I didn’t hate Ljubljana. I just didn’t love it. Here’s why.
It’s safe. We explored not only the historic city center, but also wandered about the larger city. I never felt unsafe walking around Ljubljana.
It’s clean. I don’t recall seeing any litter anywhere.
It’s walkable. Because historic Ljubljana is so compact, you can easily explore it on foot in a day. In fact, the city center is pedestrian only, so if you have a car, you’d have to park it outside of it anyway. The city made a conscious decision to go green and it shows. In 2012, it began implementation of a Sustainable Mobility Plan (SUMP), limiting car access and prioritizing pedestrian access. Here’s the policy report on how it came about.
The architecture is unique because there’s a mix of styles - Baroque, Art Nouveau. and Seccession building. The Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, is considered one of the most influential in Ljubljana and is largely regarded as the father of Ljubljana’s urban planning.
Everyone - everyone - spoke English and/or Italian, in addition to Slovenian.
There aren’t many tourists. Don’t get me wrong - there are tourists - just not the absurd throngs of people I recently saw at the Eiffel Tower.
It’s no bargain. Slovenia has a 22% VAT (Value Added Tax), also known as a GST (Goods and Services Tax). It’s a consumption tax assessed at each point of production or service. That means that anything you buy, has a 22% tax built in. You see it in many countries, but throughout the entire European Union. To give you some perspective, for 2023, the average VAT is 21%. France has a 20% VAT. Italy is at 22%. Hungary has the highest VAT at 27%. Luxembourg has the lowest at 16%.
It’s set up for tourism -ish. For example, we tried to go to several restaurants, but when we sat down, we were told they weren’t serving food. What? You’re a restaurant, right? Then, at a “must visit” restaurant we read about on the Ljubljana Tourist Information Center website, reservations were strongly recommended, but when we emailed the restaurant to make reservations, we received no response. If you want people to make reservations, it would be nice to hear back. Just sayin’.
Okay, so we had lots of restaurant issues. We made reservations at a highly rated restaurant. The meal was very good, but when the waiter handed us the bill he said, “service isn’t included.” And “cash has more personality.” The guy was soliciting a CASH tip! First of all, there’s no place for a tip on Slovenian bills, so if you want to leave a tip, you’d have to do it separate from the bill. Second, we would have tipped him anyway, but we were really rankled that he solicited a tip!
I felt like we were nickeled and dimed to death. In one instance, we tried to visit the Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves, outside of Ljubljana. While they’re marketed together, they’re actually about 10 kilometers/6 miles apart (woulda been nice to understand that before we bought the tickets). And you have to make reservations, but if you miss your reservation window at the cave, you’re assessed a rebooking charge! And you have to pay to park. Really?!? Tickets were already 88 Euro for two people (roughly $95) to both the castle and caves, AND you have to pay to park, THEN take a shuttle?!? We ended up not going to the castle because the whole visit was such a pain in the a**. The caves were interesting, except that the souvenir shop is in the middle of the cave and you have to actually ENTER the souvenir shop because it’s the path of the tour. The whole thing just seemed like a money grab.
Finally, the hotel we stayed at in Ljubljana could have been easier to deal with. While both the hotel and the staff were lovely once we arrived, it was difficult interacting with them beforehand. We originally planned our trip for September 2020, but COVID. The Ljubljana stay was part of a larger trip and we had reservations at four hotels, including two in Slovenia. Full disclosure - I’m fairly certain I made prepaid, non-refundable reservations at all four. Once the pandemic hit and no one could travel, we reached out to the hotels to request refunds. Three hotels immediately refunded our money, given the extraordinary pandemic circumstances. The hotel in Ljubljana only gave us a credit with an expiration date. Yeah, they weren’t obligated to refund our money, and we were certainly grateful to have received a credit with a December 2023 expiration, but we only got the credit because I made a pest of myself. I mean, it’s not like we decided we just weren’t coming! It was a pandemic for pete’s sake!
The Bottom Line
As fairly experienced travelers, we recognize that none of the negatives are unique to Ljubljana. They could have occurred anywhere, but these weird situations contributed to why I didn’t love Ljubljana. I’m not saying don’t go or that I hated Ljubljana. I’m just pointing out that not everyone falls in love with every place they