Slovenia Holiday Planning Guide
From snowcapped Alpine peaks to sandy Adriatic beaches, a trip to Slovenia is like taking several vacations at once. Whatever the season, the country offers enticing natural attractions, all close at hand, including thick forests, scenic valleys, cave systems, waterfalls, lakes, and the Adriatic coast. For those seeking an active holiday, you'll find an abundance of ski slopes, trails to hike, roads to bike, and rocks to climb. Pay a visit to some of Slovenia's spa resorts and take advantage of the fresh mountain air and thermal waters. Various castles, churches, and historical towns--many of which are fully preserved--tell stories of the country's past. In Slovenia's cities, admire the architecture, explore the local arts, visit museums, and chat with the locals over a cup of coffee. Slovenian cuisine offers a blend of Alpine and Mediterranean tastes and is definitely worth trying, along with the country's wines.
Places to Visit in Slovenia
Regions of SloveniaUpper Carniola Region
: Nestled between snow-capped peaks and lush meadows, Upper Carniola Region serves as a haven for lovers of the great outdoors throughout the year with some of the country's best skiing and snowboarding as well as hiking, fishing, cycling, and horseback riding. Visit some classic Slovenia tourist attractions here, from historical castles and churches to traditional farms, plus taverns and restaurants offering local specialties in an authentic Alpine atmosphere.Inner Carniola Region
: One of the country's most popular spots for outdoor recreation, Inner Carniola Region is home to several famous caves and castles, including one of the top places to visit in Slovenia, Postojna caves. Originally ruled by the House of Habsburg in the 14th century, this heavily wooded area is also known by its Slovenian name, Notranjska.
Cities and Towns in SloveniaLjubljana
: Melding German, Mediterranean, and Slovenian culture and history, Ljubljana enjoys an ever-increasing popularity for its renowned museums and historical monuments, lush gardens, and pedestrian and cycling zones along the Ljubljanica River.Bled
: Marked by its iconic church steeple on a glacial lake and a medieval castle, Bled is Slovenia's most popular resort, especially among tourists who like to hike, bike, canyon, golf, or horseback ride. Postojna
: With its spectacular formations, lush nature, and historical monuments, Postojna offers everything you need for a peaceful Slovenia vacation or a quick getaway from the city, including two of the country's most famous tourist attractions, Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave.Maribor
: Surrounded by wine-growing hills, Maribor is a charming alpine town with the river Drava wending its way through its old town core, which is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, home to the oldest vine in the world.Portoroz
: Also known as Port of Roses, Portoroz is one of Slovenia's largest tourist areas featuring sandy beaches, numerous casinos, lovely spas, and one of the most important resorts for the Austro-Hungarian monarchy once, which is currently one of the finest hotels between Venice and Dubrovnik.Kranjska Gora
: Being Slovenia's largest ski resort and offering numerous opportunities for hiking, cycling and mountaineering all year round, Kranjska Gora (Carniolan Mountain) is an ideal Slovenia holiday destination suitable for any season.Piran
: A holiday to Slovenia is incomplete without seeing the Venetian Gothic architecture of Piran, one of the best preserved historical towns on the Adriatic, which sits at the tip of a narrow peninsula.Radovljica
: Sitting at the confluence of the Sava Dolinka and the Sava Bohinjka with the view of the Alps, the town of Radovljica features charming historic buildings, numerous museums, galleries, festivals, traditional inns, and many opportunities for sport and recreation.
Things to Do in Slovenia
Popular Slovenia Tourist AttractionsLake Bled
: Nestled between mountains and forests, with a medieval castle towering over its north shore and a little island with a church in the middle of it, Lake Bled is also rich with birdlife and very popular among rowers. The atmosphere surrounding this glacial lake is a highlight on many Slovenia itineraries.Postojna Caves
: Rich with colorful rock formations, chandelier-like stalactites, and limestone "sculptures," and home to 100 species, Postojna Caves can be seen from a historical train, which takes you through its underground halls and tunnels.Ljubljana Old Town
: Your tour of Slovenia might very well begin along the cobbled streets of Ljubljana Old Town. Tucked between the river and the hilltop castle, this quaint quarter is full of local designer shops, cafes, and restaurants, and features historical bridges and the only row of 19th-century buildings to survive an 1895 earthquake. Ljubljana Castle
: A hilltop landmark visible from every corner of the city, the 15th-century Ljubljana Castle offers panoramic views of the Old Town and an engaging history museum, and hosts art exhibitions, concerts, theatre shows, and an open-air cinema. Vintgar Gorge (Soteska Vintgar)
: Cut deep between two hills overgrown with beech forests, Vintgar Gorge (Soteska Vintgar) features small waterfalls, rapids, erosion potholes, and two manmade attractions: a 1906 arched stone railway bridge and a dam. Bled Castle
: Built into a steep cliff above the lake, Castello di Bled offers magnificent views of the small island on the lake, two nearby towns, and the surrounding mountains, and also features interesting historical exhibits.Bled Island
: Rising above the surface of a glacial lake, the tiny Bled Island is home to a Baroque stone church with its monumental 99 steps and the "wishing bell," built on the remains of an ancient temple dedicated to the Slavic goddess of fertility.Tromostovje
: Stylishly marking the entrance to the Old Town, Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) includes a 19th-century stone bridge lined with benches, sandwiched between two side bridges added by the famous Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik in the 1930s. Predjama Castle
: Perched on a high, rocky cliff for over 700 years and built within a cave mouth, the unconquerable Predjama Castle entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest cave castle in the world.Skocjan Caves
: A World Heritage Site famous for its many waterfalls, diverse stalactite formations, and limestone pools, Skocjan Caves are home to the largest-known underground canyon in the world.
