Metelkova Mesto, in Ljubljana, before Slovenia broke away from the Yugoslavia Republic, was an army barracks. Nowadays it is a thriving alternative culture centre, occupied by artists and bohemians, with some of the Ljubljana’s most interesting bars, clubs and even hotels.
Metelkova Mesto, which is often compared to Copenhagen’s Kristiania comune, occupies the space where, in 1882, the Austro-Hungarian empire built the ‘fourth of july’ barracks. In the late 1980s the area around the barracks already played host to a lively cultural scene (strongly focussing on independence). With independence the destiny of the area was uncertain – a network for Metelkova (Mreža za Metelkovo) was established to protect the area from demolition and urban re-development. An autonomous city space was declared (mesto means city)- with a certain amount of acceptance by the local and national authorities (though there have been various legal standoffs in the intervening twenty years).
The result is an amazing, eclectic, graffitied, alternative zone where you can hear lectures and debates of all kinds, see films, do sports, attend feminist workshops, visit gay/straight bars, learn about politics, and go to gigs, or dance the night away. The ‘city’ works on a principle of “autonomous but not anarchistic, liberal but not lawless”.
The mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković told the English newspaper, The Guardian,: “It’s a place for critical reflection, civic engagement – and with its activities it is establishing Ljubljana as an area where ideas of all generations can freely flow.”
Metelkova Mesto is situated about five minutes walk, east, from both the train and bus stations, situated on Metelkova Ulica, just off the Maraykova Cesta.
One very popular spot to stay, in and around Metelkova Mesto is the Celica Art Hostel, a funky hotel very much in keeping with the Metelkova Mesto spirit, housed in a reconverted prison in the Metelkova barracks. It’s an eco-friendly hostel where you can sleep in styllised prison cells (each cell with a different style).