Welcome to another edition of our latest series looking at the best places for a long weekend in Europe. Last time around we looked at the stunning Italian region of Tuscany and all the wonders that it has to offer, and today we’re moving further east and to the mountainous nation of Slovenia.
The history of this relatively small country has been turbulent to say the least; Slovenia was formerly a part of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia before it declared independence in 1991. But these days Slovenia has restored its rich heritage and established itself as one of the best destinations for cycling in Europe.
Where should I stay?
For such a small nation there are actually plenty of great places to explore in Slovenia, one of them is the capital Ljubljana which is home to some of the finest 20th century architecture anywhere in the world. Perhaps most famous is the triple bridge that connects the old and new parts of the city.
While the capital is certainly worth a visit, the small town of Bled is the best place to stay in Slovenia. The 11th century town is built upon the banks of the historic glacial Lake Bled, and is possibly the most scenic place in the country.
The town was built to serve the medieval castle that stands proudly atop the local hills. Inside you can find a museum, a chapel and even a printing press that still produces labels for the local wines. There is also no shortage of fabulous architecture in Bled itself; be sure not to miss the 17th century Baroque-inspired Church of the Assumption of Maria which is found on an island in the middle of the lake, accessible only by boat.
What is there for families to do?
Slovenia is the ideal holiday destination for families that like to explore the great outdoors and perhaps do things a little different to the norm. Though its popularity has soared in recent years, the country is still relatively light on tourists and is filled to the brim with culture.
In Bled specifically there is of course the castle to climb up to, and where families can hear the stories of centuries past. As touched on earlier, the printing press inside the castle is still fully operational, and there are staff on hand to help you and your children print your own labels to take home with you. It’s also a budget-friendly day out with it costing just €7 per person.
If stunning vistas are your thing, you truly are in luck in Slovenia as the country is one large vista in our opinion. Perhaps the best place to take your children without tiring them out too much is the wonderful lake Bohinj and the cable cars that can take you to the top of the surrounding mountains.
The views from the Vogel cable cars are well worth the €14 per person, and once at the top there are plenty of walking paths filled with local wildlife to explore.
As one would expect from countries in the east of the continent, Slovenia is most well known for its amazing breads and other dough-based cuisines that are enjoyed across the country. One of the most eaten delicacies are Štruklji, a kind of rolled dumpling that dates back to the 16th century.
These dumplings can be served as either a sweet or savoury dish and are usually consumed as a side or starter in Slovenian households. Some of the most common fillings used in Štruklji are cottage cheese, apples, beans and nuts. While the dish is eaten all over Slovenia, each region has its own way of making them, so you can try all kinds of Štruklji on your adventure across the country.
Another great dish that is most famous in Bled is the Carniolan sausage. This red-coloured sausage is made from locally sourced pork and bacon along with heaps of garlic. The dish is usually served with sauerkraut and was known to be a favourite of the country’s emperors of old.
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Cycling in Slovenia
In the past we would have been hard pressed to find any sort of cycling link to this relatively unassuming nation. But this has all changed in recent years and Slovenia has become one of the most prominent nations in the UCI WorldTour. While there still aren’t loads of riders at the top level, those who have made it have stamped their flag all over the sport: two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar, Olympic and three-time Vuelta a España champion Primož Roglič and prolific winner Matej Mohorič are just three big names.
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In terms of cycling within the country, the biggest road race on the calendar is the Tour of Slovenia that takes place each season just before the Tour de France and is fast becoming one of the more popular preparation races for La Grande Boucle. This season’s race saw another dominant display from local legend Tadej Pogačar who took the overall win alongside a number of stage victories.
While road racing is certainly what Slovenia is most well known for, the vast expanses of woodland and mountains in the country also make it a popular spot for mountain biking. The Bovec region of the country is the best place for visitors with just a short time in Slovenia, the area being home to over 100km of MTB trails that are suitable for all skill levels.
When should I visit Slovenia?
In all honesty there isn’t a bad time to visit Slovenia. In the summer there is of course the best opportunity to explore the country by bike as the winter snow recedes and reveals the luscious green landscapes on offer.
The weather is also at its best at this point in the year, temperatures averaging around 27°C in the summer months. The country is a rainy one though, so make sure to pack your waterproof jacket.
In the winter, the hills and mountains transform into winter wonderlands that are ideal for skiing holidays. Slovenia is home to a number of quality ski resorts that attract people from all across the continent in the depths of winter. As expected, temperatures are much lower at these points in the year, so you’ll need to wrap up warm.
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In comparison to some of the other destinations we’ve already covered, Slovenia is slightly more tricky to get to but is still accessible from the UK. The most simple is just to fly into the international airport in the capital city of Ljubljana. Flights into Slovenia are relatively frequent from the UK, with some budget friendly airlines flying to the country these days.
If flying isn’t your thing, you could take the train, just as you could for any European destination that is included in the Schengen zone. Travelling by train may not be the best option for a long weekend though as it will take days to get to the country, so perhaps save a picturesque train journey for a longer stay in Slovenia.
Now that you’ve seen all that Slovenia has to offer, are you tempted to make the journey there in the future? Whether you want to take your bike with you on a cycling adventure, or simply want to take a family getaway, make sure you take out cycle travel insurance with Yellow Jersey before making the trip.