Year round you can experience Ljubljana's many museums and historic sites for little or no cost. For discounted admission to attractions with entrance fees and free use of city transportation for up to three days, purchase a Ljubljana tourist card for $16.
Start your visit at the Ljubljana Castle, which sits on top of a hill in the city center and offers sweeping views of the city and the nearby Julian Alps. Tour the castle for $4 per adult. Down in the city itself, meander through the market squares and narrow alleyways of Old Town and browse the open-air market at Vodnikov Trg (trg means square). Also, stroll along the tree-lined Ljubljanica River and admire the ornate stone bridges, including the elaborate Triple Bridge and the Art Nouveau Dragon Bridge. To learn more about the city's art and culture, stop by the National Gallery (Presernova 24) to see Slovene art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and the National Museum (Muzejska 1) to view exhibitions on local archeology and history. Both charge about $4 per adult for admission.
For detailed information about Ljubljana attractions, accommodations, dining, events, and more, go to the Ljubljana Tourist Information Portal. The Slovenia Tourist Board website is also helpful, and includes links to many city hotels. Using these links, we found high-season rates starting at $58 per night for two-star hotels $116 for three-star hotels.
Unlike Slovenia, Croatia was hit hard during the breakup of Yugoslavia, but the capital city of Zagreb survived with most of the historic sites and cultural institutions from its 900-year history intact. Today, Zagreb is home to more than 30 museums and galleries that hold more than three million artifacts and exhibits. The city is also blossoming with modern shops, restaurants, bars, and other new businesses.
To get around the city and save on sightseeing, purchase a Zagreb Card online for $16. This discount card allows unlimited free travel on public transportation and discounts at nearly all Zagreb museums for three days.
A proper tour of Zagreb begins in its historic heart, Upper Town, where you can see the neo-Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the colorfully tiled St. Mark's Church. While in the area, be sure to stop by the Croatian History Museum (Matoseva 9) which is located in the baroque palace Vojkovic-Orsic-Rauch and holds more than 140,000 historic objects. Admission is about $2 per adult. To learn more about Croatian history including the tragic events of the 20th century, check out the Zagreb City Museum, for a $4 charge.
There are many more museums in Zagreb's Lower Town, including the Archaeological Museum (19 Nikola Subic Zrinski Square), where you can see a large collection of Egyptian artifacts, plus Greek and Roman exhibits. There is an entrance fee of $4 per adult. For a mere $2 charge, admire European paintings from the 14th through 19th centuries in the nearby Strossmayer's Old Masters Gallery.
Learn more about Zagreb by visiting the Croatian National Tourist Board website, where you can find links to city hotels along with other detailed travel information. Browsing the hotels' websites, we found per-night rates for two-star hotels starting at $73 and three-star hotels starting at $118 for stays in the summer.
Getting to Eastern Europe
Getting to Krakow, Ljubljana, or Zagreb from the U.S. in the summer is a pricey proposition, with round-trip fares costing over $1,000 from the East Coast. You'll save several hundred dollars if you can travel during off-peak months in the spring and fall.
You can also try booking a cheap flight to London and then taking a low-cost European carrier to your final destination. We found flights on EasyJet from London to Krakow or Ljubljana for a little over $70 each way. To get to Zagreb from London, you can book a flight on EuropebyAir for $99 each way. Taxes are extra.