Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game
A sleepy satellite of Ljubljana, Domžale is best known for its straw hats and its surprisingly successful soccer club. Since 2007, NK Domžale have won two league titles and two Slovenian cups, appearing in Europe most seasons.
Intrepid fans of VfB Stuttgart, Dinamo Zagreb and Hapoel Tel Aviv have trekked to Športni park, the municipal ground by the Kamniška Bistrica river that flows down from the Kamnik Alps straddling Slovenia and Austria.
Also nearby is the E57 motorway that links Ljubljana with Maribor, the twin hubs of the domestic game, whose domination of the PrvaLiga has rarely been broken by since Slovenian independence in 1992.
Of those to achieve this breakthrough, the name of Domžale has been the most regular to feature in the league’s top three, making the D on the club badge a source of great civic pride.
Few would beat a path here for the town’s solitary attraction of the Straw Hat Museum – many a curious football traveller has stepped off the frequent bus from Ljubljana by the town’s main supermarket.
This is provincial Slovenia – automatic machines dispense fresh milk and foreigners are treated with friendly curiosity.
Športni park is ten minutes’ walk away. With a capacity of below 3,000, it suits the modest needs of this small town perfectly: easily large enough to accommodate a league game with Krško or Rudar Velenje but also the visits of Maribor, Olimpija Ljubljana and random European opponents.
The ground even hosted a full international in 2007, a rarity – the entire population of Domžale could fit inside the main national stadium of Stožice in Ljubljana.
Arriving in town, local transport and timings
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik airport is closer to Domžale (18km/11 miles) than it is to the Slovenian capital (29km/18 miles). There’s no direct bus service to Domžale from the airport. First you have to take the hourly Alpetour bus into Ljubljana (€4.10, 50min journey time) – for details, choose Letališče Brnik for the airport and Ljubljana AP for the central bus station in the timetable list.
A local Taxi Kamnik direct from the airport to Domžale is quoted at €17. Note that the Ambient Hotel offers free transfers to Domžale by prior appointment.
Going by bus from the airport to Ljubljana Avtobusna postaja, you arrive at the forecourt terminal outside the main train station. Buses to Domžale (€2.70, journey time 25-30mins) run every 20mins, usually leaving from stops 10-11. The train runs hourly to Domžale (€1.85, journey time 20-25mins).
Buses arrive in Domžale on the main street of Ljubljanska cesta, by the main supermarket and a row of shops and cafés. There’s no station as such. Trains do have a station, on Kolodvorska cesta, a 10min walk to the main street.
There’s no local transport and taxi drivers, based in neighbouring Kamnik, often refuse to take passengers on short journeys within Domžale – it’s not worth their while. For the stadium or the best hotel in town, the Ambient, you’ll have to walk.
Where to Drink
The best pubs and bars for football fans
Bars and cafés line the main street of Ljubljanska cesta where the bus from Ljubljana drops you off. These include the old-school Bar Bled (No.82) on the corner, a popular meeting place with a TV in a side room. Further along, the Bar Mercedes is more contemporary, with more of an accent on sport, particularly motor racing. Opposite is the most authentic choice, Zlati Časi, where regulars gather to watch the game on the TV over the doorway. Stars of screen and rock stage watch over proceedings from the back wall.
Just off Ljubljanska cesta, the Mozart bar at Karantanska cesta 3 is a busy bar/café with its own courtyard and a TV inside.
If you’re after a traditional pub, then head for the atmospheric Adam Ravbar, with its own beer garden. A bit of a trek from town, it’s easily accessed if you hop the train one stop from Domžale to Rodica. It closes at 9pm during the week, 10pm Fri/Sat and 5pm on Sundays.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the stadium and city centre
The local council has little practical information on its Slovenian-only website.
Domžale has three hotels. Just off the main road that leads south from the centre of town, the Ambient is a eco-run three-star, bright and modern, with free transfers to and from Ljubljana airport. It’s at the same end of town as the stadium, a pleasant 10min walk away through a quiet, residential district. It has its own bar and restaurant.
The nearest lodging to Športni park is the Alpine-looking Hotel Krona, long-established just over the river from the stadium. Right at the edge of the city limits, it’s popular with sportsmen, musicians and, according to the Kodak snaps in the lobby, bikers. Rooms are functional rather than contemporary but the restaurant lives up to the hotel’s three-star status. Only a short walk from the stadium, it feels a fair way from whatever action you might find in town.
The only option near the town centre is the traditional-looking, ivy-clad Penzion Gostilna Keber, another three-star, this one dating back to 1785. Again, rooms are functional rather than all-frills, but there’s a restaurant and pizzeria spread around an atmospheric courtyard. From here, it’s a shortish walk to the stadium.