Some destinations are special. Ljubljana is one of them.

Straddling the divide between The Balkans and Central Europe, the capital of Slovenia is a fairytale city of rare beauty.

Only a few years ago, Ljubljana was relatively unknown among travellers.

But, the secret got out -and this European jewel is fast becoming a tourist hotspot.

Close to Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, the city of Ljubljana is easy to reach and well set up for visitors.

It’s main attractions are generally located in an attractive Old Town area alongside the pretty Ljubljanica River.

The Slovenian flag fries above Ljubljana Castle

This pedestrian-only city centre boasts strikingly colourful architecture; outdoor cafes and coffee shops; wide public squares; cobblestone streets; museums, a big university; and Baroque fountains, sculptures and monuments.

And above it all sits the imposing Ljubjiana Castle, an 11th Century fortress that can be reached by glass-sided funicular railway or by several walking trails.

From the castle towers, you can see across the red rooftops of the Old Town and over the suburbs of Ljubjiana to the snow-topped Julian Alps in the distance.

Looking down into the medieval castle from the ramparts

Ljubljana  Castle towers are ascended using twisting circular steel ladders.

Everywhere you look in Central Ljubljana there are superbly preserved Art Nouveau buildings, many housing cultural and artistic institutions, such as museums and art galleries.

Others host shops, banks and businesses.

The Cooperative Business Bank, which was designed in 1921 in the Slovene Tricolour.

The fact that Ljubjiana has less than 300,000 permanent residents gives the city a particularly friendly and laid-back atmosphere

Ljubjiana University, with 63,000 students, also helps give the city a vibrancy, as well as boosting the strong local art and music scene.

Ljubljana University

At Ljubljana’s centre is Preseren square, just a short walk from the Old Town across the three-pronged Triple Bridge.

The square is surrounded by beautiful historic architecture, including the salmon-coloured Franciscan Church of the Annuncian.

This among several eye-catching churches in Ljubljana’s heart.

Ljubljana’s Dragon on the bridge that bears its name

Other well known river crossings in central Ljubjiana include the Dragon Bridge and the more-recent structure known locally as the ‘Love Lock Bridge’.

‘Love Locks’ adorning the Ljubljana bridge

Slovenia is a modern country in every sense and its capital city has many trendy bars, including Metelkova Mestre, a former army building that was taken over by squatters and is home to fringe art centres, alternative clubs and music venues.

Senior travellers are probably more interested in the city’s vibrant cafe scene, stunning architecture and range of museums and galleries.

And the city has a growing reputation as a foodies paradise, with many restaurants serving a range of traditional Slovenian fare, including mushroom soup, pork sausages, beef dishes and chicken paprika with dumplings.

A Slovenian sausage meal

Ljubljana is also an excellent base from which no part of Slovenia is more than one hour away.

See more of our Ljubjiana photos:

The city library

Overall, Ljubjiana is a wonderful destination for travellers of any age.

For seniors, it is particularly accessible because the majority of the city’s wonderful attractions are concentrated within its Old Town and easily reached on foot.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit – and believe the city well and truly lives up to its reputation as a hidden European jewell.

See this one before the mass tourist market does.

Age-Friendly score: 9/10 – Ljubiana is flat and easy to get around – even though the central city is largely vehicle-free. The attractions of the old town are close together. Most of the museums and lovely old buildings contains lifts and are wheelchair accessible. The castle can be reached by funicular railway and the city is well served by planes, coaches and trains.

Note: the writer flew to Europe courtesy of Scoot Airlines.

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