Warren Buffet, the famed investor, sometime richest person in the world and owner / fan of Dairy Queen, often notes that "only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked”, and the same idea can be applied to ice cream in Ljubljana.
The frozen treat is easy to sell in summer, and many places do, but it’s only in winter you find out who are the devotees and who the dilettantes. What thus follows is an inexhaustive list of six ice cream stores in Ljubljana's pedestrianised area that do something to stand out from the competition, and are worth consideration when deciding how to allocate your dessert calories of the day.
One thing to note, especially if you’re a little overwhelmed by the choice, is that most places offer half-half options, so you can get “1 scoop” and still get chocolate and vanilla, or whatever more baroque combination takes your fancy – just let the server know what you want.
Zvezda. Photo: JL Flanner
Zvezda is best known as a fancy café with great cakes and a good view of Zvezda Park (with zvezda meaning “star”, and the park so named due to the star-shaped arrangement of the paths). In the summer there’s a very extensive range on offer, with two freezers full inside and another one (perhaps two) in the street. While the high season brings all the standard and fancy flavours, in the winter there’s an obviously reduced offering, but still enough to satisfy both the unadventurous and wild hedonist. As noted above, the place is a café and cakeshop, with the latter found both in the “ice cream” part of the store – along with macaroons, chocolates and sandwiches – as well as inside. All year there are inside and outside seats, and the menu includes plenty of snacks and hot and cold drinks, as well as alcohol. There are also bathrooms.
Zvezda, Wolfova ulica 14, 1000 Ljubljana, www.zvezdaljubljana.siMateja, the owner and ice cream master at Romantika, talks about her work (with English subtitles)
Not far away from Zvezda, just around the corner on the other side of the park – which in this area is known as Congress Square (Kongresni trg), there’s a small place with a different vibe. This is Gelateria Romantika, a small store with a fresh look and, more importantly for our purposes, freshly made gelato in a wide range of flavours, with some of the more interesting ones that you can find in town. Think gorgonzola or parmesan, or something a little milder, like vanilla and pumpkin oil – a Slovene classic – or even something you may have seen before, like chocolate or coffee, all made with the singular vision of the owner and certified ice cream master, Mateja, who also works in the store. A must-visit if you want to try something that you probably won’t see anywhere else on your trip.
Romantika, Dvorni trg 1, 1000 Ljubljana, www.gelateria-romantika.si
Grefino. Photo: JL Flanner
Perhaps the most appealing place for children is Grefino, although the more exited they are perhaps the more careful parents should be, depending on the dietary constraints that apply when in town. The set-up is simple: up to six different flavours of soft serve ice cream / gelato, often including vegan options, that you pull the pump on, thus deciding exactly how much you’ll get, with purchases paid for by weight. The real draw is the toppings that you can also add, which range from candy to cookies, sauces to syrups and so on. In addition to ice cream you can also get pancakes and waffles However, note that there are no bathrooms and no indoor seating (although a bathroom can be found in Nama, the department store next door).
Grefino, Cankarjeva cesta 1, 1000 Ljubljana, www.nama.si
Cacao is another cake and ice cream place, and in the summer it has a long cabinet outside full of classics, standards and innovations, with another inside that offers a mostly different selection. In the winter the outside one disappears closed, but go inside and you’ll still find a good range on offer, along with cakes, coffees, and other drinks. There’s also two bathrooms down a few stairs. You can find Cacao a very short walk from one corner of Prešeren Square, the one with the statue.
Cacao, Petkovškovo nabrežje 3, 1000 Ljubljana, www.cacao.si
Vigo: Photo: Vigo
Vigo isn’t far away, just across the Triple Bride and into the Old Town, in clear view of Town Hall and the Robba Fountain (a genuine fake). Vigo is another cake and ice cream place, offering classics with a twist by the cone or cup. Something kids seem to love is the taps of dark and white chocolate that you can get as toppings. There are seats and bathrooms, and a full range of café drinks.
Vigo, Mačkova ulica 2, 1000 Ljubljana, www.vigo-icecream.comHow things work at Ice Wave
With Rustika now turned over to pizza by the slice, the only dedicated ice cream store on Trubarjeva cesta is Ice Wave, and it has a unique offer. The dessert made in front of you using an “frozen plate”, with chocolates and candies chopped up and mixed in to order, then delivered in the form of “ice cream rolls”, as shown in the video. It’s not a traditional ice cream, but if you want to try something new in terms of texture and presentation then this is the place to come.
Ice Wave, Trubarjeva cesta 7, 1000 Ljubljana, www.icewaveshow.com
If you know of an interesting store selling ice cream in Ljubljana over the winter that I should have included on the list, then please put the details in the comments and I'll check it out when I can.