Looking for the best of Europe all rolled in to one tiny country? It’s time you considered Slovenia. For real! Sandwiched between Italy and Croatia, it’s getting some serious attention, in part because it’s Melania Trump’s homeland.
Over five action-packed days, we savored wine country, explored caves and castles, discovered medieval port towns, strolled along the Riviera, and glided over some of the most beautiful alpine lakes ever. With English widely spoken and solid value for money, it gets our two thumbs up.
The capital is a pint-sized gem full of striking architecture and laid-back charm. It’s also a perfect base to explore the country. Ljubljana Castle sits high on a hill overlooking the green city. Below, the quaint Old Town is easily walkable with a series of footbridges connecting the medieval quarter with the modern business district. Cafes, bakeries, and boutiques line the cobbled streets. Stop by the Central Market for fresh produce, tempting treats, and even entertainment. Stylish Hotel Cubo is just three blocks away from the Old Town. Don’t miss the octopus with passion fruit coulis at DB Restaurant, one of the best in the city.
Insider Tip: Act like a local by grabbing an ice cream from Vigo and stroll along the river promenade, known as “The Beach.”
No trip to Slovenia is complete without a stop in the Brda wine region. It’s home to the country’s top wine, olive oil, and fruit producers. Brda shares the border with some of Italy’s best wine country. If Tuscany is your idea of heaven, you’re in for a treat. Surrounded by rolling fields of grapevines, we spent the day visiting organic micro-wineries to sample rebula, the region’s prize white wine, and to nosh on farm-to-table fare.
Insider Tip: Check into the Hotel Gredic, a 400-year-old converted country castle, complete with champagne temple for toasting any occasion.
Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj
Postcard-perfect Lake Bled is the most iconic spot in Slovenia. A tiny island church sits at its center and is only accessible by pletna, a handmade local rowboat. Twenty minutes north is another alpine marvel. Lake Bohinj is the country’s largest natural lake, a peaceful oasis surrounded by green forests and a ski resort. Grab the funicular and head up to the resort for a rustic lunch of borscht, cured meats and cheeses while taking in the views.
Insider Tip: Ring the bell inside the Lake Bled church. Legend has it that your wish will come true.
Piran and the Riviera Coast
Along Slovenia’s Riviera, the medieval port town of Piran oozes charm, with cobblestone streets and a colorful main square. Both Italian and Slovenian are officially spoken here since it was historically under Venice rule. We climbed up the town’s peak, where old castle ruins overlook the Adriatic Sea–and nearby Italy and Croatia. From here, Venice is an hour’s catamaran ride or drive away. How very Mediterranean! The five-star Kempinski Palace in nearby Potoroz is the place to stay on the coast.
Insider Tip: Piran is famous for its therapeutic salt flats. Stock up at Piranske Soline Shop in the main square, where you can buy everything from fleur de sel to salt-flaked chocolates.
An unforgettable experience for horse lovers is a visit to the Lipica Stud Farm, home to the world-famous Lipizzaner horses. Three hundred of these stunning white purebreds live on 750 acres of pasture. The prized horses are trained to perform highly stylized prancing and jumping. Our private tour included a horse-drawn carriage, outdoor picnic and behind-the scenes-access to newborn foals.
Insider Tip: Make sure to get a photo op with Queen Elizabeth’s personal Lipizzaner stallion, 085 Favory Canissa XXII.
Caves and Castles
Another magical outing is combining Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. Postojna is Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction, and one of the world’s largest caves. We were like awestruck kids walking through massive cathedral halls of stalactites and stalagmites. Nearby Predjama Castle is another national treasure. This Renaissance fortress was carved into a rocky cliff. Its dramatic design, along with mysterious tunnels, has made it a popular site for filming.
Insider Tip: Look out for rare “baby dragons” living in the prehistoric cave.
Getting There: Slovenia is just an hour’s drive from the Venice airport. Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Munich, and Vienna have short connecting flights.
Population: 2 million
Language: Slovenian, but English is widely spoken
Cost of a Cup of Coffee: 1.5 Euros (about $1.70)
When to Visit: Mid-April to mid-October and during the December Christmas markets.
By Sekita Ekrek
Our travel insider Sekita Ekrek discovers hidden gems around the world. To learn more, contact our friends at First in Service Travel at [email protected] or 212-398-6555.