I recently visited a wonderful fall market in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was a pleasant Saturday morning and we’d been told that this was a market not to be missed, and not to wait until the afternoon and especially not until Sunday because the market dwindles at those times. Like all good markets, it’s a place where the community gathers and enjoys itself, and we were told it would be “busy” (it was).
We left our comfortable rented apartment and walked to the market, about five minutes away. Ljubljana has a beautiful historic core and it’s a lovely place to explore on foot. Much of the historic region is a pedestrian only zone, so it’s safe and easy to get around. There are a number of interesting bridges that cross the Ljubljana River and today’s walk took us across Dragon Bridge — more on that soon.
The market is quite large, spreading over two squares (Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg) and extending into several of the adjoining streets and shops, including a dedicated 2 storey covered market building designed by beloved native Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnika. As it was a nice day and most of the activity was in the open air market, this is where we focused our visit. I could certainly see that in the winter the covered market would be of greater importance because of the cold snowy weather the city experiences.
There was a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables — mostly locally grown but also some imported food — which you can see in the accompanying photos. Everything looked terrific and the prices were low by European (and Canadian) standards. It would be a market I’d regularly visit if I lived in Ljubljana, and clearly most of those here were Slovenians going about their usual shopping.
Flowers were very popular at the market. This included small live flowers that you could plant in your home or garden, fresh cut flowers and boquets, and interesting arrangements of dried flowers. It being fall, the template of these arrangements was definitely harvest oriented.
There were a lot of handicrafts for sale, including lovely handmade jewelry, glass and ceramic items, and products made of wood. I was a little surprised to find that Slovenia is a nation still richly forested, and timbering and making wood-related items are a significant industry here.
An item of interest was pumpkin seed oil. This seems the most popular oil used in food preparation in Slovenia, not unlike olive oil is in Italy (olives are also grown in Slovenia and they make a tasty olive oil, but it did not seem as popular as the pumpkin seed oil). When served fresh bread in a restaurant, there is always pumpkin seed oil available to dip it into and it is good. Dark in color, like balsamic vinegar, it has a rich nutty taste.
Honey is extremely popular and the Slovenians are masters of it. They have many varieties of honey (eg. honey from a chestnut orchard, honey from a meadow with wildflowers, etc), and these varieties do indeed have different colors and tastes. The honey was excellent and we in the Americas could do a lot to improve our selections. Products made from beeswax and fermented honey beverages were popular.
Some of the vendors sold home made preserves, like truffles, truffle oil, jams and dried wild mushrooms. There were also home made remedies available of the type snake-oil salesmen sold here a century ago, which I didn’t spend much time with. A large area in the market was dedicated to selling very reasonably priced clothes and shoes.
The Central Market had an area of street food kiosks and many tables at which you sit down and eat or rest. The weekend we were there, burgers seemed to be the culinary theme. Burgers are surprisingly popular in the country and there were at least 10 different vendors serving up a variety of grilled burgers and pulled meat sandwiches. Many of these are made with a Slovenian touch — for example, I tried a burger with truffles and blue cheese, which was excellent, although standard hamburgers and cheeseburgers are also available.
If You Visit:
Visiting the market is free. I’d encourage you to buy some of the produce and enjoy it, as we did. The market lends itself well to small gift items that are not expensive and easily fit into your bag.
Weekdays 6:00-18:00, Saturday 6:00-16:00 during summer, 6:00-16:00 in winter. Sundays and holidays closed. As with all markets, best to go early. Many of the vendors leave in the afternoon, especially if they’re “sold out”.
Weekdays 7:00-16:00, Saturday 7:00-14:00.
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