Europe boasts so many bucket list destinations that sometimes, the most overwhelming part is choosing where to go. If there’s a Euro-trip on your horizon, we suggest that you consider adding some of Europe’s lesser-known gems to your list — especially the former-Yugoslavian country of Slovenia.
Why Slovenia? Well, the small country sits at a crossroads between East and West. It remains relatively overlooked despite being packed with natural and historic sites alike. We can also attest to the fact that Slovenians are welcoming and warm.
Here are seven more reasons to visit Slovenia before everyone else catches on…
1. You can live your best fairytale life
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Slovenia is a treasure trove of charming towns, towering fortresses, and sweeping hillsides. Whether you take in the narrow cobblestone streets and pastel buildings of Slovenian city centres or skip town for its rushing gorges and formidable peaks — exploring Slovenia is like living in a fairytale. Only this fairytale contains trendy restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, and boutiques beneath its castle backdrops.
Legend even has it that dragons roamed the present-day capital. Visit Slovenia to transport yourself to a place of myth and magic!
2. It was the European Green Capital of 2016
If you are a jet-setter who cares about your carbon footprint, consider visiting Ljubljana. It was declared the European Green Capital of 2016 and paves the way for capitals with its completely car-free city centre and abundant green spaces.
Visitors can take advantage of a free city bike system, cycling lanes, and a comprehensive transportation system that includes electric-powered buses and shuttles. The city also provides free drinking water fountains and public restrooms — every backpacker’s dream!
3. Culture, cuisine, art abound
For a country of just over two million people, Slovenia impresses with its abundance of high gastronomy, artisanal products, and locally handcrafted goods. City life seemingly revolves around gathering with loved ones over food and drinks while restaurants overflow onto their patios year-round, even in winter months. While top-class Slovenian chefs like Ana Roš (who was featured on Chef’s Table) gain worldwide recognition, you can also find the perfect Balkan-inspired meal at the local gostilna.
There’s also no shortage of museums, galleries, bookstores, and design shops to enrich the wandering eye. So whether you’re into art museums or architecture, local delicacies or fine dining, your options are truly endless.
4. There’s always a festival underway
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In Slovenia, there’s a saying that goes “there’s a festival for every village” and it is no exaggeration — festivals take place year-round for any and every reason. There are countless food and drink festivals for wine, beer, coffee, and honey.
There are also endless art events like the Festival of Slovenian Film, Ljubljana Jazz Festival, and Overjam Reggae Festival to cover a wide array of tastes. Some festivals are celebrated everywhere, like Shrovetide Carnival where people take to the streets in vibrant masks to chase winter away. There are also those that put small towns on the map, such as Ljutomer’s Grossman Fantastic Film and Wine Festival, which features an iconic Zombie Walk.
Naturally, Slovenia’s capital also embodies this festive spirit. The Ljubljana Festival is a month-long celebration that offers free concerts, exhibits, and events during summer months. It also coincides with Ana Desetnica (a street theatre festival), Odprta Kuhna (an outdoor food fair), Panč (a standup comedy festival) and many more.
Come winter, the annual Christmas market takes over Ljubljana and a cup of mulled wine can be found on every corner. The city even comes together on December 1 for the official start of ‘Happy December’, which begins with a wondrous city lighting ceremony.
5. Slovenian wine is Europe’s best-kept secret
When it comes to European viticulture, you might be surprised to learn that Slovenia is home to the world’s oldest grapevine (and yes, it has its own special festival too). Despite being a rather tiny country, Slovenia has three distinct wine growing regions: Primorska, Podravska, and Posavska. Most of the wine is drunk domestically but the bottles that do make it across the border leave a lasting impression; Slovenia has won top prizes and global recognition at Decanter World Wine Awards and the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge, to name a few. Perhaps its status as a lesser-known wine region is the biggest reason to visit as authentic experiences — like tasting wine in a grower’s home cellar — are still very much on the table.
Slovenia also respects age-old traditions. It is one of the top producers of orange wine, which doesn’t contain a drop of citrus. Rather, it is the process of fermenting juice in contact with skins and seeds to produce white wine with a deep orange hue and bold flavours. Slovenians also continue making homemade schnapps or rakija, a traditional fruit brandy, as well as motnik, a drink fermented in barrels smoked with herbs like rosemary, bay leaf, and sage.
6. Slovenia is a natural wonder
In addition to fairytale towns, Slovenia is a hot destination for nature lovers and adventure-seekers alike. The snow-capped summits that crown Triglav National Park, the Julian Alps, and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps provide world-class destinations for hiking and mountaineering. Slovenia is also home to dozens of ski centres but come summer, its diverse landscape yields many opportunities for rafting, rowing, rock climbing, swimming, spelunking, and paragliding. Whether you’re looking for fresh mountain air or the warmth of the Adriatic coast, Slovenia’s got you covered.
7. Day trip options are endless
It takes just a few hours to drive across Slovenia, making day-trip destinations like Lake Bled and Piran a breeze. Due to its size and the accessibility of public transit, squeezing all of Slovenia’s unique destinations into a short period is far more manageable than elsewhere.
It won’t cost an arm and a leg to string an exciting international itinerary together either. If you can’t pinpoint Slovenia on a map, place yourself directly in between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary. Slovenia’s prime location means bucket list destinations like Venice, Vienna, Budapest, and Dubrovnik are just a stone’s throw away.
There’s so much more to Slovenia than meets the eye so go visit and #YOLO!