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Secret Dinner at Krizevniska Cerkev in Ljubljana Slovenia

6 Essential Ljubljana Food Experiences

In Europe, Slovenia by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch1 Comment

Check out the six Ljubljana food experiences that you shouldn’t miss when you visit the charming Slovenian capital city. 

Secret Dinner at Krizevniska Cerkev in Ljubljana Slovenia

Our Secret Dinner experience at Krizevniska Cerkev was nothing short of monumental.

Our first impression of Slovenia was through a window during an overnight late June bus ride from Bologna, Italy to Zagreb, Croatia. We exited the furnace-like Italian summer heat and found ourselves rolling through cool breezy alpine woods gazing at quaint chalet homes along green, pastoral hills. It wasn’t until we visited two months later that we realized the addictive charms that Slovenia’s polished gem of a capital city, Ljubljana, has to offer.

Triple Bridge in Ljubljana Slovenia

Though most travelers spend just a few days in Ljubljana Slovenia before heading to nearby Lake Bled or deeper into the lush country’s rolling hills, we decided to stay in Ljubljana for two weeks. Prior to our visit, we assumed that a fortnight would be plenty of time to explore the compact capital city and its culinary scene.

Beyond devoting a day or two to Ljubljana sightseeing, we planned to spend much of our visit catching up on work. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us), these industrious plans never came to fruition.

Dragon in Ljubljana Slovenia

The Ljubljana dragon doesn’t scare away crowds in the pedestrian-friendly city.

From the moment we arrived in one of Europe’s most charming capitals, Ljubljana put a spell on us that never dissipated. We immediately took to the city’s pedestrian-friendly streets and Jože Plečnik designed bridges that traverse the Ljubljanica River.

Slowly discovering the city’s charms, we wandered through old cobblestone lanes, identifying restaurants and cafes we wished to try during our visit. The choices were numerous in a dining scene that could be humbly described as one of the most underrated on the European mainland.

Things started getting interesting once we met Ljubljana insiders during several Ljubljana food experiences. Welcoming us as if we were old friends, these locals generously helped us to quickly unpeel the city’s layers to reveal a gem shinier than we had ever imagined – a gastronomically focused city populated by some of the most genuine people we have ever met.

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Ljubljana Food Experiences

Porcini Mushrooms - Ljubljana Food

Available at the city’s Central Market, these porcini mushrooms are a prime example of the culinary bounty available in Ljubljana.

Whether a visit to Ljubljana is for a two-day European city break or a two-week holiday, there are enough fun things to do in Ljubljana to keep travelers busy from dawn to dusk. Sure, the city has cool tourist sites like the Ljubljana Castle and Tivoli Park as well as funky street art and adorable shops, but, in our opinion, the best thing to explore in Ljubljana is the food.

Though most tourists aren’t familiar with Slovenian food, the tiny, chicken-shaped country occupies an important place in Europe’s vast food continuum with a range of foods that rival some of the greatest in France, Italy, or Spain. If you’re wondering what to eat in Slovenia, you will be surprised by both the quality and quantity of options.

Great produce like tomatoes is bountiful in the summer while giant glorious wild porcini and chanterelle mushrooms appear in autumn. Slovenia is no slouch in the wine world either, offering big reds like Teran and Refošk along with white wines like Sivi Pinot and Friuliano.

Most people have never eaten local foods like Štruklji, the most classic Slovenian dish. Inspired by neighboring countries like Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, Ljubljana’s skilled Slovenian chefs make good use of some of Europe’s best ingredients readily available at local farms and markets. Spoiler alert – the food in Ljubljana is outstanding.

We dove deep into the Ljubljana food scene during our visit in an ambitious attempt to learn and taste as much Slovenian wine and food as we could fit in our stomachs. Based on our noble effort, we wholeheartedly recommend the following essential Ljubljana food experiences:

Cook Eat Slovenia Cooking Class

Cook Eat Slovenia - Spela Vodovc - Ljubljana Food

Spela Vodovc brings a passion for Slovenian food and a good rolling pin to her Cook Eat Slovenia classes.

Cooking classes are a great way to learn about a country’s culture through its food. Based on our positive experience with a Catalan cooking class, we jumped at the chance to attend a cooking class with Cook Eat Slovenia for an introduction to Slovenian food.

A self-proclaimed “local girl” who learned how to cook from her parents, Špela Vodovc operates Cook Eat Slovenia with the mission of introducing travelers to Slovenian food. Vodovc takes this mission seriously as we learned during the interactive, fun evening cooking class conducted at a restaurant in the heart of Ljubljana.

Cook Eat Slovenia - Strujkli Demo in Ljubljana Slovenia

Spela Vodovc taught us the art of rolling Struklji dough early during our Cook Eat Slovenia cooking class. Preparation is time sensitive as Strujkli dough must rest for at least 30 minutes.

Armed with glasses of dry white Istrian wine and starters like salted, cured pork spreads and cottage cheese with wild garlic and toasted pumpkin seed oil, we started our cooking class by learning that Slovenia has 24 culinary regions responsible for 250 dishes as well as three main wine regions that produce numerous wine varietals. Our education didn’t stop with facts.

Vodovc soon had us rolling up our sleeves so that we could learn about Slovenian food by cooking it ourselves. Task number one – preparing dough for Štruklji that we’d be eating later.

Cook Eat Slovenia - Toc with Prosciutto in Ljubljana Slovenia

We recreated this dish at our Airbnb apartment a few days after our Cook Eat Slovenia class. The dish’s key ingredients are proscuitto, polenta, mushrooms and wine.

Over the next four hours, Vodovc led us on a culinary journey with hands-on lessons on how to prepare Slovenian classics. The wine continued to flow as we cooked and ate traditional Slovenian food specialties like Toč with Proscuitto (polenta with Slovenia’s version of the dried ham made world-famous in Italy, yet no less great in Slovenia) and Chicken over Ajdova Kaša z Gobami (buckwheat kasha with mushrooms).

Each dish was a revelation but none more than dessert…

Cook Eat Slovenia - Cottage Cheese Struklji in Ljubljana Slovenia

Stuffed with a sweet cottage cheese and topped with sauteed bread crumbs, this golden Struklji was a luscious end to our Cook Eat Slovenia cooking class.

We finished the food portion of our Cook Eat Slovenia experience by eating the Štruklji that we started preparing at the start of the evening. Dating back to the 16th century, Štruklji can be sweet or savory with fillings varying by the season. Our Štruklji, filled with cottage cheese and topped with crispy bread crumbs, tasted all the sweeter since we had rolled it ourselves.

Vodovc ended the fun evening by serving us a selection of homemade liqueurs. She colorfully described each liqueur as we sipped the digestives made with blueberries, dandelion, wild cherry and spruce.

Though she explained that the “sun does the magic” with the liqueurs, we know that was only half of the truth. On this food-focused night in Ljubljana, Vodovc created the real magic.

Pro Tip:  Ramp up your vacation with a week-long Slovenian cooking and wine tasting holiday. Celebrating the country’s food, wine and nature, this type of holiday is the ultimate Slovenia culinary experience.

Click here to book a cooking class with Cook Eat Slovenia.

Ljubljana Yum Walking Tour

Ljubljana Yum - Iva Gruden

Iva Gruden, the owner of LjubljanaNjam, led our food walking tour in Ljubljana.

Although Ljubljana is a relatively small city, the number of restaurants, cafes and bars can be surprisingly overwhelming to travelers on an authentic food quest. The team at LjublanaNjam solves this dilemma with their excellent Ljubljana Yum food and drink guided walking tours.

Formerly a photojournalist, owner Iva Gruden began her Ljubljana food tour business in 2013. She now offers tours focused on Ljubljana craft beer and Slovenian wine in addition to the company’s signature food walks.

Ljubljana Yum Food Walking Tour - Deconstructed Sandwiches at Nisa in Ljubljana Slovenia

We ate a sampling of Ljubljana food during our Ljubljana Yum tour including these deconstructed sandwiches topped with local ingredients.

Our Ljubljana Yum food walk provided us with a great start to exploring the city’s culinary bounty. We learned about craft beer’s long history in Ljubljana dating back to the 19th century – with tastes included. Plus, with stops at five stops at local eateries, we ate the equivalent of a full-course meal while we chatted about the city’s history, architecture and food culture.

Ljubljana Yum - Coffee at Ziferblat in Ljubljana Slovenia

Our Ljubljana Yum walking food tour ended with coffee.

If you think that Ljubljana is nothing more than a little city with a long name that’s difficult to pronounce, taking a food tour will show you that the city has much to offer visitors including those who like good food. In other words, the city has something for everybody.

