Ljubljana is a city built on Roman foundations, an example of a masterpiece of urban planning, a European capital with rich history & art and a festival city, where travellers can experience lifestyle, customs, cuisine, folklore, street theatre and classical music.
Emona was a Roman civil town, built on the site of an old indigenous settlement on the territory of the present city centre of Ljubljana around 14 AD. This is evidenced by an inscription about a donation that the city received from the emperors Augustus and Tiberius. It is believed that Emona had a population of approximately 5,000 people, mostly farmers, landlords and merchants, including a small number of government officials and war veterans. The city was built on a Roman model and governed in accordance with Roman political and religious principles.
Nowadays, the remains of Emona are found in three main areas of Ljubljana. Former decumanus and cardo are today’s Rimska and Slovenska streets, while the Roman forum is stressed with the building design of Ferant garden by the architect Edvard Ravnikar. A replica of the bronze Roman statue Emonec stands at the west side of Congress Square.
Architect Jože Plečnik renovated a section of the old Roman city walls at Mirje, not far from the Faculty of Arts of Ljubljana. He designed a park inside the wall and built a stone pyramid over the gate using old Roman stones from the neighbourhood. Because of its stone structure, free climbers spend hours here, hanging on the wall, training and learning the grips. The place is also popular amongst younger generations, who frequently hang out and relax on top of the pyramid.
Jože Plečnik, the most important Slovenian architect who left an incredible on Vienna and Prague, transformed Slovenia’s capital city into a unique example of urban planning, considered to be one of the 20th century’s most important total works of art. His style, innovative even by today’s standards, is characterized by the use of classical architectural elements, such as pillars, lintels, balustrades and colonnettes, redesigned and combined in the architect’s own special way.
Plečnik’s best-known works include the National and University Library building, the Ljubljanica river embankments, the Triple Bridge and the Cobblers’ Bridge, the Central Market, the Križanke Summer Theatre, the funeral home at the Žale cemetery, etc.
While you can admire his works all over Ljubljana, you should also visit Plečnik’s House to get a better insight into his life and work. The architect’s home is preserved exactly as it was in his lifetime and consists of two neighbouring houses and an adjacent garden with a lapidary.
The permanent exhibition showcases not only sketches, plans, models, and photographs relating to his famous creations, but also plans for buildings that never saw the light of day, the most notable being the Cathedral of Freedom, intended to house the Slovenian Parliament and featured on the Slovenian 0,10 EUR coin.
Metelkova mesto is an alternative epicentre that developed from a squat of old military barracks into an autonomous culture centre featuring clubs (Gala Hala, Channel Zero etc.), bars (Jalla Jalla), galleries (Mizzart, Alkatraz), libraries, non-government organizations, art studios, Hostel Celica, etc.
The centre hosts art performances, exhibitions, and an occasional festival and is defined by street art – graffiti, sculptures and all kinds of installations. With a vibrant programme of events, it draws a mixed crowd, including anyone from students and underground music fans to visitors of Ljubljana and professionals enjoying a night out.
Those seeking something really unique should visit the Night Display Gallery Pešak, which consists of five windows on the first floor of the Pešaki building behind Metelkova mesto.
As the name itself gives it away, it is exclusively a night exhibition that can be viewed from dusk till 1 o’clock in the morning. Visitors cannot enter the gallery, but can only see the artworks from the street or climb up the central tower on which they will find binoculars for a closer look. Feel the heartbeat of Metelkova on a Friday evening and get a really good taste of its nightlife while gazing at the exhibited art.
The National Gallery, the country’s most important museum of historical art, holds Slovenia’s largest collection of fine art from the High Middle Ages to the 20th century. Its permanent collection is divided into sections according to historical periods and consists of nearly 600 works by Slovenian and European artists. Among others, it includes medieval sacred art, works of art of Baroque artists, Biedermeier portraits, neoclassical paintings, works by the Realists brothers Janez and Jurij Šubic, paintings by the popular Slovenian painter Ivana Kobilca, and the famous masterpieces of Slovenian Impressionists Ivan Grohar, Rihard Jakopič, and Matija Jama.
The gallery houses also one of the greatest masterpieces of Baroque art in Ljubljana, the Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers by Italian artist Francesco Robba. The fountain once stood in front of the Town Hall but is now replaced by its replica.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Robba’s Fountain is another one in minor size, known as the Narcissus Fountain. It lays hidden inside the Town Hall’s atrium, in the furthest corner, and shows a young and graceful Narcissus, admiring his own image in the water. It is assumed to have been made by the same Italian sculptor Francesco Robba, whom Slovenian art historians treat as their own since he took over the workshop of Slovenian stonemason Luka Mislej and even married his daughter.
Ljubljana is a vibrant city with thousands of cultural events each year, including 14 international festivals. During the warmer months of the year, the city livens up with events taking place outdoors and in public areas
The foremost event is, without doubt, the Ljubljana Festival, a renowned and highly ambitious international festival, that takes place from the end of June to the end of September and offers a variety of music, theatre and dance performances by leading international as well as domestic artists.
No less popular are the Ana Desetnica Street Theatre Festival that changes the streets of Ljubljana into a stage for a few days, where the audience also participates in performances or the Summer in the Old Ljubljana Town Festival that hosts concerts of old music in churches and open-air jazz concerts. There is also the Gala Hala Summer Stage in Metelkova with alternative concerts and DJ nights, and the Film under the Stars Festival at the Ljubljana Castle. At the end of the year, the centre of Ljubljana hosts a festive fair and countless entertainment events as part of the December in Ljubljana festival.
Among the many events that take place in the city, you should not miss those closest to Galeria River. Every Sunday Ljubljana’s Antique Flea Market offers antiques, art pieces and all kinds of trinkets of collectable or nostalgic value on the Breg embankment. In the warmer months, the ARTish festival and Art Market are held in the same spot and in the old city centre’s Gornji trg square. While ARTish takes place every last Saturday of the month, the Art Market is held each and every Saturday. Both feature a selling exhibition of original works by Slovenian creators, as well as free creative workshops for adults and children, theatre performances, music concerts, charity projects, etc.
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