Where squatting meets art at Ljubljana’s Metelkova

Written by on August 4, 2014 in Destinations - 23 Comments

Metelkova in Ljubljana

What do you get when you take away societal norms and merge like-minded individuals with art, music and an entire underground scene that can go entirely unnoticed to people should they not walk down Metelkova 3 Street in Ljubljana, the capital of the tiny Central European country of Slovenia?

Answer: Metelkova.

Located a quick walk from the center of Ljubljana,  it has created one of the hottest underground scenes in all of Europe and today is a place where youth mingle, bands perform, beers are swilled at funky bars, NGOs work and art abounds.

Before the art

Day at Metelkova

Of course, this vibrant enclave wasn’t always the heart of the action. Like Hostel Celica, Metelkova was once a part of military barracks that began to waste away. It wasn’t until the Network for Metelkova was created in 1990, formed by more than 200 organizations as a part of the Movement for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence and the ŠKUC Association, one of the country’s top organizations for the promotion of non-profit artistic activities that this cultural center and massive underground scene began to take shape.

In 1991, the Network for Metelkova formally petitioned the Slovene government to take over the site, and while some promises were whispered regarding the area being handed over, nothing really changed. Two years later, over the course of Sept. 10 and 11, 1993, around 200 people gathered to prevent the destruction of the area and moved in to the neighborhood.

The rest is history.

Metelkova in Slovenia

Since 1995, Metelkova has been a self-ogranized autonomous zone where the squatters work together, decide together and live in this little neighborhood … together.

The scene

A look at day life in Metelkova

By day, Metelkova is a relatively quiet scene with explorers on bikes pedaling through the small area or late-teens and 20-somethings sitting around sipping beer on a warm day outside of art studios.

Bike ride in Ljbuljana

When I’m there, it is pretty peaceful and it is easy to get distracted by the vast array of art splayed on nearly every inch of building.

Street art in Metelkova

The art in Metelkova rivals that of Berlin, although Berlin’s street art scene is far larger of an area than the tiny autonomous community I explore in Ljubljana.

A sculpture in Metelokva

Metelkovca, Ljbuljana

Flowers and street art

Street art in Ljubljana

Art in Metelkova

By night, the entire area comes alive with dub-step competing with rock competing with banter of those simply enjoying all the area has to offer.

And it has quite a lot to offer.

Metelkova is home to heaps of cultural organizations, including KUD Anarhiv, a “social space for the research and development in the theory and practice of anarchistic and related movements,” the KUD Mreža Arts and Culture Association, as well as galleries, a cafe, market, workshops, NGOS and more.

Art in Ljubljana

This area lives and breathes with vigor and vibrance, and simply walking through I can feel the passion and energy thumping out of every crevice.

Getting there

From the train or bus station, exit and head right, following the signs towards Hostel Celica. The hostel is within the autonomous zone of Metelkova. To view on Google Maps, click here.

This post is part of  the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,TroverG+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.

Editor’s Note: I was a guest of Hostel Celica and Visit Ljubljana for a portion of my week in Slovenia, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

23 Comments on " Where squatting meets art at Ljubljana’s Metelkova "

  1. Angie Away August 4, 2014 at 8:36 am · Reply

    Such a colorful post! I wasn’t in Ljubljana long enough to experience all this prettiness… looks like I’ll have to schedule a return visit!

    • Diana August 5, 2014 at 2:57 am · Reply

      You definitely should. I think road trip through Slovenia is in order!

  2. Monica August 4, 2014 at 9:41 am · Reply

    I love this place! I visited Ljubjana a few weeks ago and loved Metelkova. It’s so gorgeous during the day and such a great place for a night out!

    • Diana August 5, 2014 at 2:57 am · Reply

      It is so magnificent during the day!! 🙂 Very cool place indeed.

  3. Ana August 4, 2014 at 9:50 am · Reply

    This is sooo cool! Honestly, you should tour Europe finding places like these, it’s so inspiring and makes me want to jump in my ripped old converse and backpack out of my comfort zone 🙂

    • Diana August 5, 2014 at 2:56 am · Reply

      Trust me, Ana … that is on my mind 🙂

  4. Kristin Addis August 4, 2014 at 11:26 am · Reply

    What a cool-looking place! It reminds me a bit of some of the architecture in Barcelona (ok maybe just the outside, and not a lot, just a bit). I sure do love me some dub step too.

    • Diana August 5, 2014 at 2:55 am · Reply

      Well, next time we’re hanging out together on the continent, let’s bop on over and listen to some dub step together!

  5. Giselle and Cody August 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm · Reply

    Very funky! We love wandering around new cities and discovering art tucked into nooks and crannies, it’s one of our favourite parts of travel. Creativity is everywhere!

    • Diana August 5, 2014 at 2:54 am · Reply

      I LOVE finding gems like this!! You are right — creativity is EVERYWHERE!

  6. Poi August 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm · Reply

    We enjoyed a wander around this place last year, unfortunately it was the middle of winter so there wasn’t a lot going on but it was still a very cool place to visit. Would love to check it out in the summer.

    • Diana August 6, 2014 at 3:38 am · Reply

      I bet it was entirely different! Definitely head there in the warmer months — it is so ALIVE!

  7. Lizzie August 8, 2014 at 11:04 am · Reply

    This looks like such an incredible place! I wish I knew about it when I went to Ljubljana a couple of months ago… Although it does give me a reason to go back 🙂

    • Diana August 9, 2014 at 3:42 am · Reply

      I think that is the best way to look at it! Now you have another reason to go back!

  8. Ligeia and Mindy August 10, 2014 at 2:04 am · Reply

    Wow Diana, this place looks great!! I’m so glad that people protested the destruction of such a place. Think of what the world would be missing! And how lucky that you got to experience it! 🙂

    • Diana August 11, 2014 at 11:18 pm · Reply

      I am so glad it was kept alive, too!

  9. Alex August 11, 2014 at 12:06 am · Reply

    This is the kind of stuff I swoon for when I travel — art, quirk, photo opps! Love love love.

    • Diana August 11, 2014 at 11:17 pm · Reply

      Me, too! Let’s go find cool street art when you are here in CM!

  10. John @ GoodPlanetLiving August 12, 2014 at 2:46 am · Reply

    I frequented Ljubjana a couple of several weeks ago and liked Metelkova. It’s so stunning during the day and such a good spot for a evening out!

    • Diana August 12, 2014 at 9:25 pm · Reply

      I want to go back so badly!!

  11. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam July 4, 2015 at 4:38 am · Reply

    Metelkova is SUCH a cool place, and Celica hostel in particular. We have a similar area in Copenhagen called Freetown Christiania where the inhabitants have their own culture and set of rules. Lots of weird art and graffiti.

    • Diana July 5, 2015 at 10:47 am · Reply

      Oh, cool!! I have never heard of that town. I will have to check it out when I get to Copenhagen! Thanks for the tip!!

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