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Orbit's Travel Blog - 09.06.2023.

Ljubljana or Zagreb: Comparing Two Captivating Cities for Your Next Getaway

Discover the allure of Ljubljana and Zagreb! Compare these vibrant cities to find your ideal urban adventure. Explore culture, cuisine, and more in this insightful blog.

Ljubljana and Zagreb are both capital cities of neighbouring countries in Southern Central Europe. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, while Zagreb is the capital of Croatia. While they share some similarities, there are also notable differences between the two cities. The good thing about these two beautiful and exciting cities is that they are close to each other. If choosing which city to visit is too hard for you, and you have enough time, we recommend visiting them both. But if you don't have time to visit the two cities, in that case, we will make your decision easier for you by listing out the difference between Ljubljana and Zagreb.

Ljubljana or Zagreb

Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, but it's relatively small compared to other European capitals. The city has a population of 300,000 people, making it a compact and easily walkable city.

The sights and seeing in Ljubljana

Ljubljana has a charming and laid-back atmosphere with a mix of architectural styles. The city showcases various influences, including Baroque, Art Nouveau, and modern designs. One of the prominent architectural features is the Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski grad), located on a hill overlooking the city and offers panoramic views of Ljubljana. The castle has a long history but is now a cultural and tourist attraction, hosting exhibitions, concerts, and other events.

The Ljubljanica River flows through the city, adding to its beauty. Several picturesque bridges span the river, including the Triple Bridge and the famous Dragon Bridge, adorned with dragon statues, which have become one of the city's symbols. The central square of Ljubljana is Preseren Square (Prešernov trg), named after the Slovenian national poet France Prešeren. The square is a lively gathering place surrounded by notable buildings, such as the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and the Prešeren Monument.

Ljubljana is known for its commitment to sustainability and being a green city. It has numerous parks and green spaces, such as Tivoli Park and the Ljubljana Botanical Garden, which provide outdoor activities and relaxation opportunities.

Ljubljana's culture

Ljubljana has a vibrant cultural scene with many museums, galleries, theatres, and music venues. The city hosts numerous festivals annually, including the Ljubljana Summer Festival, which features music, theatre, and dance performances.

Ljubljana offers a diverse culinary scene, blending traditional Slovenian cuisine with international influences. The city has a variety of restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors where visitors can sample local dishes and Slovenian wines. Ljubljana hosts the Open Kitchen (Odprta Kuhna) event during the warmer months. Open Kitchen is a weekly food market every Friday in Pogačarjev trg, where you can sample various dishes from different local and international food vendors. It's a popular gathering spot for food lovers and an excellent opportunity to taste diverse cuisines.

Getting to and around Ljubljana

Ljubljana has its international airport. However, only a few airlines fly to Ljubljana airport. But don't worry. To get to Ljubljana, you can fly to nearby cities, such as Vienna, Venice or Zagreb.

Because Slovenia is quite a small country, the country's landmarks are all within comfortable distance from Ljubljana. Other than Ljubljana Castle, the best-known landmarks of Slovenia are Lake Bled, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle, to name a few. Ljubljana is small, and exploring all the city's main tourist attractions on foot is possible. And even in a day or two! Because of that, we highly recommend exploring what the beautiful country of Slovenia also has to offer outside of Ljubljana.

Downtown Ljubljana in the summer

Renting a car in Slovenia

Renting a car in Ljubljana is a convenient way to explore the country's beautiful landscapes and landmarks. Several international and local car rental companies operate in Ljubljana, including Hertz, Enterprise, Europcar, Budget, Sixt, and more. It's advisable to book in advance to secure the best deal.

To rent a car in Slovenia, you typically need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be 18 years old to operate a vehicle in Slovenia. Although the minimum age to rent a car is usually 21 years, some companies may require drivers to be at least 23 or 25.
  • You must have a valid driver's license from your home country, and some companies require an International Driving Permit (IDP). Check with the rental company to confirm their specific requirements.
  • You'll need a credit card in the primary driver's name for the rental deposit and payment.

