Ljubljana Castle is the city's most prominent sight, offering some of the most beautiful views of Ljubljana. The castle premises house several museum exhibitions and presentations, such as Slovenian History, The Prison and Virtual Castle, among others. The castle, accessible by funicular railway, also houses two restaurants, Gostilna na gradu and Strelec.
Ljubljana Castle's Viewing Tower offers the most beautiful views of Ljubljana and its surrounding areas. Its site was originally occupied by the Pipers' Tower, pulled down after the French occupation in 1813, and later by a fire lookout tower, home of the city's fire lookout. St. George's Chapel, originally built in the Gothic style and later rebuilt in the Baroque style, is one of the oldest parts of Ljubljana Castle. It is decorated with 15th century frescoes and 1747 wall paintings of the coats of arms of provincial governors-general and five Austrian rulers.
A virtual walk through the history of Ljubljana Castle offers an opportunity to learn about archaeological findings in the area, the castle's architectural development through different periods of time, and the interior of the caste. The 12-minute virtual tour is available in English, German, Italian, Croatian, Russian, French and Spanish.
View the parts of Ljubljana Castle open to visitors.
Prešernov trg square
The Prešernov trg square developed from a road junction in front of one of the city gates leading to medieval Ljubljana. Next to the junction, a Franciscan church of the Annunciation was built in the 17th century, but the junction was turned into a square and paved only after the city walls were pulled down in the middle of the 19th century.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 1895 the square saw the building of several bourgeois palaces: Frisch House (Frischova hiša) and Seunig House (Seunigova hiša) at the lower end of the Čopova ulica street, the building currently housing the Centralna lekarna pharmacy, Urbanc House (Urbančeva hiša), Hauptman House (Hauptmanova hiša) and Mayer Palace (Mayerjeva palača), the latter built thirty years after the earthquake.
The squares' Prešeren Monument, designed by the architect Maks Fabiani and the sculptor Ivan Zajc, was unveiled in the autumn of 1905. It depicts the greatest Slovenian poet, France Prešeren (1800-1849), and the muse of poetry holding a spring of laurel above his head. The poet's statue is symbolically faced by the statue of Julija Primic, his great love, mounted on the fasade of a building located across the square, in the Wolfova ulica street.
The central of the three bridges forming the Triple Bridge has stood in its place since 1842, when it replaced an old, strategically important medieval wooden bridge connecting the north-western European lands with south-eastern Europe and the Balkans. Between 1929 and 1932, the side bridges, intended for pedestrians, were added to the original stone bridge to a design by the architect Jože Plečnik, who thus created a unique architectural gem of Ljubljana.
Plečnik removed the metal railings from the old stone bridge and furnished all the three bridges with massive stone balustrades and lamps. From each of the side bridges, two stairways lead to terraces situated just above the river, where poplar trees were planted to contribute to the overall appearance of the Bridge.
On the right bank of the river, the Bridge is enhanced by a small flower shop connected to the Ljubljana Central Market colonnade, and on the left bank by a kiosk. It has a key position on the crossing of Plečnik's two urban axes, the river axis and the axis running between the Rožnik and castle hills. In 1992, the Triple Bridge was thoroughly renovated.
The Dragon Bridge, adorned with famous dragon statues, appears in the most recognizable images of Ljubljana. If you haven't been photographed next to a Dragon Bridge dragon, you can hardly claim that you have visited Ljubljana. The four dragon statues, which look slightly terrifying and almost real (if, of course, you believe that dragons might be real), are a masterpiece which has been exciting imagination since the bridge was built.
The attraction of the dragons aside, the bridge is a unique creation considered to be an extraordinary piece of technical heritage and a superb example of Art Nouveau architecture, which flourished at the turn of the 20th century. Constructed between 1900 and 1901, it was Ljubljana's first reinforced concrete structure and one of the largest bridges of its kind to be built in Europe. At the time of its opening, it was called the Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Joseph I.
The Dragon Bridge was given its Art Nouveau appearance by the Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninović, who studied under the famous Viennese architect Otto Wagner, one of whose pupils was also Ljubljana's great architect Jože Plečnik.
