Christmas Market Magic

As the days get darker and ever more frosty, there is nothing more uplifting a city can offer than flooding its central squares with cascades of local food and craft stalls, as music wafts through the air amidst the sounds of cheerful laughter and clinking glasses of gluhwein.

Living in Ljubljana, we have been fortunate enough to be able to access several spectacular Christmas markets within no more than a few minutes’ walk to a few hours’ drive.

Ljubljana, Slovenia Christmas Market

While you may not have read much about Ljubljana’s holiday market in the latest Condé Nast, locals rightfully refer to the last month of the year as “Happy December” where cheerful lights sparkle all the way from the foothills of Ljubljana Grad (city castle) through downtown bus stops and the famous Prešeren Square.

Along the banks of the Ljubljanica river, you will find no shortage of sidewalk cafes outfitted with heat lamps, hot wine, music and charming lights ready to warm up even the coldest nights.

Finally, you will find wooden stalls set up throughout various city squares filled with local artisan crafts including honey liquors (Slovenia is famous for its honey), handmade puppets (another important Slovenian specialty), knitwear, ornaments, as well as more tourist-centric treats.

Klagenfurt, Austria Christmas Market (1 hour 15 minutes from Ljubljana)

You likely have not heard of Klagenfurt, I had not, but it turns out to be a super charming little Austrian town near the border of Slovenia. The town is graced with a gorgeous central square (Neuer Platz) which gets decked out during the holiday season with traditional Austrian food and drink stalls (think sausages, sauerkraut, heaps of hot potato mash, mulled wine, and chestnuts, mmmm), ornament and artisan vendors, pony and train rides for the kids, and live music.

When traveling from Slovenia to Austria (or vice versa), don’t forget to pick up a vignette (the equivalent of a prepaid EZ-Pass valid for a pre-determined number of days) at any local gas station on either side of the border to avoid getting hit with a hefty fine.

Zagreb, Croatia Christmas Market (1 hour 15 minutes from Ljubljana)

If I had to pick one Christmas market to meander, this would be IT. Three things I love about this market: (1) Space. This market spreads throughout the main downtown parks and squares yet is easily walkable so you never feel overwhelmed by crowds (something you do not experience at some of the most famous markets); (2) Variety. The Zagreb Christmas market includes a nice mix of activities and crafts that appeal to all ages (for example: live music and performances from international artists; games, rides, and movies for children; a plethora of hot food and wine; and the most spectacular ice skating rink you can imagine (set up in King Tomislav Square)); and

(3) Atmosphere. I am a sucker for ambiance and I have to say that the lighting at the Zagreb Christmas market is just magical. While all Christmas markets have holiday lights, there is just something extra enchanting about the bluish white icicle lights draped along the garden gazebos and wrapped around the ancient city trees. The mood is electric at night with laughter and dancing abound.

I highly recommend you seek out and experience this Christmas market if you are in the region.

Salzburg, Austria Christmas Market (3 hours from Ljubljana)

As the birthplace of Mozart and considered one of the most charming small cities in Europe, Salzburg has been a well known destination for quite some time. The city boasts one of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe and as a result, there is no shortage of shopping, singing, or strolling to be had.

If you are looking for glitz and glam, this market may be for you, but I must admit that I personally found it to be a little too overrun. As we walked through the main markets, which funnel people through narrow paths, I felt like I was stuck in rush hour traffic full of aggressive drivers.

Perhaps if I had started on mulled wine early in the day I would have felt differently! That being said, there are some great aspects of the Salzburg markets. For example, you will see the characters of Christkindl (Christ-child), St. Nicolas, and Krampusses (evil spirits punishing misbehaving children) throughout the city with no shortage of acting and singing performances. Also, one of the markets has a special area dedicated to children with warm wooden huts outfitted with arts and crafts for a break from the cold. Finally, I must admit that the artisan crafts are undoubtedly among the most beautiful I saw, particularly when it comes to Christmas decor if you are looking for something special to take home with you.

