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Ljubljana History

According to legend, Ljubljana’s beginnings are intertwined with Jason and the Argonauts. On returning from a quest for the Golden Fleece, the heroes met a dragon by a lake, which their leader Jason slew. The dragon has since been adopted on the city’s coat of arms.

In prehistory, a resourceful lake-dwelling people inhabited the Ljubljana Marshes, driving piles into the lakebed and living atop on wooden houses. Later, the Veneti tribe settled the area, followed by the Illyrians. By the 3rd century BCE, the Celtic Taurisci tribe resided in Ljubljana.

The Roman settlement of Emona came in the 1st century BCE, which played a vital role in countless wars. It was thus heavily fortified and had a population of more than 5,000 people. Emona was relatively developed, with brick houses and paved streets.

The decline of Rome saw Attila the Hun arrive in 452CE. Slovenia’s Slav ancestors followed in their wake and built a new settlement at the turn of the 6th century. By the 9th century, Ljubljana had grown into a town subject to Hungarian raids, but its real development came in the 13th century when it was granted city rights. With this independence, five town gateways were built, craft guilds organised, and Ljubljana coined its own money.

After an earthquake in the early 16th century, the rebuilding of the city was greatly influenced by the Renaissance. By the end of the century, the Jesuits had begun their mission to convert the locals from Protestantism to Catholicism. In the 17th century, Ljubljana refashioned once more, this time along baroque lines.

In the early 19th century, Napoleon occupied Ljubljana before the city passed into Austrian hands for the remainder of the century. Although it avoided any serious harm in WWI, it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in the aftermath. A cultural centre of the new entity, Ljubljana gained a university and National Gallery.

Fascist forces occupied the city during WWII, after which Slovenia became part of Yugoslavia. Slovenia declared independence in 1991, with Ljubljana as its capital.

Did you know?
• Throughout the 19th century, under Austrian rule, Ljubljana benefited from new railway links, with the first train connecting it to Vienna in 1849.
• Responding to resistance from locals, Mussolini’s occupying forces surrounded Ljubljana in a barbed-wire fence.
• It is thought that on the arrival of the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation in 1597, less than 5% of Ljubljana’s population was Catholic.

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Featured Hotels


Hotel Park

Offering affordable accommodation just on the edge of the city centre, this refurbished hotel might not win any awards for its tower block design, but it has clean, functional rooms with a touch of style. Free Wi-Fi in the 200 bedrooms and lobby comes in handy. Rooms are not large, but there are family rooms and junior suites for those seeking more space.

Hotel Emonec

The location of this bed and breakfast could not be any better, as this budget hotel is tucked just off the lively Prešeren Square in the city centre. The rooms are basic, but perfectly clean and comfortable. Little extras include bike hire, notebook hire, free Wi-Fi access and the slightly surreal massage chair, the latter available for 15-minute intervals.


Much more than the ‘bed and breakfast’ it markets itself as, this cosy abode is housed above one of the city’s most famous cafés. Guests can enjoy excellent breakfasts there, as it’s part of the same business. Rooms are calm and comfortable, sporting creams and browns for a tasteful ambience. This is a good option for those looking for a conveniently located, cheap hotel in Ljubljana.

Grand Hotel Union Executive

Housed in a stunning art nouveau building dating back to 1905, this is the most attractive hotel in Ljubljana and the choice of movers and shakers, as well as visiting celebs. The building itself is a gem, but the quietly luxurious rooms boast views of other ornate art nouveau architecture and peek toward the castle. The hotel also offers an excellent restaurant and café.

City Hotel

This three-star property is centrally located with views of the capital’s castle. Transformed by a massive renovation programme a few years ago, City Hotel has extra rooms, restaurants and conference facilities. Neat features include free bikes and free internet access, while the staff are also happy to book local tours. The on-site restaurant offers good-value lunches and dinners, as well as tasty breakfast spreads.

Celica Hostel

Fancy a night in a cell? This large property was once a military prison, but has been transformed into Ljubljana’s coolest lodging, located in the squatters’-paradise-turned-creative-hub that is the Metelkova district. The cells themselves have been converted into small but chic rooms with the help of local and international artists. Don’t miss the great light-filled bar-restaurant. There’s also a museum in the basement detailing the youth hostel’s history.