Planning a Slovenia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Slovenia with Kids
Mysterious caves stacked with colorful limestone "sculptures," and picturesque medieval castles perched upon hills make Slovenia an attractive destination to visit when traveling with kids. To spice up your family's Slovenia holiday take an excursion to the natural aqua park in the Soča
valley or try kayaking and rafting in Bovec
and Triglav National Park
. Pristine alpine landscapes of lush woods, green meadows, and glacial Lake Bohinj
offer great camping spots in the summer and many skiing opportunities in the winter. Enrich your Slovenia itinerary with a bit of history by taking a relaxing boat ride down River Ljubljanica Kanal
to see the city's famous buildings, sculptures, and bridges. Zoo Ljubljana
makes a good option for families with toddlers, featuring plenty of workshops, a petting zoo, and a jungle gym with trampolines. The largest cave castle in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records, Predjama Castle
offers families the opportunity to see a 16th-century treasure chest and the hiding place of a 15th-century knight who rebelled against the Austrian emperor.
Things to Do in Slovenia with Kids
Whether you decide to focus on natural treasures or historical sights on your Slovenia trip, your kids will be fully entertained. The whole family can explore caves and underground creatures from a historical train at Postojna Caves
, travel back to the time of Ottoman invasions and Habsburg rulers with costumed guides, or enjoy concerts, theatre shows, and an open-air cinema at Ljubljana Castle
, or engage in water activities and winter sports in Kranjska Gora
Tips for a Family Vacation in Slovenia
Slovenia's small size means it's relatively easy to explore the whole of the country; having a car is a convenience if you are planning to tour its natural beauty. Perhaps the best way to optimize your family vacation in Slovenia is to stay in the capital Ljubljana and then make daily excursions to other parts of the country--or even neighboring countries--using Slovenia's first-rate highway network. You can get a good deal at one of the local car rental companies if you don't mind driving a slightly older model. If you are traveling with toddlers, note that the use of toilets and washing facilities at gas stations is usually free of charge. Also, tickets and admission fees for children are usually half of the regular price.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Slovenia
Cuisine of Slovenia
Slovene cuisine is not uniform but a mixture of various influences, such as Austrian, Hungarian, and Italian, as well as Bosnian/Serbian and Arab/Turkish, especially in the fast food department. In the restaurants of Ljubljana Old Town
and Radovljica Old Town
you can enjoy a typical three-course meal, which is heavy in meats and starches. The main meat dish is usually served with salad, potatoes, and bread on the side. Vegetarians and vegans might have a hard time finding what they like. You can always ask for a fresh salad or fried vegetables, and many restaurants and inns in Slovenia offer a vegetarian plate, which includes a "soy steak." In rustic inns and on tourist farms in the countryside taste the traditional Slovene pastries "potica" and "gibanica," filled with poppy seeds, apples, walnuts, raisins, or cheese. Portoroz Beach
is lined with restaurants serving seafood.
Shopping in Slovenia
If you like to shop the old-fashioned way, the streets of Ljubljana
with their little boutiques and local designer stores are a perfect place to do so. To find clothing and branded goods around 30 percent off of rack prices, head to Galerija Emporium
, a luxury department store housed in a historical Art Nouveau building. Food and everyday supplies are sold at the ubiquitous Slovene supermarket chain Mercator, but for more local flavor visit the open-air market on Vodnik Square (Vodnikov trg)
, with its stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, and air-dried ham. Note that prices are high in comparison to most of Eastern Europe, but when exporting goods over a certain value, non-EU residents are entitled to get a tax return (22 percent of the price).
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Slovenia
History of Slovenia
Although the Slavs arrived on the territory of Slovenia in the 6th century CE--the traces of the earliest Slavic settlements were found on Bled Island
--they had to wait for more than 14 centuries to form their own independent state. Before the Slavs there were Celts and Romans, who founded some of Slovenia's major towns like Emona (Ljubljana) and Ptuj
. Scarce Roman remains like tombstones and sarcophagi can be seen in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas
and the Church of St. George
Beginning in the 9th century, Slovenia was more or less under German rule. Slavs converted to Christianity soon after Slovenia was incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire. Bled Castle
houses interesting historical exhibits that tell the story of an 11th-century bishop appointed by the German Emperor Henry II.
