Whether you’re visiting the city for a few days or you live there, here is a list of top hiking places in the European Green Capital of 2016, Ljubljana, which you can easily do separately, one per day, or combined in a day-long hiking marathon doing altogether impressive 31 km and 760 m elevation gain.
Sunrise on Šmarna Gora
If you want to start your day with a bit of exercise and stunning panoramic views, then this 2,195-ft (669 m) hill is ideal for you. You will do a little less than a 1,000 ft (303 m) elevation gain in approximately half an hour if you are normally fit. So plan the start of your ascent accordingly to catch the first sunrays at the very top (exact time of the sunrise in Ljubljana). Trust me, as hard as it is to wake up in the still of the night, it’s an experience worth the effort.
How to arrive at Šmarna Gora (Tacen)? If you’re staying in the city center, you’ll be taking the bus no. 8. Since bus route 8 starts driving as early as 4.57 AM (from Bavarski dvor in the center) and takes you all the way to Šmarna gora, it’s definitely the preferable way to travel.
Where is the start of the trail to Šmarna Gora? When on the bus and you see a big parking lot on the left and a coffee shop Dvor on the right, there’s your stop (Tacenski most). Just continue your way towards the parking lot and then follow the red-white circular markings that should lead you all the way to the top. But no need to worry about not finding the right way as there are always people going up.
Is there a restaurant at the top? Yes, and a very good one, too. The Ledinek Inn starts early and finishes late, and serves typical Slovenian dishes and pastry.
Morning walk in Tivoli Park and Rožnik
After a large breakfast on Šmarna Gora, you can roll back down again and take bus route 8 back to the city center. Your next stop is Tivoli, Ljubljana’s largest park below the wooded slopes of Rožnik, yet a few steps away from the city core.
If you prefer intimacy to crowds and a nice quiet stroll in a beautiful park, then morning is the best time to visit Tivoli Park. Afternoons usually get crowded with joggers, families and others, who seek exercise and fun after a busy day at the office.
For those who need a relaxing break to regain their strength after the early morning ascent to Šmarna Gora, Tivoli is a great park for leisurely walks among numerous benches; take a cup of coffee and a slice of delicious cake in a renovated old boathouse beside a pond, or visit the art gallery in the prominent Tivoli Castle.
But for those who are itching for further hiking, you are welcome to follow my lead and continue exploring further up to Rožnik.
Where is the start of Rožnik trail? Although there are numerous trails that will lead you from Tivoli Park to Rožnik, one stands out of the crowd. It starts at the Tivoli Castle amid colorful flowers and takes you up slowly through the woods opening a view over the city in spots where the trees thin out a bit.
How to return back down to Tivoli? The first thing you will notice when searching for an alternative trail down is that the forest is interwoven with countless trails, paths, and barely recognizable tracks made by joggers. Each and every one will eventually take you back down to the city, the only question is where in the city. A thing I’ve learned in years of hiking is that, unless you are in the mood to explore some more (read: to get lost), the most hassle-free return way is always taking the same trail as coming there. When back to Tivoli Park, the city center is just a short walk away.
Stroll and lunch in the city at noon
It’s actually a nice feeling to set foot in the city again after a few hours of wandering through the forest. Big buildings, modern structures, old houses, museums, a lively market, the winding River Ljubljanica, a line of outdoor cafés and restaurants. While you’re at it, find a nice place and indulge in a full course lunch as you’ll need the energy for the next hike.
Afternoon jog on Golovec
What Šmarna Gora is for city hikers, that’s Golovec for joggers. A true paradise with its long steadily ascending and descending tracks in the forest. The sooner you get there, though, the more space you’ll have for yourself, since the trails fill up rather quickly with ambitious afternoon joggers. The main trail will take you all the way to Orle, a small settlement with a nice view over the Kamnik-Savinja Alps to the north and Krim to the south. It’s a 14 km (8.7 mi) round hike, so make sure to bring along a bottle of water.
Sunset on the Ljubljana Castle
Once back to the city center, it’s time for one last thing on the list. It’s utterly romantic and the easiest of all activities that day: walk up to the Ljubljana Castle and climb to the top of the tower (Ljubljana Castle working hours), then lean back and observe the sun slowly sinking behind the horizon. Heck, if you’re beat, you are even allowed to cheat a little and hop on a funicular for a smooth ride to the top. But if you still have a little energy left, you won’t regret if you take a scenic old road, starting in the Gornji Trg square, and walk up yourself.
Here is a short time-lapse video of a beautiful sunset over Ljubljana recorded from the tower:
So, that’s it. I hope you enjoy this day-long adventure as much as I did! Enjoy and stay tuned for more adventures in Slovenia. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and subscribe to the feed.