Tourist Attractions in Ljubljana (Part 2)

Comedy Tour Ljubljana, Hanging Shoes

Following up on part 1, here is the continued list of must visit tourist attractions in Ljubljana. This time we put more focus on the contemporary culture and places where the old meets the new.

1. Metelkova Mesto

A well known autonomous cultural center of artistic and political engagement as well as a popular place for social gathering. Combining a number of different alternative clubs and music venues, Metelkova is also the home of various studios, creative workshops and galleries, where many independent artists find their place. Most of them are actively developing Metelkova, painting its walls, contributing sculptures, taking care of the parks and creating interesting new places within the existing complex.

As such Metelkova is one of the most important centers of alternative culture in Slovenia. This autonomous cultural center occupies the north part of what used to be an Austro-Hungarian barracks. It was established in 1993 by a group of activists who took over the buildings formerly occupied by the army of Yugoslavia. Despite several attempts of the government to shut it down and destroy the buildings, Metelkova survived and is now protected as part of Slovenia’s immovable cultural heritage. A part of it is also occupied by a cool hostel Celica (meaning cell), which is where the military prison used to have its cells.   

2. Slovene Ethnographic Museum

Occupying a neighboring part of the former barracks, SEM is a museum about people for people. A place of cultural identities and dialogue between the past and the future as well as between nature and civilization. As the main ethnographic museum in the country it stores both local and international collections of material, social and spiritual culture, performing studies, providing insight and taking care of their preservation. By organizing yearly cycles of exhibitions, educational programs, and publications SEM is constantly presenting and communicating knowledge about the material cultural heritage as well as the intangible legacy, value systems, techniques, wisdom and creativity of both local and international origin. A part of SEM is also an excellent bar with a large charming terrace.

3. Butcher’s Bridge

A bridge connecting Ljubljana’s main market place with the opposite Petkovšek bank of the river Ljubljanica. Though notable architect Jože Plečnik had already envisioned it in the 1940’s they haven’t build the bridge until 2010. Designed by a group of architects ATELIERarhitekti and adorned with statues by Jakov Brdar, it became an intriguing piece of contemporary architecture. By connecting the two banks it also helped revive the Petkovšek bank which was often overlooked due to its poor accessibility.

What’s most interesting about this bridge are the somewhat dark and grotesque sculptures. When approaching the bridge from the marketplace you first encounter statues of disgraced Adam and Eve on their way from paradise after being banished. Next, when moving towards the center there is a statue of Satire. Finally at the other end there is a statue of a decapitated Prometheus with torn up chest, exposing his ribcage and spine. Smaller sculptures on the fences and on a few spots around the surrounding bank include a frog, several fish, some ducks and a dog. The railings of the bridge are a popular place for hanging locks.

4. Indoor Marketplace (along the Riverbank)

In 1940’s, after discovering that the marketplace of the time was no longer in accordance with hygienic standards, the municipality of Ljubljana commissioned a new indoor marketplace to be built. The architect in charge was Jože Plečnik, who designed it as a series of small shops connected by arched walls and two rows of pillars extending along the riverbank of Ljubljanica, following the shape of its stream. He covered the roof with massive concrete tiles, drawing inspiration for the overall look from renaissance architecture. It has two floors, one on ground level and one below. The first is occupied by shops, while the level below is now an art gallery called Dobra Vaga. The main focus of the gallery is on contemporary works of young artists, promoting engaged and innovative formats of artistic expression.  

5. Rog Factory

A former bicycle factory repurposed as an autonomous social and cultural center. Rog Factory is home to a number of diverse activities. These include Philosophy lectures, Graffiti painting, Film screenings and, at night, rave parties. The concept is similar to the one seen in Metelkova. However Rog hasn’t been repurposed until 2006 and is not so well established. The whole complex is comprised of one main large building and several smaller ones. They host art studios, galleries, two skate parks, concert and clubbing venues. They also offer a bicycle repair shop and a social center for the disadvantaged, welcoming migrants and refugees. The key features of all the activities taking place at Rog are DIY, horizontal organisation and socially progressive politics. They mostly operate the place on a non profit basis.

6. Modern Gallery of Ljubljana

The main gallery of Slovenian 20th century art. In addition to that it is also a museum of modern and contemporary artworks. The curators pay special attention to specific cultural, historic and geopolitical circumstances, relating local art to the global creative environment. They regularly host monographic exhibitions of notable Slovenian artists, from impressionists to contemporary creators. The gallery also includes a library, an information center, an archive and a photo archive of modern and contemporary art.

The gallery exhibits the works in 2 separate places. The first is the main building at Cankarjeva 15 (next to park Tivoli). The second is an additional building occupying a part of the same complex as Metelkova Mesto and SEM. The exact address of the second building is Maistrova 3 (or Metelkova 22). Architect Edvard Ravnikar designed the main building. It has a symmetrical structure, giving it a monumental overall look. He drew inspiration from the neoclassical style and the works of Jože Plečnik.


That’s it for part 2. We’re still not quite finished so stay tuned for part 3.