With vivid hues and falling leaves swirling in the autumn wind, the change in seasons invites to explore the great outdoors. While there is an interlude with the warm early autumn days slowly blending into crisp days, this is the best time to go out for a walk. Here are my top four locations in the Ljubljana city centre to soak up those vibrant colours of autumn.
Half hidden under thick morning fog, a group of photographers patiently waits on the Ljubljanica River embankment for that perfect moment when the mists lift and the Ljubljana Castle finally peeps out. The symbol of the capital of Slovenia, the mighty 11th century medieval fortress, is the very heart and soul of the city as it not only offers a peek into history, but also an excellent outdoor and culinary experience.
Originally a medieval fortress, the Ljubljana Castle was probably built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that it acquired its present outline.
For anyone who has ever lived in or near the centre, the Ljubljana Castle represents a quick retreat into nature. While my favourite path starts from Karlovška Street (see the map) and winds slowly over a forested hill towards the Castle, the most scenic path to the castle with views of the city just might be the one from the Gornji Trg square at the beginning of the historic city centre.
At the top, you can either climb to the top of the tower (Ljubljana Castle working hours) for a panoramic view of Ljubljana, indulge in lunch and cake in a restaurant and a coffee shop inside the fortress, or just sit down on a bench and enjoy the sun.
Tivoli & Rožnik
Just a stretch away from the city centre, Tivoli Park is a beautiful place to relax and do something outdoors in large meadows and a labyrinth of paths woven across the surrounding forested slopes of the Rožnik Hill. While it goes without saying that the park is the largest in the city, another thing is for sure; Tivoli lives on its own heartbeat. Incredibly lively yet relaxing, Tivoli is favoured by joggers, cyclists, leisurely walkers, dog walkers, kids who enjoy its big playground, slackliners, those who practise yoga, and those who simply wish to escape the city bustle for a couple of hours.
Say hi to squirrels, lots of them, actually. And boy, do they love nuts! Give them a hazelnut and they will perform the whole Cirque du Soleil for you. 😉
Besides getting the much needed exercise you can also sit down in a renovated old boathouse beside a pond and enjoy a cup of coffee and delicious cake or ice cream. You are also welcome to visit an art gallery in the prominent Tivoli Mansion, or walk up the small Rožnik Hill to Cankarjev Vrh.
While numerous trails connect the Tivoli Park with Rožnik’s Cankarjev Vrh, one stands out from the crowd. It starts right after the main promenade beside the Tivoli Mansion and takes you up slowly through the woods. At the top? You’ll find the Visitation Church and an inn where Ivan Cankar, one of the best Slovenian writers, lived between 1910 and 1917.
One of the trails over the Rožnik Hill connects Tivoli Park with the beautiful Koseze Pond. It’s a big artificial pond that houses swans and some rare and endangered animals and plants. Some love it for fishing, others to improve their fitness, young parents for its playground, and some for a relaxing walk around the pond (manageable with a baby stroller). There’s also a restaurant and coffee shop, so no need to worry about snacks.
Ljubljanica River & Špica embankment
It may seem a cliché, but this park is near the top of my list. As a child I used to walk my dog along the green Ljubljanica Embankment from the end of the historic city centre at Zoisova Street to the now vibrant Špica Park. While the path has changed over the years, much like the whole of Ljubljana, becoming even more beautiful and nicely arranged, one thing remains the same; its lively vibe. With all the people sitting on the stairs, chatting, having fun, joggers and walkers, dogs playing, the only thing that’s really missing from the old days are the kids climbing up the soft willow benches and swinging across the Ljubljanica River. Hopefully, that too shall return one day.