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A guide to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana

One of the smallest capital cities in Europe, Ljubljana is charming yet full of life. As the 2016 Green Capital of Europe, it knows how to deal with tourism sustainably and its abundance of park areas and traffic ban in the centre mean walking around and taking in the sights is easy. It also has some seriously cool nightlife and quirky cafes – here's a run down of what you can expect from Ljubljana.

A river runs through it

The Ljubljanica River divides Ljubljana's old town in the east from its commercial hub in the west and is lined with beautiful baroque buildings and outdoor cafes.

Along with the hilltop castle, it's the focal point of the town and you can take a glass-roofed boat cruise from Ribji trg pier to get a feel for the city.

The river is crossed by a number of iconic bridges including the Triple Bridge, which are a set of three bridges side by side from which you can see the market, main square and old town. Meanwhile, Dragon Bridge is adorned by four large dragons, which come from the city's coat of arms that can be seen on Castle Tower and symbolise strength, courage and might.

Castle heights

Watching down over the 19th-century old town, Ljubljana's castle is one of the first places that visitors head. You can either walk up the mound, take the tourist train from the Triple Bridge or hop on the funicular. Entry to the grounds and cafe is free, but there's a fee to go in the Watchtower. Along with spectacular views, you'll also get access to the museum which shows a video history of Ljubljana, a puppet theatre and a 90-minute Time Machine tour.

Get on your bike

Slovenia is an active country and that's no different in the capital. Cycling is common here, helped by good bike rental facilities. Named 13th in Wired's list of most bike-friendly cities on the planet, you can hire one from the Tourist Information Centre for €5 for the day or use the Bicikelj system for only €1 a week using a prepaid system.

Quality of life

Named the 2016 Green Capital of Europe, Ljubljana is a clean, green and orderly city. With no traffic in the centre you can wander or cycle around in peace, plus the drinking water is natural here so needs no treatment at all.

Ljubljana has an astonishing 542 square metres of public green space per resident and its main city park – Tivoli Park at the western end of the city centre – is a pretty place to spend some time. You can walk along its Jakopic promenade and walkways, take the kids to the playground or walk up Roznik hill through the woods for fine views of the city.

Places to visit

To see what Slovenians like to eat, head to the open market on Vodnikov trg, 200 metres from the Triple Bridge. Here you can browse the produce, local meats and cheeses every morning and afternoon except Sundays.

For rainy days, wander around either the National Museum of Slovenia or the Museum of Modern Art, or when the sun's shining you can spend some time outdoors at the University Botanic Gardens and Ljubljana Zoo.

Arty nights

If Ljubljana's trendy cafes and gourmet restaurants aren't lively enough for you, never fear as the city is brimming with bars playing live music and DJ-led clubs. From Orto live music venue to Ragamuffin reggae bar and right up to electro clubs like K4, you'll be kept dancing all night.

For an altogether more alternative night out, make a beeline for the artist's commune of Metelkova where weekends are bustling at places like the large Gala Hala club playing a diverse range of music, or Gromka with rock hits, 90s tunes and free admission.

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