Slovenia is a small, but scenic country in Europe, right where the snow-capped Eastern Alps meet the Adriatic Sea and the Balkans. Thus, this means that Slovenia abounds in stunning natural beauties, vibrant cities, charming villages, picturesque places to visit and things to do and see. The country has borders with Italy, Croatia and Hungary, making it easily accessible over land from any of them. As the distances are quite small, day trips from or to any of these countries are also easy to plan and very rewarding.
But even if you decide not to cross the border and spend one or two full weeks in Slovenia, you won’t regret it. The landscapes are nothing short of breathtaking. Whether you’re interested in an outdoors adventure or a city break, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Slovenia. Due to its small size, one can swim in an alpine lake, go rafting on a mighty rivers, have a glass of wine made from the oldest vine in the world and relax on a Mediterranean beach, all in the same day.
Slovenia may still not be on everybody’s radar. For a long time it has been hiding in plain sight, behind Switzerland and Italy, waiting to be discovered. But start packing your bags, as here is a list of the best places to visit on a trip to Slovenia:
Best 25 Places to Visit in Slovenia
1. Goriško castle
Slovenia is also called the “Country of Castles” because of its high number of magnificent castles perched on lush hilltops.
About Goriško castle we know that it already existed at the beginning of the 13th century. According to legends, it was first built by the Templar Knights. Over the centuries it suffered structural changes several times until it became one of the biggest castles in Baroque style in Slovenia, with a total number of 365 rooms.
During this time it was home to several noble families. Its darkest period was the Second World War, when it was occupied by the Red Army and then the Iugoslavian one. The castle was afterwards forgotten until 1995, when the restoration and consolidation works began.
Nowadays, it hosts a museum in which the geology, flora, fauna and crafts of the area are presented. In some of the castle rooms visitors can also stay over night.
2. Babicev Mlin Schiffsmuhle an der Mur
While I wouldn’t significantly change my travel plans just to see this watermill, it is a nice stop if you are around Maribor or Goriško castle. The watermill on the river Mura is still working and produces various types of flour every day. One can enter and see the process during working hours. The natural landscape around is also pretty, especially at sunset.
3. Maribor – the second largest city in Slovenia and one of the best places to visit
Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia, after Ljubljana, but it has a totally different atmosphere and look. The area is known for its wine growing industry. Actually, Maribor is home to the oldest vine in the world,, included even in Guinness Book, being over 450 years old. It can still be seen climbing the facade of a bar and wine museum in Lent quarter. Each year a festival is held when its grapes are harvested.
Maribor has three major squares connected by pedestrian streets, that should not miss from any itinerary of the town: Slomškov Square, Glavni trg and Castle Square. In each of them, visitors can see several historic layers. It also boasts two medieval towers. One of them stands right next to Drava river, where you can have a drink. High on Piramida Hill, one can see the remains of the 12th century castle and a panoramic image over the current town.
Adventure and outdoor lovers will be happy to find out that the area of Maribor is a hub for activities la rafting, cycling and hiking.
4. Ptuj – the oldest town in Slovenia and one of its best places to visit
Ptuj is the oldest town in Slovenia. It was built on the bank of the Drava river and its 12th century castle set high on a hill can be visited. The courtyard is nice, but the interior also hosts some great art collections.
In the downtown, some of the biggest attractions are the Town Hall from the beginning of the 20th century, the gothic St. George Church, the 13th century Dominican monastery and Orpheus monument from Roman times. If you’re looking to relax, the thermal springs in Ptuj should also be on your list.
Another one of the oldest and most charming towns in Slovenia is Celje. It lies on the banks of the Savinja River and it’s been for almost 7 centuries overlooked by an enormous castle. This is also one of the most interesting and well-maintained castles in Slovenia.
During summer, one can attend workshops in the courtyard and learn how to dance, sing or make a seal from wax. Some exhibitions are open year round. For example, visitors can learn more about medieval torture methods, the love between Veronica and Frederick the second or Johannes Gutenberg and his revolutionary invention.
The old town is also pretty and there are often events on the cobblestone streets. Celje also has its own delicious dessert, a pastry rolled filled with cream and dipped in chocolate. Don’t forget to try it!
6. The Beer Fountain in Zalec
One of the most peculiar attractions in Slovenia are its beer and wine fountains. The beer one is in Zalec, between Maribor and Ljublljana. Maribor is a mostly wine growing region. But once you get closer to Zalec, you’ll notice that the landscapes changes. The vines disappear and hop takes their place.
