ADVERTORIAL • April 2019
Enchanting ancient woodland, glacial lakes and an appetite for high-octane adventure – Slovenia can charm even the most seasoned travellers. And with British Airways set to launch a new summer route from London to capital Ljubljana, this once under-the-radar city is ready for its moment in the sun
Characterised by sweeping baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, Ljubljana remains Slovenia’s poster child; cities don’t get much prettier or more alluring than this. World renowned architect Jože Plečnik’s minimalist footprint is in evidence across the city, including his Triple Bridge (pictured), dividing the historic, medieval quarters from its modern face. Medieval landmarks are peppered throughout, with 900-year-old Ljubljana Castle a must-see. Simply take the funicular railway to the fortress and feast on the spectacular views of the city below. The compact nature of the city ensures the main sights are easily accessible and these are interlaced with vast green spaces – a legacy of Plečnik’s visionary planning – that allow for picturesque picnic spots galore.
When the mercury rises, there is no better place than the café-lined banks of the Ljubljanica river. Terraces come alive with conversation and the cosmopolitan vibe, underpinned by a strong student population, is as potent as the coffee. Tivoli Park is another summer hot-spot, a favourite for fitness enthusiasts holding yoga and pilates sessions. Hop on a bike and cycle amid the rolling hills, check out the national zoo or browse the vast collection of fine art prints at the International Centre of Graphic Arts.
One hour outside Ljubljana, glacial Lake Bled is arguably Slovenia’s best showcase of natural beauty. Its quaint gothic church sits on an islet in the middle of the lake; a tangible slice of Instagram heaven. Each panorama seems as if it has been lifted from the pages of a CS Lewis epic; fiction-worthy, fairy-tale landscapes that stir the imagination. In the summer months, rowing boats gently swish through the perfectly clear waters; hikers trek to its precariously perched castle; paragliders take in the spectacular bird’s eye view, and for foodies it’s all about the famed kremšnita cream cake – made with chantilly and custard cream.
With forests blanketing three fifths of Slovenia – each town seems a short stroll from enchanting primeval woodland – it’s little wonder its capital was christened ‘Green Capital of Europe’ back in 2016. Clean, green and serene seem forever etched into Slovenia’s DNA, with the authorities going to great lengths to ensure visitors have a fume-free experience. Traffic has been banned from Ljubljana city centre, a free bike-share scheme has been introduced and those with mobility problems can explore the cobbled streets in Kavalirs (gentle helpers), which are free, electric-powered vehicles.
The water in Slovenia is among the best in the world and natural thermal springs and waterparks make use of it for a host of five-star experiences. Public drinking fountains operate in Ljubljana from April to October with a constitutional amendment three years ago to make access to drinkable water a fundamental right for all citizens. Spas across the country, like much of Slovenia, offer a host of thermal water-based therapies, and care for body and soul extends to the national cuisine with farms increasingly devoted to organic food production.
For high-octane thrills, head out of Ljubljana to the Julian Alps. The majestic mountain range is a one-hour journey away, allowing you to hike or ski in the morning and return to Ljubljana for a tasty dinner. Elsewhere, white water rafting is popular on the Soča River or you can venture underground with a black-hole kayaking trip at the Mežica mine, around 100km from Bled, where you’ll kayak in a labyrinth of complete darkness. Alternatively, test your balance by paddleboarding on Lake Bled; explore some of the 5,000km of footpaths, or take to one of the extensive range of mountain biking trails tailored to suit all abilities.