Rental cars in Slovenia typically include basic insurance coverage, such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP). However, there is often an excess amount (deductible) that you'll be responsible for in case of damage or theft. Consider purchasing additional insurance to reduce or eliminate the excess. Most rental companies offer GPS navigation systems for an additional fee. If you require a child seat or any other extras, we advise you to request them during the booking process.

Ljubljana has several car rental offices in the Jože Pučnik Airport (Brnik) and the city centre. You can choose the most convenient location for pick-up and drop-off. Many rental companies allow one-way rentals within Slovenia or nearby countries. Still, you must get the company's permission and check for additional fees.

Driving in Slovenia

Driving in Ljubljana and the surrounding area is an enjoyable and unique experience. Familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations before driving in Slovenia. The country follows right-hand driving, and the speed limits are generally 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) on open roads, and 130 km/h (81 mph) on highways.

Ljubljana has various paid parking zones in the city centre. Be sure to park your rental car in designated parking areas and pay the required fees to avoid fines. We recommend that you have coins or smaller bills with you, as some parking machines do not accept cards for payment. 

It's always a good idea to research and compare prices from multiple car rental companies to find the best rates and terms for your needs. Additionally, we advise you to read the rental terms and conditions before making a reservation. Orbit Car Hire can provide all the information you need before choosing the best fit for you and your trip.

In Slovenia, you will find that highways are toll roads you must pay for. Since 2022 Slovenia has offered electronic vignettes, making it easy to pay for the toll while you drive around the country. 

Is Ljubljana worth visiting? Yes, for sure! Ljubljana's compact size, picturesque architecture, and lively atmosphere make it a delightful city to explore, offering a mix of cultural, historical, and natural attractions.

Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, with a population of around 800,000 people. It is the political, economic, and cultural centre of the country.

The sights and seeing in Zagreb

Zagreb showcases various architectural styles, including Austro-Hungarian, socialist, and contemporary designs. The city has a vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere, with a mix of historic buildings, wide boulevards, and lively squares. The historical Upper Town (Gornji Grad) is one of the most charming areas of Zagreb. The area's characteristics are narrow, winding streets, medieval buildings, and historical landmarks such as St. Mark's Church with its colourful tiled roof and the Croatian Parliament.

The central square of Zagreb is Ban Jelačić Square, named after the Croatian ban (governor) Josip Jelačić. It is a bustling gathering point and a commercial hub, surrounded by shops, cafes, and important buildings. The Zagreb Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a significant religious landmark and an impressive example of Gothic architecture. It is one of the tallest buildings in Croatia and has a stunning interior.

Maksimir Park, located in the eastern part of Zagreb, is the largest park that the city has and features a zoo, lakes, and forested areas.

Zagreb's culture

Zagreb is known for its rich cultural scene and hosts numerous museums and galleries. Some notable ones include the Museum of Broken Relationships, Contemporary Art, the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, and the Mimara Museum.

Dolac is Zagreb's most famous open-air market near the main square. It is a vibrant place where locals gather to buy fresh produce, traditional foods, flowers, and various goods. Zagreb has a rich culinary scene that blends traditional local culture with modern international cuisine. 

Zagreb hosts events and festivals annually, attracting visitors from near and far. Some notable ones include the Zagreb Advent, a month-long Christmas market, and the INmusic Festival, which brings international musicians to the city. You'll find that accommodation, food, and drinks are slightly less expensive in Zagreb than in Ljubljana.

Getting to Zagreb

The airport in Zagreb is the busiest international airport in Croatia; the airport serves several major European and budget airlines, making it an accessible destination for flying. 

Cathedral in Zagreb

Renting a car in Zagreb

Renting a car in Zagreb is a great way to explore the city and its surrounding areas. Many international and local car rental companies operate in Zagreb, including Hertz, AutoUnion, Europcar, Budget, Sixt, and more. As mentioned, booking in advance is advisable to secure the best offers.

