The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana is a growing city and home to many museums, galleries and shopping centers. But what mainly draws visitors to the city are its red-tiled roofs, curving cobblestoned streets and centuries-old buildings. Ljubljana (pronounced loo-blan-ah) has its own distinctive character, and every nook and cranny seems to be filled with whimsical and delightful surprises. Many of the city's older buildings were destroyed in an earthquake in 1895, but several remaining structures show Roman and baroque influences.
The heart of the city lies on both sides of the Ljubljanica River. Over the years, architects have used the Ljubljanica as an opportunity to build a handful of tasteful bridges—our favorites are the Tromostovje (known as Three Bridges) and the Zmajski (the Dragon Bridge).
On one side of the river are the narrow cobblestoned streets of the old town, which sits in the shadow of the Ljubljana Castle. It's one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe, and can be reached by a quick 10-minute hike. Also on that side of the river is the town market, which sells meats, vegetables and other items. The market is a great place to grab a cheap lunch; try a burek (a flaky meat or cheese pastry) for a fast treat.
On the other side of the Ljubljanica you'll find Tivoli Mansion, now a graphic-arts center, and the main shopping streets, lined by graceful art-nouveau buildings. The ultramodern cultural and congress center Cankarjev dom, not far from the neo-rococo opera house, is the setting for many cultural performances. Especially worth seeing are the Franciscan Church and the baroque town hall with its monumental fountain.
You can also hike to the top of 3,600-ft/1,100-m Mount Katarina from Ljubljana. A 7-mi/12-km trail begins in the suburb of Podutik before winding through spruce forests and up to a small church at the mountain's peak.