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Kranj, Slovenia sits in the shadow of Ljubljana, just 18 miles away, but is often overlooked as a destination. In fact, on our first trip to Slovenia, the only time we saw Kranj was when we passed through on our way from Ljubljana to Lake Bled – but the town did catch our attention. When a month-long housesitting opportunity became available in Kranj, we recalled the strategic position of the city and were quick to apply. We knew the city was well-located for day trips to Ljubljana, Skofja Loka, Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj and Vintgar Gorge, but we underestimated the value of the city itself. During our stay, housesitting in the neighborhood of Circe, we discovered a plethora of things to do in Kranj, Slovenia.
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9 Things to Do in Kranj, Slovenia
Walk the Old Town Kranj Tunnels
Beneath the city streets of Old Town Kranj are 1300 meters of man-made tunnels. Built in 1944 during World War II, the tunnels were designed to provide shelter for the citizens in the case of aerial bombings. Fit with benches, electricity and even small chambers for toilets, the tunnels were designed to accommodate up to 6,000 residents. Although the city was never a direct target of the war, drills were performed daily so that people could practice gathering their blankets, food and water and descend into the tunnels.
After the war ended, the tunnels were left abandoned. During that time, both graffiti and garbage accumulated in the tunnels. For a brief time in the 80s and 90s, mushrooms were cultivated in the tunnels, capitalizing on the tunnel’s dark and damp conditions. In 1991, during the Slovenian War of Independence, the tunnels were prepared in case the citizens needed to retreat to safety; but again, it wasn’t necessary.
In 2007, the tunnels were cleared of debris and opened as a historic attraction and is definitely one of the best things to do in Kranj. We took the guided tour through the tunnels that included detailed information and many interesting displays about the construction and use of the tunnels. A small room has been reconstructed as the shelter was intended, complete with an air raid simulator. Additionally, there are several events – wine tastings, Halloween festivities and a Christmas nativity scene – that take place in the tunnels; unfortunately, none were occurring during our visit. The wine tasting sounds like it would be right up our alley…or rather tunnel, actually.
Dine on Traditional Slovenian and International Fare
In Kranj, there are not a plethora of dining options, but they make up for it in variety. While finding local specialties is important to our travels, we also like to try cuisine from locally owned restaurants that feature international food and, in Kranj, we got a taste of both.
Gostilna Kot, located on Maistrov trg, serves traditional, homemade Slovenian dishes. We savored the locally made Kranjska sausage and whole, grilled fish from the river. The prices are fair and the patio is shaded – but it’s only open for lunch or early dinner (which is really ‘late lunch’ for most Slovenes).
Das Ist Valter is the place to feast on cevapcici, popular regional fare that hails from Bosnia. It was the most recommended restaurant during our stay in Kranj – and eating there is one of the best things to do in Kranj for good reason! The minced-meat sausages are served in bread and highly addictive. A word of advice: 10 is too many; stick to the Petka (5) or go for the Pol-Pol that has both regular and spicy sausages. Another tip: order the beer; it tastes just like Sarajevsko, the local beer in Sarajevo. I wouldn’t normally recommend looking at the television in a restaurant, but at Das Ist Valter, catch at least a few minutes of “Walter Defends Sarajevo,” the 1972 Yugoslav film from which the restaurant gets its name, that most certainly will be playing on the screen.
When we had cravings for American burgers, we headed to Sava Island in the middle of the Sava River to Projekt Burger. In the small shack, they crank out gourmet burgers. The Lord burger features a thick, juicy patty smothered in barbeque sauce, topped with cheese and American-style bacon…and it just might be better than the burgers we eat in the States. For something sweet afterwards, head inside the café to pick a locally made dessert from Pravljicna Hisa. Stick with the American theme and get the apple pie (it’s their best one!).
Drink Locally Produced Slovenian Craft Beer
Slovenia’s craft beer scene is gaining momentum and Kranj is welcoming the revolution. While some cafes are reluctant to embrace the craft brew phenomenon and prefer to keep pouring half-liters of big-brand, small-taste Union and Lasko, we found three bars in Kranj that appreciate better tasting brew – Kavka, Terasa and BeerPub – and a brand new brewery, Kranjska Pivnica.
Kavka Bar, located in the old town center on Maistrov trg, was quick to become our favorite spot to imbibe. Whether people-watching from the patio, listening to live music or getting cozy in the back nook, Kavka exudes an inviting and relaxed vibe. While the beer selection wasn’t the most abundant in town, the local brew they serve just happens to be our most preferred; including Brew Revolt, which they have on draught.
