At each entrance to Ljubljana’s dramatic Dragon Bridge, a pair of menacing green dragons stand watch, their stone-sculpted wings poised for flight and fire-breathing tongues darting out of their mouths. Erected in 1901, the striking quartet of dragons have become one of the city’s most memorable landmarks, but the statues are more than just aesthetic monuments. The mythical creatures are not only symbolic of the city’s founding (allegedly settled by Jason and the Argonauts after valiantly defeating a dragon) but local legend dictates that the dragons will swish their tails when the bridge is crossed by a virgin.
Crossing the Ljubljanica River just east of the equally impressive Triple Bridge, the Dragon Bridge is now one of the city’s most important bridges, connecting the modern city with the Old Town. Originally built and named for the Hapsburg Emperor, Franc Jozef, the more fitting nickname of the ‘Dragon bridge’ soon stuck, but the inscription of the side of the bridge still reads his dedication. The masterpiece of Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninovic, the bridge is a much-celebrated example of the city’s Art Nouveau architecture, constructed from reinforced concrete and decorated with elaborate balustrades and original 20th-century street lamps.