Other Nearby Christmas Markets

Next year I am hoping we will have the opportunity to explore more of the surrounding Christmas markets within an easy weekend’s drive from Ljubljana including: Nuremberg, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Ferrara, Italy (we drove by this town as they were setting up their markets and it was absolutely stunning and off the beaten path); and Trieste, Italy. I will plan on posting about those markets next holiday season.

In the meantime, I hope this article helped peak your interest in considering a trip to Slovenia and the region during the holidays!

Please follow and like us:

A Jaunt Through Jezersko

Located only one hour from Ljubljana (you will be hearing a lot of that from me!), Jezersko (literally meaning “Lake Region”) is a magical place filled with dozens of hiking trails, including a set which conveniently convert to cross-country ski treks in the snowy winter months.


Jezersko offers stunning vistas of majestic mountains nestled in a vast voluptuous valley. I would recommend using the restaurant Gostisce On Plansarskem Jezeru as your home base and treating yourself to a delicious traditional Slovene meal complete with the joyful clatter of locals laughing and clinking glasses either before or after venturing out on your journey.


Heading out from this restaurant, you could do an easy two-hour loop in the Ravenska Kočna Valley past the still lake of Plansarskem Jezeru, along Jezernica stream, and through cow pastures, while enjoying views of both sumptuously green mountainscapes and the stunningly stark north face of the Kamnik-Savinka Alps and their glaciers jutting out into the sky. You will also see the highest peak of Mt. Grintovec.


If you want to venture further, the clearly marked loop around the meadow lands leads to a central hub of harder hiking through forested trails and up the mountains for fantastic views. You can even hike up to the glaciers. These hikes are not for the faint of heart and require some serious physical fitness. If you want to cut straight to the serious stuff there is ample parking right at the trail heads for the harder hikes.

Aside from the spectacular beauty, one of the greatest parts about hiking in this area, in my opinion, is the fact that it does not feel touristy in the least (ironic coming from me, I know). Unlike visits to Bled or Bohinj and the surrounding areas, you do not encounter crowds or tourists. This area is filled with mostly local nature lovers out to enjoy some of Slovenia’s finest.




Please follow and like us:

The Beauty of Lake Bled & Beyond

Lake Bled is probably one of the most visited destinations in Slovenia, and there is not much mystery as to why. With its pristine glacier carved lake surrounded by the Julien Alps, Lake Bled is home to a culturally rich town peppering a portion of the waterfront with charming little restaurants, a 17th century hilltop castle, and a beautiful baroque church situated on its very own island in the middle of the lake. I must say I have never seen such a picturesque lake and I had to blink twice to make sure I wasn’t looking at a painting!


This lake is only a half an hour drive from Ljubljana without traffic and we have already visited it several times. If you are looking to swim without too many bells and whistles you can just find a free spot on the shore and jump in. If you prefer a few more amenities, there are a couple of club houses where you can pay a small entrance fee and get a simple lakeside lunch or refreshments, camp out on lounge chairs or hang up your own hammock under a tree, take a dip in dedicated swimming areas surrounded by docks, go down a slide, or play in a sandbox in the shade (I didn’t see any age restrictions!).


The town of Bled also hosts great events including an annual international music and local food & crafts festival in the summer where visitors stroll along the shores waiting to see 10,000 candles that are released into the water at 10 pm followed by fireworks cascading down from the hilltop castle at 11 pm. Everyone (including little tikes…it is Europe after all!) stay up to make sure not to miss out on the action.


Don’t worry if you are not in town for this specific festival, since Bled hosts many great events throughout the year including many athletic (triathlons, etc.) and cultural events. Here is a good link to help plan a visit if you want to take advantage of the goings on.


Bled is a great destination if you are looking for cultural excitement mixed with natural beauty. You should keep in mind that it does get touristy, particularly in August. If you are looking to avoid the crowds (although Slovenia doesn’t get that crowded compared to other places I have been), you could consider visiting at a different time of year. Each season is beautiful here. Lake Bled is also a great jumping off destination to visit Triglav National Park and experience gorgeous gorges, waterfalls, camping, hiking, and other beautiful lakes in the wilderness.


Stay tuned for future articles to learn more about the region!

Please follow and like us: