The sun in the market
Prešeren Square (Prešernov trg) is a popular starting point to see the city. Also for this route. The paving in the shape of the sun in the middle of the square will immediately cheer you up and fill you with energy. So, let's get started!
We only have to cross the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) and turn left to the food market. The central part of the markets on the right bank of the Ljubljanica River was built between 1940 and 1944 according to Plečnik's plans. Plečnik used the water side of the land for a series of covered, two-storey markets and additionally arranged a water-side promenade in the lower storey. The market complex gives a strong impression from the water front enhanced by the semicircular façade peers above the river level. Plečnik wanted to display the mightiness of the former town walls, which were once here and the peers represent defence towers. In the middle of the series, he left room to build the Butchers' Bridge (Mesarski most), which would link the market to Petkovškovo nabrežje Embankment on the other side of the river. He also made plans for it, but it was never built. The gap in the series was visible until 2010, when the bridge was finally built. Plečnik planned a roofed bridge with shops on it – but an open bridge was built, party incorporating glass and it includes sculptures . The fence is made of thick stainless wire strung among vertical carriers, which is just perfect for strapping something or chaining something to it. And indeed, soon after the opening, locks or padlocks appeared chained to the fence. People say that the bridge has magical powers. It is believed to help with the problems of the heart. Those who desire permanent love should chain a lock – padlock to the fence. The magical bridge will make sure that the two lovers will stay together for at least as long as the padlock is chained to the fence. Well, the name Butchers' Bridge does not imply such powers and nor did Plečnik plan for anything of this sort, but it is true that some people, especially tourists, spontaneously name it 'the Lovers' Bridge'.
Soon after the completion of the markets, the following question was frequently asked among the Ljubljana city councils: 'We have a splendid market on one side and the glorious Triple Bridge on the other side – what shall we place in between?' The answer was: 'Certainly something!' And so it was commissioned to merge the Arcades and the Triple Bridge. At master Plečnik, of course. He filled the remaining non-built-up area between the facilities with an open colonnade and set up a building in the shape of an antique temple for a florist's shop (today a souvenir shop), where the tour of today's city market also begins.
First towards the East
Bikes are not your best choice for the market . You have to find your way around it, but if it is too crowded, which tends to be the case on Saturday mornings, you can step off the bike and take a walk through the market. This would be best. On Sundays, the market is not open, so you can ride right through it to the traffic lights crossing at Kopitarjeva ulica Street (which leads into the tunnel) and Poljanska cesta Road. Cross Kopitarjeva Street, but do not continue on Poljanska Road, but carefully turn left to the narrow Kapiteljska ulica Street. A little help when deciding: you are standing directly in front of the next Plečnik's masterpiece, called 'Peglezen', which means an iron. In front of it is a distinct wooden flag pole. Cycle left of it.
This momentous building, which acquired the name Peglezen due to its extreme narrow structure, was built between 1933 and 1934. Plečnik variegated the façade with differently shaped windows and glass porch in the front part of the second storey, but the house is still most famous because of its narrow structure. In the front, there is barely enough room for the entrance door and the rest is not much wider. Where did they cramp in the stairs?
To Ambrožev trg Square
Kapiteljska ulica Street ends soon, so you have to turn left onto Barvarska steza Path. On it, you reach Poljanski nasip Embankment along the Ljubljanica, where you turn right. Soon you will reach the modern pedestrian bridge called Žitna brv (Grain Footbridge) , the work of architect Boris Podrecca. The next bridge is at Ambrožev trg Square, but has no special name. At least not an established one. There were attempts to name it 'St. Peter Bridge' – after the Church of St. Peter somewhat higher and 'Ambrož Bridge' – according to the nearby square, but neither name stuck with it. Nameless or not, it is a firm footbridge, so we can go across it without a care in the world and see the gates on the right in the meanwhile.
The Ljubljanica Gates
The entire Plečnik arrangement of the Ljubljanica encompassed both embankments from Špica to Cukrarna and two bridges: the Shoemaker's (Čevljarski) Bridge and the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje). It ends with the gates at Cukrarna . They were being built five years, from 1939 until 1944, but it is true that there was a war going on. Plečnik drew the inspiration for the design from his travels around the world. He set up the footbridge over the river on three towers, similar to Egyptian temples, which are on one side adorned by Doric columns with Etruscan looking bowls with carved out dragon heads and on the other side low Ionic columns with stylized human heads. From both sides, the access is closed off by massive portals. The entire look was strengthened by the formation of parks on Ambrožev and Vrazov squares, arranged on the opposite banks of the river. The gates are meant to sustain equal level of the Ljubljanica in the city centre and are still functional.
Croatian Square (Hrvatski trg)
So, cross the Ljubljanica over the bridge at Ambrožev trg Square and take the slope to the first crossroads, where you turn right. After a hundred meters, you are at the Church of St. Peter and on the left is the next Plečnik's work, Croatian Square . Plečnik transformed the original park between 1938 and 1939 into a square with trees which is, with its geometrical elliptic shape, a unique example of such open space in Ljubljana. Then, he also moved the monument to those who lost their lives in the First World War to the southern bank.
At the traffic lights crossing, turn left and head north past the parking garage. On the right, you can see the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, where you can get first aid, if you need it. A little further at the split turn slightly right to Šmartinska cesta Road, which is paved with granite cubes. A little further still, pass the once well-renowned inn with the chestnut garden in front, where you can also make a stop, if you need 'another kind of aid', which humorously reminds us of the inn, we are talking about.
The route soon ends in a high-traffic road, which still has the same name as before (Šmartinska cesta Road), but this is no longer the forgotten and somewhat neglected road, where you were beginning to feel homely. This is the most dangerous section of the entire route. Thankfully, it is very short. Go under the railroad and you are already at the traffic light stop, which you cross and head right uphill towards the factory Kolinska on the two-way bike lane . Here, you are making great progress to the petrol station, when the bike lane (at least in your direction) ends and you have to cross to the other side. Once you reach the roundabout at the cemetery Žale, head right through the very beginning of the chestnut avenue, not named Under the Chestnut Trees, as one might expect, but 'Pod hmeljniki' (Under the Hop Vines) . Not that the chestnut trees grew from hop vines? Don't worry, they didn't! The avenue is named after the original agriculture that was grown there. That was hops. Indeed. It was grown for the needs of the former Kozlar brewery, which became the today's Union. While reflecting on times gone by, you reach the Plečnik's central entrance to Žale in no time.
Contrary to the common practice of morgues at the time, Plečnik planned a complex for the central Ljubljana's cemetery in 1940, named 'Žale', composed of fourteen funeral parlours, an entrance arch, commercial buildings and management facilities. The entire cemetery was named after it, which is today called 'Cemetery Žale'. The entrance into it is through a glorious arch with a number of two-storey columns. Opposite the entrance is the central chapel (a place to bid farewell to the deceased) with a canopy roof top on four columns, based on the Antique model. The complex of the parlours is completed by joiner's workshops adorned with the frescoes of Slavko Pengov. At the square in front of the entrance, exceptional specimens of the mighty Serbian spruce grow with their branches reaching to the ground, which only enhances the exceptionally monumental image of the object.
Past the mentioned complex, take the Žalska ulica Street (the car park is on the right) and turn left right before the cemetery walls and past the church, then cross the other car park and you will reach Tomačevska cesta Road, which you also cross.
Carefully enter Koželjeva ulica Street, then through the roundabout all the way to Kranjčeva ulica Street. Proceed on it and stop only at the traffic lights at the crossroads with Vojkova cesta Road. The Ministry of Defence is on the other side. You can quickly determine that this is not one of Plečnik's works, so press the pedals and wiz straight past the Chamber of Commerce (lovingly referred to as 'Esmerald' because of its green façade), all the way to Dunajska cesta Road. There, keep left and on the bike route you will reach Bežigrad Central Stadium .
