – I haven’t explored it anywhere near as much as I would like but I loved the streets and cafes of Ljubljana and the picturesque Lake Bled. I would love to go and see the Soca River when I am next there. Thanks for sharing

  9. We visited Ljubljana in Dec 2015 and really want to head back to explore more of Slovenia. It is with mixed reactions I read about cities in this region. They are so beautiful you want to share them, but don’t want the world to know in case they become overrun with tourists and lose their ambiance. Great post, as always.

  10. Ioanna says:

    I’ve never been to Slovenia, but I really want to! I”m especially enchanted by the mountains and hiking opportunities. I hope that next year I can go and hike there, it’s just so beautiful!
    Thank you for this post, David!
    Happy travels!
    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

  11. Solvenia looks like a wonderful place to visit. After reading this and your other posts on Slovenia you have convinced me it is time for a visit there. The scenery, caves, castles and architecture looks amazing. I pinned this for later use. Thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

  12. galanda23 says:

    Beautiful post. I just came back from a road trip through Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro. Slovenia impressed me the most of all these three countries and I would definitely like to go back and explore more. #WeekendTravelInspiration

  13. Sabrina says:

    I just pinned it on my travel wishlist. Looks beautiful!

  14. As always, David, what great photos! The whole Central European area is really moving up our Bucket List! Slovenia seems to have a lot of what we really enjoy when we travel: history, quaint towns, great architecture, and natural beauty. We very much enjoy your posts from the area, so thanks for sharing!

  15. Very interesting and very informative article. Well done! Great photos as well

  16. I was disappointed to get to the end of this post. I wanted you to keep going. 🙂 I’m definitely going to try to get to Slovenia this year if I can. It sounds, and looks from your pics, like a fantastic destination. Pinning this for my trip!

  17. paulandcarolelovetotravel says:

    We had a taste of Slovenia last year when we were on a cruise and we spent the day in Koper. We were not sure what to expect but like happened to you it really took a hold of us. We will definitely be back. This is a great post, thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

  18. what a great post. Slovenia will be on our travel list after reading this. It sounds like a wonderful country. Thank you

  19. Slovenia looks nice place for family vacation. I have added it in my bucket list & will definitely try to visit next year. I loved scenic coast & that wondrous caves. I really enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful place.

  20. PackYourBaguios says:

    Slovenia seems to be great destination. We’re all about beautiful mountains, ease of travel, and budget prices!

  21. You have me very eager to visit Slovenia!

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