Not only is Zagreb an amazing city to visit while traveling in Croatia, it also serves as an awesome home base for some fun, easy day trips! Two of my favorites include a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park and to the lovely city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Slovenia has been on the top of my travel list for quite some time, unfortunately it is not the easiest country to get to from the US. Although I was still not fortunate enough to have the proper amount of time to really explore everything that Slovenia has to offer, on a recent trip to Croatia I managed to sneak in a quick day trip to the country’s capital, Ljubljana.
1. Take the train
So the biggest mistake that we made when planning our day trip to Ljubljana from Zagreb was taking the bus. Having purchased a one way bus ticket for $13, this seemed like a much more affordable option when compared to the $40 train tickets that we were seeing online. When what should have been an easy 2.5 hour bus ride turned into a more grueling 4 hour ride, due to a lengthy border crossing process and various construction roadblocks, we decided to check the train options for our return trip to Zagreb. We were able to buy a same day train ticket back to Zagreb for only $10. Slightly cheaper than the bus, the train provided a much more comfortable, faster, and extremely scenic ride back to Croatia along the water.
2. Don’t forget your passport
I know that this seems obvious, but after reminding my friend countless times to pack hers I actually forgot my own! Luckily the bus driver checked our passports before boarding the bus, however most companies in Croatia will not check until you reach the border!
3. Don’t make a strict plan for the day
What I loved most about Ljubljana was the slow, lazy vibe that encompassed the city. Ljubljana has often been named as one of the most livable cities in Europe, and I can definitely understand why! The city itself is quite small so you have time to wander and explore. Take the time to eat gelato (check out Cacao) and sip refreshing cocktails by the river. We found a cozy cafe to sit and soak up the sun, while treating ourselves to a delicious cheese plate and elderflower gin cocktails of course! We did hike up to the castle (we were lazy and rode the funicular back down) in order to get some aerial views of the city. While the views were pretty nice, I definitely wouldn’t consider this to be a must-see, despite it’s spot at Ljubljana’s top attraction.
4. Eat at Ribe & Vino (Stari Trg 28, Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Our meal here was absolutely incredible. Located on a small side street, this cozy wine spot serves up fresh seafood at great prices! We opted for the shrimp tapas assortment and the grilled bass, and we were definitely not disappointed! The house wine starts at $2 a glass and makes a great accompaniment to the meal!
5. Extend your day trip
Unfortunately we only had one day to spend in this beautiful capital. If you have the time then definitely consider spending a few nights. I was sad that I didn’t get a chance to check out the converted prison cell hostel so if you happen to stay there please send me a message and let me know how it is! 🙂
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
Plitvice Lakes is easily Croatia’s most famous national park, and for a good reason as well! Plitvice has some of the clearest, bluest waters that I have ever seen! It was extremely difficult to resist jumping in for a swim!
Getting to the lakes is extremely easy! There are daily buses leaving from the main bus station in Zagreb. The bus journey takes approximately 2.5 hours and costs $11 each way. Tickets can be purchased directly from the main station, or ahead of time through one of the online booking sites. We took the 7:30am bus, however I would recommend taking the 5:45am bus if you can get yourself out of bed on time, because you will get a chance to see the park without the hoards of tourists.
Entrance tickets cost between $8 and $28 depending on the season. If you’re a student don’t forget your student ID, as the park offers a great discount to anyone presenting an ID!
While are a few restaurants within the park, the food options are limited to burgers and fries, so make sure to pack some of your own food for a picnic along the way!