... past the stadium...
On the right is Bežigrad or 'Eagle Stadium' named after the then renowned Catholic organization Eagles (Orli) – contrary to the liberal Falcons (Sokoli). It was built according to Plečnik's plans between 1921 and 1941. Along the southern corner of the wall, a brick column with marked directions on top in memory of the Eucharistic congress, which took place here in 1935, was placed. Even the honorary gallery with the gym in the ground storey was built for the congress.
After the stadium, proceed straight ahead on the bike path past the new building area Bežigrajski dvor (on the left), all the way to the Blue Lagoon (Plava Laguna), the centre of Bežigrad. The building was named after its blue façade. It is named jokingly Blue Lagoon after the same hotel resort in Poreč, Croatia, which of course has no relation to Ljubljana, but the name stuck to it.
On the opposite side of Dunajska cesta Road is the Astra building and diagonally across the crossroad you can see the Slovenijales building. At the traffic lights crossing, turn left to Linhartova cesta Road and in the first crossing leave the bike route by turning right. Then right away left and right again, until you reach Robbova ulica Street, named after Francesco Robba, a sculptor, who made the famous Robba Fountain in front of Ljubljana City Hall. At the end of this street is Navje, the next Plečnik's idea (on the right side).
... to the city of dead - Navje
The central cemetery of Ljubljana was situated at the place of today's Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (Gospodarsko razstavišče) before 1779. At the end of the 19th century, it became too small so they decided to build a new one at Žale. This brought up the question of what to do with the old one. Plečnik's idea was to change it into an honorary cemetery for esteemed Slovenians, but the idea was not realised. Instead, right on the verge of the old cemetery they arranged Navje as a modest solution for the abandoned the old cemetery. In 1936, Plečnik ran the arrangement of the arcade vestibule, the so-called 'Slovenian pantheon' with the tombstones of deserving Slovenians and placed four columns at the end of the park and thus concluded the image. There was neither point nor money to do more, because the Baraga seminary was intended to be built at that time in the direct vicinity, which you will see soon. The memorial park was named Navje according to the old Slavic tradition.
The winding paths around the seminary
Now leave the city of the dead and head back towards the living. But the bends are not over yet. Here, you have to be careful where and when to turn. And it will be so until the end of this route. If you still can't find your way, the first solution is to examine a detailed map of the city, and the second is to ask for directions from a local passer-by. OK?
After Vilharjeva cesta Road, head right and then only after a few tens of metres another right onto Valjhunova ulica Street. You will spot the round building of the Baraga seminary (today's Pioneer House - Pionirski dom), another work of Plečnik in Ljubljana. Circle it in counter-clockwise direction and return along the same way to Vilharjeva cesta Road. The Baraga seminary was built according to Plečnik's designs between 1936 and 1941 for the requirements of a seminary of the Roman Catholic Church. The four-storey building was built according to the Roman Coliseum and Angel Castle. The ground plan was planned in the shape of a circle, made up of two semi-circles, of which only the southern was built. Today, the building houses the Festival Hall (Festivalna dvorana), Pioneer House (Pionirski dom), Mladinsko Theatre and a student house.
At the end of Vilharjeva cesta Road, turn right, but only go as far as the pedestrian traffic lights crossing, where you cross Dunajska cesta Road and slip onto Livarska ulica Street. Oh, no! This is a one-way street – and you are heading in the wrong direction. So, what now? Well, you'll have to walk. To go on riding the bike would be inappropriate and dangerous, so hop off and walk along the pavement past the Turkish embassy to the end of the street, where you can hop back on the bike and paddle right to Parmova ulica Street. That was not very far, was it?
On Parmova ulica Street, continue to the traffic lights at Drenikova ulica Street, turn left and head on the bike lane under the railway to the next traffic lights, where you turn right.
