When the City is a Sketchbook: Street Art in Ljubljana

Colourful animals street art in AKS Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Ljubljana feels like a street artist’s playground. Wandering around the streets of Slovenia’s capital city, it’s hard to find a building that hasn’t been painted, drawn or written on in some way. There is so much street art in Ljubljana, in fact, that it’s almost distracting. Which I LOVE, by the way.

NB: Where possible, we’ve tried to credit the artists responsible for each piece, though research along these lines is often sketchy. If there is a piece that is unnamed, it is because we do not know who created it. If you do, or you see that a piece has been credited to the wrong artist, please let us know in the comments below and we will correct it.

Literary Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Part of the reason for the sheer volume of graffiti and murals probably comes from the fact that many of the buildings here have large, bright surfaces that must be so inviting to graffiti artists and street art creatives.

Another more likely possibility is that so much visual expression comes from the fact that Ljubljana is home to not one, but two separate autonomous artistic communities: Metelkova and The Republic of Rog (more on these down below).

Graffiti in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Whatever the reason, Ljubljana is a visual feast for the eyes, with cartoons, tags, comedic and political messages and brightly coloured murals, all intermingled with hundreds of years of the city’s history and culture. No matter how you feel about street art, taking time to appreciate it is a vital part of any Ljubljana itinerary or road trip through Slovenia.

ANMLS 2014 Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by ANMLS/Animals – This fox turned up more than once across the city

Here are some examples of the many and varied pieces you can see throughout the city, and a breakdown of the three best areas for viewing street art in Ljubljana.

Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Autonomous Metelkova

Eugen Street Art outside Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Eugen – This striking face stares down the street outside Metelkova

If you’re looking for street art in Ljubljana, your first port of call should be here. The Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre (in Slovenian: “Avtonomni kulturni centre Metelkova mesto” or AKC for short) lies just down the road from the main bus station of Ljubljana.

Street Art of Tesla and Einstein in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Metelkova began its life as an Austro-Hungarian army barracks in 1882 which, after being finished in 1911, eventually became the headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army.

Street Art in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia

When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1991, a large number of artistic and youth groups formed the “Network for Metelkova” (named after the nearby Metelkova Street) and asked the municipality of Ljubljana for permission to turn the site into an artistic commune.

Street Art in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Thus began the creative and slightly unstable life of Autonomous Metelkova. Much like Christiania in Copenhagen or Užupis in Vilnius, Metelkova strives to be its own municipality but is not entirely legal.

Polite Bast Street Art in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Polite Bast

Having been granted permission to use the former barracks, the decision was then reversed a couple of years later when demolition of some of the barracks was approved in order to convert the site for commercial sale. The site became a squat, and has existed precariously ever since.

Raze Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Raze

However, in its lifetime it has become an artistic haven, with all manner of murals, sculptures, structures and decorations. They also have regular live events! And in 2005 the area was officially recognised as a national cultural heritage. So it isn’t going anywhere for now.

Street Art Sculpture outside Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia
On top of two dimensional murals, Metelkova also features quite a few 3-D sculptures.
Street Art in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia
This piece overlooks one of the main courtyards of the complex
Street Art Structure in Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia
I’m particularly fond of this wood and metal spider-tank

Address: Metelkova ulica 10, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Live Events and Further Information: http://www.metelkovamesto.org/

Interested in staying in Metelkova? Book Celica Hostel, a former prison converted into an artist’s paradise!

The Republic of Rog

Republic of Rog Symbol Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Republic of Rog, also known as the Autonomous Factory Rog, has a similar situation and story to Metelkova. Instead of a military barracks, Rog was formerly a factory that made Rog bicycles from 1953 until it was abandoned in 1991.

Street Art inside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia

For 15 years the Rog factory was empty. Then, in 2002, the municipality of Ljubljana (remember them?) bought the entire complex and began discussions on what to do with the place.

Street Art inside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia

After four years of much discussion but relative inaction, a group of artists, students and activists organised an occupation of Rog and started to hold events there.

Street Art outside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Unfortunately for the Republic of Rog, it has not been as accepted as Metelkova. In June of 2016, the tension between the occupants of Rog and the municipality reached a height when construction crews entered the complex to begin demolition.

Azram Street Art outside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Azram

After just over a week, the demolition was halted until legal proceedings concerning the rights of the cultural centre could be concluded. As of the writing of this article, the conflict is still unresolved, leaving the ultimate fate of the Autonomous Factory Rog uncertain.

Azram Mural outside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Azram

In spite of its precarious future, since its occupation Rog has been transformed into a veritable cornucopia of creative expression. The former factory buildings now contain all manner of repurposed areas, including multiple gallery spaces, two skate parks, the main social centre, various concert and clubbing venues, artist studios and, appropriately, a bicycle repair shop.

Street Art outside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Azram

There’s a LOT of street art here, both inside the grounds and on the long wall running outside on the street. There’s even a piece here by the internationally renowned Blu, who we fell in love with in Krakow!

Street Art by Blu inside the Republic of Rog in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Art by Blu – the “gun” is pointing at the municipality of Ljubljana. No love lost there …

Address: Trubarjeva cesta 72, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Live Events and Further Information: http://atrog.org/en/

Street Art on the Streets of Ljubljana

Okay, okay, I know this isn’t much of a specific area. But the sheer amount of artwork on show means you really just can’t miss!

Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia

We explored all around the most central area, from Bleiweisova Street across to the Dragon Bridge, the old town and beyond. On virtually every corner, there was something interesting to see.

In July of 2019, Ljubljana held its first International Street Art Festival. The five day event was designed to encourage visitors “to read the streets and actively participate, while supporting young, yet-to-be-established generations of street artists and caring for the bright future of the local street art environment.” Which is VERY encouraging for the future of street art here!

Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I can’t wait to see what we’ll find when we return!

ANMLS 2014 Street Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Don’t forget to look up high – goodbye, Mr Fox!

If you want to get a fully comprehensive breakdown of many of the street art pieces shown here, then there is a tour available:
Unfortunately the tour doesn’t run in winter so we were unable to take it when we visited, but we’ll be taking it next time we’re in Ljubljana!

Looking for more Street Art?

Dope Art Tours: Changing Perceptions About Street Art in London
Street Art in Krakow: Colourful, Cultural and Controversial
Street Art in Poland: Wandering the Walls of Warsaw
Fall in Love with the Quirky & Unusual Statues of Prague

Have you been to Ljubljana? Did you visit Metelkova or Rog? What street art caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below!


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