“The green heart of Europe”, “Europe in miniature”: Slovenia’s many monikers are all true.
This small country in southeastern Europe is a mixture of Austrian, Italian, and Slavic influences all rolled into one. When I mentioned to my friends that I was going to Slovenia, none of them could find it on a map, which just made me want to visit even more!
After one week discovering its delights, from the seaside south to the alpine north, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get there. And that’s another bonus of this European gem! Many highlights CAN be seen in just 7 days. Here’s how:
Day 1: Piran
With its Venetian gothic architecture, cypress trees, and small marina, Piran is a laid-back coastal town that feels pretty Italian. Your first stop is Tartinijev Trg, a startling marble oval that serves as Piran’s central “square”. Admire the 19th-century Town Hall and Court House as well as the gothic Venetian House, before popping into the small but fantastic aquarium.
Next, walk up to the church of St George up on the ridge, passing several other churches and a Franciscan monastery on the way. The top of the bell tower affords the most stupendous views. Be wary of the bells though. They startled me when they suddenly started ringing! The remaining section of the 15th-century town walls offers a spot for quiet contemplation.
Back at sea level, have a seafood lunch at Ivo or casual Fritolin pri Cantini, then spend the hottest part of the day exploring the narrow streets around Maja Trg in the oldest part of town. Piran is one of the best-preserved medieval towns on the Adriatic.
If you are interested in Piran’s history (or just ships in general), drop by the Maritime Museum before it closes, then enjoy dinner on the waterfront while watching the sunset.
Day 2: Piran
Leave picturesque Piran behind for a half-day trip to the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit part of the impressive 3-mile (5 kilometers) long prehistoric karst caves on a guided tour. Stalactites, stalagmites, limestone pools and more; they’re all here.
Back in Piran, it’s time for a swim. On the north side of the peninsula, Fiesa beach is small and rocky but has the cleanest water. If you prefer a large sandy beach, head to the resort of Portorož, reachable by road or by boat, to the south of Piran.
Day 3: Ljubljana
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s pint-size capital, straddles the banks of the Ljubljanica River, and is small enough to explore on foot. Its stunning architecture – in soft pastel and cream shades – represents many different periods and styles.
Start at Prešernov Trg, the main city square with its iconic salmon-colored Franciscan church and the monument to poet France Prešeren. Then cross the river into the Old Town over the Triple Bridge.
The many outdoor cafés along the river make perfect lunch stops. For dessert, try kremna retzina (a yummy traditional custard cream cake) at Marley & Me on cobble-stoned Stari Trg.
Continue exploring the Old Town, including the City Hall, Central Market, and whimsical Dragon Bridge. Next, make your way up to Ljubljana Castle for a bird’s eye view over the orange roofs and church spires.
Day 4: Ljubljana
After a substantial breakfast (perhaps at Slovenska Hisa), time to put on your thinking cap and visit one of Ljubljana’s top museums such as the National Museum of Slovenia (mostly devoted to history), Museum of Modern Art, or National Gallery.
Grab a burek or grilled meat sandwich from one of the many stands and go eat it in nearby Tivoli Park. The sprawling park combines lawns with tree-lined walkways, trails, fountains, and flowerbeds. Rent a bike to explore at your leisure, stroll around, or just sit and crack open a book. As one of the world’s top green capitals, the whole city is very bike-friendly.
In late afternoon, go up to the café on the 11th floor of the Nebotičnik building (Slovenia’s oldest skyscraper) for a drink with 360-degree views.
If you still need to work up an appetite, walk along Miklošičeva Street and admire the Art Nouveau buildings (#8 is my favorite) before going back to the Old Town for dinner at Julija.
Day 5: Bled
Probably the most well-known spot in Slovenia, Bled is incredibly scenic. So, be sure to venture from the capital to this charming small town. Here you’ll find forested hills aplenty and a lake sprouting a tiny island where stands the baroque Church of the Assumption.
A must-do is boarding a hand-propelled wooden gondola (or “pletna”) to reach the island, or rent your own rowing boat. You can also enjoy the scene from afar by walking around the lake, a distance of only 3.7 miles (6 kilometers).
After a fortifying coffee (try Slaščičarna Zima for the best kremna rezina in Bled), climb up to Bled Castle through the forest on one of two trails (10 to 15 minutes). You can have lunch with a view at the Castle Restaurant, and hang around to enjoy the museum history collection and the small 16th-century chapel.
If you haven’t overdosed on beautiful lake views yet, sit on the terrace of the Park Hotel for a drink in the late afternoon, but don’t have dinner there. End the day at one of the more affordable restaurants in the upper town, such as Pizzeria Rustica.
Day 6: Bled
Take an excursion to the Vintgar Gorge today, where a one-mile long (1.6 kilometers) wooden walkway clings to the rock walls and crisscrosses the torrent over cascades and pools before reaching Šum Waterfall. Bring a packed lunch and eat at a picnic table along the way.
For a longer hike, forego the bus and walk from Bled. It’s an easy 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) hike through idyllic countryside that you thought existed only in your imagination: cows with bells grazing on emerald grass, vegetable gardens, and the sleepy village of Podhom. You can return through a different but equally scenic route via a forest.
Day 7: Bled (day trip to Lake Bohinj)
Lake Bohinj, at the foot of the Julian Alps in Triglav National Park, is an easy day trip from Bled and provides even more dramatic nature and fewer crowds.
You have several options today. From the village of Ribčev Laz, you could take a boat across the lake to Ukanc, then the cable car up Mt Vogel for spectacular views over the whole lake and valley. If the weather’s good, you can hike from here, through alpine scenery, back to Ribčev Laz. Another worthwhile hike is to the Savica Waterfall, 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) inland from Ukanc.
Alternatively, if cycling is more your thing, rent a bike in Ribčev Laz and loop through Stara Fuzina and several more villages, downhill along a small canyon, and finally through the town of Bohinjska Bistrica. This makes for a total of about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers).
For something less strenuous, stroll along Lake Bohinj’s shore, or enjoy the charms of Ribčev Laz with its little St John the Baptist church next to a quaint stone bridge, a few small museums, and various cafés. Ah, bliss.
Ready to discover the delights of Slovenia for yourself? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours there.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel x3, Marie-France Roy, Intrepid Travel, Marie-France Roy x2.)