Meet the Neighbours: Ljubljana’s BTC City within a City, and More.

Total Croatia News

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May 27, 2019 – Continuing TCN’s tour of neighbouring Slovenia with the Association of Slovenian Travel Journalists last week, a visit to the gourmet BTC City in Ljubljana.  

Moving from the island of Hvar to a village near Varazdin has certainly given me a different perspective on life in Croatia, and one of the main benefits has been the ability to explore both continental Croatia and some of the neighbouring countries. With Budapest less than 3 hours by car, Graz just 90 minutes, and gorgeous Ptuj, the oldest town in Slovenia, a short 30-minute drive from our front door, there was certainly plenty more choice at the weekend. But there was one city which really captured our hearts. 


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Although I still didn’t know Ljubljana well, its picturesque old town divided by the river was one of the most beautiful capitals I have seen, and we have had plans to explore further later this year. And so it didn’t take long for me to accept an invitation for a three-day tour of the country from my Slovenian travel journalist colleagues. If you are going to explore a destination, they what better way than in the engaging company of the local experts?

The trip was organised into three separate parts. Yesterday, I wrote about a region that was previously unknown to me, but one I shall be visiting again soon – the delightful Big Berry lifestyle resort on the banks of the River Kupa on the border with Croatia, and the fascinating Bela Krajina region. Looking at the programme, and mainly due to my ignorance, I was not sure what the second day would have in store, as it seemed to be centred on a shopping complex called BTC City in Ljubljana, sometimes known as Bitcoin City. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew that there was a huge shopping mall in the Slovenian capital, but that was as far as my knowledge went. 

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it was quite an education, as well as a fantastic lesson both in urban regeneration and environmental planning for the future. 

At around 400,000 m2, it truly is a city within a city, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was bigger than the old town in size. What is certain is that it is one of the largest shopping and entertainment malls in all Europe, and much, much more than a simple shopping experience. What makes it all the more impressive is its transformation from its former life. 

Today’s BTC City started life back in 1954 offering warehousing space. As the business expanded, so too did the area’s importance in former Yugoslavia, and by 1975, it had become the largest goods and transport centre in former Yugoslavia, and it was known as Blagovno Transportni Center Ljubljana, or BTC for short. Today BTC City consists of more than 450 shops with 10,000 brands, an Adrenaline Park, Aqua park with 17 pools and 15 saunas, more than 70 bars and restaurants, including a great street food square and vibrant open market, multiplex cinemas, a casino, and lots of activities for the kids. 

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Located just off the Ljubljana ring road, it is very accessible, and if the old town is the main tourist attraction, BTC City is where the city goes for food, shopping and entertainment. 

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The BTC City management team have been very active in adding content to the city, to make it much more than just a shopping destination. There is, for example, the Franja BTC City Cycling Marathon in June, as well as the Crystal Palace run in November, to the top of the tallest building in Slovenia of the same name. 

And, as you can see, the views from the top are quite divine, overlooking the greenness of this greenest of lands. 

BTC City is sometimes called Bitcoin City, and there has been some excitement in the cryptocurrency world that a city has been built in Slovenia for the leading cryptocurrency. The reality is a little different. It is certainly true that Slovenia is one of the more advanced European countries when it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoins are accepted in some of the BTC City stores, but not all. It is also true, as the link above explains, that there has been some government endorsement of ‘Bitcoin City’, but the main association between the two seems to be that they share the same three letters, BTC. Having said that, should the Bitcoin story progress, I would expect BTC City to be in the forefront of change, as the development is very forward thinking. 

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Another key aspect of BTC City is its gourmet offer. with more than 70 restaurants and bars offering 30 international cuisines, BTC City is a great foodie destination. This diversity has been captured in a concept called Food Bluz, an initiative to establish BTC City as a foodie destination. I must confess that I really liked Slovenia’s approach to promoting gourmet tourism. In addition to an excellent bilingual book promoting Food Bluz, written by Slovenian gourmet expert, Professor Janez Bogataj Ph.D and edited by Maja Oven, Slovenia will become the European Region of Gastronomy in 2021. And, as we were to find out, there was plenty to taste during our quick tour of a fraction of what was on offer. 

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We made a very strong start with a glass of bubbly at diVino, while watching head chef and world pasta vice-champion, Matjaz Cotic, preparing his Mediterranean dishes from locally sourced ingredients. 

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And we could not move on before adhering to the diVino motto ‘to beef or not to beef’ – this Tuscan beef was sensational.

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There was no time to linger, and soon we were off across a rather fun Street Food Square, where the aromas of a plethora of cuisines filled the air. Some Asian spices got my heart racing, Asian cuisine being one of the things I miss in Croatia. 

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We settled on a lovely locale called Skrniclj, whose hearty portions of tripe, liver, goulash and mushroom soup were well received.  

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And the beer selection was rather interesting. A Slovenian brewery cashing in on the name of the ex-President of Former Yugoslavia. 

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From beer to wine, as we popped next door to Hisa Refoska for a refreshing glass of Slovenian Malvazija, an indigenous Istrian grape variety it shares with its Croatian neighbour. 

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From wine back to beer, with a hint of Asian fusion. I was not the only one potentially getting (con)fused. 

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The Kratochwill beer hall is probably the largest in all Ljubljana, with 400 seats inside and 200 more outside. It is also one of the oldest restaurants in BTC City, with a great range of experimental craft beers to try.


There was plenty more on offer to eat, but there are limits to what even the most dedicated correspondent can consume without a little exercise between meals. 

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I particularly liked the open market – such a great selection of the freshest produce. 

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Slovenia is a nation of beekeepers, and so it was no surprise to come across town beekeepers tending to their hives while others shopped, played, ate and drank. 

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And if you are in the mood for romancing your wife with flowers, you have come to the right spot. 

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I also liked the way BTC City preserved the heritage of the past. Here is the former control tower of the old Ljubljana Airport, completely rebuilt and soon to be operating as an upmarket ice cream parlour called Cacao. 

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Our tour concluded on the 20th floor of the tallest building in the country – Crystal Caffe. Rather than running up, as they will in November in the Crystal Palace race, we took the lift, to be rewarded with fabulous views of this most photogenic country. 

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And cake!

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A day which started wondering what there would be to see in a shopping complex ended with a deep appreciation of this fully integrated city within a city – a tourist destination in its own right. And a city within a city which is using its various attractions to great effect. With its catchment area of several million consumers and the most comprehensive offer in the region concentrated in one place, BTC City offers an excellent tourism, gourmet and shopping experience in its own right. 

Combine it with the historic old town of Ljubljana and it is outstanding. 

To learn more about BTC City, visit the official website


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