Ljubljana Before and After: 15 Years of Changes in “Green”

If you see Ljubljana and people ask you to describe it, there are four words that will come to mind. It’s clean, green, safe, and warm. It wasn’t always like this, especially a little more than a decade ago. Due to its citizens and the government, it has transformed from a random town to Europe’s environmental conscience.

There’s a stark contrast between Ljubljana before and after, and the city has pushed for a green initiative for more than 15 years now. They implemented different measures for sustainable development. It couldn’t have been possible without the untiring work of the government, together with the denizens of Old Town.

Ljubljana is an inspiration to cities that are looking to go green. If you love green cities, here’s how they did it.

Socio-Spatial Changes In Slovenia Post-Yugoslavia

Much of Slovenia started to grow after its secession from Yugoslavia in 1991. After they won their independence, much of the country focused on economic growth. They tried to build up the country as it was, pushing towards improvements.

After a decade into the transition period, there has been a socio-spatial change. Ljubljana was changing, not only both in economic and political terms. It also changed culturally, keeping the beautiful traditions while growing as an urban escape.

Democracy did much good for Ljubljana’s denizens, as a more open country gave them a chance to understand more cultures. It also woke up the people’s appreciation for their surroundings and nature in particular.

Many of the changes pushed towards better ideas of urbanization and suburbanization. Ever since the ‘90s and well into the early 2000s, these ideas tied up to markets, creating city-wide improvements to accommodate new businesses. These include commercial constructions, business zones, and even private offices.

Ljubljana Before The Green

Over time, a period of rapid, intense change and short-term solutions started. Even then, people did not engage in long-term urban planning. Much of it also did not include plans to create a sustainable environment.

Ljubljana was a beautiful town, but it did not matter as much. The roads were always busy, and the roads are always full of vehicles. While tourists appreciated the architecture, the city was full of distractions.

Ljubljana was full of vehicles that spewed out smoke and air pollution. It was hard to navigate because it was not friendly to pedestrians. There’s also the matter of the extreme difficulty of moving around town due to the weak public transport system.

Slovenia and Ljubljana especially lost their control over the appearance and purpose of their current urban space. They were having issues with the quality of living in the city, and Ljubljana had to change.

A Paradigm Shift Towards Ljubljana 2025 

By around 2002, Ljubljana stood out in its growing self-consciousness. Post-socialist traditions were increasingly less evident in Ljubljana. The residents and the city itself look towards a better quality of life and functionality. By 2016, they achieved sustainability as a green city, far from its original visage.

How did they do it?

For the idea of Old Town as it is today, there was an apparent movement towards sustainability in two general periods. These two periods include everything until 2007 and everything after 2007. 2007 was such a pivotal year because it pushed Ljubljana to adopt a new vision.

In 2007, Ljubljana pushed for the “Ljubljana 2025” Vision. It was a detailed overhaul of their urban planning protocols, using 22 strategic projects from a total of ~100 projects. The city expected everything to finish by 2025.

The purpose of the vision was to interlink three views of the future of Ljubljana. These are:

  • The Ideal City
  • The Sustainable City
  • The Slovenian Metropolis

The vision of the “Ideal City” follows having the Old Town being optimal for its citizens’ daily lives. These include living, working, and recreational activities that help people thrive. The idea is there to ease the burden of many people living in the city.

The next vision was that of a “Sustainable City,” with the idea of preserving the natural and urban environment. Ljubljana wasn’t simply going to implement green initiatives willy-nilly. 

Rather, Ljubljana as a city is pushing to preserve natural and urban environments. They are looking to build on the natural and man-made structures the city has and preserve both.

The vision of a sprawling Slovenian Metropolis shows a competitive European City. They are not only looking to be a small player in Europe, but rather a powerhouse in sustainable development.

Traffic-Free Ljubljana is A Green Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a city with one of the greenest souls across Europe and the entire world. It embraced sustainability initiatives as soon as possible. Thanks to its exceptional environmental awareness, Ljubljana kept this soul until today.

