Ljubljana Central Market: Street Life at the Heart of the City

By , 12 Aug 2019, 10:03 AM Travel
Ljubljana Central Market: Street Life at the Heart of the City All photos by JL Flanner, unless otherwise noted

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Almost every visitor to Ljubljana will pass by Ljubljana Central Market (Osrednja ljubljanska Tržnica) at least once, but not everyone will explore it, and that’s a shame as it’s the right size to spend an hour or pottering around, or can you be more focused and nip in and out for fresh produce, bread, cheese, nuts and other snacks.

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The market in 1910. Wikimedia

It’s an old institution that remains at the heart of the city, where people come to buy ingredients for their kitchens, along with most of the city’s best restaurants. It’s also the perfect base from which to explore other parts of the city, with many of the “must-see” ones nearby, and the fact that it’s best in the morning to the afternoon means you can make it a goal for the first half of the day, with lots of places to eat and drink on both sides of the river.

The market itself is on the Castle side of the river, and the extended area runs from Dragon Bridge to Triple Bridge, or along the edge of Plečnik’s Arcades, the two-level structure with all the columns on one side of the river.

Check out our weekly guide to What's On in Ljubljana

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On the Castle side of the market you’ll see a statue from 1889. That’s Valentin Vodnik (1758 -1819), the first Slovenian poet, who the square is named after. In 1895 an earthquake destroyed the old monastery with college for girls that stood near here, and an outdoor market was then established. The present market building and arcades were designed by Jože Plečnik through the 1930s, and was built between 1940 and 1942.

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This was envisaged as a working market and remains one, despite the encroaching tourist character of the area. Come here and you can see how the city shops for fruit, vegetables and more. Here you can buy goods directly from the producers, with items sourced from all over the country, and find competing varieties of local specialties to compare. Like the city itself the whole thing is rather small, there’s no real danger of getting lost and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had by just wandering around and seeing what’s happening.

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The bulk of the outdoor market is taken up with fruit and vegetable stalls. Terms to look out for here are bio and ekološka, which mean...bio and ecological.

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Prices are clearly marked, and no bargaining is expected

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The other side of the market is taken up with clothes, shoes and bags, plus a line of herbs and young plants, a place selling wooden / woven goods. The place selling wooden / woven goods is next to a Trafika, where you can get cigarettes. Next to that there’s a tourist information centre

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At each end of the market there are large tourist information centres. The one at Dragon Bridge is busier, while you can rent bikes from the one at Krekov trg 4, opposite the funicular. (Bike rental June – September 08:00 to 21:00, April, May, October 08:00 to 19:00.

This corner of the market opens up onto Krekov trg, with the Puppet Theatre opposite, and along the side the Vodnikov hram restaurant – selling Slovenian food – Čokl, a good coffee store, and Daktari, a great café bar that sometimes has live music. Next to this is the funicular.

If you’d prefer to walk up to the Castle then there are various paths from the Old Town that are fun to discover and explore if you live here. The one nearest here is just after Vodnikov hram, down the side street that goes up hill. Seeing Verba – a “yugostaligia” labour of love – will let you know you’re in the right place. Follow the path straight up for the direct route, and take the one on the left for a longer, more scenic route. Note that Castle Hill changes with the seasons, and one aspect of this is the quality of the paths. Heels aren’t recommended.

Related: How to spend from 4 to 48 hours in Ljubljana

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At the Dragon Bridge end there are some stalls selling fresh fast food, with fish a popular choice. From here you can turn left, walk to the bakery and be in the middle of the ethnic food centre of Trubarjeva cesta. Or downriver on the Castle side and if the market didn’t meet your needs then there’s a pretty good Spar and Hofer a short walk away, the latter staying open later and on Sundays. Note that no alcohol is sold in stores after 21:00. The same building also has a Lekarna to get your prescription filled (as does Prešeren Square).

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One side, by the covered market ,  has a milk vending machine– get a bottle and choose the amount. Next to this you can buy votive candles.

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There are two small doors to enter the covered market (Pokrita tržnica). In here you’ll find a climate controlled space that’s especially welcome on hot or cold days. Along with the air conditioning there’s bread, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, salami, cookies, chocolates and so on. A great place to stock up before a hike or for hotel room snacks.

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A cafe bar without a sign called Magda is next door that has a good menu. Note they sometimes have NSFW art on the walls so choose your seat with care if that could be an issue. The nearby Butchers' Bridge, with all the “lovers’ locks”, connects the market with part of the riverside that has some nice bars with a view of the Castle and Arcades.

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There’s a small fountain with drinking water in the middle of the market and the Arcades (not all winter. The nearest public bathrooms are under Butcher’s Bridge or Triple Bridge.

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Photo: Open Kitchen

On the Triple Bridge side of the covered market is Pogačar Square (Pogačarjev trg). This is home to certain irregular markets, so take a look and see what’s happening. In the warmer months it hosts Open Kitchen, a popular food market, every Friday, lunch till late, while in December there’s a Christmas market.

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Running along the side of the cathedral there’s a line of flower stalls, along with places selling the forest foods of berries and mushrooms. There’s an ATM here, on by the Tourist Information Centre, and another in Prešeren Square. You can also go downstairs in the Arcades and get closer to the water. There’s a restaurant and a fish market (Ribarnica. Near here there’s a stall that sells herbal remedies.

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Photo: Neža Loštrek

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Photo: Neža Loštrek

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Photo: Neža Loštrek

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All along the side of the market next to the river there are Plečnik’s Arcades. Here you’ll find cafés and restaurants along with stores selling meat, dairy, and deli goods.

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Bear and donkey salami are on the menu. Bears are protected in Slovenia, but there is a cull to keep the numbers manageable. The place below sells horsemeat.

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The row along the Arcades has two lines of varied souvenir and novelty stalls, with something to delight and/or appal everyone.

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The signs reflect the changing customers for some stalls

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Like Slovenia itself, this part of town is an intense mixture of smaller and more approachable features that you can find in other places, but here they have a greater concentration, and can give you the feeling of getting to know the place very well in just a few days.

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Homemade schnapps and wild mushrooms

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The open-air section of the market is open weekdays 6:00-18:00, Saturday 6:00-16:00 during summer, 6:00-16:00 in winter; Sundays and holidays closed The covered section is open weekdays 7:00-16:00, Saturday 7:00-14:00. The part under Plečnik's Arcades is open weekdays 7:00-16:00, Saturday 7:00-14:00.

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