From hipster to hiker:
Slovenia’s many faces

Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or rugged wilderness that’s rich in biological diversity – Slovenia has it all.

Don’t be fooled by its small size, there’s great natural beauty, forward-thinking ideologies, and an eclectic bar and restaurant scene to be found here. It’s the type of destination where you can be hiking in the great outdoors one day then drinking in a city jazz bar the next and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

So, why not put your plans to return to Amsterdam or Paris on hold and pencil in Slovenia for your next European getaway.

 

Ljubljana

 

Hailed ‘Europe’s Green Capital’ Ljubljana is a city that’s characterised by its green spaces, university population, and cultural delights. Stroll through the beautiful Tivoli Park and feel a world away from the metropolis. Head to the Ljubljanica River and pencil in a river cruise on a wooden boat, where you’ll travel through the historical city centre and see the magnificent Dragon Bridge.

 

The river is lined with cafes and bars, perfect to waste the day in. Stop in at the hip TOZD bar which doubles as an exhibition space with pieces people can purchase. There’s also a library of books that work on a bring-and-take principle which is ideal if you end up visiting the city on a rainy day. Accompany your afternoon there with a local beer or a cocktail. Don’t forget to indulge in some tapas.

 

Head into the Metelkova District for the best of Ljubljana’s nightlife. This is the alternative heart of the city. The site was previously a military headquarter of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army. Today it’s home to theatre and live events, a cracking underground music scene and nightlife options galore.

 

For a more relaxed evening, head to Repete. Subtitled Jazz & Okrepčila’ (Jazz & Snacks), this is the place to go to for exactly that. It’s a small, warm and super cosy bar that hosts live jazz sessions.

 

Bled 

 

Set in the Julian Alps just a forty-five-minute drive from the capital, Lake Bled and the surrounding town of Bled itself is a nature lover’s paradise. The beautiful lake surrounds tiny Bled Island which is home to a Pilgrimage Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Those wanting to set foot on the island can take a traditional wooden boat called a ‘plenta’ across the water and see the picturesque island up close.

 

All year round, visitors can take the stunning walk around Lake Bled itself. During the summer months, travellers can stop and swim at the Castle Bathing Area. If you want a different perspective of your surroundings, head up Bled Castle. Here you will get to see the lake from a medieval castle that’s perched upon a steep cliff, it looks straight out of a fairy-tale. The castle itself is well worth exploring, it’s thought to be the oldest castle in Slovenia and was first mentioned in a 1011 donation deed ‘Castellum Veldes’.

 

As for food and drink in Bled, no visit to the town is complete without the infamous Bled Cream Cake – a crispy crust made from butter dough teamed with vanilla cream, topped with whipped cream and another layer of butter dough and finished off with icing sugar. It’s delicious, obviously. For those looking for a healthy alternative in the area — Public & Vegan Kitchen Bled offers soups, salads, desserts and even vegan burgers. All cruelty-free of course. They also have an array of juices, smoothies, and wine on offer.

 

Gostilna Pri Planincu is one of the oldest inns in Bled. It’s been up and running for over 100 years. There are three offerings here — a small Slovenian saloon which is covered with car and motorcycle plates from across the globe, a restaurant with a garden perfect for the summer months and a pizzeria situated on the first floor. The pub and downstairs restaurant are the perfect place to try some traditional Slovenian food such as Karst Ham or some homemade sausages. Why not wash it down with a cold beer or wine from the cellar, you are on holiday of course.

 

Vintgar Gorge

 

While only 4km and a short drive (or long walk) from the town of Bled, I felt the Vintgar Gorge was so spectacular that it needed its own introduction. Located in Triglav National Park, the gorge is true rugged beauty in one of its wildest and most enjoyable states. Think rich green waters, limestone cliffs, flowing rapids, waterfalls, and pools.

 

Travellers can explore the 1.6km beauty by taking the wooden walkways and paths built along the Radovna River, stopping at observation bridges along the way. The walk is easy and accessible. Unfortunately, it’s closed over the winter but will reopen at the beginning of May.

 

Lake Bohinj

 

The less touristy and said to be more authentic, Lake Bohinj offers travellers emerald waters to swim in and epic hiking trails to explore in the summer months. It’s Slovenia’s largest glacial lake and is surrounded by the Julian Alps and its majestic mountains.

 

For those in search of a winter adventure, Vogel Ski Resort lies in the Triglav National Park as well and sits above Lake Bohinj, skiing there will allow you to experience unbelievable views of the untouched surrounding landscape. One of Slovenia’s higher resorts, Vogel is said to often have consistently good snow until late April.

Words by Lucy Quaggin / Photography by Steve Cole Bowen

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