Central Market - market halls by architect Jože Plečnik
Until the earthquake of 1895, the Vodnikov trg square, now the site of Ljubljana's central Market, had been occupied by a diocesan college. Later, the Municipality of Ljubljana intended to build a new town hall there, but the plan was changed after it had been established that the existing meat market halls, situated at a nearby river embankment, no longer complied with hygiene regulations.
The present market, built by the architect Jože Plečnik between 1940 and 1944, was conceived as a two-storey range of riverside market halls following the curve of the river. On the side overlooking the river, the market halls were furnished with large semi-circular windows, and on the side overlooking the street adorned with a colonnade. The whole complex, reflecting Renaissance influences, was covered with a roof of massive concrete tiles.
When a little later a decision was taken to connect the market with the Triple Bridge, Plečnik built a flower shop resembling the temples of classical antiquity next to the bridge and connected it with the market by adding another roofed colonnade. The additional colonnade now provides shelter for stalls selling herbs, spices, and art and craft items.
Stari trg & Gornji trg squares
Stari trg (Old Square) is the earliest settled part of medieval Ljubljana. It blends into Gornji trg (Upper Square), which slopes up towards the foot of Ljubljana's castle hill. Together with Mestni trg (Town Square), the third oldest part of Ljubljana city centre, which also exists since medieval times, the two distinctly garland-shaped squares embrace the castle hill. Both the buildings in Mestni trg and those in Stari trg and Gornji trg have Baroque front façades and medieval interiors. A lot of them were redesigned and connected to neighbouring buildings in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only four buildings in Gornji trg have preserved their medieval orientation with the roof ridges facing the square.
The broadest part of Stari trg, which blends into the lower part of the Gornji trg, is the site of the Hercules Fountain, a modern interpretation of a Baroque original. The building next to the fountain is the famous Stična Mansion (Stiški dvorec). In the 18th century, a large part of Stari trg was occupied by a Jesuit college and St. James's Church (Cerkev sv. Jakoba). When the college burnt down, the present Levstikov trg square was built in its place.
Ljubljana's Town Hall (locally referred to as Mestna hiša, Magistrat or Rotovž), is used as the seat of the Municipality of Ljubljana. It was built in the late 15th century by the master builder Peter Bezlaj. It assumed its present appearance between 1717 and 1719, when an annexe designed by Carlo Martinuzzi was added to it by the master builder Gregor Maček Snr. Later the building was alterated several times, the most thoroughly by the architect Svetozar Križaj in 1963.
The Town Hall façade reflects Venetian architectural influences. The vestibule provides space for a late Gothic plaque with a coat of arms surviving from the original Town Hall building and a 17th century statue of Hercules with a lion, previously a part of the Hercules Fountain which used to stand in the middle of the nearby Stari trg square. In the Town Hall's arched courtyard stands Francesco Robba's Narcissus Fountain (Narcisov vodnjak) from Bokalce Castle (Grad Bokalce). Next to the staircase there is a monument in memory of Ivan Hribar (1851-1941), a famous mayor of Ljubljana.
Robba Fountain (The Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers)
The Robba Fountain, one of Ljubljana's best known Baroque monuments, also known as The Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers, stands at the edge of the Mestni trg square. It was created between 1743 and 1751 by the Venetian-born sculptor and architect Francesco Robba (1698-1757), who spent most of his life in Ljubljana and is considered to be the city's greatest Baroque master sculptor working in stone.
The Robba Fountain is modelled on famous Roman fountains. The sculptures of three river gods adorning it are believed to represent three Carniolan rivers: the Sava, the Ljubljanica and the Krka. The Fountain's ground plan is shaped in the form of Ljubljana's ancient three-leaf town seal.
The Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers was Robba's last work in Ljubljana. While sculpting it, he became poor and as soon as the work was finished he moved to Zagreb.
Kongresni trg square
The site of the present Kongresni trg square was occupied by a small square already back in the Baroque period. The original square was thoroughly reconstructed for the 1821 Congress of the Holy Alliance and named after it. Its south end, the site of the former Provincial Mansion, where the Congress took place, is now occupied by the University of Ljubljana building. Not far away from it is the Slovenian Philharmonic building and next to it a Bidermeyer building housing the oldest Slovenian publishing house, Slovenska matica, established in 1894. The north end of the square is occupied by the neoclassical Kazina building. The Zvezda park, which stretches across the central part of the square, is the site of several historical attractions.