It proudly held the European Green Capital 2016 title and became the recipient of various awards as a green city. The city boasts 5834 sq feet (542 sq m) per capita of green space provisions, all thanks to a few radical changes within the town.

Among the most radical of these is the complete traffic ban inside Ljubljana. While cars are accessible via underground parking lots, the city itself is pedestrian-only since 2008.

The historic city center closed car traffic since 2008 and generated a ton of buzz all over Europe. The Slovenian capital’s infrastructure-focused primarily on pedestrians. Rather than develop the city for personal vehicles, the center of town is car-free, with a few notable exceptions. 

Only a few privileged people can go into the city with a vehicle. They usually are the seniors or the disabled, together with mothers with infant children. Even then, Ljubljana is finding ways to circumvent this.

Many of these people get free rides on electric taxis, electric bikes, electric scooters, and more. The city allows public transport, and the policy decreased traffic by 12% by 2011. It’s so successful that other European cities also have car-free areas, with Oslo planning to ban cars by 2019.

Sustainable Mobility Platforms

Among the moves that the City of Ljubljana is doing is to add sustainable forms of mobility. Their intensive work resulted in a more aggressive move towards the public good. Rather than encourage facilities for private transport, Ljubljana encouraged better public transport.

The city offered better parking that moved private cars away from the city center. Many urban services use a single contactless payment card called Urbana for various services. 

The city also tested car-sharing schemes to enable the shared use of electric vehicles and encourage carpooling. Many of the public utility buses are also eco-friendly, with many of them running on cleaner-burning methane. 

Ljubljana is also among the most pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly cities in Europe. It occupies the 14th place in the 2019 Copenhagenize Index of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities.

Ljubljana has encouraged its citizens to care about their surroundings. Waste containers in the city are everywhere, and people segregate everything. The city has the highest rate of waste separation at 68% back in 2018. Trash goes underground too.

For people experiencing accessibility issues, Ljubljana is among the friendliest places for the disabled. Much of the public areas and city buses are adapting. Many can now help accommodate persons with reduced mobility, together with easily accessible wheelchairs.

The Green Soul of Old Town

Much of what Ljubljana is today comes from the tireless work of both the government and its citizens. Without one of either, the entire plan won’t work.

People cooperated because the government supported their own plans. The government added facilities across the city that encouraged positive behavior among the people. From trash bins to better pedestrian roads, it has been a dual effort for Slovenia and its people.

Even then, much of the character of Ljubljana as a city came out of its shell over the past 15 years. Much of it already existed well before modern history. Ljubljana’s character as a city came under the guiding hand of fame architect Jože Plečnik.

 Plečnik added sustainability as an inherent element in many of his works. As much of the city’s architecture survived over the centuries, its vision of sustainability comes from Plečnik’s vision. 

His focus on harmony between nature, the environment, and sustainable mobility was a deep part of what makes Ljubljana great.


Ljubljana’s sustainability efforts rely heavily on the spirit of its people. It encouraged people to patronize locally produced foods. It helps people appreciate the local cultural heritage and put to heart much of what makes Ljubljana the beauty that it is today.

Much of Ljubljana is designed to combine natural and man-made landscapes together. Whether it is a hike through a hill or tasting the local produce, everything is in beautiful harmony.

Much of the city harbor greeneries, from Pot Ob Zici to Tivoli Park to Castle Hill. Ljubljana boasts an unwavering neighborly spirit in a conscious effort to keep the locale beautiful for everyone to see. 

People from all walks of life come to the city and fall in love with it. They come to Ljubljana looking for an escape and come out wondering when they will come back. They feel happy with all the tradition and the greenery surrounding them.

Ljubljana is much different now than it was more than 15 years ago. Its dedication to sustainable urban development created a beautiful, world-class city that checks all the boxes in green initiatives, urban mobility, and sustainable growth.

Visit Ljubljana now and see what it has for you. Every part of the Old Town is rife with history. There’s nowhere else you’d ever want other than feeling Ljubljana’s breeze on your face. We guarantee it.

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