Best of Slovenia (with kids)
Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia. It is completely car free, which I love, so you can let your kids roam freely. It’s best known for its impressive cafes and restaurants that line the Ljubljanica River. Ljubljana is quickly becoming a foodie destination, the locals are obsessed with fresh, local ingredients, and the quality of the food is undeniable. The traditional food at the Christmas Market was some of the best I’ve had. I will crave those stuffed peppers for the rest of my life… and I’ve never even liked stuffed peppers. If you can go during Christmastime- do it! The Christmas Market was absolutely dreamy. Imagine walking along cobblestone streets with a medieval castle aglow with blue light towering above you; twinkling lights dotting the hillside to the castle; a river flowing serenely through the city along the pedestrian path; the main square lit up with stars and cosmic shapes in celebration; the scent of mulled wine; rich, warm traditional dishes; hot chocolate; and freshly baked flatbread wafting through the air…I never wanted to leave.
2. Postojna Cave
Take the 30 minute drive from Ljubljana to the Postojna Cave. This excursion is a bit pricey. About €100 for a family of 4, but it was one of the most memorable things we have EVER done. You board a little open-air train and chug through the caves, the cool air hitting you in the face. You can’t help but feel like Hermione, Harry, and Ron barreling deep into the caves at Gringotts on an epic adventure. Postojna Cave is 3.5 million years old, which was hard for me to even grasp. They have the stalactites and stalagmites lit with glowing, colorful lights, giving it the feel of an 80s fantasy movie- in a good way! After the train drops you off, there is a 20-30 minute walk that you do with a tour guide…or if you have a three year old, you do it chasing him instead. Either way, it is absolutely one of our favorite excursions ever.
3. Predjama Castle
This mysterious place I’d seen in pictures for years, but never knew exactly where it was located. I was thrilled to find it so close to us. Driving to the castle feels like you’ve left the modern world behind, little stone cottages with stacks of firewood outside the door while smoke dances from the chimney. I imagine it’s much busier in the summer, but we were able to stand in the best spots and get as many pictures as we wanted all by ourselves. We don’t always go inside every castle, depending on budget, but it was amazing to see this castle which was built into a cave and inhabited until just after World War II. The price of admission was included in our cave ticket price. Make sure to purchase them as a package and to do it online before you go. You’ll save at least €10 that way. Stop by the gift shop on your way out to pick up some truffle oil! Truffles are found in the forests in Slovenia and it was the least expensive truffle oil I’ve found. About €15 for a large bottle, and it’s absolutely delicious.
4. Lake Bled
This magical place has been on my list forever. It is every bit as serene and beautiful as you might imagine. People happily walking along the path, church bells chiming in the distance (though, nobody seemed concerned with time), birds chirping, and everyone content to be soaking in the immense natural beauty all around. The large circular path along the lake front takes about 1.5 hours to complete with young children. We were there on the morning of Christmas Eve, so there weren’t any boats going out to the island, but there usually are, even in the winter. There were a few resorts along the water with water slides and swimming pools, prompting us to vow to come back this summer.
Right on the Italian border, along the Adriatic Sea, you will find the charming coastal village of Piran. Just 2 hours from Venice you’ll find this Slovenian village far less crowded with the same stunning architecture and a fraction of the price. Everyone should visit Venice, of course, but don’t don’t skip this gem next time you’re in the area.
Even in June, the prices are low. A charming home like this one is only $68 per night. This is another place we plan to spend more time this summer!
Where To Stay
Budget accommodation in the city center of Ljubljana was €195 for two nights and this was quite high compared to normal, as city center hotels were sold out for Christmas. Hotel Emonec had great family rooms and a delicious breakfast.
Luxury Accommodation Vodni Park
Kids can play in the aqua park pool equipped with many slides while mom gets a massage and spends time in the salt room.
Where To Eat
We mostly ate at the Christmas Markets because the food was just so good. But Ljubljana is famous for its cafes and restaurants.
Cool atmosphere and really good coffee: Ek Bistro
Slovenia is a reasonably budget-friendly place. More expensive than other Balkan countries, but still less than many others in Central and Western Europe. With a small, but stunning coast line, ancient caves, thick forests, white frosted Alps, mysterious lakes, and amazing food—add Slovenia to your list!
Castle and cave excursion: €100
Food: only lunch and dinner (and treats) as our hotel had a fabulous breakfast. €100
Parking: €20. You cannot drive in the city center, so you will have to park outside in one of the parking lots. There is an underground one and an open-air one. The open-air one is much cheaper at €10/day vs. €25/day.
Total: € 415 (Higher than our normal weekend costs because of the cave and castle admission)
Don’t skip Slovenia on your Balkan or Central European trip. We can’t wait to go back!