Online | Travel

The D/A UK guide to Ljubljana

One of Europe’s greenest cities, Slovenia's capital is a treasure trove of modernist and medieval architecture, forward-thinking food and some very special salt

Where to stay: Vander Urbani Resort

Slovenian architecture studio SADAR+VUGA put Vander Urbani Resort at the forefront of Ljublana’s hotel scene when they were handed the keys to 20-room property, which enjoys a central location just by the Ljubljanica river. Corridors and staircases crafted from concrete, glass, and steel add an urban edge to the hotel, which is softened by guest rooms accessorised with billowy linen drapes and the curves of Moroso armchairs. The boutique address also manages to pack in two restaurants and a champagne bar, but the real highlight is the roof top pool and terrace with views across Ljubljana.

Where to eat: TaBar

Jakob Pintar cut his teeth at prestigious addresses like Vienna’s Steirereck and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon before returning to his native Slovenia to take the reins at TaBar. The local terroir is the inspiration for his ever-changing seasonal menu, and Pintar grows his own vegetables on a farm owned by fellow chef Luka Košir of the Michelin starred Grič. Choose from a selection of creative sharing plates complimented by a collection of Slovenian natural wines, or let Pintar take you on a journey with a five-course tasting menu that puts his spin on traditional dishes and local ingredients.

Take in art: Cukarna Gallery

After starting life as a sugar factory back in 1828, the largest building in Ljublana has been reborn as contemporary art space Cukarna Gallery. Architectural studio Scapelab sensitively restored the protected building, starting by retaining the roof, the original outer walls and their 318 windows. Inside, a perforated steel structure hangs suspended from the roof to support the white gallery walls, but without ever touching them or the floor. The space is now used to hold a series of rotating exhibitions and events which showcase work from both Slovenian and international artists. You can book guided tours, pick up design pieces in the shop, or stop for coffee in the café bar, Rafinerija Cukarna.

What to see: "Plečnik's Ljubljana"

Architect Jože Plečnik drew inspiration from ancient Athens when he was tasked with designing the modern capital of Ljubljana. His pioneering style and monuments, which include the Central Market and the striking Cobbler’s Bridge, so strongly define the look of the city that it is often referred to as “Plečnik’s Ljubljana”, and his works are now protected sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Tours of the city can be booked through the Ljubljana Tourism either in person or by downloading a free self-guided audio tour.

Grab a coffee: Neubar

Kick off your day with craft coffee at neubar, a new café slash cocktail bar that focuses on working with artisan coffee producers and zero waste in the kitchen. By day you can order breakfast, sandwiches, and daily homemade cakes, think Earl Grey cake and banana bread with browned butter and vanilla salt. Once cocktail hour begins the menu of 11 signature cocktails includes creations such as The Notorious F.I.G., a riff on the Dirty Martini with fig leaves, tarragon and honey vinegar, and the bestselling Pardon My French, a pepped-up version of the French 75 with lemongrass cordial and sumac-infused gin.

Explore Slovenian salt: Piranske Soline

Piranske Soline specialises in one very specific product – salt – but only if it comes from Slovenia’s famed Piran Salt Pans. Salt is harvested here using a nearly 700-year-old traditional method and only with traditional tools, resulting in an unrefined, mineral-rich salt which is prized for its distinctive flavour. Stop by to pick up canvas bags filled with fleur de sel, jars of Piran Salts blended with herbs, and a range of bathroom products infused with all the beauty benefits of salt, from salt pan mud soaps to scrubs fragranced with rose and lavender.

Tap into nature: Tivoli Park

The centre of Ljubljana is surprisingly tranquil for a European capital thanks to the city’s car-free policy, but still nothing quite compares to a dose of nature. Tivoli Park is the city’s largest and loveliest park, decorated with flowers, fountains, and even photography exhibitions, which are held in a promenade designed by the famed Jože Plečnik. It’s also where you can find the International Centre of Graphic Arts, which has previously hosted exhibitions by the likes of Space Invader. In summer the shaded café offers a welcome respite from heat with a view across the park.