Beer Pub – in a somewhat odd location next to the train station facing a semi-truck parking lot – is all about craft beer, but includes an enormous selection of beers from around the world, as well as those produced in Slovenia. Starcraft is the in-house beer, poured on tap. Kranj’s most well-known local beer joint is Terasa Go Lokal Café; an appropriately named café, as they have a large patio (terrace) and a wide selection of locally crafted beer and wine. Brewed special for the café is Terasa Red Ale from Kranjska Pivnica, Kranj’s local brewery.
Of course, when we wanted to go straight to the source, we walked (or hopped bus #1) just out of the city center to the Kranjsko Pivnico. The brewery, located in a warehouse district, recently opened an on-site tap room with an outdoor patio. They also offer their fresh beer in two-liter glass bottles – perfect for take-away!
Participate in Kranj Community Events
Kranj might not be the biggest city in Slovenia (it’s actually the fourth largest, behind Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje), but they organize a full event schedule! From art exhibitions to outdoor movie screenings to culinary happenings, we were able to participate in quite a few of Kranj’s community events. A few that we especially enjoyed were the City Games Finals, Jazz Kamp Kranj and Kranska Kuhna. Check with the Tourist Information Center to find out what current events are taking place in Kranj.
Discover the Kranj, Slovenia Art Scene
Historically, it seems Kranj has always attracted artists. Some of Kranj’s most famous residents (among them, Dr. France Preseren, writer of Slovenia’s national anthem), were poets, writers, photographers and painters. Today, there are several galleries and museums located in Kranj, including the urban cultural art center, Layer House (Hisa Layer). Located in the former house of Slovene painter Leopold Layer, the space includes art exhibitions, a café and an artist-in-residence program.
For an even more urban art experience, we ‘followed the red line’ on an ‘everyday art’ tour. The line (red tape stuck to the ground, which has faded to white in many places) led us to small, informative plaques throughout the old town that provided brief descriptions of the graffiti, signage or art form we were viewing.
Take in the View of Kranj, Slovenia
Of the three bell towers that rise in the city center, none of them are open to the public for climbing. However, there are two viewpoints in town that are worth checking out. A walk south along the main street in Kranj, Cankarjeva ulica, ends at Pungert. The three-story defensive tower was built in the 16th century and, in 1832, it was used as the town dungeon. However, Pungert isn’t open for climbing, either. Continue beyond the defensive tower to a walkway that leads to the tip of the rock, which provides a lookout point over the Kokra River.
The best place to get a view over Kranj’s old city, however, is to head toward the train station and then go south to the small parking lot. From there, continue south and climb the stairs over the arches. On a clear day, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps provide a stunning backdrop to the city rooftops.
Note: The landmark Water Tower – which is still pumping water to the residents of Kranj, as it has been for more than 100 years – has 150 steps that can be climbed for views…but only on one day of the year. Unfortunately, said day didn’t coincide with our visit.
Visit Kranj Buildings; Old and New
The Parish Church of St. Cantianus is the only one of the three churches in Kranj that is open to the public. The Gothic church was built on Kranj’s main square in the 15th century (on the same location as a smaller church, which dated to the 10th century). The Mount of Olives relief has decorated the arch above the entrance since 1460, but much of the interior is relatively new – the altar dating to 1934.
To visit Kranj’s most modern building, head to the Kranj City Library. The state-of-the-art building was completed in 2011. As excited as we were to use the free wifi, public restrooms and air-conditioned space, we were most impressed with the surround-sound chairs located by the extensive collection of CDs.
See the Skeletons at the Kranj Ossuary
For an eerie and unusual side of Kranj, head underground to the ossuary. The lower level of a former 14th century cemetery church – the foundations of which date to the 6th century – hosts the remains of hundreds of Kranj’s citizens. During an excavation in 1972, the vault of a prominent Kranj family, Egkh, was discovered. Inscribed with a coat-of-arms and year 1475, the vault contains the bones of the family buried there. The skeletons of bodies that were cremated during the 1789 plague, as well as bones dating from the 7th to 18th centuries that were piled together from dug-up graves, were also found…and are now prominently displayed in a glass case. Note: To enter the ossuary, the key must be obtained from the Gorenjski Muzej; the fee is €1 per person.
Hike the trail in the Kranj Canyon of the Kokra River
Kranj’s old town is perched on the tip of a rock at the confluence of the Sava and Kokra Rivers. While the old town is mostly comprised of historic buildings and cobblestone streets, splendid nature is nearby. One-hundred feet down into the canyon of the Korka River is a shaded trail that follows the water’s edge. Descend the stairs on the northwest side of the Postna Ulica bridge and make the ½ mile loop, crossing at the first bridge to the north.
Our top tips for your trip to Kranj, Slovenia
Where To Stay
During our visit to Kranj, we were housesitting with Trusted Housesitters. However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center.
Before You Go
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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