Ready for some fun for kids in Ljubljana? Maybe you’ve never thought of Slovenia as a family vacation destination, but I am here to tell you, Slovenia is family friendly. There is a lot to do throughout the country (caving, anyone?), and the capital is no exception. There are a lot of things to do with kids in Ljubljana.
Ljubljana (lube lee ana or lube ee ana) is a very safe city. Our new friends who live here say they are comfortable letting their kids (6, 8, and 10) run around outside without supervision. The old part of the city is a pedestrian zone, so there is now worry of traffic.
It’s not just safe, it’s really fun, and there are a lot of things to do with kids in Ljubljana. Of course, these things are fun for adults, too, which is probably why we take our kids to them.
Turn Upside Down at the Museum of Illusions – Muzej Iluzij
The Museum of Illusions in Ljubljana is a newer museum on Congress Square. There are optical illusions, a mirrored dance room, a dizzying spinning tunnel, and a chance to crawl on the ceiling. We had so much fun here!
Explore the Castle – Ljubljanski Grad
The Ljubljana Castle towers over the city and you can see it from just about anywhere. We walked up to it, but there is also a funicular that glides you to the top with no effort on your part. The views from the castle are amazing—all of Ljubljana and beyond to the Julian Alps. Of course, the castle itself is interesting and don’t miss the swing out front.
You can explore the courtyard, get a coffee in the café, sit quietly in the chapel, and walk the ramparts without buying a ticket. If you want to climb the tower, see the several exhibits and films, or take a guided tour, you will need to drop some Euros.
A Different Kind of Art at Metelkova – Metelkova Mesto
Near the train station, abandoned army barracks has become a gathering spot for artists, underground musicians, and Slovenia’s subcultures. Metelkova Mesto is a 12,500 square meter autonomous region just blocks from the capital’s charming, historic, old town.
Most nights, hundreds of people gather within the graffiti-strewn walls, amidst tile mosaics and creepy sculptures, to attend one of 1,500 alternative events in its illegally (but condoned) occupied buildings.
During the day it’s pretty much empty. You can stroll past the artwork, climb a big jungle gym/tree house, and appreciate the other side of Slovenian sensibilities.
Try Something New at the House of Experiments –
There are 60 experiments in this interactive children’s museum in Ljubljana. The bubbles, puzzles, blowtorch, geomorphology, and driving experiments were big hits with my kids. There are a lot of great activities at the House of Experiments.
If you are a homeschooler/unschooler/worldschooler and like to prepare for these educational experiences, you can read this. We just showed up and followed the English instructions as we moved through the three floors.
After two hours, we hadn’t completed all the experiments, but we had a great time. Check the hours since the House of Experiments is only open on weekends, Wednesday afternoons, and when local kids are not in school.
Feline Fun at the Cat Caffé
Cat Caffé Ljubljana was Finn’s favorite place in Slovenia. Between the cats and the cocoa, he was in Heaven.
In this little café, seven cats hang out and look cute. Sometimes they jump on your lap and curl up. Occasionally, they will play with you. Often they ignore you and sleep; they are cats after all.
A catwalk winding through the café near the ceiling and metal cages outside the windows mean the cats can roam. When you enter the Cat Caffé through the double doors, a set of instructions reminds you to respect the cats and not share your drinks.
The signature drink is the Cat’s Cocoa – hot cocoa with cinnamon, topped with whipped cream and a cookie. I generally went with wine or beer, but did sip the cocoa and can attest that it’s delicious. They also serve coffee drinks and a variety of tea. I posted a lot of photos from the Ljubljana’s Cat Caffé on my Mr. Finklestein Instagram account (yes, I do have an Instagram account for my dead cat. It’s not weird.)
Get Out of an Escape Room
I hadn’t even heard of Escape Rooms until the last year, but there are a bunch of them in Ljubljana. The basic premise is that you get locked in a room and have to get out by solving puzzles and riddles. Of course, Escape Rooms are safe, monitored by video, and there is a big red button to push if you need to get out immediately.
Anders wanted to do this for his birthday, so we researched “escape rooms for kids Ljubljana” and came up with The Key.
