Ljubljana vs. Paris: Which Is Better for Vacation?

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May 4, 2024

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Here's the answer right up front. When deciding between Ljubljana and Paris for vacation, for me, Ljubljana wins hands down.

Heresy, you say?

Let me explain. I’ve been in love with all things French since I was in the fifth grade. I nagged my mother to get me a French pen pal, and I corresponded with her throughout junior high school. I studied French for five years in high school and college. I dreamed of going to Paris, but when I finally did, my dreams were shattered.

In my vision of life in Paris, I’d be stopping at a café along the Seine after spending the afternoon viewing Picasso’s marvelous artwork. I’d be sipping fine wine, nibbling on cheese and paté, and maybe not smoking a cigarette, but there was sure to be cigarette smoke somewhere in the picture.

Oh! And there'd be me in my chic beret, of course.

Paris Cafe street scene.

Unfortunately, somewhere between fifth grade and my trip to Paris, I became a food weirdo. I was pretty much born a vegetarian (there goes the paté). I’ve been gluten-free for 20+ years—if I eat it, I go blind—so there go the croissants and baguettes.

To top it off, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink. So, except for a cup of coffee, café culture was out for me.

Yes, the city was romantic and lovely, and yes, Picasso’s artwork was everything I thought it would be, and people-watching was a prime pastime, but with food playing such a role in my vision of my Paris life, my trip was more than disappointing.

Fast forward a few years to a little town in another country and I finally found the café culture I was looking for along with plenty of interesting art, history, and culture.

Whether you’re as picky about food as I am or not, if you like Paris, you’ll like Ljubljana.

But first, how the heck do you even say Ljubljana?

How to Pronounce Ljubljana

As is often the case with other languages, we don’t always have the same sounds in English so getting this exactly right is tough.

However, give this a try: leeyou-blee-ah’-nah. You can have a listen here.

Where’s Ljubljana?

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s political capital and its scientific and cultural center. It is located between Austria and Italy.

Home to Ljubljana University, this college town has around 290,000 residents, 38,000 of which are students.

It’s located 776 miles from Paris, 235 miles from Vienna, and only 152 miles from Venice, making it an easy hop from these more visited places.

What to do in Ljubljana

Enjoy life along the river

River Ljubjanika looking toward the cityParis may have the river Seine, but Lubljana has the river Ljubljanca, with its interestin bridges and picturesque old city center embankments.

It's lovely to take a stroll beside it and observe the city’s social life. If you have time, take a boat cruise.

Art and culture

Ljubljana has many theaters, museums, and galleries to visit and explore.

But my favorite part of Ljubljana is the street art, like this that I found on the  outside of the library.

Art on the walls of the library

Art of all sizes and genres is on every wall, nook, and cranny throughout the city.

But if you like street art, you can’t miss visiting the Metelkova area.

Woman walking past street art in Metalkova Slovenia

Located about a 5-minute walk from the city center, Metelkova was formerly the military headquarters of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Then, it became the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav People’s Army, hence the architecture and barred windows.

Military barracks painted with different colors and designs

Now, it’s the headquarters of all things overdone. It seems there are no bare walls anywhere you look.

Family entering a building with so much text you can barely see the door

I'm surprised this family can even find their front door!

Historical landmarks and architecture

For history buffs, there’s evidence that the city was inhabited 5,000 years ago. It was first mentioned in writing in 1144 and came under the rule of the Hapsburg Dynasty in 1335, so it has a rich history to explore.

In 1895, an earthquake destroyed the entire town. Many of the buildings that were rebuilt then are still standing today. So it's a treasure for architecture buffs.

Don't miss the iconic Philharmonic Hall, the majestic Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the symbolic Dragon Bridge, and the historic Ljubljana Castle, each a testament to the city's rich heritage.

You can find information on all these landmarks and more at Arch Daily.

Other Reasons I Prefer Ljubljana to Paris

Less crime

Numeo reports that Ljubljana has a very low crime level (11.58) vs. Paris which has a high level (61.67). And if you plan on going elsewhere in Slovenia, it’s ranked as the 6th safest country to travel to in Europe.

Commitment to the environment

Ljubljana has been ranked number #1 among the 20 Best Green Capitals in Europe.

In addition to having the highest percentage of green space per inhabitant in Europe, Forbes has reported:

"Ljubljana center has been car-free since 2008; it allows locals and visitors free access to a bike-share scheme for up to an hour at a time; and it has developed more than 542 square meters of green spaces including the Bee Trail, which takes in 4,500 hives placed around the city.”

