In Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, expect cobblestone streets, green spaces to relax in, riverside cafes for a lazy, unhurried cuppa and a centre that is blissfully car-free. Inventive measures over the past 10 years have catapulted Ljubljana as the European Green Capital for 2016. Even the dragon, the symbol of the city, is green.

Which, of course, makes Ljubljana the ideal green travel destination – eco-friendly public transport, gorgeous green spaces and its sustainable tourism policies could make for an interesting study for larger cities to capitalise on their potential as future urban oases.

Dragon Bridge, Ljubljana, Slovenia - European Green Capital for 2016

Dragon Bridge. Photo: A. Frelih/ Ljubljana Tourism

Now check this: Ljubljana has 542 square metres of public green space per resident, while the city features 80 hectares of newly maintained green spaces, and green spaces are still being created from degraded urban land.

There are some quirky green projects where tech and creativity combine to show the eco-credentials of this gorgeous city.

Aerial photo of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia.

Aerial photo of Ljubljana. View from above the historic centre of the city. Photo: Ljubljana Tourism

Green Stay in a Former Prison-turned-Sustainable Hostel

Once a prison for 100 years, Hostel Celica is an intriguing space – several artists and supporters gathered to support the initiative to transform the barracks into a multicultural center. This was done by illegally occupying the abandoned barracks in 1993. The city authorities tried everything including switching off electrical and water supplies to dissuade them but the most persistent stayed. It took 10 years of creative planning, transformation and restoration of the old military prison into a youth hostel to get approval and the first guests are welcomed at Hostel Celica in July 2003.

Featuring 20 artistically renovated former prison cells – today hostel cells – each one is completely different, with its own story, concept and author or group of authors. There is one common theme: the original cell bars on the door and window. This unique hostel is also certified as sustainable.

slovenia llubljana hostel celica_zunaj

How would you like to spend the night in a cell? Photo: Hostel Celica

How Blue is the Sky? Sci-Fi Monolith in the Green Capital Shows You

For inspiration for his new art installation, intermedia artist Baraga turned to Geneva-based scientist Horace Benedict de Saussure, who invented the cyanometer in 1789. The original was a simple circular tool with 53 shades of blue with which Saussure documented the blueness of the sky. He concluded that blueness is influenced by moisture and the amount of suspended particles in the atmosphere.

The Cyanometer is both a monument and a software that periodically collects images of the sky. The collated data is refreshed every hour and simultaneously sent to an online archive, calculating the pollution index. Powered by solar panels, the Cyanometer is self-sustaining. A clever design using green energy and open source technology! Check out the official website and follow the measured data any time.

The Cyanometer is a new nonument from the Nonument series – a series of Martin Bricelj Baraga’s futuristic, sci-fi and utopian installations and objects in public spaces. On display at the Slovenska road until the end of 2016.

Slovenia Ljubljana cyanometer

Cyanometer on Slovenska Road by Martin Bricelj Baraga. Photo: Ljubljana Tourism

Electric Mobility in the Pedestrian Centre and A Free Bike-Sharing Network

In 2012, the core city centre area was closed for motorized vehicles. At Ecophiles, we never stop going on about public transport and walking as the ideal way to explore a city – this policy makes the centre perfect for pedestrians. And there’s also this wicked electric car called the Kavalir – a bit like golf carts that you can hop on and hop off – and all for free!

If you want to hire a bicycle, there’s a popular self-service system BicikeLJ. The BicikeLJ bicycle-sharing system lets you hire bikes from self-service terminals located across the wider Ljubljana city centre. Shorter, hour-long rides are free – simply return a hired bicycle to the nearest docking station within an hour and wait for five minutes before hiring a new one. Register on the BicikeLJ website to start. Ljubljana also has an increasing number of buses, running on methane which are contributing to the decrease of carbon footprint.

Kavali, Ljubljana, Slovenia - European Green Capital for 2016 Photo: Dunja Wedam

Kavalir. Photo: Dunja Wedam/ Photo: Ljubljana Tourism

Eco-friendly Ways to Explore Llubljana

There are several wonderful ways to see the city in a totally different light – how about stand-up paddle boarding on the river Ljubljanica? Get an river view of Ljubljana’s preserved evidence of a 5000-year history including the old city centre with its medieval castle, Baroque façades, decorative portals and uneven roofs, picturesque bridges across the Ljubljanica river and the vast Tivoli park, which stretches into the very city centre.

Ljubljana’s appearance is partly due to the Italian Baroque and partly to Art Nouveau, which found expression in numerous buildings constructed after the earthquake of 1895.

Biking is another very popular way to see the city, while there are several wonderful day hikes from the capital.

Stand up paddleboarding on the river in Ljubljana

Photo: Zelena Dozivetja/ Photo: Ljubljana Tourism

We hope that such creative efforts can be replicated in other cities and that the movement towards sustainability continues to maintain its momentum. And finally…

Green facts about Ljubljana at a Glance

  • By 2020, Ljubljana plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 per cent.
  • By 2020, Ljubljana intends to achieve a modal split of one-third of public transport, one-third of walking and cycling, and one-third of private motor vehicle transport.
  • The Ljubljana area is home to 161 bird species, 86 of them endangered.
  • Ljubljana is the first capital of a European Union country to have announced a zero waste plan.
  • Ljubljana has received several international awards for its mobility strategy and the accessibility of public spaces to mobility-impaired people.