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Begin your Slovenian adventure in laid-back Ljubljana, before heading north to the exquisite Lake Bled and west to the snowcapped Julian Alps. Next, visit the country’s western winelands for intimate cellar-door tastings, before heading to Piran on the Adriatic coast for Riviera glamour beside glittering seas.

CLOSE TO A HIKING TRAIL,A BROWN BEAR HAS BEEN SPOTTED ambling through woodland with her two young cubs.A passing rambler raised the alarm and half-hourly news bulletins now warn walkers to stay alert. But we’re not deep in a national park, nor in a rural wilderness. This is Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia – which, with its backdrop of mountains, feels less like a city than an Alpine town.


Kick back in Ljubljana, one of Europe’s greenest and most liveable cities

In the centre, pastel-painted houses and Baroque architecture jostle for space around a narrow river. Weeping willows graze its surface, and young couples loll back on their elbows on the stepped riverbanks, enjoying the sun's waning glow. Upstream, cafes and bars flank the canal's walls. The salmon-hued Franciscan church glows rose-gold behind them. A group of paddleboarders drift idly under the balustraded Triple Bridge, while a woman peers down at them from above, fussing the head of a dachshund scooped in the crook of her arm. There’s not a hint of traffic hum; only the whisper of willow branches.

Lazy days on the Ljubljanica River, which flows through the centre of Ljubljana. OPPOSITE Sitting down to a craft beer at Tozd


Tucked down a quiet cobbled alleyway, Vander Urbani Resort is in Ljubljana’s Old Town, just a few steps from the river. Inside, gleaming black floors and industrial concrete walls are lifted with pops of colour and geometric tiles, and rooms are snug and stylish. Enjoy your welcome drink on a shady table in front of the hotel or sip it poolside, on the rooftop terrace (rooms from £125;

Nearby at riverside coffee shop and bar Tozd, a scattering of customers has taken up a lazy residence on tan leather banquettes. Hanging high up on a brick wall are two skateboards and, directly above a customer’s head, a fixed-gear bicycle. Named for the now-defunct Basic Association of Organised Labour, Tozd’s cooperative philosophy is as much a reminder of Slovenia’s recent Yugoslav history as it is of the liberal attitude of its people today. The wheeled wall hangings aren’t just there to look pretty: they showcase the work of local makers, alongside the photographic prints and jewellery on display elsewhere in the café.

‘Slovenians are naturally shy, but this place has such energy: people come here to make friends,’ says Tozd barista Anya Rosyar. Behind her, a huddle of students are playing a card game over cups of the café’s cold-brewed coffee. ‘It’s important to feel a sense of community in a city.’

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - June 2018
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