Once in Zalec, head to the main square, the most animated place in town. It won’t be hard to find it, as people are always around chatting and having fun. The hops smell can’t be ignored either.
One of the aspects I didn’t like is that you can’t rent a beer mug, you’ll have to buy and keep it. But hey, this is the first beer fountain in the world! Once you have the mug, you can taste beer six times from the fountain. There are exactly six types of beer. So, it’s your choice if you taste each of them or just drink several times from one. The mug has a NFC code on its bottom and will only work six times.
If you like beer, check out this tour designed especially for you: Beery Slovenia Tour.
7. Velenje Castle
Velenje Castle is one of the best-preserved castles in Slovenia. The fortress with three towers on a steep rock above Velenje city was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1957 it was transformed in a museum. It now hosts ten exhibitions about mastodonts, art or life during medieval times. Two of the rooms present what a boutique and a small restaurant from the beginning of the 20th century looked like.
8. Ljubljana – the capital and one of the best places to visit in Slovenia
Ljubljana is one of the smallest European capitals, but has an unique charm and is one of the best places to visit in Slovenia. The city center is crossed by Ljubljanica river. During summer, the promenade is full of terraces, bars and coffee shops where tourists and locals eat and drink.
The main landmark of Ljubljana is its 1000 years old castle. One can take the funicular up and visit it. The courtyard and some of the exhibitions are free to enter. But to enter some of them, you have to pay a fee. While we didn’t find the exhibitions interesting enough to deserve the entrance fee, we really loved the sweeping views from the tower. The exhibitions seemed more like an addition to it.
One of the attractions in downtown Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge, where three beautiful bridges span over the river one next to the other right in front of the bright-pink Franciscan Church. Opposite, on the other bank, one can check out the open-aired Central Market. The Dragon Bridge is also one of the must-see attractions in town, as the city is also known as the “City of Dragons”.
A little out of the town center, one can go for a walk and relax in Tivoli Park or climb up the skyscraper and enjoy the best views over Ljubljana, including its castle.
9. Škofja Loka
On the way from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, you can spend a few hours in one of the most beautiful small towns in Slovenia, Škofja Loka. There you’ll find buildings with Baroque frescoes, old stone towers and bridges and a castle that can be seen from everywhere in town. At night the castle looks like a fairytale one as it is illuminated.
10. Lake Bled – the best known landscape in Slovenia and one of the best places to visit
The most popular image from Slovenia has to be that of the stunning Alpine lake with a small island with a church on top in the middle. That’s Lake Bled, one of the best places one can visit in Slovenia and even the Balkan countries. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, the crystal-clear waters of the lake attract people year-round.
But this is not all, the region is also fabulous and there are a lot of things one can do, on the water or not. Bled is also home to the oldest and one of the most beautiful castles in Slovenia, overlooking the lake from the top of a rock. Lake Bled is also a gateway to the Triglav National Park and close to scenic gorges and waterfalls. But its dramatic beauty would be enough to make for a beautiful holiday.
11. Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is located just 26km away from Lake Bled in Slovenia, but the landscape and atmosphere couldn’t be more different. It is the largest glacial lake in Slovenia. The mountains are rolling right around the crystal-clear waters. From Ukanc, on the shore of Bohinj Lake, one can take the cable car to Mount Vogel, for more scenic views. You can also check out Savica Waterfall, but keep in mind that you’ll have to climb 500 stone stairs to it and pay a €3 entrance fee.
There are frequent buses connecting the two lakes, so it’s pretty easy to visit this amazing lake, part of Triglav National Park.
12. Vintgar Gorge – one of the best places to visit in Slovenia for active tourists
Crossing Vintgar Gorge in Triglav National Park is a must while you’re at Lake Bled. It’s located a 10 minutes drive or one hour by foot from the lake, but the effort is more than worth it. In summer, there’s also a local bus connecting Bled with Vintgar Gorge.
The 1.6 km long trail on a wooden boardwalk along the Radovna River is indeed spectacular. This is an almost flat walk and a fun activity for everybody. Vintgar Gorge is one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve ever done, right next to Paiva Walkways in Portugal.
The entrance ticket costs €10 per person and there’s a limited number of people allowed in the gorge each hour. If you want to make sure you’ll get in, you’d better buy tickets in advance online. In October, we could get them from the small wooden ticket booth at the entrance, but there were still some people around. At the same time, it’s not open all the time. I suppose we were lucky.