Consideration for people with disabilities

If you have difficulty moving around, you'll be happy to know that most of the city is accessible with a wheelchair. And because of the all the bicycle paths, you don't have to keep going up and down over curbs.

Lower cost

According to the latest figures from Numbeo, the cost of consumer goods and restaurant prices is about 30% lower in Ljubljana than in Paris.

Where to Stay

Room in the Cubo hotelWe stayed at Hotel CUBO. It’s a boutique hotel with lovely modern rooms in a historic building.

The hotel is in the old city center near Ljubljana University. It's a short walk to the river and most of the main sights.

There’s also a free mini bar (whaaaat??), and the breakfast buffet was amazing! I’d definitely stay there again, but there are many other hotels in town that get good reviews.

Where to Eat

Woman riding a bike past a cafe in LjubljanaCafés are everywhere in Ljubljana and Tozd Bar was one of our favorites. Café culture includes lots of tea or coffee and plenty of sitting around chatting with friends.

And there are plenty of options for vegetarians and gluten-free people alike. We had a late lunch one day at Julija’s, and I had an ever-so-tasty polenta with smoked cheese sauce. Other vege meals included Greek salad and risotto with porcini and leeks.

On offer at breakfast were eggs, yogurt with dried fruit, gluten-free cereal, and rice cakes with various spreads.

It was heaven for me, while Malcolm found plenty of mouth-watering food that fit his more traditional palate.

What to Do Around Ljubljana

If you're going to Ljubljana, there are two places in the surrounding countryside you definitely don't want to miss!

The Lippizan Stud Farm

Three white lipizzan horses running in the fieldThe Lipizzan Stud Farm in Lipica is about an hour’s ride from Ljubljana.

Founded in 1580, it's the largest stud farm of Lipizzan horses in the world, and there are about 300 of these majestic horses on the property.

You're not just a spectator here. You can witness a demonstration show by the riding school and take a guided tour to delve into the history and breeding of these magnificent animals, all while getting up close and personal.

Colts frolicking in the green grass is a highlight if you're there during the foaling season around May-June.

Lake Bled

About 45 minutes in the other direction, you’ll find beautiful Lake Bled in the Julian Alps. Standing above the lake is Bled Castle built in 1004 by Emperor Henry II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Boat tied in in Lake Bled with view of the church

The iconic church on the little island in the lake was built around the end of the 17th Century to honor the Assumption of Mary. It’s still in use today.

There’s a nice walk around the lake that takes about 1-1/2 hours.

We spent the night in Bled and found it overrun with tourists. So if we go to this area again, I’d stay in Ljubljana and just come out to Bled for the day.

Tours to both these spots can be arranged in Ljubljana if you don’t have your own car.

You can learn more about what’s happening in and around Ljubljana at VisitLjubljana.com.

Conclusion

So, is Ljubljana better than Paris for vacation?

I would say it depends on who you are and what you like to do.

If you can only visit one city, I would probably go with Paris just because it’s so … Paris. But if you’re already in Europe, why not take a short trip to Ljubljana and see for yourself?

Have you been to Ljubljana? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

🇸🇮 Have a friend planning a trip to Europe soon? Please forward this post so they can consider visiting this gem of Europe.

❇️ And here are some posts you might enjoy if you're traveling to Ljubljana or anyplace else.

10 Travel Planning Tips to Create the Perfect Trip

Discover the Top 50 Travel Tips for Travelers Over 50

How to Pack a Suitcase Like a Pro and Eliminate Stress

Pin this to read later!

Pinterest PIN for showing the River Ljublanica

 

  1. Kim van maren says:

    Completely agree with your celebration of Ljubljana..what a beautiful city, aka the Poor Person’s Florence! We also enjoyed Bled Castle, but hit it on a rainy day, so not much exploring. Easy driving, for us from Zagreb, but important to buy the driving pass for Slovenia for 25 Euro, or you can be ticketed. Julius was one of the most enjoyable and delicious restaurants. Highly recommend!

  2. Kim van maren says:

    Argh..Julija, not Julius..darn autocorrect! We also very much enjoyed a walking food and wine tour there..several can be checked out online.

    • Peggy Carlaw says:

      Glad you concur, Kim. And thanks for adding the tip about the driving pass. I’d love to go back. So many places, so little time.

  3. Jelan Heidelberg says:

    I do love Paris, but I agree that Ljubljana is a hidden gem. We spent several delightful days there pre-COVID and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly people. It’s one of those places I always recommend to people who plan to be “in the neighborhood.” Thanks for the article, Peggy!

    • Peggy Carlaw says:

      Thanks, Jelan. Few people think of Slovenia when they think of where to travel, and it’s so close to many locations where people do travel.

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