We didn’t intend to like Ljubljana.
In fact we reasoned that we would spend a few days in the Slovenian capital to give our toddler a break from the flight before we embarked on some really exciting destinations including Lake Bled and some beautiful cities in Austria.
Sometimes it’s the places where you have no real expectations that surprise you the most.
The city was beautiful.
With the low winter light casting its spell across the city, we realised we’d found something really quite spectacular.
Not only is the architecture in the city beautiful but being car free meant it was a safe city for our toddler to enjoy.
In fact when we did have to leave Ljubljana, we felt a little short-changed because we really could have done with an extra day. Don’t get me wrong, we’d seen and done loads including witnessing the Triple Bridge and hiking up to the castle (which was amazing)…
…but we didn’t get to explore the new side of the town and see some of the amazing sights there, including the Cooperative Business Bank which has been called “the most beautiful building” in Ljubljana and I also would have loved to have spent a night in one of the 20 rooms at Hostel Celica, which is a former prison.
Each of the prison cells have been transformed by individual artists, with each one telling its own story and giving you a glimpse behind bars. If only we’d planned an extra day or two!
Unlike more touristy Christmas destinations (yes, this includes Bruges which I’ve discussed previously), Ljubljana retains its old world charm during the festive season.
They don’t cater for tourists, they cater for each other which makes the Christmas market they put on as authentic as it gets.
Their hot chocolate is like thick chocolate soup that comes in small cups that you feel like you have to chew, but it certainly hits the spot for a chocoholic!
The atmosphere is authentic too, people dine outdoors under heat lamps, with blankets draped over them. It’s very Italian in feel and everywhere is welcoming with children…
…well mostly 😉
But what really thrilled me was that they don’t have that dull period between Christmas and New Year because they continue to celebrate with a variety of cultural traditions.
We stumbled across a festive evening, and watched a parade of dancers skip and jump around while throwing sweets into the crowds, followed by some horses pulling an ornate carriage. The heaving crowd was getting more and more excited, awaiting the arrival of Grandpa Frost.
It seemed like the whole city was out in full force, with all the local children eager to get to the front of the crowds waiting for their chance to talk to this Slavic fictional character- who has many similarities to Father Christmas.
What impressed me was that Grandpa Frost took his time to go around to each and every child that he could, handing them sweets and wishes of goodwill.
Yes even Little London got his own chance to come face to face with Grandpa Frost and receive a little treat.
I just loved how this was obviously a yearly event that many of the Slovenians will have grown up with, and something they can now watch their children enjoy.
There is also a fairy that sits up on a throne and children stand underneath her waiting to be touched on the head with her wand to grant them their wish.
It’s just all so magical and beautiful, it makes you grateful to be witness to another countries cultural traditions during the festive season.
This city is without a doubt going to become more and more popular as people hear of its beauty and charm. If you haven’t heard of it previously it won’t take you long to realise it’s the next big European city which is shown through the many deals that exist through various travel sites such as Expedia. So definitely make sure you get there before it gets too crowded and prices possibly get hiked up. Because Ljubljana is certainly a little hidden gem in Europe.