The legend goes that Ljubljana was founded by Prince Jason and Argonauts on their way back home with the Golden Fleece. According to the legend, Jason fought there a dragon that is now depicted on the city's coat of arms. The Romans settled in the area about 50 B.C. and called their city Emona. The Slavs arrived about the end of the 6th Century, and their settlement gradually grew into a Medieval town. In the 13th Century it became capital of the Carniola province. In 1335 it came under Habsburg rule and flourished as a center of trade and crafts. The Reformation had a great influence over Ljubljana, the first books in Slovenian were published, and the Bible was translated into Slovenian.

When Napoleon occupied Carniola, Ljubljana became capital of the Illyrian Provinces. Austria, however, soon restored control over the area. In 1895 the city was hit by a disastrous earthquake which left it in ruins. The restoration works introduced the Secessionist style which blended well with the earlier Baroque buildings. With the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ljubljana became the political and administrative center of Slovenia. World War II brought much suffering to the city. It was first occupied by the Italians, then by the Germans. After the war Slovenia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and only gained independence in 1990.

One of the city's tourist attractions is the Castle on a hill. It was used as a fortress during the Middle Ages, and contains a 15th-century Baroque chapel of St George.

Many of the city's finest buildings, parks and squares were designed by Joze Plecnik between the wars: St Michael's Church, the National and University Library, the Church of St Francis, Ljubljana Stadium, the Market, the Three Bridges and the Tivoli Park.

The St Nicholas cathedral, dedicated to the patron of fishermen and sailors, dates back to the 13th Century. The initial Romanesque building was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in Gothic style. It was burned down by the Turks in 1469, and replaced by the building with two towers that can be seen today. It was designed by the Jesuit Andrea Pozzo and decorated on the inside by Giulio Quaglio. The church contains a fine altar and choir stalls.

The Krizniki church was built by the Teutonian Order of the Cross in the 13th Century. Very little of the original building has been preserved. In the 18th Century the church was rebuilt in Baroque style by Domenico Rossi, a Venetian architect, and in the 1950s it was reconstructed by Plecnik into a cultural center.

The Three Bridges and the Shoemakers Bridge are the oldest bridges over the river Ljubljanica. The Shoemakers Bridge was initially made of wood and had butchers' shops on it but they smelled so bad that the emperor had them removed and replaced by shoemakers' shops. A later iron bridge was replaced by a stone one designed by Plecnik. The Three Bridges is a unique construction. Plecnik added two extra bridges to an existing one, and an elegant lacy stone structure resulted.

The Town Hall is adorned by a Baroque arcade and a fountain by Francesco Robba, considered to be the most beautiful Baroque monument in Ljubljana. The Ursuline Church is a splendid Baroque building. It contains a fine altar made of African marble. The Chapel of the Virgin is another fine Baroque structure with beautiful frescoes inside.