Pro Tip:  Take a Ljubljana Yum walking food tour soon after you arrive in Ljubljana. Not only will you get a lay of the land, you will also make contacts that will come in handy during your visit.

Click here to book a Ljubljana Yum food walking tour.

Ljubljana Wine Experience

Ljubljana Wine Experience Tour Guide - Andre Meznarcic

Andrej Meznarcic introduced us to Slovenian wine during our Ljubljana Wine Experience.

Slovenian wine was a revelation to us. After drinking wine around the world from Spain to South Africa, we were ignorant about Slovenia’s Podravje, Posavje and Primorska wine regions and the wine varietals. Looking to correct this situation, we signed up for a Ljubljana Wine Experience tour soon after we arrived in Ljubljana.

More than up to the challenge, tour guide Andrej Mežnarčič started our wine tour with a funicular ride to the Ljubljana Castle so that we could visit a clone of the world’s oldest vine in Maribor. He then walked us into the former military fortress’ Archer Tower for a private wine tasting of three excellent Slovenian wines.

Ljubljana Wine Experience - Inside Ljubljana Castle

The Ljubljana Wine Experience starts at the Ljubljana Castle, a fitting location for drinking Slovenian wine.

Mežnarčič made us feel at home in the grand space as we started our tasting with a limited edition Blanc en Blanc from Zlata Penina paired with bites of Slovenian prosciutto, aged cow cheese and local figs. By the time we sipped funky, fruity wine from Versus that reminded us of Tokai, we were practically experts. And, once we finished glasses of semi-sweet Traminec from Steyer paired with thyme macarons, we were Slovenian wine fans.

Ljubljana Wine Experience - Nibbles

The Ljubljana Wine Experience provides more than an introduction to Slovenian wine. The tour also includes tastes of local foods that enhance the wine.

After strolling through the castle’s vineyards, we walked down to the city to continue our wine education. At Vinoteka Movia Cenik, we sampled three wines from the Primorska region along with a gorgeous plate of pancetta and cheese. Hours after we started, we finished our Slovenian wine crash course at Dobrote Dolenjske where we drank wine from the Dolenjska region and nibbled on marmalade and cheese.

Pro Tip:  Take a wine tour in Ljubljana so that you can fully appreciate Slovenian wine in the city dubbed the City of Vine and Wine.

Click here to book a Ljubljana Wine Experience tour.

Open Kitchen (Odprta Kuhna)

Open Kitchen - Argentino - Ljubljana Food Market

Experiencing the quality and quantity of the food at Open Kitchen is mind-blowing. Pictured here is a grill master from Argentino.

Open Kitchen is the place to be every Friday from March to October when restaurants from all over Slovenia convene at Ljubljana’s Pogačarjev trg square to sell exciting food at reasonable prices to crowds of hungry locals and tourists. Eaters mingle with chefs while the beer and wine flow freely. Yes, visitors can purchase wine and beer to go with their Ljubljana dishes at this unique market.

Open Kitchen - Gostalina Pri Mari - Ljubljana Food Market

Restaurants like Gostalina Pri Mari vie to participate in Open Market.

Started in 2013 by Lior Kochavy, an Israeli entrepreneur who moved to Ljubljana after falling in love with a Slovenian woman, Open Kitchen celebrates the amazing diversity of Slovenia’s cuisine by bringing the food to the street.

Wildly popular, the market has three criteria of participating restaurants:  (1) the restaurant must be of excellent quality and rated in the top nationally for its class, (2) the restaurant must use creativity in their preparation and (3) the offerings must be unique so that no two stalls serve the same food.

Beyond the restaurant selection, the organizers of Open Kitchen Ljubljana take pride in being Europe’s greenest market with a zero waste policy using 100% recyclable products. In other words, eating at Open Kitchen is good for the environment, a win-win situation for people who like both good food and the earth.

Open Kitchen - Chef Janez Bratovz in Ljubljana Slovenia

Chef Janez Bratovz, the father of modern Slovenian cuisine, is a key participant at Open Kitchen. Tasting his food was a  sneak preview of the extraordinary meal we would later eat at JB Restaurant.

Kochavy took time out of his busy schedule to walk us around the innovative market and introduce us to many of the proficient chefs and their food. While we walked and talked, Kochavy gave us a culinary tour of Slovenia and encouraged us to taste foods like horse filet, gypsy cake, ravioli with cracklings and fried veal.

