Things to do and see in Slovenia

Leisure and Relaxing in Slovenia

The opportunities for kicking back, taking it all in and recharging your batteries are many and varied in Slovenia. Indeed, the first time I visited the Soča valley, it was all I could do to stop leaning back and gazing up... still is, in fact.

Of course, most people visit Slovenia for the activities and scenery, which is fair enough, considering that the tourist board keeps banging on about it. Indeed, a few years ago, we were berated by a local PR agency, for daring to promote Slovenia's restaurants and hotel innards, rather than its gob-smaking beauty.
They're not in business anymore.

Tivoli Gardens - The mansion at the centre of the gardens was originally built in the 17th century by Jesuits. Since then it was the residence of the Bishop of Ljubljana and later of the Austrian Prince Radetzky. Behind the gardens is Rožnik, a forrested hill that dominates most of Ljubljana - great for long meandering walks beneath the trees.

Arboretum Volči Potok (Wolf's Creek) - Established in 1952, here you will find eighty hectares of woody flora... and an awful lot of flowers. Open almost all year (08:00-20:00 in the summer, 08:00-17:00 in the winter), a great place to get even further away from it all.

Botanical Gardens - Botanični vrt - Established in 1810, Ljubljana's oldest institution is a lovely example of how to keep something going through the ages of a city. It's a fifteen minute walk from the centre, and a sixty minute lounge when you get there.

Alpinum Juliana - a little way further up the Trenta valley from Bovec is a fairy-tale garden of alpine plants and flowers. Open May - September.

The most impressive and best concert venue we know - anywhere - is in the middle of Ljubljana: Križanke. We've seen Fanfare Ciocarlia, John McLaughlin, Magnifico and Rachid Taha amongst others, and every time was fabulous. Only open in the warmer months, as it's open air(ish). If you're in Ljubljana and something's on, GO.

Brežice is a castle down in Štajerska, which is the hub of a very good classical festival every year. The hall itself is very beautiful - worth visiting just to see it. The organisation of the festival is a little scatty (we've attempted to publicise it for the past three years - and failed), and the website is useless, but mostly because it's all run by just one man. We'll try again in 2010.

Cankarjev dom is Ljubljana's premiere classical concert venue (although other musics are frequently performed). We were privileged (that is, we paid a LOT) to see/hear the LSO and Valery Gergiev belting out Shostakovich 8 in 2009: sublime.

Ljubljana Opera and Ballet - beautiful Renaissance-style pile built in 1882 by Czech architects Hrasky and Hruby... completely bloody well destroyed by some bunch of architectural thugs who seem to think that sticking a bloody great big black box on the top will somehow enhance the work of their Czech brothers.
Children look away now: both the architects and the moron(s) who commissioned this travesty should be bugg... OK, it is a travel website after all. But this kind of thing really wakes up the Prince of Charles in me.

This is a section where we prove ourselves to be a little more picky than the average travel agency (which we're not, by the way). It's also where we part company with the official word from the tourist board, as they wouldn't really like us saying things like...

Most of the spas in Slovenia are bloody awful.

Most of them made their 'name' back in the good ol' days of communist-lite, when a spa was there to invigorate The People, and act as a medicinal recuperation centre for the sickly. Now they're horrid, smelly places, run by pinch-lipped harridans who Know What's Best. In the past few years, many of them have managed to raise funds from the EU (I can't imagine how) to build new so-called 'prestige' hotels within their spa complexes. Do not be fooled: they are just the same as the old stuff, but with new bricks. Crap architecture, too.

This is a terrible shame, as Slovenia is blessed with a geology that gives it lots of natural spas.

Anyway, there are one or two places where you can indulge yourself, like:

Vitarium - maybe the best spa treatment and massage facilities in the country. It's bolted on to the rather naff Smarješka spa in Dolenjska, but don't worry about that. The rooms are also nice and the surrounding countryside is a joy.

Balnea - owned and run by the same people as Vitarium. The other best spa treatment and massage facilities in the country, but not bolted on to the rather naff Smarješka spa: the accommodation is very good indeed.

Sončna Hiša (The Sun House) - strictly speaking not a spa (there's no natural spring), but if you want to be pampered and relaxed, the rooms are beautiful, the saunas lovely and massage is always available.

Things (not) to do...

  • Sitting on the terrace at Nebesa, or Pristava Lepena, or Kendov Dvorec... and gazing
  • Sauntering around Ljubljana
  • Taking a sauna
  • Wandering around castles
  • Ambling around museums
  • Taking in the art at Kostanjevica
  • Sitting by the Soča and considering the maxim that, "You can never sit by the same river twice." Which of course is rubbish.
  • Mountain gazing
  • Hanging around bars
  • Snoozing
  • Lazing in Kendov Dvorec and wondering why Idrija is so quiet