Ljubljana street art

When I said that I was going to visit Ljubljana the first thing that people asked me is “where did you say that you were you going?” The second question was how on earth do you pronounce it?  So for those of you who are still uncertain here it is phonetically – lyoo-BLYAH-nah and if you don’t know where it is, it’s in Slovenia.


Street art or graffiti in Metelkova Mesto?



Ljubljana is a beautiful city, clean, laid back and picture postcard perfect. There is however another side to the town about a 15 min walk away from the old town centre. It’s known as Metelkova Mesto and is one of the largest urban squats in Europe. It sprawls across about 12 500 sq meters of an old abandoned army base. It is also the home of alternate art and music. This is Ljubljana’s version of Copenhagen’s Christiania best known for its inhabitant’s alternate lifestyles.



Ljubljana : Is this hell? Who knows?
Ljubljana Street Art : Is this a representation of hell? Who knows?



Metelkova  background


Metelkova began its life in 1990 with the idea of using the barracks for creative purposes. In 1991, after the Ten Day War, the Yugoslav People’s Army withdrew from the site. In 1993 it was decided to demolish the site. In order to protect it squatters moved in and created ‘Metelkova Mesto’ as a cultural centre.


After numerous attempts to remove the squatters the government gave up and in 1994, with a change in government, all charges against the squatters were dropped and the ruined buildings were brought back to life by the inhabitants.



Ljubljana street art mosaics
Ljubljana street art mosaics



When I walked through it during the day it was deserted, except for a couple of people lazing around in the sun. There was an eerie feel about it. Even so I felt safe. The walls are crumbling and there are upturned oil drums all over. Rusted sculptures, vibrant tiles and brightly painted walls stand juxtaposed. There are mosaics, urban art installations and of course, graffiti everywhere, or is it street art?



Ljubljana Metelkova Mesto locals chilling
Ljubljana Metelkova Mesto locals just chilling



Street art or graffiti?


This brought up an interesting dilemma for me. What’s the difference? To me it was street art so I delved a little deeper to satisfy my own curiosity.


The general consensus is that both are subversive art movements. A graffiti artist usually does not want the work to speak to the general public. They are expressing themselves to other graffiti artists. Street artists want you to engage in their work. They are trying to make a statement. Both forms can be seen as contemporary art. To me Metelkova is an expression of street art, but to you it might mean something different.



Ljubljana street art : Vibrant colours
Ljubljana street art : Vibrant colours



Party Central


At night the area comes alive with hipsters, locals, squatters and even the occasional tourist who can be found looking for a lively night out. Music can be heard wafting on the breeze until the early hours of the morning.


Exhibitions, installations and performances are held during the year. Underground artists and DJS come from all over to embrace the alternate lifestyle of this city.



Ljubljana Metelkova street art
Metelkova street art



Celica Hostel


The area also includes the notorious prison that has now been turned into an incredibly cool boutique hostel. The prison was built in 1882 and was used for a 100 years before it was abandoned. In 2003 the newly refurbished prison opened its doors as the Celica Hostel. Find out more about this amazing hostel in a separate post.



Ljubljana Metelkova street art
Ljubljana Metelkova street art



Final thoughts


Whatever you do don’t miss visiting this quirky, vibrant part of town. It’s like nothing else I have ever seen! I was completely taken by surprise but I was also fascinated by the expressive art. Why not explore it and decide for yourself if it is street art or graffiti?






Street art in Ljubljana
Street art in Ljubljana







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Ljubljana – The alternate side

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12 thoughts on “Ljubljana – The alternate side

    1. Yes, I agree. I loved sharing these pics and telling the story. I really hope you have a chance to visit one day.

  1. It’s really neat looking, for sure. I would side on the graffiti or vandalism definition if it was not approved and not their property.

    1. Yeah, I think that they like it and accept it, but that’s what makes the interpretation so interesting.

  2. From the looks of that graffiti, it is street art. Well planned murals. Most graffiti artists do both and look down of spray paint vandals who claim to be doing graffiti. It looks fascinating. I would love to take my son there.

    1. I loved it which really did surprise me. I think more and more art is now being expressed in this form and I was totally fascinated by it. I am sure that your son would love it!

  3. The alternate side of Ljubljana is so fascinating. This quirky side has a colourful charm of its own. I especially loved the unique and innovative art of Metelkova Mesto. It is always a pleasure to see and read about street art across the world.

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