Šiška and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Now, you are already in Šiška and close to the next goal, so head on through Verovškova Street to the mighty Church of St. Francis of Assisi , which you will spot on the left side. Plečnik designed the church according to his own plan for the Church of Holy Jesus' Heart in Prague, which was built in 1922. The one in Šiška is some five years younger. Distinctive is the image of the bell tower with storeys , over which a roof rises. The interior of the church is also extraordinary. The central area is encircled by brick columns; the main altar was moved away from the wall and completed by two side altars on the sides. Plečnik added new elements to the church even later and after the Second World War arranged a chapel, baptistery and vestry.
Back to the centre
From Šišenska Church – which is another name for the Church of St. Francis in Šiška – quickly head towards the centre of Ljubljana. Head back on the same route to Drenikova Street, cross it at the traffic lights crossing and proceed on Veroškova to Gasilska cesta Road. There, turn right and cycle to the traffic lights, where you cross Celovška cesta Road and turn left on the other side. Barely one hundred metres after the traffic lights, you will see a stone church on the right. That is the Church of St. Bartholomew, the oldest preserved church in Ljubljana. This is why it is also called the Old Church . It was first mentioned in 1308. In 1370, the peace treaty between the Republic of Venice and the Habsburgs was signed in it. Some two hundred years ago, it burnt down and was rebuilt several times. It lost its importance with the construction of the new church of St. Francis of Assisi, which you visited a short while ago. During the years prior to the Second World War, Plečnik had removed all of its roughcast, completed the colonnade stand at the back side and a stairway by the church. Before continuing, take a look at the typically designed street lamp by the stairway. Then go straight past Tivoli Park on the bike route to the city centre, which you reach at Delavski dom (Worker's House). Turn left there onto Tivolska cesta Road, which takes you to the crossroads with Slovenska cesta Road (at Bavarski dvor Square) and head towards Telekom (straight ahead) to the next crossing, where you turn right onto Miklošičeva ulica Street around the large brick building. This corner palace, now the home of the insurance company Zavarovalnica Triglav, is also one of Plečnik's works.
The palace of the insurance company Vzajemna (today Triglav)
It was built between 1928 and 1930 for the needs of the insurance company Vzajemna and is of rather distinct shape. It has a dual façade: the lower part up to the second storey is made of stone and the upper of brick. The main entrance, which is on the corner, leads to the oval hallway, from where the famous marble stairway rises. The courtyard façade is different from the exterior. It has a series of balconies, which are used as outer hallways.
The palace of the Chamber of Commerce
Take Miklošičeva and head south past the judicial palace, after which turn right to the central crossroads at Ajdovščina. On the marked bike lanes, wriggle your way past Figovec Inn towards Nebotičnik (Skyscraper). At the end of the platform at Figovec Inn, turn right to the park and behind this building, Slavija, which houses the Ministry of the Interior, turn left onto Stefanova ulica Street. You can ride the bike straight on the path, which leads over the greens. Then, do not go straight onto Beethovnova ulica Street, because it is one-way in the opposite direction, but right towards Stefanova and the National Gallery. But only to the next crossing, where you turn left and cycle along Župančičeva ulica Street past the ministries to Cankarjeva cesta Road. The Opera House is ahead, Tivoli on the right and Ljubljana Castle to the left, although you cannot see the latter from this point yet. This is where Plečnik envisioned a promenade, which would link Ljubljana Castle with Tivoli Castle. For this purpose, he arranged Jakopič Promenade at Tivoli, whereas on the other end the Triple Bridge was already built. Everything in between still had to be completed. Turn left before the Opera and you will reach Beethovnova ulica Street once again along Cankarjeva. On the other side of the crossroads is the palace of the former Chamber of Commerce (Beethovnova 10), which is now the home of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia . The palace was built in 1884. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was bought by the Chamber of Trade, Craft and Industry, which renovated it in 1927 according to Plečnik's plans. He, in cooperation with France Tomažič, designed one of the most original interiors in Ljubljana.
