A college town at heart, Ljubljana is a small capital packed with all of the amenities and little of the expense of similar cities around Europe. It boasts a particularly charming old town, not to mention a castle with its own vineyards in a forested park just a short walk from the center.
Food, drink and hotels are all cheap, English is widely spoken, and locals are friendly and eager to help. What’s not to love?! Plan your stay with the help of our Ljubljana budget travel guide.
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Ljubljana Budget Travel Guide
Ljubljana deserves to be one of the highlights on your Slovenia itinerary. If you’re the type of traveler that prefers to have a home base to return to every night, Slovenia’s capital is perfect. It happens to be right in the middle of the country, and it’s a hub for air and ground travel. Besides, even if accommodations here are slightly more expensive than elsewhere in Slovenia, they’re still very cheap as compared to elsewhere in Europe.
Are you ready to go to Slovenia? Read on for our best advice for making the most of your time in Ljubljana while keeping your costs under control.
When to go
For the best possible prices for airfare and accommodation, time your visit in the off-season so that it doesn’t coincide with the flood of European vacationers that tend to invade the city every summer.
Also, note prices can be higher during the Ljubljana Festival (mid-June through August), but it’s a fun time when the streets are full of live performances by actors, dancers and musicians.
The cheapest time to visit
Your best bet for reasonably good weather, competitive prices and fewer crowds? Early spring or fall. Just remember to bring an umbrella or a rain poncho, as some wet weather is pretty much a given.
Ljubljana is home to Slovenia’s most important air hub, Jože Pucnik Airport, also known by its previous name Brnik Airport (code: LJU). It’s located about 25 minutes from the city center.
From the airport, you’ll want to hop the local bus service, Avtobusna Ljubljana number 28 into the city center. It costs about €4 and can be bought directly from the bus driver.
At the time of writing, there are no direct transatlantic flights into Ljubljana from the US, although connecting flights from elsewhere in Europe make the city a great add-on for your European itinerary, especially for folks planning to spend time in the neighboring countries of Italy, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, or Hungary.
Finding cheap flights to Ljubljana
We found round-trip flights to Ljubljana from NYC via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines starting at €550 for a Thursday-to-Thursday trip in the fall.
For extra savings on last-minute fares in the busy summer months of July and August, it may be best to fly round-trip from the US into Venice. In Venice, you can then rent a car or hop a budget flight from the Venice or Verona airports. You can also take the train to Ljubljana from Venice.
Another great way to save on airfare to this destination? Book your tickets way in advance — we found round-trip tickets with one connection on flights with Air France and Delta starting at €528 for dates next year. Check for the latest airfares on CheapoSearch.
Getting around Ljubljana
Ljubljana’s center is very walkable and pedestrian friendly, but should you want to venture further afield, the city is connected via the LPP public bus service and fares start at €1.20 per trip but must be swiped on an Urbana Value Card (find it at kiosks, green stand-alone machines, bus stops and stations, and tourist information centers for €2).
Traveling in a group and plan to make a lot of day trips while you’re in the area? Consider renting a car. Roads in Slovenia are good, tolls and fuel are reasonable for Europe, and parking in the Ljubljana area is included with lots of accommodations. Check car rental rates in Europe with CheapoSearch.
Cheap and free things to do
Ljubljana is a beautiful place to spend some time outside. Stroll the old town, window-shop and take snapshots of the gorgeous Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical buildings.
Architecture and history
Be sure to have a look around Preseren Square and a peek inside the 17th-century Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, with frescoes painted by the Slovene impressionist painter Matej Sternen. Or walk along the city’s namesake river on its iconic bridges. Take a stroll over Triple Bridge, and our favorite, the Dragon Bridge, with its four green sheet-copper dragons.
Street art and culture
Fans of street art should definitely make a stop in Metelkova City, a former army barracks turned squat, turned local center for alternative culture and art.
If you’d rather get away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets, head for the hills. Take a sunrise or sunset hike up to the city’s castle. Surrounded by a picturesque forest park, the castle grounds, as well as its dungeons and shops are free to visit. Castle admission to the tower, puppet museum and exhibition of Slovenian History costs €7.50. For €10, you can also hop the funicular back down to the bottom.
Picnic in the park
Another low-cost option? Shop for some nice picnic fare at Plecnik’s Central Market and then find a bench in Tivoli Park, the city’s largest green space.
Need more ideas for Ljubljana? Check out the official tourism website, I Feel Slovenia.
Eating and drinking on a budget
Ljubljana is becoming famous throughout Slovenia and around the world for its foodie culture. With local dishes that combine some of the best elements from Italian, Swiss and Eastern European cuisine, the food here is hard to resist.
Eat out at lunch to save
Like elsewhere in Slovenia, if you want to feast for less, eat out at lunch, between the hours of 11 am and 1 pm so you can take advantage of fixed price menus and specials for students and working folks. The prices are cheap, but just expect them to be 10-15% more expensive than in smaller Slovenian cities.
Try ethnic restaurants for cheap dinners
When the evening rolls around, head to ethnic restaurants — think Turkish, Bosnian, Slovakian or Indian — for an excellent meal that’s easy on the budget. We really like the generous portions and friendly service at Sarajevo 84 (Nazorjeva ulica 12, Ljubljana 1000). Pizzas are very reasonable here too, starting at €5 for a large individual to-go pie.
Authentic Slovenian cuisine
For more traditional fare head to Klobasarna (Stari trg 21, Ljubljana 1000) for Slovenian sausage on bread and soup for a quick bite or sit down to more elaborate fare at Druga Violina (Stari trg 21, Ljubljana 1000).
Cheap hotels in Ljubljana
Hotels in Ljubljana tend to be slightly more expensive than in other Slovenian cities. To save on accommodations follow a couple of rules — stay away from the riverfront and don’t stay overnight during the city’s major festivals (check here a list of Slovenian festivals) when prices can skyrocket with the demand for rooms.
Budget hotel rooms and private rooms in hostels start at around €30 with most hovering around the price of about €40 per night and beds in shared dorms are available from €15 per person nightly. Private rooms in shared apartments here start at €25 and studio apartment rentals go for just around €50 per night.
Hotel picks for Ljubljana
Here are a couple of our favorite cheapo-friendly places to stay:
- We love the location of Adora Hotel, a family-run charmer with free breakfast in Old Town.
- For a more modern stay right in the city center, Hotel Emonec is a good choice with a free buffet breakfast and just steps from Preseren Square.
Take a look at almost 500 hotels in Ljubljana. You’ll find prices as low as $27 per night!
If you’re traveling beyond Ljubljana, you can book more than 4,000 hotels and apartments across Slovenia.
Your tips for exploring Ljubljana
Have you been to Ljubljana? Share your best tips for visiting Slovenia’s capital city on a budget in the comments section below.