During our tour, we sampled global cuisines more typically eaten in Asia and the Middle East. And macarons. We always find room for the tiny French treats even in Ljubljana.

Pro Tip:  Due to its outdoor setting, Open Kitchen does not operate when the weather is inclement. In other words, keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain when you visit Ljubljana.

Click here to learn more about Open Kitchen.

Secret Dinner

Secret Dinner in Ljubljana Slovenia - Chef Bine Volcic

Acclaimed Chef Bine Volcic, the owner of  Monstera Bistro, led the culinary efforts at the Ljubljana’s inaugural Secret Dinner.

Ljubljana’s Secret Dinner concept takes restaurant dining to the next level with monthly pop-up dinners in unusual locations. And by unusual, we mean super cool. Beyond the fun factor of dining in venues like a gothic church or a Harley Davidson dealer, diners at a Secret Dinner can expect creative menus prepared by the country’s top chefs.

Thanks to some maneuvering by Cook Eat Slovenia’s Špela Vodovc (see above), we attended the inaugural Secret Dinner at Krizevniska Cerkev also known as the Church of the Cross. This Baroque building reconstructed in the early 18th century served as an epic venue for a multi-course dinner inspired by the Last Supper.

To say that this setting made for a unique dining experience is nothing short of an understatement.

Secret Dinner in Ljubljana Slovenia - Dessert topped with a Communion Wafer

Inspired by the food served at the biblical Last Supper, this innovative budino dessert was literally topped with a communion wafer.

Celebrity Chef Bine Volčič left no stone unturned when he trail-blazed the inaugural Secret Dinner. We still can’t get over the opportunity to eat his creative menu in one of Ljubljana’s most historic churches while listening to classic rock music. Without a doubt, the monthly Secret Dinner is a unique Ljubljana food experience that should not be missed.

Pro Tip:  Only sign up for a Secret Dinner if you are a flexible diner. Not only will you find out the surprise venue three hours before the dinner, you won’t be able to request dietary modifications.

Click here if you are interested in participating in a Ljubljana Secret Dinner.

Gostišče Grič

Gostisce Gric Scenery in Slovenia

Gostisce Gric is located in Sentjost nad Horjulom. Just 20 kilometers from Ljubljana, the scenery feels like another world.

Located in the picturesque village of Šentjošt nad Horjulom 20 kilometers from the capital, Gostišče Grič is a restaurant worthy of a Ljubljana day trip. Not that a special trip is a hardship when the scenery is so pretty, but the real reason to trek to Gostišče Grič is the spectacular food.

Gostice Gric - Cheese Plate

Served on a wood plank, our daily cheese selection at Gostisce Gric included goat cow and sheep varieties as well as sundried tomatoes.

Chef Luka Košir started his culinary career at JB Restaurant and ran his own restaurant before returning home to open Gostišče Grič in 2009. Fast forward to the present and Gostišče Grič is a family affair with Košir’s sister serving food and his father crafting custom wood plates while not running the family’s duck farm.

Gostice Gric - Potato Pumpkin Soup

The Potato Pumpkin Soup at Gostisce Gric featured homegrown vegetables as well as sour cream and bacon procured from a local farm in a nearby village.

Košir takes pride in serving food that’s as local as possible, with many of the restaurant’s ingredients grown in the onsite gardens or foraged from the nearby forest. Besides operating a duck farm, the team at Gostišče Grič also produces its own liquor.

Our meal was a culinary masterpiece filled with world-class cooking and beautiful food. Humble and kind, Košir is creating some of the best food we’ve eaten not only in Slovenia but anywhere in the world.

Pro Tip:  We recommend arranging a rental car through Holiday Autos to get to Gostišče Grič. Another option is to take the 56 bus. The bus stop is a short uphill walk to the restaurant. Either way, the journey should take you under an hour.

Click here to learn more about Gostišče Grič. 


Hungry for more? Check out our Ljubljana Food Guide with the best Ljubljana restaurants, cafes and markets. And if you’re thirsty, our guide will cover drinks too. 


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We thank Ljubljana Tourism, Cook Eat SloveniaLjubljanaNjam Food Tours and Open Kitchen for sponsoring our Ljubljana food experiences to facilitate this article.

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Comments

  1. So interesting! Slovenian cuisine is totally new to me and all the dishes look amazing. The Secret Kitchen concept is so unusual but I bet it would be so much fun to sign up for it!

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