Ljubljana hiking marathon: from sunrise to sunset

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.

Sunrise on Šmarna Gora is an overwhelming and unforgettable experience that invigorates the body and mind. Photo by: Gregor Medved
Sunrise on Šmarna Gora is an overwhelming and unforgettable experience that invigorates the body and mind. Photo by: Gregor Medved.

No matter how dark and threatening the clouds, there is always that tiny moment that warms up your heart. Photo by: Betka Šuhel Mikolič
No matter how dark and threatening the clouds, there is always that tiny moment that warms up your heart. Photo by: Gregor Medved.
During those melancholic mornings, when Ljubljana is still hidden under a thick blanket of dense fog, Šmarna Gora usually gets a head start with a true explosion of colors. Photo by: Betka Šuhel Mikolič
During those melancholic mornings, when Ljubljana is still hidden under a thick blanket of dense fog, Šmarna Gora usually gets a head start with a true explosion of colors. Photo by: Gregor Medved.
Ask a local to recommend a place for hiking in Ljubljana and he’ll point to Šmarna Gora. It is the very heart for quick before- or after-work hikes and quality family outings over the weekend. Photo by: Betka Šuhel Mikolič
Ask a local to recommend a place for hiking in Ljubljana and he’ll point to Šmarna Gora. It is the very heart for quick before- or after-work hikes and quality family outings over the weekend. Photo by: Gregor Medved.
The Kamnik-Savinja Alps take their time and wake up slowly on cloudy days like this, making a spectacle of their own for Šmarna Gora visitors. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The Kamnik-Savinja Alps take their time and wake up slowly on cloudy days like this, making a spectacle of their own for Šmarna Gora visitors. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

Patches of flowers, green grass, tall trees and the sweet chirping of birds make a unique atmosphere in Tivoli Park. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Patches of flowers, green grass, tall trees and the sweet chirping of birds make a unique atmosphere in Tivoli Park. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

The main trail to Rožnik (Cankarjev vrh) starts behind the Tivoli Castle. It’s an easy 30-minute walk through the woods. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The main trail to Rožnik (Cankarjev vrh) starts behind the Tivoli Castle. It’s an easy 30-minute walk through the woods. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

The trail to Rožnik is favored by all joggers, bikers and walkers. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The trail to Rožnik is favored by all joggers, bikers and walkers. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
On Rožnik stands the Visitation Church and an inn where one of the best Slovenian writers, Ivan Cankar, lived between 1910 and 1917. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
On Rožnik stands the Visitation Church and an inn where one of the best Slovenian writers, Ivan Cankar, lived between 1910 and 1917. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

On the way from Tivoli to Prešeren Square. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
On the way from Tivoli to Prešeren Square. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Ljubljana Castle and the Triple Bridge, which connects the historical town on one bank with the modern city on the other. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Ljubljana Castle and the Triple Bridge, which connects the historical town on one bank with the modern city on the other. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Ljubljana central market is more than just a place to shop. Located in a colonnade designed by Slovenia’s famous architect, Jože Plečnik, it’s also a place to meet with friends and basically enjoy yourself. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Ljubljana central market is more than just a place to shop. Located in a colonnade designed by Slovenia’s famous architect, Jože Plečnik, it’s also a place to meet with friends and basically enjoy yourself. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Originally a medieval fortress, Ljubljana Castle was probably built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that it acquired its present outline. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Originally a medieval fortress, Ljubljana Castle was probably built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that it acquired its present outline. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
What’s up next? A quiet afternoon stroll to the vibrant Ljubljanica embankment called Špica and from there to the wooded slopes of Golovec. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
What’s up next? A quiet afternoon stroll to the vibrant Ljubljanica embankment called Špica and from there to the wooded slopes of Golovec. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

This Google Map should help you to get from the Triple Bridge to the Ljubljanica river embankment Špica (the lowest point) and further on to the start of the trail on Golovec.
This Google Map should help you to get from the Triple Bridge to the Ljubljanica river embankment Špica (the lowest point) and further on to the start of the trail on Golovec.
The beginning of the trail to Golovec accessible from the Hradeckega Road. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The beginning of the trail to Golovec accessible from the Hradeckega Road. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
You can follow a 7-km trail to a small settlement called Orle. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
You can follow a 7-km trail to a small settlement called Orle. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The restaurant at Orle is a small yet charming place. They offer tasty local food, pizzas and pastry. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The restaurant at Orle is a small yet charming place. They offer tasty local food, pizzas and pastry. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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:

The most scenic way to the castle is from the Gornji Trg square at the beginning of the historic city center. It takes a turn to the left right before the church in the picture. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The most scenic way to the castle is from the Gornji Trg square at the beginning of the historic city center. It takes a turn to the left right before the church in the picture. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The young, the old, hipsters or rockers, it doesn’t matter. We all love the Castle and the stunning views over the city and the remote Alps. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The young, the old, hipsters or rockers, it doesn’t matter. We all love the Castle and the stunning views over the city and the remote Alps. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
While you can easily lose the sense of distances between all the places you’ve just visited, a view from the tower will give you a much better perspective plus additional ideas for the days to follow. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
While you can easily lose the sense of distances between all the places you’ve just visited, a view from the tower will give you a much better perspective plus additional ideas for the days to follow. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The Zvezda Park, Tivoli and its castle, and the barely visible tiny red church on the left at the top of Rožnik. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
The Zvezda Park, Tivoli and its castle, and the barely visible tiny red church on the left at the top of Rožnik. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Where the historical part of the city slowly ends, a beautiful district Trnovo begins (from right to left). Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Where the historical part of the city slowly ends, a beautiful district Trnovo begins (from right to left). Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Prešeren Square, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and Šmarna Gora in the background, where it all began the very same morning. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.
Prešeren Square, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and Šmarna Gora in the background, where it all began the very same morning. Photo by: Exploring Slovenia.

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.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Ljubljana hiking marathon: from sunrise to sunset

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s