Things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana is a brilliant destination for a weekend break. Just an hour and half from London, and close to the Italian border, the Slovenian capital city is beautiful and easily walkable. There are just enough sites to keep you entertained but not overwhelmed, and the local restaurants are relaxed and reasonably priced. When you feel you have exhausted all the city has to offer, venture out of town to the many beautiful sights and natural beauties this small but special country has to offer. Lake Bled and Soča Valley were top of my itinerary, but there are many other wonderful areas to explore if you have a little longer.

Slovenia

To Stay

Vander Urbani Resort – This design hotel is conveniently tucked away in the very centre of town. With 20 sleek rooms, a ground floor restaurant and a small rooftop pool, it is a popular choice for weekend trips to Ljubljana.

Slovenia

To Eat

TaBar – On a warm evening the TaBar terrace is the best place in town to eat, drink and people watch. The menu has a range of gourmet dishes, designed to be shared as tapas and focused around local ingredients. Try the Ostrich and the mini burger and let the brilliant team help you choose a glass from the reasonably priced list of organic, Slovenian orange wines.

Gelataria Romantika – This cute ice-cream parlour is known for its quirky and delicious flavours of gelato. I loved the traditional Tarragon and cottage cheese and also the Pumpkin Seed Oil on Vanilla Bourbon base.

EK Bistro – EK bistro pride themselves on serving the best brunch menu in town. The stylish hang out offers a menu of alluring egg dishes, including Eggs Benedict with pulled beef, pumpkin oil and seeds and Goats cheese omelette with tarragon. Or you can opt for something lighter like Granola with yoghurt, thyme syrup and seasonal fruit.

Trappa – A new pizzeria 10 mins outside Ljubljana, serving delicious sourdough pizzas and a range of local organic wines.

Ménagerie – A charming, new boulangerie, ideal for breakfast. Ménagerie is beautifully decorated in a shade of pale green with antique furniture and artwork. Try the pillowy local brioche with homemade jam and butter, or take away one of their speciality loaves.

Monstera Bistro – Everyone recommended Monstera Bistro, and for good reason. This simple, local bistro is run by Bine Volčič, one of the best-known chefs in the country, and his wife Katarina. A daily menu offers delightful dishes like Braised pulled pork in tramezzino bread, and Elderflower baba cake. When we visited it was just €17 for 2 courses or €20 for 3… be sure to book.

Slovenia

To Drink

Cafe Čokl – This little cafe is known to locals and tourists as one of the best coffee shops in town. Café Cokl roasts only the freshest Arabica beans, and then uses a variety of expert techniques to make you a coffee of your choice.

Kolibri – Kolibri is considered to be Ljubljana’s best cocktail bar, perhaps even the finest in the country. The tiny bar is decadently designed with moody lighting and velvet seating. Sit at the bar and order from their seasonal menu, we particularly loved the Mezcal old fashioned.

Črno Zrno – This little blue and white tiled hole in the wall is found in the Gornji trg part of town. Črno Zrno translates to ‘black bean’ and is owned and run by Alex, a Colombian architect turned coffee geek, eager to bring the best Colombian coffee to Slovenia. The speciality coffee here is immaculately measured out, poured to perfection and served with a smile. A must-visit for caffeine fans visiting Ljubljana.

Stow – Stow is a modern and spacious cafe located within the City Museum. Stow initially launched as a roaster before opening a cafe serving their carefully selected and roasted beans. Stow also run coffee academies where experts share their coffee knowledge.

Tozd – This friendly cafe in the centre of town is a lovely place to sit and read for a while. Though their coffee making skills aren’t the best in town, their beans are from Escobar, a brilliant speciality coffee company outside of Ljubljana.

Slovenia

To Do

Triple Bridge – It is impossible to miss this iconic historic feature in the heart of Ljubljana. The three bridges cross over the Ljubljanica River and was designed by the architect Jože Plečnik, completed in 1932. Tourists constantly walk over the famous bridges, but they are most picturesque from above.

Funicular up to the castle – Take the short funicular ride up Castle Hill above downtown Ljubljana to the landmark castle. Originally a medieval fortress, it was likely constructed in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. The panoramic views of the city are most beautiful at sunset.

Nebotičnik Skyscraper – This prominent high-rise building is located in the centre of Ljubljana and was once the tallest residential building in Europe, with its thirteen storeys rising to a height of 70.35m. It was designed by the Slovenian architect Vladimir Šubic for the Pension Institute, the building’s investor, and was opened on 21 February 1933. Head to the building staircase for a view all the way down, or enjoy a drink on the outdoor terrace.

