Christmas in Slovenia may seem far away, with the trees outside still a beautiful mix of green, gold and brown, the weather wet, windy but otherwise rather mild. But time moves fast and in three weeks the lights will be turned on around the country, thus begin just over a month of festive fun, with music, lights, markets, parades and more to get you through the darkest days of winter.
December in Ljubljana
The month is known as Festive December in Ljubljana, and runs from 29 November to 5 January 2020. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the lights that turn up in different places each year, as designed by Zmago Modic, the artist who’s also responsible for the rain that usually appears each summer in Prešeren Square (although this year, due to renovations, there was no rain). It’s in this square, soon to be home to a giant Christmas tree, where the lights will be turned on Friday November 29 at 17:15.
The same evening will see the opening of the Christmas market, which is held in the Central Market and also along Breg embankment. Here you’ll find hats, gloves, scarves, festive foods, treats, gifts, souvenirs and so on, along with many stalls selling mulled wine and hot food. Since the city is small everything is easy to find, and the best thing to do is just wander through the Old Town, being sure to visit Prešeren and Congress Square / Zvezda Park, where there will be a (free) magical forest to explore.
The city’s official site for the month is here, and some dates to look out for are 5 December, when at 17:00 St Nicholas himself will lead a procession, while Grandpa Frost will keep the cheer going with his own parade on 26 December, at 17:00. Both provide good excuses to make the trip the Ljubljana and enjoy the atmosphere. Note that the Castle also has a full programme of events.
December in Maribor
The lights in Maribor will start shining the same day as those in Ljubljana, Friday 29 November, but 15 minutes earlier, at 17:00, in General Maister Square. The city’s official site for the month – which is currently rather short on information – is here.
December in Bled
The picturesque lake, island, chapel and castle are especially magical in winter, with the scene made even more full of wonder when the lights come on at night. This year the festive season will run from November 29 until January 5, and – in addition to the usual lights and stalls – there’ll also be an ice rink with a spectacular view, one that opens 22 November and closes 1 March. The official website is here with more details, and note that if you’re in the area on Christmas Day then you have the chance to join other brave souls and go for a swim in the lake.
December by the Coast
Of course, not everyone likes the cold and snow, even in December, in which case a festive trip to the mild climate of the Slovenian coast is recommended. All the towns here will have lights to enjoy, starting on 29 November, but if in Portorož then head to Christmas market in the park of Hotel Kempinski Palace Portorož, while in Koper the Old Town will come alive to a series of events call Magical December, usually including an ice rink. Finally, in Piran the centre of festivities will be Tartini Square.