Head towards Nama (which is straight ahead on Tomšičeva) and you will quickly reach Slovenska cesta Road, where you carefully continue to the traffic lights crossing (right direction) on the marked bike lane at the intersection with Šubičeva ulica Street. Careful here, because there are a lot of pedestrians. Directly in front of us is the next Plečnik's building – the former Ursuline Grammar School, today's Jože Plečnik Grammar School . It was built between 1938 and 1947. Diagonally to the left over the crossroad, you can see Zvezda Park , also one of Plečnik's works. Cross it somewhat diagonally, so that you reach Kongresni trg (Congress Square) and Vegova ulica Street. Congress Square , which you've just passed, was up until recently used as a car park, but now it once again shines in all of its glory. The surface was restored according to Plečnik's original idea which moved the parking spaces underground to a multi-storey car park under the square.
Ahead is Vegova ulica Street, also a place where Plečnik left his mark. Firstly, in 1929 he set up an obelisk at Trg francoske revolucije (French Revolution Square) in honour of Napoleon and the time of the Illyrian provinces. And in 1932, he built terraces with monuments to deserving musicians in front of the Glasbena matica building (to the left). When building the National and University Library (NUK) in 1937, he did something similar. Namely, on the remains of the city walls, he set up monuments to distinguished Slovenian linguists .
NUK – the most important Plečnik's work in Slovenia
In the middle of Vegova ulica Street, between Glasbena matica and NUK, turn to Turjaška ulica Street. It was named after the Auersperg family (Turjačani in Slovenian), who had their mansion here. Unfortunately, the earthquake in 1895 damaged it so severely that it had to be torn down. In its place, the National and University Library was built according to Plečnik's designs. This is the large building to the right. It was built between 1936 and 1941 and is generally considered the most important work of Plečnik in Slovenia. The extraordinary façade in the combination of brick and stone was designed according to Italian masters. The interior hides the mighty and famous staircase made of black Podpeč marble, which leads to the main reading room. The impression is supplemented by efficient details: from the front door knobs to chandeliers, windows, furniture, etc. There are guided tours on Saturdays.
Past Križanke to Mirje
Below NUK, turn right onto Gosposka ulica Street, where you are almost in front of the City Museum and Križanke. Along the way you can admire the statute of Moses above the side entrance to NUK on the eastern part of the building. It looks as if he is floating in the air which is due to the optical illusion; it appears so, because there is no pedestal. Of course Plečnik's fingers were also involved with the statute. And not only here... A little further ahead from the City Museum is Križanke – the seat of the German chivalry order, which moved to Ljubljana already mid 13th century. After the Second World War, the monks were evicted and the building was thoroughly renovated between 1952 and 1956. The renovation was entrusted to Plečnik, who with his students arranged there a summer theatre in the large courtyard. The Summer Festival takes place every year at Križanke. Go up Trg francoske revolucije (the French Revolution Square) past the Napoleon obelisk, then turn left to Emonska cesta Road and cross Zoisova cesta Road , which is from where you are standing and to the Ljubljanica (left) arranged according to Plečnik's idea.
Emonska cesta Road leads past the chapel with the famous dark statue of the Mother of God in Trnovo to the crossroads with Mirje Street. Turn right there and you will find yourselves upon the remains of the Roman wall of ancient Emona, as Ljubljana was called then. Immediately to the right – behind the walls – you can see the foundations of antique houses. A little further ahead is the crossing with Barjanska cesta Road and you can see the high walls on the other side, which once defended Emona from Barbarian incursions. Not only the wall, there were also two moats with the same task. The moats were subsequently filled up – this is the very dyke you are riding along and the wall, which was severely damaged, was reconstructed in the late 19th century by the archaeologist Schmidt from Graz and was finally renovated by Plečnik during the 1920s and 1930s. He designed the entire area as an archaeological park , and because of the obstacle, which the wall presented upon the spreading of the city, he arranged passages in it. Along Mirje, he envisioned a promenade of slender poplar trees, which no longer exists today.
