We are always thinking about places we would like to visit with the kids, but the inspiration source for this Family Adventure to Slovenia was by far the strangest. J called me over to look at his laptop one day and showed me a picture of a tiny church on an island in the middle of a lake. It was one of the images that Windows uses as a screensaver on the locked login screen. “I looked it up”, he said. “This is Lake Bled in Slovenia. I want to go here.”
We departed Venice on an early morning bus to the airport to pick up the rental car for the drive into Slovenia. All vehicles driving on motorways in Slovenia require a toll sticker for the car, a vignette. Fortunately, we were able to buy a weekly one with ease at a rest stop on the Italian side right before the border.
Our first stop across the border was the town of Vipava in the Vipava Valley, a wine growing region of Slovenia known for its dry white varietals. Everyone was already hungry by the time we arrived in town, and so after stopping in the tourist office for lots of free literature, we found a seat at Restavracija Podskala situated along a sleepy section of the Vipava river.
After lunch, we were hoping to do a wine tasting at Vinoteka Vipava, a wine store in town with a wide selection of wines from all over Slovenia. Unfortunately, the tastings were at set times during the day, and we knew the girls wouldn’t be very keen to wait around for the next one. Instead, we hopped in the car and headed into the neighboring village of Slap to find a winery to visit. Wine tasting wasn’t meant to be – we couldn’t find any wineries open. Such a bummer, but we were excited to get to Ljubljana, so we got back on the road.
In Ljubljana, we chose to stay at another Airbnb. This apartment was a short 20 min walk into the historical city center. The girls loved the foosball table, and J and I really enjoyed all the space, light and modern amenities. After we unloaded the car and got settled in, we set off on foot to explore Ljubljana.
Our first stop, because we aren’t quitters, was a local Wine Bar to taste some Slovenian wines. Vipava and Slap were failures, but Wine Bar Suklje didn’t disappoint.
Ljubljana was love at first sight for all of us. The old town is situated on either side of the Ljubljanica river and connected by multiple bridges, each with their own style. We explored on foot for much of the late afternoon and early evening until it was time for dinner at Jakob Franc Gostilna. We were too busy eating to take any proper pictures, but the restaurant is a farm to table concept – raising their own pigs and then preparing the pig in every conceivable way. It was delish.
The following morning, we were up early and ready to explore Ljubljanski Grad, Ljubljana’s Castle. Visitors can either walk up to the castle or buy tickets for the Furnicular. We purchased our castle tickets in advance and chose the option that included a roundtrip ride. Sweaty kids with tired legs is NOT the way to start a day of sightseeing.
The history of Ljubljana also includes the tale of how the dragon became the symbol of the city. After we were finished exploring the castle, we rode back down the funicular and browsed through the market area on our way to the Zmajski Most or Dragon Bridge. The girls loved the dragons on either end of the dragon bridge, and naturally, the trip wouldn’t be complete without dragon souvenirs.
After the busy morning of sightseeing in the heat, it felt appropriate to refuel with ice cream or sladoled. When you’re on a family adventure with children, there are no rules regarding appropriate times for the consumption of cold treats. You eat them whenever they are requested or it is deemed necessary to keep smiles on faces. Fortunately, we found Cacao just as the crankiness was ramping up.
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped at the local grocery store to grab food for a picnic lunch. Next to the grocery store, we noticed a small “wine shop”, and I suggested that Jason run in and grab a bottle to have with lunch. The “wine shop” was indeed a place to buy wine, but the shop was more like a small clubhouse. Not pictured were 3 of the man’s friends sitting at a little table in the corner playing cards and probably waiting for the sausages to be ready that were cooking on the little skillet you can see behind J in the picture on the right.
The wine was homemade and served from a tap by a very kind gentleman who was happy to fill up a plastic litre bottle for us for the bargain price of 3 Euro.
After lunch and a rest, we walked back into the historical center to do some shopping – especially for the two things we always try to buy from a new destination: an ornament and a city print. The girls had already purchased their stuffed animal dragons, but we also chose a dragon ornament to remember the city by.
We had time to spare before dinner and decided on a spontaneous boat ride along the river to experience Ljubljana from the water. It is possible to book boat rides in advance, and some even include cocktails, but there are also simple rides that accept walk on passengers. The boats dock underneath the bridges, and we arbitrarily chose one simply because it was leaving soon and we wouldn’t have to wait for the next departure. We all enjoyed the ride so much!
For dinner, we chose Pop’s Place Pizza. Slovenia claims to have pizza that rivals Italian pizza, and so naturally, we needed to test this claim. Ultimately, we decided that while Slovenian pizza IS very good, it’s still not as good as Italian pizza. Sorry Slovenia!
As we walked back to the apartment after dinner, we were all feeling sad to leave the next day. We had enjoyed Ljubljana more than expected. Our decision to visit Slovenia was based on our desire to see Lake Bled, not for anything that we had heard or read about Ljubljana, and yet we left the capitol with a strong desire to return again one day for another visit.
Fortunately, we were off to other Family Adventures in Slovenia. Next stops, the Vintgar Gorge and that famous, picturesque lake from the Windows screensaver, Lake Bled.
What We Say About Ljubljana
I loved Ljubljana’s approachable and laid back vibeMom
It was awesomeBig Sis C
I loved playing foosballLil Sis M
I think Ljubljana is one of the most underrated cities in EuropeDad