Ljubljana: Romantic, and yet Modern Beauty

Every city has “must see” and “must visit” sights, and of course, so does the green capital of ours. 

Romance under the window

Let us start from the center of Ljubljana where central, so-called Prešeren Square, named after one of Slovenian greatest poets and the one who unknowingly wrote Slovenian national anthem. There he stands, turned towards the window of Julia, his lifetime love, and muse, in a pose of a troubadour.

The square and heartbroken but forever in love Prešeren, whose surname in Slovenian language means “happy”, truly represents a spirit of this historical but modern city.

On we go

On Prešeren Square (Prešernov trg)  Franciscan Church of the Annunciation (Frančiškanska cerkev) is located. It was built in the 17th century and it replaced an older Gothic church which stood once on the same site. The church is built in an early-Baroque style but much of the original frescos were ruined by the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895.

Up, on the so-called Castle Hill, stand a medieval castle with Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural elements, Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski grad). The area of today’s castle was continuously inhabited since 1200 BC. The castle was built in the 12th century and was a residence of the  Margraves, later the Dukes of Carniola. The castle’s Viewing Tower dates to 1848 and still today fire cannons are fired in case of some bigger accidents such as fires, but also for announcing an important visitors or events. It is a place where cultural events and weddings are taking place.

On another square, a Town Square, a Town Hall (Mestna hiša, Magistrat), is located and is the seat of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. The original building was built in a Gothic style in 1484. Between 1717 and 1719, the building underwent a Baroque renovation. There, at Town Square also stands a replica of the Baroque Robba Fountain. The original has been moved into the National Gallery in 2006. The Robba Fountain is decorated with an obelisk at the foot of which there are three figures in white marble symbolising the three chief rivers of Carniola. It is work of Francesco Robba, who designed numerous other Baroque statues in the city.

At Cyril and Methodius Square (Ciril-Metodov trg) by the nearby Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall,  Ljubljana Cathedral (ljubljanska stolnica), or St. Nicholas’s Cathedral (stolnica sv. Nikolaja), serves the Archdiocese of Ljubljana. Cathedral is easily identifiable due to its green dome and twin towers and was set up in 1461.  Between 1701 and 1706, the Jesuit architect Andrea Pozzo designed the Baroque church with two side chapels shaped in the form of a Latin cross. The dome was built in the center in 1841. The interior is decorated with Baroque frescos painted by Giulio Quaglio between 1703–1706 and 1721–1723.

In the early 20th century, Ljubljana was one of the first cities in the world to get 13 floors tall building, called “Nebotičnik”, which means Skyscraper. Construction began in July 1930 and the building opened on 21 February 1933. It was for some time the tallest residential building in Europe. Designed by the Slovenian architect Vladimir Šubic, Nebotičnik combines elements of the Neoclassical and the Art-Deco architecture. Drinking coffee at the top of the Ljubljana’s nebotičnik is something as important to Slovenians as it is to climb a Triglav mountain.

*featured photography: Petar Milošević: Art déco spiral stairs.

Greens of Ljubljana

The largest park of Ljubljana is Tivoli City Park (Mestni park Tivoli). It was designed in 1813 by the French engineer Jean Blanchard and now covers approximately 5 km2(1.9 sq mi). The park was laid out during the French imperial administration of Ljubljana in 1813 and named after the Parisian Jardins de Tivoli. Between 1921 and 1939, it was renovated by the Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, who unveiled his statue of Napoleon in 1929 in Republic Square and designed a broad central promenade, called the Jakopič Promenade (Jakopičevo sprehajališče) after the leading Slovene impressionist painter Rihard Jakopič. Within the park, there are different types of trees, flower gardens, several statues, and fountains. Several notable buildings stand in the park, among them Tivoli Castle, the National Museum of Contemporary History and the Tivoli Sports Hall.

In the western part of the city, you will find Tivoli–Rožnik Hill–Šiška Hill Landscape Park .

There is also the Ljubljana Botanical Garden (Ljubljanski botanični vrt) that covers 2.40 hectares (5.9 acres) next to the junction of the Gruber Canal and the Ljubljanica, south of the Old Town. It is the central Slovenian botanical garden and the oldest cultural, scientific, and educational organization in the country. It started operating under the leadership of Franc Hladnik in 1810. Of over 4,500 plant species and subspecies, roughly a third is endemic to Slovenia, whereas the rest originate from other European places and other continents. The institution is a member of the international network Botanic Gardens Conservation International and cooperates with more than 270 botanical gardens all across the world.

