Ljubljana is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe with only 300,000 residents, however, this small city has charm and history that will fascinate visitors. It is the largest city in Slovenia, which only has a population slightly over two million, and is its cultural heart. The marshes around Ljubljana were settled thousands of years ago by various Celtic tribes, and this was also where archaeologists found the oldest man-made wooden wheel ever found in 2002. The marshes are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the remaining prehistoric pile dwellings that still stand there. By 50 BC, the Romans settled the area and made it an outpost, which would later be destroyed by Attila the Hun and later the Ostrogoths and the Lombards. The city was contested for centuries between various tribes and powers, however, it is understood that the ancestors of modern-day Slovenes came to the area by the 6th century.
The city of Ljubljana in its current form can be found in the record by the 12th century, with the main castle having been built, by some estimates, in the 11th. Urban settlement was in full swing towards the end of the 12th century, and the city was contested between the Bohemians and the Hapsburgs the following century until the later won out by 1278. The Republic of Venice would end up having the longest claim to Slovenia starting in 1420 until the dissolution of the Republic by France in 1797, after which Slovenia became part of Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I, when the empire was dissolved. Once Slovenia merged with Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and other Slavic states, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed, and would continue to exist until 1945, though Ljubljana would be taken over by Fascist Italy in 1941 and was made the capital of an Italian province until the last year of the war. The city would become the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, which was part of the infamous Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and would remain as the capital once Slovenia gained independence in 1991. Unlike other countries in the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia gained independence after a series of referendums and a short, low-intensity 10-day war that ended with only a handful of casualties.
Ljubljana’s distinctive architecture comes from a series of incidents in the 16th century. An earthquake occurred in 1511, necessitating a huge rebuild of the city. This accounts for the renaissance architecture that can be seen all throughout the city. Furthermore, all wooden buildings were banned in 1524 after a fire in the main square. Today, this architecture can be found all throughout the Old Town section of the city, which has many shops, cafes, and is home to a maze of narrow alleys leading to numerous squares. The famous Ljubljana castle can also be easily accessed from the city, and tourists can see a 3D film about Ljubljana there as well. The large Tivoli Park is also a great place to relax after a long day of wandering in the city.
Ljubljana is full of excellent restaurants, cafes, and bars to explore. It also has many museums for the historically inclined. The city is a significantly less high-intensity place in comparison to some of the more famous European cities, however, it is probably one of Europe’s most livable and green cities. It also happens to be one of the safest cities in Europe, though infrequent crime does occur occasionally at night in the park. Also, with easy access to the rest of the country, and surrounding Croatia, Italy, and Austria, Ljubljana should be your next stop in your European adventure!