With Eastern Europe continuing to boast the best bang for your holiday buck, how about dipping into the pint-size nation of Slovenia? Whether it's mountain-climbing, caving, tramping, skiing or water-sports on the cards, Slovenia is like European adventuring in a snow-dome. But if heart-pumping adrenalin isn't your bag, take a lazy foray to the princess-pretty capital of Ljubljana to take in the history.
Set below an enchanting hilltop castle, straddling the banks of the Ljubljanica River, Slovenia's capital city offers visitors a slew of sights, culture and fun. Best of all, the small-town ambience resonates across the historic heart of the city, and is a pleasure to roam on foot. An ideal starting point is the cobble-stoned main square in the Old Town, Presernov Trg. Taking pride of place is the Preseren monument, erected in 1905 to honour Slovenia's great poet, France Preseren. Motifs from his poems are sculpted on the plinth. To the south of this is the fabulously ornate Triple Bridge, spanning Ljubljanica River.
Towering over the square is Slovenia's most colourful church, the 17th century Italianate Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Its main altar was designed by the acclaimed Italian sculptor, Francesco Robba. Yet his most famous contribution to Slovenian public life is a short walk away at the adjoining square, Mestni Trg. Standing in front of the town hall is the Robba Fountain, a floridly sculpted artwork depicting three titans with gushing urns, representing the three rivers of the region.
It is a fantastical creation worth admiring up close.
Ljubljana's town hall was rebuilt in 1718 and is an architectural treasure trove, featuring Gothic courtyards and Renaissance arcades. The historic building is crowned with a golden dragon, which is the fabled symbol of the city. Nearby is the Cathedral of St Nicholas, a gorgeous, twin-towered structure built 300 years ago. The interior is a riot of pink marble, white stucco and gilt, with baroque frescoes and magnificent carved choir stalls. Two monstrous bronze doors were installed in 1996, to celebrate the papal visit by the late Pope John Paul II. Connecting the old town with the main rail station is the promenade of Miklosiceva Cesta, flanked by diverse architecture. But it's the Art Nouveau properties which sing with personality, stamping a lingering impression of Ljubljana on your mind.