Ljubljana offers a fascinating study of contrasts in terms of factors that indicate grassroots enthusiasm for crypto. The city’s score for opportunities, which is based on per capita crypto jobs, events and companies, is excellent, but the score in the drivers category was the second lowest of all the hubs. This poor performance can be explained by the national scale of crypto adoption, which includes all of Slovenia and not just Ljubljana. Ljubljana’s quality of life score was among the top 10, which allowed it to make our list.

To learn more about the criteria we used and how they were weighted, please visit: Our Methodology for Ranking CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs in 2023.

(Ian Suarez/CoinDesk)

In discussions of cryptocurrency-friendly locales, one city comes up far more than most would guess: Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Americans may have difficulty locating the little gem, let alone pronouncing it. (LEEub-LEEyana, or something similar). It’s difficult to imagine a global city that has seen a more subtle rise in recent years, whether it be crypto or otherwise.

Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia from 1991 until the Slovenes were instrumental in the nation’s separation. It is nestled in between Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. Not a perfect neighborhood but not bad either. Slovenia, a small country with just over 2 million people, is a success story in terms of civic and economic development. It’s not as big as Poland or the Czech Republic but it’s still a good one.

Slovenia’s vibrancy has fueled significant crypto activity. Ljubjana may not have the gravitational pull that a megahub such as Hong Kong or London has, but it punches above its weight in the development and adoption of crypto retail payment. It is a member of the EU and enjoys the benefits of the new MiCA standards. The crypto industry has embraced this promising standard.

It is also home to the non-profit Blockchain Alliance Europe, and its own Slovenia Bitcoin Association. Eligma is a company that creates crypto infrastructure.

GoCrypto has developed a checkout system called GoCrypto that offers both crypto-payment options and the more familiar credit card payment processing. Dejan Roljic, GoCrypto’s CEO, told me that he was conscious of the fact that retailers would be more likely to adopt crypto if they made things easier for them. According to a 2022 report, Ljubljana has hundreds retail outlets, bars, and other venues which accept crypto payments.

Another serendipitous connection to crypto is the Ljubljana based The BTC Company. The BTC Company is not a Bitcoin company, but rather a property developer and manager. According to the company’s history, this name dates back to 1993. Roljic says that the company is not afraid of the association and has allowed its BTC City shopping center to serve as a test ground for GoCrypto’s point-of sale system.

Roljic said that, despite his involvement in the crypto world, he chose to remain in Slovenia because of the “quality of life” here. He also mentioned, “you can go to the beach or the mountains within two hours from Ljubljana.”

Slovenia has an impressive reputation for being a sophisticated, advanced nation. The country has a life expectancy that is greater than the United States. Slovenia has a distinguished European Union membership, joining in 2004 as the first ex-Yugoslav republic. According to 2011 statistics, close to 70 % of Slovenian adults are fluent in English.

You can have both good looks and brains

Slovenia’s greatest achievements are in areas that can be measured less easily: architecture and philosophy.

Ljubljana photos look like they’re straight out of a Wes Anderson film, with their bright colors and filigree wedding cakes. You might even bump into Slovenian’s most famous son, Slavoj Zizek. Zizek began his career with incomprehensible tomes interpreting arcane works by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Jacques Lacan and others. His unlikely career culminated as a political commentary and host of a series of scandalously titled documents. Roljic revealed that he was seated next to Zizek in a waiting room of a dentist – it’s a small town.

Those perks do come at a price. The data on Nomadlist.com shows that the costs of living in central Ljubljana are relatively high. They are comparable to Western European cities such as Berlin and they’re significantly higher than Belgrade. According to the same data however, living outside central Ljubljana can be as affordable as Mexico City or even Bangkok, places where English is less common.

If you are looking for a crypto-hub without the frantic pace of life you would find in the U.S., Asia or France, Ljubljana could be the place to go. It also has a little more frontier spirit that you might expect from Germany or France.

Jeanhee Kim & Daniel Kuhn edited the book.