Sunday Flea Market – A charming flea market takes place every Sunday morning along the riverside on and around Cobbler’s Bridge (on Breg). Here you can find an extraordinary range of antique goods and bric-a-brac to interesting Slovenian memorabilia.

Slovenia

To Escape

Soča Valley – A couple of hours from Ljubljana the Soča Valley is a 138-kilometre long river that flows through western Slovenia and northeastern Italy. Here you can enjoy fresh Alpine hikes, whitewater rafting and other outdoor sports. One of the best walks is from Kobarid to Slap Kozjak where you can visit an impressive waterfall for €4 per person and see Napoleon’s Bridge. We came to the Soča Valley to try the destination restaurant Hiša Franko run by inspiring chef Ana Ros, a must for all foodies visiting Slovenia. She also owns the casual eatery Hiša Polonka with her husband; here you can try the delicious local craft beer paired with the hearty traditional dish – cheese and potato frika.

Lake Bled – Just 40 minutes outside of Ljubljana is one of the countries best-known and most beautiful natural wonders. Lake Bled is a lake in the Julian Alps of the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia, where it adjoins the town of Bled. Here you can trek up to Mala Osojnica for a magnificent viewpoint, take a boat to Bled Island (€15pp return), and enjoy wild swimming. Don’t leave without trying the famous and indulgent Bled cake (a light cake with layers of pastry, whipped cream and custard).

The Middle House, Shanghai

Shanghai is not an easy city to navigate as a tourist who doesn’t speak the native language. That’s why, each day after a full itinerary of exploring, I was relieved to be returning to The Middle House, a beautiful new hotel in the heart of the city.

Middle House

The Middle House is the newest member of the House Collective Hotels, which also includes Upper House in Hong Kong, Temple House in Chengdu and Opposite House in Beijing (the first which opened in 2008). These luxury hotels are harmonious with the local surroundings while also making a statement with their artistic common spaces, indulgent rooms and cutting-edge facilities.

After a very long international flight we were delighted to be greeted by the Middle House’s smart Tesla car, which transported us to the hotel in less than an hour. (I highly recommend pre-arranging transfers when arriving in China, as it can be quite overwhelming to organise on the spot!)

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There are 111 rooms at Middle House including the 14th floor penthouse, where the hotel’s most exclusive visitors stay. The majority of the rooms fall into three categories: Studio 50 rooms, Studio 60 rooms, and Studio 70 rooms, the room names simply referring to the size of the space in sqm. We were in room 1308, a studio 70 corner room on the 13th floor, with epic panoramic views of the city and plenty of natural daylight. The rooms are designed with feng shui in mind, they are very spacious, with carefully placed striking artwork. I particularly enjoyed the walk-in wardrobe, well stocked mini-bar, and amazing lighting and black-out curtains.

Middle House

The bathroom was lavish and luxurious, with specially made Bamford toiletries which feature in all the House Hotels collection. I loved the minimalist double sinks, the stylish bathtub made by Claybrook and the elegant attention to detail.

Middle House

Breakfast each morning at Middle House was a real treat, and it was soon evident that food here is definitely not an afterthought. Both the Western options and the local delicacies were made with the upmost care and attention, and using the finest ingredients. I was stunned by the Viennoiserie selection, as good as many of the patisseries in Paris, and the Shanghainese dumplings and noodles were divine too, once my stomach got accustomed to the different time zone!

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The restaurants at Middle House are just as popular with outside guests as with those staying. Choose from upmarket Italian food at Frasca, or enjoy a contemporary Chinese feast at Sui Tang Li. I was equally impressed by both eateries.

At Frasca we opted for homemade pasta, cooked to perfection and wonderfully flavoured, paired with cocktails from their ‘gin and tonic’ list. At Sui Tang Li I thought it was best to get the waiters opinion and with his help we tried an array of the menu favourites, including hairy crab dumplings, wagyu beef puffs and melt-in-the-mouth crispy duck. This restaurant is known as one of the best modern Chinese restaurants in the city, and after trying much of the menu, I can definitely see why!