There are two different paired rooms to choose from: Da Vinci/Sherlock and dungeon/wonderland. We chose the dungeon and wonderland because it was catered more toward kids. That said, we still needed clues to finish it! When we got stuck, the super nice owner spoke through a speaker and gave us a little clue.
This was a big hit with all of us and we’d love to go back and do the other rooms.
Let Them Eat Cake
Slovene’s are known for their cakes. They like to make them and they like to eat them. We just want to fit in, so we kind of had to eat cake.
The best place for cake in Ljubljana is Zvezda Kavarna on the corner of Wolfova Street and Zvezda Park in Congress Square. (Language lesson: kavarna = coffee shop) In all fairness, I haven’t tried all the cakes in Ljubljana, but two locals recommended this place to me in two separate occasions. And it was very good cake.
Plus, they’ve worked with Amnesty International, a human rights organization I have supported since I was 16. That’s good kavarna karma.
Now we’ve tasted “the world’s best chocolate cake” and the “original Lake Bled cream cake” and four different cakes from Ljubljana’s best cake shop. If nothing else, our worldschooling children are getting a good cake education this year.
Put Away Some Puffy Lil’ Pancakes
When you’ve had enough cake, but not enough sugar, Puffy Lil’ Pancakes fit the bill. These ten puffy little pancakes are drizzled with sauce and topped with candy or cookies. I went with chocolate sauce and no toppings, but the boys preferred Nutella and Oreos or M&Ms.
When in Slovenia…
Reach High at a Rock Climbing Gym
Our newfound friends invited us to a climbing gym and it was the perfect way to burn off energy on a rainy day. For us, it was a 40-minute walk each way, which made us even happier. My main goal in life is to burn off kid-energy. I am rarely successful.
We went to Plezalni center Ljubljana, but there are two other climbing gyms in Ljubljana.
They do have climbing programs for kids and if you aren’t comfortable belaying your buddies, you should make sure to go when a program was offered. We rented equipment and then were let loose in the gym to do as we wanted. All those years of belaying kids in recreation programs paid off, because I (after two tries) remembered how to tie a figure right knot and use a grigri.
Since we had seven kids , ranging in age from 6-11, and three belayers, we appreciated the bouldering wall and kids’ room. While three kids top roped, the others could boulder safely and play on the mats.
Bonus: There is a bar that serves good microbrew. After climbing, I had my first IPA (pronounced eee pa in Slovenia) since leaving the U.S. Yum. They also had a good pale ale and according to reports—remember seven kids!—delicious hot chocolate.
Ljubljana is known for its dragons. From the four that guard the Dragon Bridge, to the top of manhole covers, to scary dragons on the side of buildings and cute cartoon dragons on souvenirs, to dragons wrapped around the label of the local beer, you’ll find dragons everywhere.
From the City of Ljubljana website:
“The Ljubljana dragon is part of the City of Ljubljana’s coat of arms. It symbolises strength, courage and might. It is depicted on the Dragon Bridge and on top of the castle tower on Ljubljana’s coat of arms.
“The Ljubljana dragon may have its origins in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. Once upon a time, Greek hero Jason and his Argonaut comrades stole a golden fleece, the coat of a golden ram, from the King of Colchis on the Black Sea. On board the Argo they fled their pursuers and found themselves at the mouth of the River Danube instead of going south towards the Aegean Sea and their Greek homeland. There was no way back, so they went on, up the Danube and then along the River Ljubljanica. They had to stop at the source of the Ljubljanica and overwintered here. They then took the Argo apart and in the spring carried it on their shoulders to the Adriatic coast, where they put it back together again and went on their way. According to the legend, on their arrival between what is now Vrhnika and Ljubljana, the Argonauts came across a large lake with a marsh alongside. Here lived a terrible marsh dragon that Jason killed after a heroic struggle. The monster would have been the Ljubljana dragon. It is said that Jason should have been the first real Ljubljana citizen.”
When you are walking around, have your kids look for dragons and see how many they can find.
We stayed in JoJo Apartment, which you can rent through Booking.com. Click the link and search “Jojo Apartment.”