Slovenia may be small, but boy oh boy is it perfectly formed. Lovely Ljubljana is the perfect base from which to explore the country, with a wide range of history, culture, entertainment and activity within a two-hour drive of the capital. Two hours is good an all, but the modern world is a fast-moving place; where can we visit just one hour away from Ljubljana? These are some of our favourite places just an hour from LJ.
Where else to start? Slovenia’s most magical natural setting is a 42-minute drive north of the capital, a gorgeous ride through quaint villages and tranquil Slovenian countryside. Lake Bled is about as picture-perfect as it gets, a quite gorgeous lake surrounded by jagged mountains and a famous castle. Lake Bled is one of the most popular day trips from Ljubljana, although you might find yourself staying forever and ever.
Sticking with the most popular attractions in Slovenia, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle often find themselves bossing the business end of Slovenian tourism. An hour south of Ljubljana, the cave and the castle make for a tremendous one-two, offering the mystery of the underworld and the magic of one of Europe’s most idyllic castles. Keep an eye out for the Human Fish.
Let’s keep the themes going. Human Fish? Slovenia’s most curious animal is also the name of its first craft beer, a selection of tremendous beers brewed in the small town of Vrhnika. The Human Fish taproom is reason enough to make the 25-minute journey out of town, but add the legacy of one of Slovenia’s favourite writers and you have one of the country’s most underrated day trips. Ivan Cankar was born here, and much of the town is given over to his life.
Our first stop to the east, little Žalec is famous for one thing and one thing only; hops. The land of green gold is the capital of Slovenia’s hop-growing, and the small town of fewer than 5,000 people is a must-visit for anyone with even a passing interest in beer. It isn’t everyday you get to drink from a beer fountain.
Slovenia’s most underrated town? Radovljica might just take that tasty cake. A most adorable medieval town just 35-minutes north of Ljubljana, Radovljica is home to one of the country’s most picturesque settings and a couple of its most charming museums, namely the Beekeeping Museum and Pharmacy Museum. Sweet Radolca doesn’t get the attention of more celebrated contemporaries, but it could just be your new favourite town. Also, there is a Chocolate Festival. Need we say more?
The fourth-largest town in Slovenia (occasionally the third-largest, depending on birthrates through the year), Kranj tends to get overshadowed by Ljubljana, with just 30km separating the two cities. More fool those who ignore Kranj, a beautiful town that offers one of the finest panoramic views one could hope to see. The so-called capital of the Slovenian Alps, Kranj has a little bit of everything for everyone.
A magnificent town famous for its castles, Kamnik flies under the radar but that is just how it likes it. This is a living, breathing homage to all things creative. Artisan workshops crowd the serene streets as the ubiquitous Alps wait patiently in the background, making for a truly marvellous scene. Kamnik is an easy 30-minute drive north of Ljubljana, 15km east of the airport.
Trbovlje is a Slovenian anomaly. Often derided as one of the country’s ugliest towns, this famous industrial centre will surprise you. Surrounded by lush green hills, the city that gave the world Laibach offers an intimate look into the development and subsequent unravelling of Slovenia’s mining industry. The city museum is excellent, the miner’s quarters are an absolute must. Trbovlje is also home to the tallest chimney in Europe, all just 50-minutes east of Ljubljana.
Splendid Škofja Loka should be on all positive travel-centric lists, such are its immediate charms and aesthetic prowess. A stunning medieval town just half an hour north of Ljubljana, Škofja Loka shows off its centuries of preservation with the confidence of a veteran, with a gleaming castle standing protectively above a none-more-elegant centre. The summer is filled with events and festivals too.
Bloke is lovingly known as the Slovenian Tibet, where for six months of the year it is cold and for the other six months it is winter, but there is more to this isolated slice of beauty than snow and time. Hospitality is at its most joyful here, in an area of natural beauty that remains relatively untouched by the chaotic nature of modern tourism. The Bloke Ski Museum is a must-visit, to learn all about the long history of Europe’s first practical skis.