The Slovenian art commune now known as Metelkova was once a military barracks, but you would never know it by its state today, covered in a psychedelic cacophony of naive art, graffiti, and punk rock visuals.
Originally built in 1911 by the Austro-Hungarian Army, the site consists of seven barracks buildings sitting on a little over three acres of land. The military used the little walled neighborhood until 1991 when the army abandoned the site as Slovenia attained independence from Yugoslavia. Once the site was vacated, it wasn’t long before groups of squatters began moving in, and making the old buildings their own. In 1993, the Slovenian government tried to demolish the old barracks, but nearly 200 activists, artists, and protesters took over the site and saved it from destruction, for a time.
The government never gave up trying to tear down the site, but the squatters and protesters that continued to hold the never gave up their fight. One of the buildings, known as the “Old School” was successfully taken down in 1997, and another building, known as the “Small School” was also demolished in 2006. However the remainder of the space remains as a rebellious artistic community space that is still in some amount of contention with the government.
These days most of the buildings have been covered in graffiti, folk art, found tile mosaics, weird sculptures, and punk rock statements of purpose. It now also houses a bar, a nightclub and a hostel, as well as the free-living squatter population. A museum called Galerija Alkatraz is now located in Metelkova.
Know Before You Go
Ask any local in Ljubljana and they will point you in the right direction, 5 minutes from the city centre, on Metelkova Ulica.