Amid the remains of the town walls of the Roman Emona stands a copy of the gilded bronze statue of a Roman patrician excavated from a site next to the Kazina building in 1836. In Roman times, the area was the site of a burial ground. In accordance with Roman tradition, Emona's burial grounds were situated outside the town walls.
City Museum of Ljubljana – MGML
Visitors to the City Museum of Ljubljana can admire the Renaissance architectural features of the palatial museum building, take a walk along a 1st century Roman road or meet the Underwater Troll in the "Search.for.Yourself" exhibition room. The permanent exhibition Faces of Ljubljana is dedicated to the life and history of Ljubljana. It presents Ljubljana and the earlier settlements on its site in an interesting way, tracing their history from the time of a prehistoric lake dwelling dating back to 4500 BC to the time of the modern Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
The Roman Trail of Ljubljana is a circular route taking in ten monuments of the Roman city of Emona, whose 2000th anniversary of foundation will be celebrated in 2014. The trail includes, among other things, the Emona House and the Early Christian Centre archaeological parks, where visitors can see the most beautifully preserved remains of Roman houses in Ljubljana, and the remains of the Emona city wall, renovated by the famous architect Jože Plečnik.
The National Gallery, Slovenia's foremost museum of historical art, holds the country's largest collection of fine art from the High Middle Ages to the 20th century. Apart from housing two permanent collections, Art in Slovenia and European Paintings, it hosts temporary art exhibitions.
The National Gallery keeps one of Ljubljana's greatest Baroque works of art, the original Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers by Francesco Robba, whose original site in front of the Ljubljana Town Hall is now occupied by its replica. The Gallery also houses an extensive library and keeps a collection of posters and calendars and an archival collection made up of Slovenian artists' personal archives.
The National Gallery's education department, whose mission is to promote and popularize the nation's artistic heritage, runs a programme of activities for children and families (special exhibition tours, creative workshops, etc.), also available to groups by prior appointment.
National Museum of Slovenia
Being Slovenia's main museum of national history, the National Museum keeps a number of finds from Slovenia considered to be important treasures of the world's cultural heritage. One of the most outstanding is the 60,000 year old Neanderthal flute from the Divje Babe excavation site. The National Museum of Slovenia is housed in a centrally located neo-Renaissance palace built between 1883 and 1885 to designs by Viljem Treo. The Museum's history goes back to 1821, to the foundation of its predecessor, the Provincial Museum of Carniola.
Permanent exhibitions: Prehistoric Treasures of the National Museum of Slovenia - This exhibition brings together the most important archaeological finds from the National Museum of Slovenia's prehistoric collection, Roman Stories from the Crossroads - The exhibition brings together archaeological finds from the time when the territory of the present-day Slovenia was part of the Roman Empire and The Roman Lapidarium - The Roman Lapidarium is a collection of more than 200 stone monuments bearing Roman Latin inscriptions and dating from the 1st to 4th centuries AD.
Slovene Ethnographic Museum
The Slovene Ethnographic Museum is the country's foremost ethnological museum responsible for the keeping, preservation, study and comprehension of collections of artefacts related to Slovenian and non-European material, social and spiritual culture. The Museum was founded in 1923, when it separated from the National Museum of Slovenia. Its earliest origins go back to the collections put together by the Provincial Museum of Carniola (Deželni muzej za Kranjsko), established in 1821.
In order to present traditional culture of Slovenian inhabited areas and the cultures of several other peoples of the world, the Slovene Ethnographic Museum presents a programme of exhibitions and other events related to Slovenians (including Slovenian ethnic minorities abroad and expatriates) and other European and non-European peoples, runs a programme of educational events, and releases various publications. Permanent exhibition: Between Nature and Culture of over 3,000 items presents the treasury of Slovenia's and the world's ethnological heritage. Permanent exhibition: I, We and Others - Images of My World is about man's place among his fellow men and his place in space and time. The exhibition's seven chapters reflect the different aspects of the individual's sense of belonging, which stems from man's social nature and is shaped by the environment.