Keep by the wall to the traffic lights crossing, then turn left and head to the next traffic light crossing on the lovely Groharjeva ulica Street, where turn left again. On your right is the River (more of a stream) Gradaščica and in the distance you can see the mighty Trnovo Church of St. John the Baptist and the famous Plečnik's Trnovo Bridge , where birch trees grow. It was built between 1929 and 1932. Its distinctions are pyramids in the shape of bells, massive fence with the sculpture of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Trnovo Church and the already mentioned birch trees. The bridge is rather wide and the promenade on it gives the impression that it is in fact a square. This is exactly what Plečnik was going for, because the space in front of the church was rather small. He widened it above the Gradaščica and arranged a market on the acquired land. Left of the church is Karunova ulica Street. The first house on it, directly behind the church, is Plečnik's house , where the master lived from 1921 until his death in 1957. Today, it houses the Plečnik's Museum.
And to Prule
Once you have seen Plečnik's house, take Karunova ulica Street towards south (over the bumps) and you will reach Ziherlova ulica Street. There, turn left and carefully proceed straight towards the Ljubljanica. The street is narrow and usually cramped with parked vehicles. The 'straight' part is not exactly straight – better think zigzag. Once you reach the Ljubljanica, turn right and cross it over the bridge by the roundabout. From the centre of the bridge, there's the lovely view of Plečnik's arrangement of the banks of the Ljubljanica. On the other side of the bridge, turn left. Now you are in Prule at Grudnovo nabrežje Embankment. On this road, you could simply speed off to the next destination, but the old part of Prule, Žabjak , is so picturesque that it would be a shame to miss it. So turn right at Merosoden trg Square and then turn left at the first street. Continue zigzaging through Žabjak until you reach Gruber Palace (today the Slovenian Archives) along Zvezdarska ulica Street. At the traffic lights for pedestrians cross Karlovška cesta Road and you will find yourselves at Levstikov trg Square.
Levstikov trg Square and Old Ljubljana
This used to be St. Jacob Square named after the mighty Church of St. Jacob. Between 1926 and 1927, Plečnik enclosed the central part of the square with stone balls , which summarize the symbolism of the rosary and a promenade of globe Norway maple trees. He separated the direct surroundings of the church from the rest of the square with a line of slender poplar trees. At Mary's Pillar at the front part of the market, he changed the pedestal of the sculpture with a new, higher one, which he designed in 1938. He moved the Baroque stone well to the back of the square.
To get to the next destination, head back on Stiška ulica Street (left), and then right to Gallusovo nabrežje Embankment. On it, cycle along the Ljubljanica to the Shoemaker's Bridge – surely you have already guessed – made by Plečnik. It was built between 1931 and 1932 and it replaced the older cast iron bridge. It was named after the shoemakers that used to have their workshops and stands on it. Before them, the bridge belonged to the butchers. For hygienic purposes, they were moved lower already in 1614, approximately to where the central market is today. The route does not take you to the Shoemaker's Bridge, but leads you straight along the Ljubljanica across Cankarjevo nabrežje Embankment all the way to the Triple Bridge , the last Plečnik's masterpiece you will see today. As it was already mentioned before, let us mention it again: the Triple Bridge was built between 1929 and 1932, when Plečnik added on each side of the central stone bridge another one for pedestrians and by doing so created in Ljubljana an exceptional architectural monument.
You have almost reached the final destination, which is Prešeren Square. All you would have to do now is cross the Triple Bridge and the circle would be complete. But this can wait, and it's best if you head for that promised Sunday lunch. There are one or two more than suitable inns right in the vicinity of the city hall. And a little way away...