Frosty cobblestone streets spill down to the river and summit up to the legendary castle which overlooks the city.
Every evening, Christmas lights punctuate the darkness and the smell of Potica (a Slovenian cake) and other local treats are a feast for the senses.
Ljubljana’s a gorgeous city to visit any time of year, but Christmas is especially magical.
Here’s all you need to know!
What’s Ljubljana like at Christmas?
Ljubljana, the capital of enchanting Slovenia, transforms into a wonderland at Christmas time.
This picturesque little cobbled city boasts magnificent views of the mighty Alps, which a turn magical red in the evening sun – especially in winter.
Ljubljana’s known as the city of the dragon, who lived on the moors in ancient times and intimidated the mighty knights. Today, the dragon embodies strength, courage and wisdom and is the symbol of Ljubljana.
With a hilltop castle and a river flowing through the centre, Ljubljana looks magical any time of year – especially at Christmas.
The festive atmosphere begins in December when Christmas streets illuminate the streets, and the scent of roasted almonds and mulled wine permeates the atmosphere.
Then there’s the Christmas market, where you’ll discover small, wooden Christmas decorated houses that smell of local delicacies, where you can take a look and buy some local products!
Things to do in Ljubljana at Christmas
If you’re in Ljubljana at Christmas, these are the things you have to try:
Visit a Christmas fair
There are many Christmas fairs in Ljubljana in December and January, focusing on supporting small local businesses, zero-waste products and organic Slovenian cuisine.
The best known is the Christmas Fair on Kongresni trg, where you can find everything from Christmas decorations to traditional Slovenian delicacies.
Other Christmas markets in Ljubljana include those on Mestni trg (Town Square), Prešeren Square and Trg Republike (Republic Square).
Visit the cafes
Drink mulled tea, mulled wine and even mulled gin in beautifully decorated cafés in Old Ljubljana!
Go ice skating
Kongres Square is the best place for ice skating in Ljubljana. With a stunning view of the castle, you’ll glide around the rink with Christmas music in the background. What’s not to love?
See Ljubljana’s Christmas festivals
There are some excellent Christmas festivals and events in Ljubljana in the festive season.
For example, don’t miss the Christmas concerts at Cankarjev dom, the Ljubljana Opera House and the concerts at Križanke.
Enjoy the Ljubljana nativity scene
At Ljbuljana Castle, you’ll find a nativity scene on display throughout December and January.
It’s different each year; in 2023 you’ll find Miro Rismondo, renowned for his ice sculptures, bringing this age-old tradition to life with life-size wooden figures.
Sail along the Ljubljanica River
Embark on Christmas Lights cruise from the Ljubljanica River Boat Experience. As night falls, guests are welcomed aboard a beautifully decorated boat, setting sail along the Ljubljanica River.
The riverbanks, aglow with twinkling lights, reflect beautifully on the water.
Enjoy stunning light displays, hot cocoa and mulled wine under cosy blankets.
Ideal for romantic evenings, family outings, or festive gatherings with friends, this experience encapsulates Christmas in Ljubljana!
Visit the National Museum of Slovenia
Visit the National Museum of Slovenia at Christmas! The museum organises a Christmas exhibition every year where you can see traditional Slovenian Christmas decorations and learn about customs and culture.
Ljubljana Christmas traditions
Christmas in Ljubljana usually starts in early December.
This is a big event for the city, as it marks the beginning of a merry December and holiday season.
Each street boasts its own decoration and story. In the city centre you’ll encounter decorations resembling space, galaxies, stars, which represent new birth and new life.
On 6th December, Slovenians celebrate St. Nicholas Day. This is when St. Nicholas walks through the town with his “Parklji” or “Krampus”, devil look alike creatures dressed in scary costumes, holding horns and rattling kettledrums.
In the old days, children would leave their shoes at the door or by the window and St Nicholas would fill them overnight with sweets and other gifts. Traditionally, the “Parklji” would give a twig, to be used by parents when children didn’t behave well! (Obviously, this doesn’t happen these days!).