To rent a car in Croatia, you need these pieces of information and meet the following requirements:

  • Like in Slovenia, you must be 18 years old to operate a vehicle in Croatia. The minimum age to rent a car is usually 21 years, but some companies may require drivers to be at least 23 or 25.
  • You must submit a valid driver's license from your home country. Some rental companies require an International Driving Permit (IDP). It's advisable to check with the rental company beforehand to confirm their specific requirements.
  • You'll need a credit card in the primary driver's name for the rental deposit and payment.

Rental cars in Croatia typically include basic insurance coverage, such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP). However, there is often an excess amount (deductible) that you'll be responsible for in case of damage or theft. Consider purchasing additional insurance to reduce or eliminate the excess.

For an additional fee, most rental companies offer GPS navigation systems. If you are travelling with a child and need a child seat or any other extras, request them during the booking process. 

In Zagreb, car rental offices are located at Franjo Tuđman Airport and in the city centre. You can choose the most convenient location for pick-up and drop-off. Many rental companies also allow one-way rentals within Croatia or other countries. However, check for any additional fees and get the company's permission.

Driving in Croatia

Driving about Zagreb and its surroundings is an exciting way to explore the area. But it can be tricky sometimes, due to traffic. Before driving in Croatia, we advise you to introduce yourself to the local traffic rules and laws. Croatians drive on the right side of the road, and the speed limits are generally 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) on open roads, and 130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways. Croatia operates a toll system on major highways, so be prepared to pay tolls during your travels.

Zagreb has various parking zones, including paid parking areas and parking garages. Pay attention to parking signs and regulations to avoid fines. Some hotels may offer parking facilities, so consider checking with your accommodation for parking options. 

As always, we advise you to research and compare prices from multiple car rental companies to find the best offers and terms for your needs. Again, reading the rental terms and conditions before making a reservation is essential. Orbit Car Hire can supply all the details you need before picking the most suitable choice for you and your travel style.

Is Zagreb worth visiting? Yes, we highly recommend Zagreb! Zagreb offers a blend of history, culture, and urban life, with its diverse architecture, cultural attractions, and lively atmosphere. It is a city that combines tradition with modernity, making it an exciting destination. 

Ljubljana vs Zagreb: Which city suits you better?

  • Ljubljana is relatively smaller and has a smaller population than Zagreb.
  • Ljubljana has a charming and picturesque atmosphere with various architectural styles, including Baroque, Art Nouveau, and modern designs. The city centre is pedestrian-friendly and features a lovely riverfront. Zagreb, on the other hand, has a more urban and cosmopolitan feel. It combines Austro-Hungarian and socialist architecture and a vibrant city centre with bustling streets and squares.
  • Both cities have rich histories and offer a range of cultural attractions.
  • Ljubljana benefits from its proximity to Slovenia's stunning natural landscapes, such as Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, and Postojna Cave. These attractions are easily accessible as day trips. Longer distances are from Zagreb to other Croatian attractions. However, from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park is a 2-hour enjoyable drive.
  • Ljubljana does come out slightly more expensive than the Zagreb. Ljubljana is not one of Europe's most expensive capital cities. Still, compared with Zagreb, there is a tiny difference in prices. However, you can enjoy reasonably affordable food, drinks and accommodations in Ljubljana and Zagreb.
  • The international airport in Ljubljana is relatively small, with only a few airlines that have Ljubljana as a destination. Zagreb's international airport is more significant and busier, with many airlines flying daily. That could make Zagreb a more viable city-trip destination than Ljubljana.
  • In January 2023, Croatia began using the euro currency, making it more convenient and manageable if you plan to visit Slovenia and Croatia on the same trip. 

Whether you choose a trip to Ljubljana or Zagreb, we guarantee you will enjoy both cities. We wish you a pleasant journey!

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You can compare car hire for your next trip today. For more car hire tips and tricks, look at our other blogs. And if you have any questions, you can always contact us 24/7! 

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