Middle House

On Day two in Shanghai while the jetlag was still taking its toll, we checked out the Middle House’s Mi Xun spa and gym. This serene part of the hotel is found in the basement. Founded by Laurent Boillot, President and CEO of Guerlain, Mi Xun at The Middle House is the first hotel spa in China to offer the boutique Cha Ling treatments, focusing on skincare treatments using combined techniques of traditional Chinese medicine to re-harmonise energy flows and detoxify the skin. We tried the immersive Cha Ling massage, which was reinvigorating and relaxing in equal measure. After a treatment be sure to leave time to experience the beautiful pool and sauna room.

The high-tech gym has everything you need for the most extensive of work-outs. You can also try Hypoxi body shaping machines here for advanced fitness and exercise regimes.

Middle House

For longer stays The Middle House also has the Residences in a separate tower. Guests can book stays from 3 days up to and beyond 1 year. These residences are designed in a similar style to the hotel rooms, but have a more relaxed feel, with kitchens for guests to use at their convenience. Guests can also use all the hotel facilities during their time as residents.

Middle House

Understandably The Middle House is the hotel of choice for Shanghai’s most prestigious and stylish guests, and is particularly popular during Shanghai Fashion Week, Formula 1, and Shanghai Design Fair. So often a hotel of such calibre can forget to excel when it comes to service, but we found it to be of the highest level throughout our stay.

I would recommend this hotel to anyone visiting this cultural destination… the location, design and food at Middle House were all perfect for a Shanghai citybreak and I was sad to say goodbye when it was time to leave.

More information and book a stay at The Middle House hotel here.

Bee Mindful Day at Petersham Nurseries with Cire Trudon

It’s hard to imagine Richmond without Petersham Nurseries, the whimsical venue that is home to many wonderful plants, idyllic gardens and a popular seasonal restaurant & tearoom. This month Petersham Nurseries celebrate their 15th birthday with a host of lovely events, including the Bee Mindful Workshop which I was lucky to experience earlier this week.

Bee Mindful

A group of us assembled in the greenhouse for an immersive day in bee education. The day began with tea and cake and a talk from the Head of Horticulture Martin Ogden. Martin discussed the importance of bees in gardens and how we can help sustain their activity by planting particular species of plants in our gardens. It was fascinating to learn more about the life of a honeybee, that they have ultraviolet vision (so are very attracted to blue and purples), which herbs they enjoy, and how they obtain the pollen and nectar from plants.

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Next on the agenda… raw honey tasting with Sarah Wyndham Lewis, co-founder of the sustainable beekeeping practice, Bermondsey Street Bees. Sarah spoke passionately about honey, the importance of artisan honey-making and how to expertly taste raw honeys. Turns out, the majority of supermarket honey is a cheap imposter of the real thing. We discussed the cultural role of bees, the medicinal effects of some honeys, and the issues affecting bees’ survival in the modern world.

We tasted a selection of uniquely special honeys that Sarah had selected for their qualities. My favourite was a buttercup yellow Leatherwood Honey from Tasmania, and I’ll definitely be investing in some to enjoy at home.

Bee Mindful

Before long it was time for lunch and Petersham Nurseries’ Head Chef Ambra Papa presented us with a seasonal spread of dishes, each inspired by honey.

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We started with perfectly light Garden Fritti seasoned with sage and Amalfi lemon, and Pea Hummus with Fennel Carta di Musica bread. The main course was a delectable feast of Herb Roasted Sirloin of Beef with super sweet Heritage carrots, honey & almond, served with an array of colourful vibrant salads. The meal concluded with Chargrilled Nespole and Ricotta with wild flower honey, and Lincolnshire Poacher with honeycomb.

Bee Mindful

After our epic lunch we needed a wander to avoid falling asleep! The knowledgeable beekeeper Linda Howell explained how she has established a thriving population of bees at Petersham Nurseries with their seven and a half hives.

Bee Mindful

Sadly I had to rush off after the walk, but the rest of the group were lucky enough to have one more session, learning the art of table styling with the Global Buyer and company Brand Ambassador, Ronny De Koning. I had a glimpse of the adorned table and it looked divine.

As I dashed off back to central London, the lovely team at Petersham handed me two goodie bags to take away; a couple of potted herbs to attract the bees near my flat and a beautiful special edition honey candle from Cire Trvdon, which has been made especially for Petersham Nurseries’ 15th birthday. After learning about the magical properties of honey, I can’t wait to restock my cupboards at home with real raw honey and scent my flat with this wonderfully fragranced candle.

A Bee Mindful workshop will take place at Petersham Nurseries on the 28th and tickets can be purchased here. I attended this workshop as a guest of Petersham Nurseries.