Museum of Modern Art
The Ljubljana Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to modern art in Slovenia. Apart from housing a permanent collection of 20th century Slovenian art, it hosts temporary exhibitions presenting new artistic practices. It serves as one of the venues for the International Biennial of Graphic Arts, held in Ljubljana every odd year. The Museum of Modern Art is also a documentation, study, research and education centre providing a platform for debate and bringing art closer to the general public. Schedule: 10:00-18:00 Tuesday to Sunday. Public holidays closed.
The Cathedral (Church of St. Nicholas)
The site of the Cathedral was originally occupied by a three-nave Romanic church whose earliest mention dates back to 1262. After the fire of 1361 it was re-vaulted in the Gothic style. When the Ljubljana Diocese was established in 1461, the church underwent several alterations and additions. In 1469 it was burnt down, presumably by the Turks.
Between 1701 and 1706, a new Baroque hall church with side chapels shaped in the form of the Latin cross was built to a design by the Jesuit architect Andrea Pozzo. As the church's dome was only built in 1841, originally a fake dome was painted on the arch above the centre of the cross. The surviving Baroque interior decoration notably includes frescoes by Giulio Quaglio (painted in the periods 1703-1706 and 1721-1723), Angelo Putti's statues of four bishops of Emona situated beneath the beams of the dome (1712-1713), Putti's painting of Dean Janez Anton Dolničar (1715), who initiated the rebuilding of the church in 1701, Francesco Robba's altar angels in the left part of the nave (1745-1750) and brothers Paolo and Giuseppe Groppelli's altar angels in the right part of the nave (1711).
A host of other works of art were added later. One of the more interesting is the dome fresco painted by Matevž Langus in 1844. The most outstanding 20th century additions include Tone Demšar's main entrance door relief depicting the history of Slovenia, commissioned to mark the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia, and Mirsad Begić's side doors with portraits of bishops.
The Franciscan Monastery and the Church of the Annunciation are the two buildings contributing most significantly to the appearance of the Prešernov trg square, the central square in Ljubljana. Until the end of the 18th century, the monastery was the home of Augustine monks. The Church of the Annunciation was built between 1646 and 1660. Its façade, completed around 1700, rebuilt in the 19th century and renovated in 1993, is adorned with a copper statue of St. Mary, Ljubljana's largest Madonna statue.
The church has a monumental main altar built by the sculptor Francesco Robba in the middle of the 18th century. The inside of the church, painted with frescoes by Matevž Langus in the mid-19th century, assumed its present appearance after the earthquake of 1895. Between 1935 and 1936, the church ceiling was painted with frescoes by Matej Sternen. In a dedicated chapel there is a cross designed by the architect Jože Plečnik.
Church of St. Francis
Jože Plečnik's unconventional design for the Church of St. Francis (Cerkev sv. Frančiška), constructed between 1925 and 1927, is derived from his plans for the Church of the Sacred Heart in Prague, built in 1922. The central part of the church is covered with a gently sloping roof topped with a belfry added in 1931. The belfry has a distinctive shape dominated by two rows of pillars in its upper two storeys and a conic roof sloping up steeply.
The main entrance is enhanced by a monumental colonnade with an open tympanum. The inside of the church is unusual. Its central space is framed by a row of monumental brick columns, on the outer side of which, next to the walls, there is enough space to walk all the way around the central part of the church. The main altar is positioned right next to the colonnade, at a distance from the church wall behind it. It is flanked by side altars, which are also positioned next to the rows of columns. Later, when the church was already in use, Plečnik occasionally added new elements to it. He furnished it with chandeliers and, after World War II, decorated the church's Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrow, baptistery and sacristy.
Source: Ljubljana Tourism
Fun fact:Legend about The Origin of Ljubljana
- Legend has it that Ljubljana was founded by the Greek mythological hero Jason
and his companions, the Argonauts, who had stolen the golden fleece from King Aetes and fled from him across the Black Sea and up the Danube, Sava and Ljubljanica rivers. At a large lake in the marshes near the source of the Ljubljanica they stopped and disassembled their ship to be able to carry it to the Adriatic Sea, put it together again, and return to Greece. The lake was the dwelling place of a monster, which Jason fought, defeated and killed. The monster, now referred to as the Ljubljana Dragon
, found its place atop the castle tower depicted on the Ljubljana coat of arms.
Source: Ljubljana Tourism