publishes travel guides curated by “spotters” — locals keen on sharing recommendations beyond those on the well-worn path. Contributor and Italian writer Edoardo Parenti has lived in Milan, London, Madrid, Vienna, and Athens and probably understands — better than anyone — the need and desire to get down to brass tacks when landing in a new place. Who lives here? What makes the place tick? And, of course, where's the party?
Ljubljana, SLOVENIA – The tiny capital of an equally tiny European state, Ljubljana is the harmonious result of centuries of culture croissings: The city has been the meeting point for Slavs, Germans, and Italians, all of whom left their marks. There is a persistent, tender belief that the name of the city originates from the Slovenian word ljubljena, meaning "beloved.";
Indeed, it is easy to fall in love with Ljubljana. Bike-friendly and green, embellished by Baroque and Secession-era building, Ljubljana makes for a perfect, pleasant gateway to Slovenia and its enchanting, fairytale-like lands. But aside from the charming and obvious tourist sites, Ljubljana offers a cool vibe that reverberates under the radar.
HEAD TO THE BAR
Štefanova 1; +386-40-601-787
Upon its completion in the 1930s, the Nebotičnik was the tallest building in the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Its terrace hosts a smart restaurant and bar offering some of the most breathtaking views over Ljubljana (no matter what the weather is like).
Krekov trg 7; +386-59-055-538
Stepping into this old-fashioned watering hole feels like hanging out at your Slavic grandmother's house. Except here, you can also take part in small concerts and literary happenings.
Rimska Cesta 21; +386-12-510-324
When the sun sets, the city's cool kids and alternative celebrities flock to the tiny bar, crowding in front of its painted external walls. It is considered one of the trendiest spot in the city, yet the atmosphere is chill and friendly.
GRAB A BITE
Recna Ulica 8; +386-14-264-508
Though it's just south of the city center, the impression is that you've been transported to the countryside. The generous portions of traditional food taste even better from the outdoor patio.
Poljanska Cesta 7; +386-51-491-491
Sustainability is at the core of this pretty restaurant outfitted with vintage furniture. The offerings here are healthy (rich in vitamins, low in sugars) and the restaurant employs hard-up young people looking for a second chance.
Prešernov Trg; +386-40-298-589
Journalist and world traveller Iva Gruden is in charge of a team of gourmands and experts that will take you around to discover the best restaurants, cafés, and bars in town (hence keeping you clear from any tourist traps).
TAKE A WALK
Tivoli Park; no telephone
The main public park is the to-go spot for strolling. It's here that you'll find the Tivoli Mansion, which hosts the International Centre of Graphic Arts, a collection of fine art prints.
Vodnikov Trg 6; +386-13-001-230
Built by architect Jože Plečnik, whose contribution to Slovenian architecture is nationally praised, the market is the place par excellence to meet and have a chat with the locals — among stalls of fresh produce, meat, fish, and flowers.
Robboca Ulica; no telephone
Under its open arcades, built after WWII, rest some of the most well-known figures of Slovenian history. As morbid as it sounds, this cemetery/pantheon is a peaceful place to go for a stroll and self-contemplation.
SPEND A PRETTY PENNY
Metelkova 2; +386-13-008-700
Another noteworthy masterpiece designed by Jože Plečnik, Lectarija is now the museum shop of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Within its estored interiors are contemporary Slovenian arts and crafts.
Ciril-Metodov Trg 13; +386-12-321-743
In the very heart of Ljubljana’s old town, just a stone's thrown from the central market, you'll find a creative mix of products from emerging Slovenian designers — a nice souvenir idea among the kitsch.
Copova Ulica 3; +386-14-262-205
This historic bonbonnière sells delicious chocolate treats from Kraš — a well-known Croatian food company that specializes in sweet confections. To recover your energies, try the bajadera or ledene kocke.
SNAP A PIC
Gosposvetska Ulica 7; +386-51-814-453
For those of you interested in graffiti, illustrations, and graphics, pop over to the Universal Atelier of Street Art. It is run by the 1107 klan, a street artist collective that has become pretty famous in the city's cultural panorama for its ambitious and colourful murals.
Prekomorskih Brigad Trg 3; +386-30-310-110
Inside this cinema, the surprise is in the toilets! The Zek e Mutipraktik artist crew has drawn more than 70 figures "waiting" on its external wall, transforming the bathroom into an alternative graffiti exhibition.
Walk up the 90 steps on street in the city center and you will be repaid with an amazing view of the city. No wonder the spot is so popular (especially at sunset) with couples.
HAVE A BLAST
Slomškova Ulica 18; +386-51-269-906
This old power station has been converted into a multi-use venue that hosts theatrical performances, workshops, readings, and so forth. There line-up is pretty rich, so make sure to check the calendar to see what's going on there.
Metelkova; no telephone
An autonomous cultural center in old military barracks, Metelkova is home to art galleries and studios, a hostel, concert venue, and, again, more graffiti. Just don't expect to leave too soon once you’re there — the good vibe are addicting.
Zaloka Cesta 69; +386-59-139-552
In an 18th-century mansion, the "Golden Tooth" is the place for hearing great quality Gypsy music and drink rakija, a spirit widespread in the Balkans.