Afternoon arrival into Ljubljana – Slovenia’s capital and largest city. You will be met by your private driver and guide, who will be waiting for you just outside of Customs, after you pick up your luggage.
The area around the present city of Ljubljana has been populated since the Bronze Age, when the earliest known settlement consisted of wooden houses erected on stakes. Later, a Roman settlement called Emona was created in 15 AD, only to be sacked and devastated by the Huns, led by Attila, in 452 AD. The settlement was gradually revived and received town rights in the 12th Century. In 1335, Ljubljana came under Austrian Habsburg rule, which lasted until 1918.
After a brief rest at your hotel, you may depart on a tour of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Your guide will take you to explore the old mediaeval city by the river Ljubljanica, with its numerous historical monuments and a dominating old castle, as well as the world's second oldest philharmonic society where Gustav Mahler started his career!
Today you will start with a walk through the Old Town district with your guide.
Ljubljana’s Old Town is located on the right (eastern) bank of the Ljubljanica River and at the foot of the historic Castle Hill. You may start your tour in front of the Baroque Town Hall building - the seat of the municipal government, which is highlighted by its clock tower and the inner courtyard surrounded by pillars and arcades. The building was originally erected in the 16th century and rebuilt in the early 18th century.
In Town Square (Mestni Trg), in front of the city hall, you will see the famous Fountain of the Tree Rivers, which was originally designed in the second half of the 18th Century by the Italian Baroque sculptor Francesco Robba and became his most famous work. The figures with vases represent the rivers Ljubljanica, Krka, and Sava. Robba was inspired by Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers on Piazza Navona in Rome.
Also in the Town Square, you will see the Cathedral of St. Nicholas – a popular local landmark. This Baroque church was designed in the early 18th Century by a Jesuit architect to resemble a Latin cross. The interiors still contain much of the original Italian Baroque decor and frescoes. Left of the main altar, you can see the distinctive chair designed by Joze Plecnik - a famous Slovene architect who practiced in Vienna, Belgrade, Prague and Ljubljana. Plecnik transformed Ljubljana through works such as the Church of St. Francis, civic improvements including new bridges, the waterfront and the banks along the River Ljubljanica, as well as major buildings such as the monumental University Library.
Continuing further south, you will pass through the Old Square (Stari Trg) and the Upper Square (Gornij Trg) which form a pedestrian promenade lined with historic houses and small cafes and shops, many decorated with dragons – the city’s symbol.
Next, you may take the funicular or board a small train which will take you to the top of Castle Hill. The Ljubljana Castle offers some great views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The castle was first mentioned in 1144 and was later enlarged and completely surrounded by a wall with towers and a drawbridge. Gradually losing its strategic importance in the area, the castle began falling into disrepair. In the early 20th Century, the castle was redesigned partially and used as a prison and a military stronghold. Since the 1970s, long and extensive renovation works have been underway.
You may continue across the Dragon Bridge - an Art Nouveau masterpiece adorned with dragons, and stroll alongside the western bank of the Ljubljanica River to the centrally located and bustling Preseren Square. It is named after Slovenia’s greatest poet who also wrote the lyrics to the national anthem. A statue of Preseren with a muse above his head is situated in the center of the square. On the south side of the square, the Ljubljanica River is crossed by the city's most famous bridge – the Triple Bridge, designed by Joze Plecnik who added the side spans to the already existing central part of the bridge.
Later, your guide will take you to the Slovene Philharmonic Hall. The date 1701 is proudly displayed on the building of the Slovene Philharmonic - the year in which the second academy of music in Europe, the Academia Philharmonicum Labacensis, was founded in Ljubljana. The Academia boasted honorary members such as Beethoven, Paganini, Haydn and Brahms. Beethoven, to express his gratitude for the honorary membership bestowed upon him, sent a handwritten annotated copy of his 6th Symphony, which is still kept today in the musical collection of Ljubljana’s National and University Library. Gustav Mahler also lived in Ljubljana in the years 1881-82 and worked here as a conductor.
Enjoy some time at one of the outdoor cafes along the river or continue exploring Ljubljana’s squares and bridges before transferring back to your hotel for the remainder of the evening at your leisure.