SLOVENIA'S first city, Ljubljana, has its fair share of charming Old World plazas, baroque churches and dramatic castles. But this walkable capital (population 280,000) also has a rich cultural scene that would be impressive in a city twice its size. In the last few years, Ljubljana has seen several notable museum openings, a new public bike-rental program and a major renovation of its Hapsburg-era opera house. With the country surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, the national cuisine is infused with a cornucopia of influences; the capital's latest restaurants are bypassing novelty and getting creative with traditional Slovenian fare. There are also surprisingly offbeat facets of the city, like Metelkova City, a cluster of clubs and galleries that opened inside a complex of former military buildings after Slovenia declared independence, in 1991. Elsewhere, remnants of a Roman wall built around A.D. 15 share a block with boxy Communist office buildings and Art Nouveau mansions from Austro-Hungarian times. Such juxtapositions contribute to the city's distinctive character.
4 p.m.1. BARRACKS ART
The city's new museum quarter has turned several 19th-century barracks that once served the Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav armies into cultural spaces. The most recent arrival, the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (Maistrova Ulica 3; 386-1241-6800; mg-lj.si; 5 euros, or $6.25 at $1.25 to the euro), opened last November and specializes in cutting-edge multimedia art from Eastern Europe. Visitors can peruse works like Tanja Ostojic's fascinating "Looking for a Husband With EU Passport," which catalogs the many responses the Serbian artist received to the personals ad she posted, and then watch footage of the early Slovene punk scene in the collection's dedicated Punk Museum.
6 p.m.2. GOULASH AND PASTRIES
The terrific Gujzina (Mestni Trg 19; 386-8380-6446; prekmurska-gostilna.si), which opened in July, serves dishes from Prekmurje, a region abutting Hungary that is celebrated for its gastronomy. The house specialties are Prekmurje bograc, a traditional goulash of spiced beef, pork and venison (6.50 euros), and bujta repa, a succulent hotpot of pickled turnips and pork (4.50 euros). Passers-by often halt midstride to scope out the pastries in the window, chiefly the three-inch-tall gibanica (4.50 euros), an apple, poppy seed, raisin and walnut layer cake.
7:30 p.m.3. GRAND PERFORMANCES
Take in a performance at the Slovenian National Theater, Opera and Ballet Ljubljana (Zupanciceva Ulica 1; 386-1241-5959; opera.si), which reopened last winter after a 42-million-euro renovation and restoration. The 120-year-old cherub- and fresco-laden building is nothing if not grand, with a pink neo-Renaissance facade and copious marble sculptures. Programs tend toward classics like Sergei Prokofiev's symphonic ballet "Romeo and Juliet," but there are also premieres of newer works, like the Slovenian composer Jani Golob's thought-provoking opera "Love Capital."
10 p.m.4. WINE TASTING
There are dozens of artisanal winemakers in Slovenia making wines on a par with those of neighboring Italy. Begin your lesson in local wine at Dvorni Bar (Dvorni Trg 2; 386-1251-1257; dvornibar.net), where patrons choose from about 80 wines by the glass, like a lusty Teran red from the Karst region (2.90 euros), and clink glasses in a room with caricatures sketched on the wall and jazz on the speakers. Vinoteka Movia (Mestni Trg 2; 386-1425-5448; movia.si), across the river, is a cozy affair housed in a part of the baroque Town Hall, which offers many wines from the 192-year-old Movia winery.
11 a.m.5. COFFEE WITH ATMOSPHERE
People-watch over coffee and a pastry at Kavarna Union (Miklosiceva Cesta 1; 386-1308-1270; gh-union.si), an atmospheric fin-de-siècle coffeehouse with crystal chandeliers and portraits of haughty aristocrats. Then explore Ljubljana's homegrown fashion scene, centered nearby. Koda 386 (Tavcarjeva Ulica 4; 386-5903-3350; koda386.com) opened this spring, and sells clothing and accessories from three inventive Slovenian labels: Nina Susnjara, M*Faganel, and Firma by Sanja. Next door, Marjeta Groselj (Tavcarjeva Ulica 4; 386-1231-8984) has been making stylish and colorful handmade purses in this location for 46 years (200 to 640 euros), while Akultura (Tavcarjeva Ulica 5; 386-1432-1075; akultura.si), across the street, focuses on creations made from soft lambskin, like a striking olive green leather jacket (295 euros).
