As a long-time resident, with a quite developed social life and a will to discover new corners, I must say there are few places I don’t know about.
But first, coffee. Right in the center, next to the funicular that takes you to the castle, you could easily miss Čokl. Well …don’t! Its owner is very passionate about the whole procedure of making and drinking coffee and if you get lucky, he will tell you every single detail of the full cup you’ll be holding in your hands. Fact is, Čokl roast their own coffee, using fair trade, environmentally sustainable beans. Even townspeople who came to buy their beans get them in reusable glass bottles instead of bags. You can tell this little cafe does everything it can to lessen its footprint and leaves you with the impression of knowing everything about the best coffee you have ever had.
Bars have souls here. You have the option of going to nothing but well-designed hipster bars such as Pritličje, Tozd, and Centralna Postaja; but if you want something authentic, go to Godec, which is a 15 minute walk away from the center. Godec is a hard to find bar in Šiška where you will find middle-aged regulars who go there to try the latest new beer on the list and won’t leave until they try at least three different versions of it. It’s also a place where you can easily find an interesting person to talk to, so you can spend the whole afternoon there without even noticing it. And best of all, with its old rock music playing in the background your inner rocker will enjoy it even more than you. Tourists don’t know about Godec.
Since you will already be away from the center, go a little further towards Kino Šiška (a former black and white cinema), which has been transformed into a small gallery that hosts low-profile exhibitions free of charge and in the evening offers concerts given by alternative foreign bands you have probably never heard of. The fact is, after the concert you will start listening to their music, because you will want to recreate the feeling you got there over and over again.
Find the most beautiful street in Ljubljana that also leads to the castle and on top of it stop at a place called Repete. The world repete in Slovene stands for “wanting more food after your plate is empty”, and the couple who run it have always stuck with this reputation. They serve daily lunches and small dinners and always come up with very simple dishes, but with a commitment to including traditional Slovene ingredients in whatever comes out of the kitchen. We might as well claim that nothing can disappoint you there.
After a meal, your tummy needs to rest. If you’re visiting Ljubljana in the dry, warmer months, go to a park called Navje that is situated behind the main train station. It’s tiny, but beautiful, with huge wooden “books” made into benches and a kid’s playground made into a pirate boat with its own lighthouse. By visiting it you will get the feeling that you’re not in the city, but in some sort of fairytale location where you can spend some calm moments of pure joy, feeding the child in you.
Want to spend the night out dancing? Go to a club called ZOO, which is situated in the old tobacco factory and where you can become an animal who dances the whole night through. A very heavy and quite unforgiving mixture of alcohol is served in pickle glasses, and you might not remember being there the next day. However, the place has a tradition of staying open so late that you will always end up watching the sunrise in Tivoli park when walking back home.
And while everybody is going on guided tours, I suggest that you wander. Make your way through the side streets, because the real jewels are there. Concept stores run by local artists and designers, meaningful graffiti on the walls and maybe even a huge, but friendly Rottweiler that belongs to one of the bar owners. Wherever you find yourself you might meet some inspiring individuals who will tell you which way you should go to get the best out of your wanderings. It is quite likely they will even share a crazy personal story with you.
Since Ljubljana has been officially put on your bucket list and you should already be looking for plane tickets to the city, where just a few airline companies’ fly – come straight away! Getting here is quite easy. The hard part is leaving.