In 2014, Ljubljana won the European Green Capital Award for 2016 for its environmental achievements.

Taking a walk

Ljubljana central square is already mentioned the Prešeren Square. It got it’s modern appearance since the end of the 19th century.  Slovene national poet France Prešeren with a muse stands in the middle of the square. The Prešeren Monument was created by Ivan Zajec in 1905, whereas the pedestal was designed by Max Fabiani. The square and surroundings have been closed to traffic since 1 September 2007.

The largest of the squares is the Republic Square, at first named Revolution Square. It was designed in the second half of the 20th century by Edvard Ravnikar. On 26 June 1991, the independence of Slovenia was declared here. The National Assembly Building stands at its northern side, and Cankar Hall, named after on of the Slovenians greatest writers, the largest Slovenian cultural and congress center, at the southern side. 

One of the most important centers of the city is the Congress Square (Kongresni trg). It was built in 1821 for ceremonial purposes such as Congress of Ljubljana after which it was named. Since then it became an important center for political ceremonies, demonstrations and protests, such as the ceremony at the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ceremony of the liberation of Belgrade, protests against Yugoslav authority in 1988 etc. The square also houses several important buildings, such as the University of Ljubljana Palace, Philharmonic Hall, Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity, and the Slovene Society Building. In the center of the square is the Star Park (Park Zvezda). In 2010 and 2011, the square was heavily renovated and is now mostly closed to road traffic on ground area.

 

Crossing the River

Four bridges in Ljubljana exist that will make crossing the Ljubljanica River more fulfilled and special.

The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges, connecting two parts of Ljubljana’s downtown, located on both banks of the Ljubljanica. Originally, there was only a single bridge, which linked Central Europe and the Balkans. In order to prevent an 1842 stone arch bridge from being a bottleneck, two additional pedestrian bridges on either side of the central one were added in 1932 according to the Plečnik’s 1929 design. He decorated them with large stone balusters and lamps. There are two staircases, leading to terraces above the river, the banks with poplars, and the Ljubljana fish market. Two Plečnik’s urban axes of Ljubljana, the water axis, and the Ljubljana Castle–Rožnik Axis, cross the bridge.

 

The Trnovo Bridge is the most prominent object of Plečnik’s renovation of the banks of the Gradaščica. It is located in the front of the Trnovo Church to the south of the city center. It connects the neighborhoods of Krakovo and Trnovo, the oldest Ljubljana suburbs, known for their market gardens and cultural events. It was built between 1929 and 1932. It is distinguished by its width and two rows of birches that it bears, because it was meant to serve as a public space in front of the church. Each corner of the bridge is capped with a small pyramid, a signature motif of Plečnik’s, whereas the mid-span features a pair of Art-Deco male sculptures. There is also a statue of Saint John the Baptist on the bridge, the patron of the Trnovo Church. It was designed by Nikolaj Pirnat.

The Dragon Bridge, built by Josef Melan and designed by Jurij Zaninović, is often regarded as the most beautiful bridge produced by the Vienna Secession. When opened in 1901, it had the third largest arch in Europe. Today, it is protected as a technical monument.

The Hradecky Bridge is one of the first hinged bridges in the world, the first and the only preserved cast iron bridge in Slovenia, and one of its most highly valued technical achievements. The Hradecky Bridge was manufactured according to the plans of the senior engineer Johann Hermann from Vienna in the Auersperg iron foundry in Dvor near Žužemberk, and installed in Ljubljana in 1867, at the location of today’s Cobblers’ Bridge.

The Butchers’ Bridge was officially opened in July 2010 and completes Plečnik’s plans from the 1930s. The largest sculptures on the bridge, created by the sculptor Jakov Brdar, represent figures from Ancient Greek mythology and Biblical stories. Shortly after the opening, padlocks of couples in love started appearing on its steel wires, symbolizing declarations of eternal love, a phenomenon similar to the one on the Parisian Pont des Arts.

 

We will finish our sightseeing here, on the bridge of lovers.
So, hope you enjoyed our short walk around romantic Ljubljana.

With love,
Kovac M

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