1 p.m.6. TO MARKET, TO MARKET
Whet your appetite with a stroll through the city's bustling Central Market, where sellers hawk everything from seasonal squash to horse pâté. Dine on the main market square at Valentin (Vodnikov Trg 5; 386-5904-1111), a three-month-old fish emporium with a seafood restaurant in the back. Valentin, which has wooden tables, an arched brick ceiling and light nautical décor, serves lunch until 3 p.m., where tasty dishes like fish kebabs, grilled sea bass and calamari are just 6 euros.
2:30 p.m.7. AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN MOOD
Spacious, green and full of centuries-old mansions that double as cultural institutions, Tivoli Park is an idyllic getaway within the city limits. Meander toward the National Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia (Celovska Cesta 23; 386-1300-9610; muzej-nz.si; 3.50 euros), housed inside a salmon-colored baroque mansion dating from 1755 and learn about the final moments of the Austro-Hungarian empire; the effects of both World Wars on the region; Slovenia's years as a part of the former Yugoslavia; and the country's declaration of independence in 1991. Later, check out the quirky public project "Library Under the Treetops" (knjiznicapodkrosnjami.si), which offers chairs and printed media in various languages to passers-by at Tivoli pond (and in the park's glass greenhouse during winter).
6 p.m.8. CASTLE BISTRO
Take the glass elevator up a wooded hill to visit Ljubljana Castle (Grajska Planota 1; 386-1306-4293; ljubljanskigrad.si; 8 euros), a medieval complex that has served as both a Hapsburg royal residence and quarters for Napoleon's army. Most visitors head straight for a tower that offers panoramic views. But the castle's real draw is actually its chic three-year-old restaurant, Gostilna Na Gradu (386-8205-1930; nagradu.si). The stonewalled castle bistro is run by three of the city's top chefs, who turn out Slovenian comfort food like local lamb baked with fennel (14 euros) and pumpkin dumplings with smoked cottage cheese and sage (8.50 euros).
9:30 p.m.9. GARRISON CLUBS
Remember those barracks-turned-museums? There is another area, due north, where the former garrisons were taken over by squatters, who opened around a dozen clubs, concert halls and galleries within them. Covered in vivid graffiti and accented with metal sculptures, Metelkova City (Masarykova Cesta 24; metelkovamesto.org) attracts a free-spirited crowd. They amble between ramshackle venues, depending on which musical genre -- free jazz or garage rock, grindcore or electroclash -- they feel like hearing at that moment. Some clubs, like the concert venue Gala Hala (galahala.com), charge an entry fee, while others, like the multidisciplinary arts space Klub Gromka (klubgromka.org), generally do not.
10 a.m.10. EGGS AND MILITARY MEDALS
Join the 20-somethings who gather for brunch at Kavarna Rog (Petkovskovo Nabrezje 67; 386-1620-0260; kavarna-rog.si), a two-year-old cafe with bicycles drawn on the walls and tempting offerings. Enjoy pancakes with sour cherries and vanilla cream (4.10 euros) or eggs baked with prosciutto and Emmentaler cheese (4.10) while sitting in bronze-colored reading chairs placed around tables made from tree stumps. After brunch, browse through Yugoslav military medals, jeweled brooches, antique clocks and portraits of Tito (among other items) at the lively Sunday flea market held along the riverside promenade Cankarjevo Nabrezje from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
1 p.m.11. ON TWO WHEELS
Last May, Ljubljana introduced a public bike-rental program called Bicikelj (en.bicikelj.si; 1 euro for a week's registration; charges vary). After registering on the Web site, pick up a silver bike at one of 30 stations, and pedal toward the Path of Remembrance and Comradeship, a circular, 20-mile-long recreational path with a remarkable history. During World War II, Ljubljana spent more than three years enclosed by barbed-wire fences built by the occupying Italian Fascists. Later, 7,400 trees were planted where the fences once stood, and it became a memorial circuit around the city. Maps of the path can be acquired from the Slovenian Tourist Information Center (Krekov Trg 10; 386-1306-4576; slovenia.info). The most scenic route runs counterclockwise from point 6 to point 26.
IF YOU GO
The stylish Vander Urbani Resort (Krojaska Ulica 6-8; 386-1200-9000; vanderhotel.com) is a boutique hotel in a charming part of Old Town, with 16 attractive rooms, a rooftop swimming pool, yoga classes and free bike rental. Doubles from 135 euros (about $170).
The historic Hotel Slon (Slovenska Cesta 34; 386-1470-1131; hotelslon.com), now part of the Best Western hotel group, is ideally located and has 168 classic rooms, a 24-hour gym, a Finnish sauna; fast and free Wi-Fi; and a luxurious breakfast buffet. Doubles from 120 euros.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.