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Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Lake Bled. Lake Bled with St. Marys Church of the Assumption on the small island. Bled, Slovenia, Europe

Slovenia is like a small gate to two worlds – Italy and the Balkans. It’s not easy for Slovenia to be located next to such neighbours, as many tourists take only a quick look and head on south. We recommend you proceed on your journey only after visiting these 10 natural and architectural beauties.

1. Lake Bled

The country’s most famous spot which attracts many tourists every year, Slovenia’s only island is located in the middle of the lake. The ancient Bled Castle, surrounded by majestic mountains, looms on a cliff above. Here you can go boating and swimming, visit the island, take a walk round the area, eat a tasty lunch and rest from the hubbub of the city.

2. Ljubljana

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Sunset in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia

As the capital of Slovenia is located at its heart, it’s very easy to organise day trips to other tourist attractions from there. On the other hand, there’s much to do in the city itself. To learn more about Ljubljana, click here.

3. Piran

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Panoramic view of Piran, Slovenia

An old Mediterranean city located on the coast of Slovenia, Piran is full of narrow streets that give off a medieval spirit. Just a little further away you’ll see the city’s defensive walls that open up on a spectacular view of the Adriatic Sea and the city itself.

4. Triglav National Park

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Triglav Lakes in Julian Alps in summer

The park is located in the Julian Alps and is the sole national park of Slovenia, and it’s a true paradise for mountain lovers, hikers and mountaineers. The mountain Triglav (2,864 m) is the highest point of both the park and the whole country. Climbing it will take you about 6 hours.

5. Vintgar Gorge

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Waterfall Sum, Vintgar gorge, Slovenia

Not far from Lake Bled you’ll find another spectacular place – the Vintgar Gorge attracts tourists with its murmuring emerald-coloured river and waterfall. The gorge is equipped with a foot path and several cafés.

6. Maribor

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Maribor town, Slovenia

Maribor is Slovenia’s second-largest city, located in the northeastern part of the country. Maribor has an interesting Old Town with many places that are worth a visit.

7. Postojna Cave

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Postojna grotte in Slovenia

This is a cave that’s well-known not just in Slovenia, but in the whole world. The tour round the cave begins with an adrenalin-pumping train ride. A walk around its most beautiful sites takes quite a while, so don’t forget to dress appropriately as the cave temperature is a stable 10 degrees Celsius.

8. Škocjan Caves

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Ponor in rakov skocian in Slovenian Karst

These caves may not be as spectacular as those of Postojna, but they certainly are very beautiful. During the first part of the tour you’ll be walking through the Silent Cave. Here you can see all kinds of stalactites and stalagmites. The outside of the caves is very beautiful too, graced with a waterfall and the River Reka.

9. Portorož

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Town Portoroz, adriatic sea, Slovenia

Portorož is sometimes called Slovenia’s Monaco, as it has many hotels and one of the country’s most popular beaches. Finding where to eat a tasty meal or drink a glass of wine is very easy here. One popular bar, located right by the beach, is called Alaya – it’s open all throughout the day, but gets really busy only in the evening. The city is surrounded with many beautiful places designed for recreation and active leisure enthusiasts.

10. Predjama Castle

Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Postojna castle inside the mountain

The Predjama Castle, located just 10 km from Postojna, hangs from a 100-metre-high cliff. This structural wonder, built in 13-15th centuries, impresses with its architecture and colourful history.

Toast the Alps

Though it’s modest by modern standards (13 storeys and 70 metres tall), Nebotičnik was the first “skyscraper” in Yugoslavia, and the ninth-tallest building in Europe when it opened in 1933. Architect Vladimir Šubic was inspired by the art deco skyscrapers of New York, though more conservative residents dismissed it as a “freak”. Today, the wraparound rooftop terrace cafe offers impressive views of the Alps to the north and Ljubljana Castle, just a few blocks away. Access is via a lobby clad in black marble and a spiral staircase. At the top, you can enjoy Slovenian wines – try Rebula, a buttery white, still or sparkling.

Hipster heaven

Ljubljana is no stranger to topiaried beards and artful tattoos, and you can explore its alternative side by strolling down Trubarjeva ulica, where Trubarjeva Antikvariat sells pieces of Yugo-nostalgia, such as busts and portraits of Tito, or industrial-design classics like the sleek, Lamborghini-red ETA 85 rotary telephone designed in 1979 by Davorin Savnik and made by Iskra. Reminiscent of a race car, this phone was produced in the millions and was a staple on the walls of Yugoslav homes – today one is on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Countercultural haven

For clubbing, the Metelkova district is graffiti-laden but entirely safe and welcoming. Once a complex of barracks for the Austro-Hungarian and, later, Yugoslav armies, it is now home to bars, nightclubs and a former prison-turned-hostel. Its new life began as a squatters’ settlement on 25 June 1991, the day Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia. In 2005, Metelkova became part of a national cultural heritage list, but it remains on the edge of the law – raising its own funds, largely through concerts – and is the best place to go for friendly, alternative nightlife.

World-class cuisine

JB, a restaurant on the ground floor of a Plečnik building (see below) that resembles a modernised Greek temple, has been the epitome of fine dining in the region since the 1990s. World renowned chef Janez Bratovž was the first to introduce dishes such as fish carpaccio and rare steak to a culinary culture that was used to well-done cutlets in cream sauce. Not long ago, he served his signature ravioli with pistachio, chestnut, pear and foie gras to Ferran Adrià and the pope (though not at the same event). Michelin does not yet have a guide to Slovenia, though it’s rumoured to be in the pipeline – and JB will surely be up for a star. It is reasonably priced for a restaurant of that level: the six-course fish or meat menu is €60 and the vegetarian version €50; the 12-course tasting menu is €95.

Street food

On Fridays from March until the end of October, the central market features a huge outdoor food fair called Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), which can draw as many as 25,000 people. Founded by Israeli expat Lior Kochavy, it is the best way to sample a wide variety of specialities, as dozens of restaurants, from fancy to down-home, set up stands and offer food truck-style dishes. This is where you can try JB’s take on a burger made with dry-aged brisket (€6); a pulled duck and red cabbage sandwich – a street twist on a popular St Martin’s Day meal; and šmorn, an Austro-Hungarian shredded pancake topped with compôte (€3). For the most Slovenian of snacks, try Klobasarna, behind the cathedral, which offers only Carniolian sausage, a geographically protected local pork sausage served with a pot of mustard and a warm roll (half €3.50, whole €5.90). This is probably the only speciality sausage to have been consumed in space, as an American astronaut with Slovenian roots, Sunita Williams, took some to the International Space Station.