It’s okay if you’ve never heard of Ljubljana. Until about five months ago, I had never heard of it either. I had also never heard of the country of Slovenia, of which Ljubljana is the capital, until I learned of where the American First Lady was born. But after having spent three glorious days there, I’m convinced it’s the most amazing wheelchair accessible city that most people have never heard of.
Ljubljana, and Slovenia in general, has a fascinating history. You probably heard of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Eastern Bloc communist country that was formed after World War I. It was ruled by socialist dictator Josef Tito until his death in 1980, and Yugoslavia broke up along the lines of its republics after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. You’ve probably heard of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, as well as the tragic conflict involving Kosovo. Well, Slovenia was one of these republics as well, and gained independence in 1991. Because Tito broke with Stalin in 1948 and chose a very independent route for socialism in his country, Slovenia’s economy and society progressed more quickly and very differently than its neighbors.
Today, Slovenia remains a small country with a small population, and locals will tell you that everything about the country is small. Perhaps everything is, except for its spirit and good nature, as well as its overwhelming beauty. Slovenia, and definitely Ljubljana, are committed to wheelchair accessibility, so here are some reasons why if you need to put Ljubljana on your bucket list NOW.
1. Ljubljana is one of the most wheelchair accessible cities in all of Europe. I am actually overwhelmed by how easy it was to get around the city. There are ramps everywhere, and while most of the public buses are accessible, the city is so small you don’t even really need to take them. All public buildings are required to have access, and the museums I visited all had ramps and accessible entrances. In 2015, the city of Ljubljana won the Bronze Access Award, and has also won a Green City award. There are four electric taxicabs that run around the city transporting passengers for free, and two out of the four are wheelchair accessible.
2 The food is Incredible — and very international. If you’re looking for authentic Slovenian cuisine, you can definitely find it. I tried a delicious Carniolan pork sausage called kranjska that is actually protected because it can only be produced by 15 Slovene butchers with a special license. Slovenia and also love their soups, and mushroom soup is very popular — especially when combined with a bowl of buckwheat called zganci. However, due to having borders with Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Croatia, Ljubljana is a mecca for restaurants and food dishes from several different countries and cultures. Slovenian wines and desserts are also special treats.
3. The mountains and incredible landscapes are only an hour away. I was very lucky to have the transportation and tour services of the fantastic No Limits Tours at my disposal during my three-day stay. Part of their City Break tour is a day.trip into the Julian Alps, where we got to see stunning views from the top of the Vogel ski resort gondola, roll around the beautiful Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, and indulge in Bled´s famous cream cake “kremšnita.” I was even luckier that we had plenty of sun and a good amount of work that day, as it can get chilly at the top of a 1,500-meter high mountain!
4. It’s one of the least expensive places in Europe. A few euro go a very long way in Slovenia. I was staying in a lovely wheelchair accessible hotel room as part of my package that was only two blocks away from Preseren Square, which is basically the middle of everything in old Ljubljana, for only €100 per night. Lunch will cost you €5 or less and a very filling dinner will cost you €10 or less. Museum admissions range from free to €5.
5. It’s still relatively undiscovered. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of tourists around while I was there. But I didn’t go anywhere that I would describe as crowded, especially not compared to other European capitals like Paris, Rome, or London. I just returned, which means I went on shoulder season at the end of September. The temperature was in the 60s during the day and a very mild upper 50s later at night. The possibility of rain, like anywhere else in the world generally speaking, is a crapshoot, and I got very lucky that I didn’t get any rain during my three-day stay. It was pretty awesome to not have to fight through crowds on the sidewalks, get photos at popular sights that actually didn’t have any people in them, and walk-through rooms in major museums that were empty.
6. Did I mention how accessible it is? I really can’t overemphasize this. Many of the streets in the main part of the city didn’t even have curbs; the sidewalks just blended right into the road. Every corner had a gentle dropped curb, and there are plenty of vehicle free pedestrian areas. Even the cobblestones, where they existed, were the flat square type that rank at 3 at the worst (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning you need a chiropractor after only an hour). There is also just a general positive attitude of acceptance and support for people with disabilities, and the city’s commitment to accessibility is obvious.
I can’t guarantee that Slovenia, and it’s gorgeous capital Ljublana, are going to be such a well-kept secret for much longer. So the next time you take out your bucket list, make sure you put this little-known city at the very top!
Has this post inspired you to visit Ljubljana and other parts of Slovenia? Then come visit my accessible travel agency website at Spin the Globe/travel, and I’ll work together with No Limits Tours to provide you with an unforgettable Slovenian experience!