In the 14th century, the Habsburg dynasty took control over Slovenia, but peasants often rebelled during the 15th and 16th centuries. Radovljica Old Town
, with the only preserved town moat in Slovenia, is one of the country's best conserved medieval structures. Ljubljana Castle
and the Town Walls
also testify to power struggles, Ottoman invasions, and the domination of Habsburg rulers.
A flourishing time for Slovenia and its industry came in the 18th century, when it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It fell briefly under the rule of Napoleon, who encouraged the use of the Slovenian language in schools and government. That ignited the nationalistic spark, which burst into flames in 1848 when the whole of Europe was shaken by revolutions. Several historical bridges and the only row of 19th-century buildings that survived the 1895 earthquake in Ljubljana Old Town
preserve the spirit of the Slovenia that strove for autonomy rather than independence.
As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I, Slovenia experienced heavy casualties, particularly along the frontlines of its western border. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Slovenes suffered poor conditions in refugee camps. Several thousand perished, and some entire areas of the Slovenian Littoral were wiped out. Kobarid Museum
commemorates one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.
The disintegration of Austro-Hungary after the World War I saw the Slovenes united with other South Slavs to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which was later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. World War II was a challenging time for the Slovenian people, who were painfully divided between the Partisans who fought the Germans and Domobranci who supported them. After 1945 Slovenia was a part of Socialist Yugoslavia before the EU recognized its independence in 1992. Having joined the EU in 2007, Slovenia looks brightly towards the future.
Customs of Slovenia
Slovenes may seem reserved and less friendly at first, especially to people from more informal cultures. However, they open up quickly once they build a relationship. It is normal to shake hands when meeting people for the first time. With younger people, it is expected to use a person's first name, but older people may be offended by it. You will always seem respectful if you address people with surnames and titles or women as "Gospa" (Madam) and men as "Gospod" (Sir).
Slovenes consider their home an extension of themselves. If you get invited to a local's house on your Slovenia holiday, you can show your respect by being punctual. It is well-mannered to bring flowers or a bottle of wine and to remove your shoes at the door (most hosts will offer you slippers).
Slovenes are mostly Roman Catholics but very selective in what religious norms to follow, which they often combine with secular beliefs.
Holidays & Festivals in Slovenia
Many state holidays in Slovenia are also religious in nature, like Christmas, Easter, Assumption Day and Day of the Dead, around which revolve many colorful traditions.
Significant secular festivities include Independence Day on December 26th, International Worker's Day on May 1st, and Preseren Day--a Slovenian cultural holiday--on February 8th.
Slovenia Travel Tips
Climate of Slovenia
Although the country is in temperate latitudes, there are still three climatic types that interact in Slovenia: continental in the lowlands, Alpine in the mountains, and sub-Mediterranean at the coast. The weather changes seasonally, with summers typically dry and winters fairly cold, though not very windy. Snow is quite frequent in the winter, which makes the country's mountain slopes perfect for winter sports. To get the most of the weather and catch warm days and cool nights, plan your Slovenia trip between May and September. If caves are a must on your Slovenia itinerary, remember that they have their own microclimate, which requires appropriate clothing.
Transportation in Slovenia
Slovenia is a relatively small country with well-maintained and signposted roads, so your best option might be to tour Slovenia by car. Local car rental agencies offer older models for lower prices. Still, note that off the highways you may have a tougher time moving around. Another option is to hitchhike, which is generally safe and, in addition, free. Buses are somewhat infrequent and require planning ahead, whereas trains are punctual and usually 30 percent cheaper than buses. While the newest trains are up to Western European standards, you may find yourself on one that lacks a voice announcement system; in that case, keep looking outside the window so as not to miss your station. Another inconvenience with public transportation is that you will probably need to switch trains and buses in Ljubljana.
Language of Slovenia
Slovenia is highly ranked among the European countries when it comes to knowledge of foreign languages. Slovenian is the official language, but since the country was part of the former-Yugoslavia, Serbo-Croatian is also commonly understood if not spoken. Younger generations are fluent in English, while many older people, especially in the eastern parts, speak or understand German. Knowledge of Italian is to be expected on the coast and Hungarian is widely spoken near the Hungarian border. If you speak other South Slavic languages and use simple language, you may try it to communicate with the locals.
Tipping in Slovenia
Tipping is Slovenia is not very common, but it shows appreciation of good service. For example, tip if you plan to return to a place where you enjoyed the service, and you may expect an even warmer welcome next time. No need to worry about percentages: rounding up a bill is appropriate, whether you're in a taxi, restaurant, or bar.