Ljubljana’s Architectural Historic Gems
Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. One of Europe’s best-kept secrets, the metropolis has exquisite architecture that reflects its history as a place where Mediterranean, Germanic, and Slavic cultures come together.
While it still has a few old buildings designed in the Austrian baroque style, most were destroyed in the earthquake of 1895. After the devastation, the city was rebuilt in the art deco and art nouveau styles that were characteristic of Vienna at the time. One generation later, local architect Joze Plečnik designed much of Ljubljana in his classical-meets-modern style, making it the sparkling jewel that it is today.
Beginning in 1921, Plečnik devoted his creativity and talents to redesigning the city based on ancient Athens. The result is what is known as Plečnik’s Ljubljana, a unique form of urban planning considered to be one of the most important artistic works of the 20th century. His innovative style is known for the use of classical architectural elements such as balustrades and pillars and combining them in a distinctive way.
Plečnik’s mission involved designing several key buildings and renovating many existing ones. His best-known works include the Church of St. Michael in the Marshes, the National and University Library, the Central Market, and the Bežigrad Stadium. In addition, his work on the Triple Bridge and Cobblers’ Bridge contribute notably to the city’s elegance. Because Plečnik’s artistry was so admired, a number of buildings in the area surrounding Ljubljana were redone in his style.
Exploring Ljubljana on your own or joining a walking or cycling tour will take you past some of Plečnik’s masterpieces and other famous works. They’re integral to the city’s impossibly beautiful landscape. The following are profiles of the city’s most stunning architectural treasures.
National and University Library
The original 17th-century palace that occupies the site of Ducal Court is now the National and University Library. It’s one of Slovenia’s premier educational institutions, housing Renaissance prints and more than 2.6 million books, including medieval manuscripts. This building has a magnificent central staircase with pillars of black marble, along with antique-style columns in the lobby. The address is Turjaška ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana.
Ljubljana’s most frequently crossed overpass, the Triple Bridge connects the medieval old town with the modern main square. It offers fabulous views of the river and is an ideal spot to pause and feast your eyes on the cityscape. Plečnik’s addition of two pedestrian bridges to the central bridge contributes to the structure’s uniqueness. The three parts of the bridge are adorned with large stone balustrades and lamps. It can be found at River Ljubljanica from Presernov trg to the Old Town, 1000 Ljubljana.
The Cobblers’ Bridge (also called the Shoemaker’s Bridge) dates back to the medieval era, when it was a wooden bridge joining two parts of the city. It is as picturesque as the Triple Bridge, featuring balustrades with pillars topped with stone balls. On Sunday mornings, it’s the scene of a flea market; you’ll find live music there on Sunday evenings. The bridge is a good place to meet the locals and other tourists.
The Central Market
Following the curve of the river, the Central Market with its semi-circular windows facing the water exudes a Venetian feel. Street-facing windows have a classic pillared colonnade under which vendors sell spices, herbs, and crafts. The market is housed in a long building that occupies the river embankment from the Triple Bridge to the Dragon Bridge. It is a popular place to shop and socialize. An especially good time to visit is on weekends, when restaurants provide a wide-ranging culinary experience. The address is Adamič-Lundrovo nabrežje 6, 1000 Ljubljana.
Trnovo Pier Embankment
The entrancing Trnovo Pier Embankment is a series of stone steps leading down to the shimmery river. Its beauty is enhanced by an avenue of weeping willows at the top of the steps. This work was designed by Plečnik but was renovated in recent years to include a seating area and new walkways. Dubbed “Ljubljana Beach” by the locals, people come here to walk, socialize, and relax. It stretches a good distance along the riverside.
Križanke Summer Theatre
Ljubljana’s premier outdoor concert venue, Križanke Summer Theatre hosts performances by Slovenian artists and visiting musicians. This majestic building features a courtyard for small concerts and a retractable roof that can be rolled out in case of rain. Redesigned by Plečnik at the age of 80, the venue was his last big project. The address is Trg francoske revolucije 1, 1000 Ljubljana.
Cathedral of St. Nicholas
The current Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the third to be built on the site, was erected in 1706. Architect Andrea Pozzo’s work is gloriously baroque inside and out. The church contains a priceless repository of paintings dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. Services are held here daily. The address is Dolničarjeva ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana.
Otherwise known as the Cooperative Business Bank building, Vurnik House is one of the most colourful and richly decorated structures in the city. It was designed in Slovenian style by architect Ivan Vurnik in 1922. The colorful façade, originally painted by Vurnik’s wife Helena, has carnation motifs. The eye-catching building is one of the most photographed places in the city. The address is Mikloshicheva cesta 8, 1000 Ljubljana.
Ljubljana Castle is the city’s main attraction. The hilltop castle was first built in the 12th century, and several buildings have been added since then. Its lookout tower offers wonderful views of Ljubljana. There’s also a museum of Slovenian history, a place for puppet shows, and other historical rooms. The castle also houses two highly recommended restaurants. The address is Grajska planota 1, 1000 Ljubljana.