At the end of the path, there’s a small rest area with souvenirs, coffee and potica, the national dessert. You can also use the bathroom or walk for 5 more minutes to the pretty Sum Waterfall.
It’s important to know that the trail doesn’t end at the same place where it starts. You can either take a cab to the parking lot or hike back to the start of the trail or to Bled, as we did.
If you want to make it a little more adventurous, you can also do it on a 4-hour self-guided e-Bike tour.
13. Triglav National Park
Triglav, Slovenia’s only National Park, is a must for any outdoor lover. There’s no way one can get there and no be impressed by its magnificent tall peaks, crystal lakes and lush valleys. Besides Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj it hides several other natural treasures.
Three of its magnificent waterfalls stand out and might catch your interest. One of them is Kozjak waterfall nestled inside a canyon. Boka Waterfall is Slovenia’s highest waterfall. Pericnik Waterfall is composed out of two individual waterfalls. One can even go behind the water curtain of the lower one. Each of them can be accessed through an easy to moderate hike.
Triglav National Park is for sure the ideal spot to visit in Slovenia is you want to explore amazing natural scenery. You can also drive to the Vrsic mountain pass and admire the alpine views. Hiking the highest mountain in Slovenia, Triglav, is also a popular activity.
14. Soca River Gorge
Adventurous tourists can go on an exhilarating white water rafting tour on the Soca River. There are easy rides, for the entire family, and more difficult ones. For some of them you don’t need any rafting experience. Trained guides will accompany you and equipment is provided. Reserve your rafting spot here.
One can also combine this activity with canyoning and learn to slide down small rapids and waterfalls. Even if it sounds a little dangerous, I’ve read good reviews and it seems pretty safe. Wetsuits, helmets and zip lines are provided.
Bovec, also considered the adventure capital of Slovenia, is the go to place if you plan a holiday around the activities in Triglav National Park. The town in the mountains will also satisfy those looking for culture. There is a museum describing the importance of the area in the World War I. The 15th century wooden Kluže Fortress is also less than 5 km away.
16. Vipava Valley and Goriska Brda – best places to visit in Slovenia for wine lovers
Vipava Valley and Goriska Brda made Slovenia a top wine destination. One can go on a road trip or cycle through the vineyards and villages scattered across the fertile hills. But in our opinion, the best way to experience Vipava Valley is by train. Unfortunately for us, many people think so and we still weren’t able to fetch two spots on this train, but are looking forward to do it next time, hopefully.
But to fully understand how the grape is turned into wine and the particularities of the region, you should go wine tasting. In Dobrovo, you can go on a tour of Klet Brda cooperative and taste no less than 12 wines from the region. But there are many more vineyards to visit and wines to taste. Here are some tours you can take:
17. Idrija – one of the best places to visit in Slovenia if you’re looking for culture
We were fascinated by Idrija. We knew that it was an UNESCO town with a long tradition in mining and lace making. But we didn’t expect the tours to be so good and so many attractions in such a small town.
Idrija is home to the second largest mercury wine in the world. If you only do one thing in this town, that should be a tour of Anthony’s shaft accompanied by a local guide. He talks pretty fast and maybe you’ll feel a little rushed. But the tour is packed with information and you’ll be walking through several tunnels. You’ll not only learn about mining along centuries and what mercury was used for, but also about the city, how mining still impacts it and why Idrija lace appeared.
Gewerkenegg Castle, which in German means mine castle, dominates the town. Inside you’ll find a museum of the town’s mining history and a large collection of Idrija lace. But the go to place if you want to find out more about it first-hand is the lace making school nearby. Napkins, curtains, bed linen, clothes and ornaments like earrings, necklaces and gloves are all products made of Idrija lace.
18. Postojna Cave – one of the best places to visit in Slovenia for families
Do you want to speed on a train ride through tunnels and giant halls rich in stalactites and stalagmites? I suppose the answer is YES. I’ve done the tour twice already ten years apart and it didn’t surprise me any less. Postojna Cave is one of the best places to visit in Slovenia.
In less than two hours, you’ll see more than 5 km of the cave, learn a lot about caves in general and karst formations and even see the stars of the cave, some human fish, or little dragons, as they are also called. The guide is knowledgeable and friendly and will tell you not only the history of the cave, but also legends and stories related to it.
Postojna Cave has a constant temperature of 8°C to 10°C, with 95% humidity, so a warm jacket and decent shoes are advised.