Four weeks before Christmas, Advent wreaths are made of evergreens, decorated with Christmas decorations and holding four candles. One candle is lit each week until Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather for a traditional Christmas dinner, then walk to midnight mass at the local church.
Another popular Christmas tradition is the ‘living nativity scene’. This event takes place in Prešeren Square and includes a live re-enactment of the birth of Jesus!
On New Year’s Eve, there is a huge firework display at midnight. This is best seen from Ljubljana Castle, which offers a magnificent view of all the fireworks in the city!
What to eat in Ljubljana for Christmas
Slovenian cuisine is the result of a varied history and geographical location.
It’s been shaped by the traditional Mediterranean food, but also greatly influenced by the time when Slovenia was under Austro-Hungarian rule.
Here are some specific food to look out for at Christmas time!
- Potica: A traditional Slovenian rolled cake with a sweet walnut filling, which makes it very aromatic and full of flavour. It is usually filled with raisins soaked in rum, but it can also be filled with cottage cheese and tarragon or other fillings.
- Linzer: Shortbread cookies with a jam filling
- Walnut twists: Buttery pastry twists filled with walnuts.
- Kranjska sausage: A smoked sausage made from pork and beef, traditionally served with sauerkraut and a piece of bread.
- Štruklji: Dumplings, traditionally made with drawn dough, cottage cheese and sour cream. They can be served as a side dish or as a dessert. Head to Moji štruklji on Petkovškovo nabrežje to try more than 20 different types of dumplings!
- Idrijski žlikrofi: a traditional Slovenian dish made from noodle dough with a potato filling in a distinctive shape. They can be enjoyed as a warm starter, side dish or as a stand-alone dish.
- Prekmurska gibanica: this dessert is made from two different types of dough and four delicious fillings: poppy seed, walnut, cottage cheese and apple, which are repeated twice. Each layer is topped with plenty of sweet cream, eggs and butter!
- Pohorska omelette: this is made of a fluffy sponge cake rather like a sponge cake for roulades, and is coated with cranberry jam and whipped sweet cream.
- Jota: this is made of beans, potatoes, sauerkraut, sometimes replaced by pickled turnips, spices, and if the dish is not vegan, dried pork meat such as sausages can also be added.
- Pohorski lonec: this consists of three types of meat, barley, potatoes, mushrooms (chanterelles and porcini mushrooms) and bacon
- Brodet: a seafood stew with mussels, crabs, octopus, and spices.
Tips for visiting Ljubljana at Christmas
Plan your trip in advance, as Ljubljana is a popular tourist destination during Christmas. Be prepared for cold weather, even below 0°C, so don’t forget to pack winter essentials such as gloves, a hat and scarf.
Check opening hours in advance, as many businesses may be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – or at least have changed or reduced opening hours. Shops and supermarkets in Slovenia are closed on Sundays. Normal opening hours are between 7am and 9am and closing time is between 7pm and 9pm.
Purchase the “Ljubljana Card” – this gives you free entry to many Ljubljana attractions and unlimited use of public transport. You can also take advantage of the many free events and activities taking place around Ljubljana during this time.
During the Chirstmas period, the City of Ljubljana also offers free parking in individual squares during the week and in the evenings. On Sundays and public holidays, parking is free the whole day. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, public transport will operate at modified hours.
Ljubljana also has a special electric vehicle called the “Kavalir” (Gentleman), which is a free form of public transport. It’s mianly designed for the elderly, people with reduced mobility and tourists and runs through the old town, which is closed to traffic. You can stop the bus while it is moving, or you call +386 (0)31 666 331 to book a ride with the Gentleman.
Are you ready for Ljubljana at Christmas time?
The glittering capital of Slovenia’s one of the most beautiful cities you can visit in Europe during the festive season.
With Christmas markets, holiday shopping and traditional Slovenian festivities, this city’s one of the jolliest places in Europe in December – and you’ll adore engrossing in the festive spirit while you’re here!