Even the name of the Slovenian capital sounds as if it's bubbling with fun, making it just perfect for this dynamic city that so readily catches the attention – and the hearts – of visitors. Of a population of barely 300,000, around 50,000 are students, which might account for the vitality that is evident in every corner, from the crowded cafes along the Ljubljanica river, to the cutting-edge designer boutiques juxtaposed with the monumental architecture of the Old Town.
In the old centre lies the area known as the 'three squares district', which comprises Town Square – where the Town Hall is, the Old Square and the Upper Square. Here the Baroque city of Ljubljana was largely left undamaged by the terrible earthquake of 1895 and the palaces, mansions and fountains, reminiscent of Italian or Viennese style, pay witness to the traditional elegance of a city that has long been a rich cultural meeting point. Now this cultural acceptance is reinforced as the beautiful old monuments alternate with the dynamic modern style of shops selling the state-of-the-art creations of local designers.
As the visitor looks around admiringly at the pale opulence of the traditional architecture, these modern-day Aladdin's caves throw out their lures. Clothing, books, home decor, deli items... whatever you fancy is somewhere close by – and all around there are plenty of cafes to sit and look over the latest acquisitions. Off Upper Square, Gornji street is home to a selection of new Slovenian style. Here you'll find the creations of the family business Draz – where knitwear has been transformed into something unexpected; Miro Design offers unique clothing and home accessories that push the boundaries and mix colours and ideas; at Lina Salon the handmade silk creations of Dusanka Herman surprise and delight with their vivid colours. Nearby you'll find elegant accessories from Katarina Silk, and original underwear at 69Slam...
The selection is constantly evolving, and the shopping district reinventing itself, with new stores joining the more established pioneers, so the best approach is to just follow your nose and see where it leads. Wherever it takes you, you'll find something individual and different, something far more exciting than the mass-produced and globalised products that abound on your local High Street.
'Don't-miss' shops include:
Lina Salon – Dusanka Herman
The whole of Dusanka Herman's world is reflected in the rich silk creations on sale here, from ties that are cut and painted by hand, to dresses that are veritable works of art.
Established family business producing ground-breaking handmade knitwear that's original and fun and is bound to attract attention.
The young designer Misljen Miro produces a range of clothing and home accessories for discerning customers. Provocative designs with a classic touch that create an open communication between shape, colour and material.
Clothes for princesses, adventurers, explorers and hopeless romantics; the Room Seven collection for children is particularly delightful.
Accessories and jewellery created with great great skill and design flair from a variety of materials – glass, wood, semi-precious stones...
Underwear and swimwear that's comfortable, fun and original, in the brightest colours and the latest styles.
The Ljubljana Tourist Office website offers a list of shops, as well as numerous suggestions for the best ways to explore the city.
Where to stay:
Among the big hotels, Ljubljana boasts the Grand Hotel Union Executive, one of Slovenia's finest, as well as the Best Western Premier Hotel Slon. There are also smaller boutique hotels downtown such as the Allegro, and the Antiq.
Where to eat:
The banks of the Ljubljanica are dotted with small bars and cafes with terraces and are perfect for a light bite, or to take a break between shopping sessions. If you fancy sampling the full delights of Slovenian gastronomy, then try Gostilna Sestica en.sestica.si/ or Pri Vodniku, both traditional restaurants bent on serving fine local cuisine, with a strong focus on seafood. A trip to the bakery Slascicarna galerija Grad www.torte.si/index.php is essential for anyone with a sweet tooth.