Beautiful Must See Places in Slovenia, for Your Balkan Bucket List
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Here's my guide to 15 pretty places in Slovenia, that should be on your European bucket list. Tiny overlooked Slovenia is one of Europe's most charming and delightful off the radar destinations. It's a gravely beautiful land of imposing green mountains, shimmering glacial blue lakes, and medieval towns.
Slovenia is every bit as beautiful as its neighbors like Croatia. But it has an independent spirit and slightly different charm all of its own. Slovenia also lacks the crowds and high prices of other European countries.
Budget more time than you think you should for the varied landscapes of Slovenia. You'll surely wish you had more when you leave.
15 Beautiful Places in Slovenia You Shouldn't Miss
Here are some of the must see highlights of Slovenia:
Ljubljana is a lovely small capital city. It's filled with playful architecture and has a robust cafe culture. There are really no marquis must see sites in Ljubljana. It's more about the laid back European experience.
Spend plenty of time wandering the cobbled old town. Start at the city's heart, Preseren Square. Cross the Venetian-looking Triple Bridge and wander along the emerald green river -- taking in the whimsical bridges and Jože Plečnik architecture
Then explore Ljubljana Castle. From Dragon Bridge, it's a steep hike up or easy funicular ride to the castle. Check out the Central Market for lunch or eat at one of the cafes along the lively river embankment. In the late afternoon or early evening, take a 30 minute cruise down the Ljubljanica River.
I'm a museum hound. But I didn't find any in Ljubljana that were sufficiently interesting to lure me off the pretty streets.
But I did take an immensely interesting architecture tour, learning all about Plečnik and seeing Ljubljana's beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, including the striking Vurnik House. Plečnik shaped Ljubljana, just like Gaudi shaped Barcelona and Bernini shaped Rome.
If you like shopping, you'll love Ljubljana. It's main street, which changes names from Mestni trg to Start trg, is lined with quaint shops. You can pick up all sorts of souvenirs and/or clothing. There are also plenty of restaurants here as well serving up delicious seafood and Ljubljana's specialty, fried frog legs.
If you enjoy street art, head over to the Metelkova Mesto district, just a short stroll from the medieval old town. It has an edgy bohemian feel. Aside from the cutting edge street art, there are pop up flea markets and temporary exhibitions.
2. Lake Bled
Lake Bled is Slovenia's top alpine resort. Lake Bled sits placidly in the shadow of the Julian Alps in Slovenia, thronged by forests and mountains. It's a frankly outrageous combination of blue and green.
Lake Bled boasts a cliffhanging medieval castle carved into a mountain. Bloggers and travel writers routinely use the (quasi hackneyed) term "fairytale" to describe the #1 tourist attraction in Slovenia.
There are hordes of tourists in high season. But you could grudgingly see why they're all there. Lake Bled is not overrated. Its beauty and tranquility shine through, despite meeting other humans at nearly every turn. It's a place to reconnect with nature and be humbled by it.
Take the 3 mile walk around the lake, stopping to take in the contrasting green wooded and azure views and admire the swans. If you're in a rush, you can rent a bike and cycle the lake. If you want a real hike, take the one hour hike up to the best viewing point, Malo Osojnica on the western side of Lake Bled.
You can also visit the 11th century Bled Castle, which is often hailed as Slovenia's most ancient castle. It's perched 130 meters above the lake's walking path, its red turrets and roofs making a splash on the blue skyscape.
The small castle has ramparts, moats, romanesque walls, and renaissance buildings --- everything you might expect from a medieval fortress. While you're there, you can sample the famous Bled cream cake at the castle cafe.
In the center of the lake is a small island with the Church of the Assumption. Flat bottomed boats ferry people back and forth. Local legend holds that if you ring the church's bell three times, your wish will come true.
Click here for my complete guide to visiting Lake Bled.
3. Vintgar Gorge
The extremely photogenic Vintgar Gorge is just a short 15 minute drive north of Lake Bled. I found it almost as scenically satisfying as Bled, and it was ever so slightly less touristy. It's open 8:00 am-7:00 pm in the summer, entry is €5.
Vintgar Gorge is a 1.6 kilometer wooden walkway that zig zags over the Radovna River. It reaches 100 meters in some places and clings to the side of cliffs, sometimes leaving room for only a single file shuffle.
It's a relatively flat and easy to walk in and out trail. At the end of the trail is the impressive 16 meter Šum Waterfall flowing beneath the Bohinj railway bridge.
4. Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj lies in the heart of Triglav National Park, one of Slovenia's most scenic spots. It's the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Many people prefer Lake Bohinj to Lake Bled because it's quieter and much less crowded than Bled. It's more pristine, not a well-oiled tourist machine.
You can swim, but it's very cold even in summer. Better to hike or boat around the lake, hike up to Savica Falls, or take the table car up to Mount Vogel. From Mount Vogel, you'll have magnificent views of Triglav Park and the Julian Alps.
The tiny village of Ribcez Laz sits at the southeast corner of the lake. The town's main landmark is a lake front church, St. John the Baptist.
On a slender finger of a peninsula, encircled by the sparkling Adriatic sea, sits the picturesque and charming town of Piran. You'll feel like you've been power beamed to Tuscany. It's a little slice of Italy.
Semi-crumbling pastel facades that Michelangelo might have sculpted rise above ancient maze-like streets. Venetian architecture is adorned with tracery windows.
The compact historic core is one of the best preserved medieval sites in the Mediterranean. Piran's reminiscent of Venice, but without the canals or hordes of tourists.
Tartini Square is the heart of Piran's old town. It's a marble-paved, sherbet-toned, red roofed oval. Tartini Square is full of chic bars, alfresco cafes, and colorful houses. It's a splendid place to snack and people watch.
As you stroll through the town, stop by Venetian House, the old marina and lighthouse, and hike up the bell tower of St. George Cathedral.
The latter is a miniaturized version of the Campanile of San Marco in Venice. The bells rings every 15 minutes. From the top, you can see four countries all at once -- Italy, Croatia, Austria and Slovenia.
Click here for my complete guide to Piran.
The town of Portorož lies east of Piran. It's a 30 minute walk on a scenic shore path that runs between the two towns.
Portoroz is a swishy beach town, specializing in spa treatments thanks to the area's unique mud and salt. It's the only sandy beach on the tiny Slovenian coast. Bars and cafes line the seaside, making this town a lovely holiday spot.
Izola is another quaint town on Slovenia's Istria coast. It's a 25 minute bus ride from Piran.
Izola is smaller and quieter than Piran. But it still has a lovely waterfront promenade, swimming areas, and a picturesque old town. If you’re on the hunt for an off the beaten path town on the Adriatic, explore beautiful Izola.
Only a half hour from Piran lies the tiny town of Socerb, very close to the Italian border. There you'll find the ruins of Socerb Castle. The ruins are on the coastline at the very edge of the Karst Plateau. They've been dominating the cliff since the Illyrian times.
The castle is now a restaurant. From it, you'll have a fantastic view of Trieste Italy.