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Have you thought of holding a conference in Slovenia?

To ensure we always offer honest, first-hand knowledge, members of the Bien Venue team often jet off to new locations to inspire your choices for bespoke business event. With our finger on the pulse of industry news, we were told Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, was an ideal short-haul option for your next event. It’s picturesque, well-equipped and very affordable, making a conference in Slovenia a very attractive option.

Cycling through Ljubljana

Keen to find out more, we sent our Venue Consultant, Miriam Stirnimann to find more about what the benefits of Slovenia conferences and business events were. Read on to hear what she thought of her experience.

First impressions of Ljubljana

Before my trip last year, Ljubljana wasn’t really on my radar as a destination and I wouldn’t have thought of suggesting holding a conference in Slovenia. But having had the opportunity to visit in October I think it’s an ideal short-haul city, particularly for larger groups.

One of the things that first struck me about Ljubljana was just how well connected to other European hot spots it is; Zagreb is only 90 minutes away and Venice two hours. I was stuck, too, by how compact it is for a capital city, which means you can fit a lot into a short space of time. There are also direct flights from London to Ljubljana, mean you go from capital to capital in just 80 minutes.

It’s one of the most charming places I’ve ever been.

Miriam

It’s also one of the most charming places I have ever been and as a small capital it feels more like a town. The main tourist attractions are the three bridges and several squares that are dotted around the city, home to live music and street artists. It’s a place that really invites you to go for a stroll and get lost in its little cobble-stoned side streets.

An eco-friendly city

Ljubljana is very environmentally conscious, and I was impressed by the electric taxis in the city. These can fit up to seven people and are free! Operating until 8pm they are used by tourists and citizens alike, and if you’re staying in Ljubljana, whether it is for business or for leisure, you get a free bus card you can use to get around. This is great for delegates, making the city easy to navigate and explore.

Ljubljana’s free electric taxis will wow delegates.

It is also one of the cleanest places I have ever been to. The city centre is a huge pedestrian zone that is slowly being expanded and in summer you can even swim in the Ljubljanica River! With this in mind, it’s really not surprising the city was awarded European Green Capital in 2016.

Hosting a business event or conference in Slovenia’s capital

During my trip I took in Ljubljana’s two main conference centres; GR (Gospodarskorazstavisce) and CD (Cankarjevdom). Both fit around 3,300 delegates. Simply due to the fact that there aren’t enough hotel rooms in the city, both venues can’t be booked out to their full capacity at the same time. However, the arrival of new hotels looks set to transform the city by 2021.

The GR conference centre is an enormous, modern blank canvas that you really can transform into whatever you want it to be. In fact, it has just been named among the 10 Great Venues in Europe for 1000+ delegates by Event MB. The CD conference centre is slightly older but has much more character, a highlight being its rooftop terrace with an amazing view over the city.

View from the rooftop terrace at CD Conference centre

For businesses hosting an event in Ljubljana, you can privately hire everything from the museums to the squares and the streets; which is amazing! A real highlight of the trip for me was at the museum, where we were surprised with an opera performance by four singers from the Ljubljana Opera House. It was breathtaking and would be a great way to wow delegates and clients alike.

Another option for a smaller event or incentive trip is a boat along the river. The boat I travelled on was the only wooden boat on the river and had a capacity of 46 guests. It was a great way to see the city; glass of wine in hand sailing past the art nouveau and Plecnik (famous Slovenian architect) buildings.

Things for delegates to do during a conference in Slovenia

Ljubljana Castle

You won’t be short of options to keep your group busy here, with cycling, boat tours, golf and sight-seeing for a start! We took the funicular up to the castle which overlooks the city. Here there is a wonderful paved courtyard where you can hold events, as well as a few meeting rooms, two restaurants and a tower overlooking the whole city. On clear days you can even see the mountains.

Dried flowers in the market

Wandering through the market was wonderful, filled with home grown veggies, fresh fish and meat. There was an enormous flower section where women were putting together dried flower bouquets for the winter. We had a try and I can safely say floristry is not my forte! Cycling around the city was also lots of fun, and relatively easy as Ljubljana is thankfully, flat! There is a very cool, quirky artistic quarter to look around, and the Tivoli Park, which is bigger than Central Park in New York.

Driving golf buggies at CUBO

Outside of the city, I’d recommend taking your group to CUBO – a golf resort where you can learn to play the game. We had a fantastic time there.

Where to wine and dine?

I was very impressed by the food, and particularly the wine, in Ljubljana. Every Friday during the warmer months there is an open-kitchen event at the main market square. As Ljubljana was at one time occupied by the Italians, Austrian-Hungarians and Yugoslavians, you can really see the different influences in the food and architecture. Imagine walking through a market full of delicious pizzas, amazing grilled cheese, pasta, Slovenian sausage rolls and grilled vegetables, yum!

Lunch at Restaurant 1552

We had lunch at the Restaurant 1552 within the Slon Hotel which was recently refurbished and felt very modern and open. I ordered ‘Confit trout, roasted cauliflower, trout crumbs, fennel puree, spinach oil’, followed by ‘Roasted zanderfilet, pumpkin pie, Jerusalem artichoke, tapioca crisp, steamed vegetables’ and finishing with ‘Raw chocolate pie’- which was absolutely stunning.

Wine tasting and snacks at the Suklje Wine Bar was another highlight of my trip. The bar is located right next to the Ljubljanica River with a very charming outside sitting area. They know a lot about the wine they serve, and the owner even has his own vineyard.

And I must mention the cheesecake at AS Aperitivo, which also got thumbs up from me!  

Where to stay?

The Grand Hotel Union is right in the city centre and a pretty impressive building. The hotel was built in 1905 and still has some of its original features. It’s quite an institution in Ljubljana having hosted many VIPs. The meeting rooms are enormous and have everything you need, and as something fun to do I’d recommend the gin tasting!

The Slon Hotel has five meeting rooms that are all fairly new, with more renovation works taking place to enhance the existing hotel. And, as I’ve mentioned above, the food here is second to none.

The InterContinental Ljubljana is, as far as I know, the only 5-star property in Ljubljana. The hotel is lovely and modern (built in 2016), with very spacious rooms. The highlight is the rooftop terrace (where they are planning on having a pop-up bar next year) and the restaurant with its gigantic glass frontage.

The Radisson Hotel is located outside the city centre (about a 10-minute drive), in an area called BTC. BTC is a mixture between a business quarter and a shopping centre, with a lot of adventure parks too, and is known for its research and development of smart technology, such as self-driving cars. The Radisson is very centrally situated within that district and was only built eight years ago to a high standard.

Ljubljana really is one to watch – a great European capital with plenty to excite, enthral and entertain. And perfect for a bespoke business event to boot!

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