19. Predjama Castle – one of the most attractive castles in the world
Predjama Castle was voted as one of the 10 most attractive castles in the world and one can easily see why. The 800-years old castle was built into the mouth of a cave and is a real masterpiece. Tourists can also visit the cave below and see the colony of bats inside.
In medieval times, life in the castle was not comfortable. It was cold and wet. But it was also safe. The castle could be easily protected and the network of tunnels below it gave the inhabitants access to the exterior world. It was home to Erazem Lueger, a kind of Slovenian Robin Hood, a nobleman that stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
Go on a tour and find out how Erazem and his allies survived an one year siege and why his enemies thought they were helped by demonic forces. But also how the castle was finally occupied and Erazem killed.
20. Skocjan Caves
Škocjan Caves is an underground system included on the UNESCO World Heritage List due to its history and geology. The river that crosses it created a giant canyon with water rapids and lakes that can be seen. It might not be as rich in karst formation as Postojna Cave, but it has its own unique charm.
The exceptional karst cave system attracted tourists even more than 100 years ago. They didn’t have the facilities we have nowadays. Exploring the cave was much more dangerous. One can still see the original steps carved in the rock, right next to the abyss, and the rotten ropes. You can’t avoid asking yourself how they survived such a trip. They must have been really passionate about caving. However, now you can benefit from lights, proper stairs and even an underground bridge.
21. Lipica Stud Farm
A stone’s throw away from Skocjan caves, you can watch a display of elegance and acrobatics at Lipica Stud Farm. Visitors can also tour the Lipikum Museum and spend some time with the horses. Slovenia’s Stud Farm is world-renowned as an establishment that has been breeding Lipizzan horses since the 16th century.
22. The wine fountain in Marezige
As stated previously, Slovenia doesn’t only have a beer fountain, but also a wine one. I do have to recognize that my imagination was disappointed as the fountain was with water and the wine could be taken from a separate dispenser, a few meters away. In comparison with the beer fountain, I felt like the two words had nothing to do with each other this time. But the views were spectacular. I’d say that this mostly a bar with a deceptive name, but gorgeous vistas. Go for the name, stay for the views!
There is one advantage compared to the other fountain. If you have a glass, you can just buy coins to fill/refill it.
Koper is a port and one of the oldest coastal towns in Slovenia. Once upon a time it was part of the Venetian Empire under the name of Caprea. Visitors can tour Tito Square, the heart of the city, the 15th century Praetorian Palace and climb up the bell tower for scenic views over the the city. In summer, one can also go to the free public beach, enjoy the sun and water. Close to Koper, you can tour an olive estate and enjoy an olive oil and wine tasting at Lisjak Olive Estates.
24. Piran – one of the best places to visit in Slovenia for beach lovers
The jewel of Slovenia’s Adriatic coast is Piran, a small town located on the tip of a peninsula. Just like Koper, it also had Venetian architectural influences. Its soul is the oval Tartini Square, where locals and tourists gather for a drink and chat. Wander the winding alleys and look for the best seafood restaurants. Above the downtown, you’ll find the old St. George church with its bell tower and the remains of the city walls. Piran is for sure one of the loveliest towns in Slovenia and along the Adriatic coast, in any country.
25. The woods of Istria where truffle hunting has been done for generations
The Istria Peninsula is divided between Slovenia and Croatia. Both countries have an old tradition in truffle hunting in this region and you can also go search for the precious mushroom with a professional hunter and his dog. Maybe at first this doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But trust me, it is. We went on a truffle hunting tour and loved it.
At the beginning we were met by the hunter, introduced to the job and the dogs. Then we went together in the forest looking for white truffles. The leader gave us a lot of information and it was such a pleasure watching her work with the dogs. We did find truffles and also got to enjoy a brunch with black and white truffles cooked in just too many ways.
We did the tour in the Croatian part of Istria, but there are similar tours in Slovenia, in case you don’t want to cross the border.
Slovenia is a small but beautiful country. It proved us that indeed strong essences are held in small bottles. In Slovenia you can hike in the mountains in the morning, have lunch in a vineyard, relax on the beach in the afternoon and sleep in a castle. It has it all: vibrant cities, charming villages, snowy mountains, rolling hills, magnificent castles and secluded beaches. I hope you’re now convinced that Slovenia deserves to be your next destination for a city break or more. As you can see, there are at least 25 great places to visit in Slovenia you can choose from.
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