Ljubljana – a small city with many faces
In our series of city districts we look this week at the capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana has an area of 275 km² and is thus a relatively small capital by European standards, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and compactness. It has 280,000 inhabitants and is divided into 17 small districts, which form the administrative entity that comprise the city of Ljubljana.
A stroll through the old centre quickly reveals plenty of traces of the city’s 5,000-year history, including the heritage of the Roman town of Emona, the medieval burgh, and the architecture of the Austrian empire and monarchy. Between the castle and the river is a narrow arc of streets and buildings that make up the Old Town. The picturesque scene is enhanced by the bridges over the river Ljubljanica and the expansive Tivoli Park, which extends almost into the city centre. The circular core of Ljubljana is a mixture of artistic styles. After the earthquake in 1511 the city was rebuilt in Renaissance style, and then in the late 17th century foreign architects began to arrive in the city, bringing the elaborate Baroque style with them.
An earthquake changes the city
On 14 April 1895 Ljubljana was again shaken by a severe earthquake. The city administration at the time entrusted the Gorizian architect Maks Fabiani with redesigning the city. Between 1895 and 1910 he turned Ljubljana into one large building site in which almost 500 new buildings, squares and bridges were erected. Fabiani designed the entire city west of the Ljubljanica and constructed several imposing buildings that still dominate Ljubljana today. Thanks to the earthquake, architects and builders from the entire monarchy were given the opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of the Secession district, as it is known. The buildings extend from the Old Town along Miklošič Street to the railway station. The Ljubljana Secession boasts several “Gesamtkunstwerke” or total works of art: elegant buildings such as the Vzajemna insurance building, Ljudska Posojilnica popular savings bank, the Grand Hotel Union and Urbanc department store on the corner of Trubarjeva Street, the first in Ljubljana, named after the businessman Feliks Urbanc.
A small town in Art Nouveau style
Architects and builders from the entire monarchy erected unique buildings with distinctive façades, ornaments and materials. The wide-ranging repertoire, which includes animal and plant designs, women, masks and folkloric motives, gives this district a highly individual character. The Ljubljana Secession is not only a well-known district but also a cultural landmark that makes the city one of the great Art Nouveau centres alongside Barcelona or Vienna.
A green city
Ljubljana’s star shape means that there is plenty of room for parks and waterside landscaping. On 31 January 2012 it was declared the greenest community in Slovenia, and it is not therefore surprising that it is also known as the Green City. The 509-hectare Tivoli Park nestled between the Rožnik and Šišenski hrib wooded hills contains the zoo and is a popular excursion destination for the city’s inhabitants. Apart from an extensive network of paths there is also a keep-fit circuit and many sports fields.
From Jesuit order to Field Marshal Radetzky
The park was first laid out in the late Middle Ages. In 1813 the future city park was redesigned by French engineer J. Blanchard. He combined the grounds of Cekinov grad palace, today the home of the Museum of Contemporary History, built from 1752 to 1755 by Count Leopold Lamberg, with the land belonging to Tivoli Castle. This castle was built in the 16th century by the Jesuits and belonged in the mid-19th century to the Austrian field marshal Radetzky. From 1921 to 1939 the park was given a facelift by the architect Jože Plečnik, when the broad Jakopič Promenade (named after the Slovenian Impressionist Rihard Jakopič) connecting Tivoli Palace with the city centre, was laid out. Today the promenade is a favourite location for open-air photo exhibitions.
City district between the river and the summer theatre
The district around the Križanke Summer Theatre is just a stone’s throw from the Old Town and is one of the most popular summer destinations in the city. It is the venue of a large number of summer events – music, film, wine festivals and art of all kinds are offered a platform there. The Križanke complex was originally designed as a monastery. It was the headquarters of the Order of the Teutonic Knights, also known as the Knights of the Cross, who came to Ljubljana in the second half of the 13th century. One of the sights of the city is the Križanke Church, originally a Gothic church, which was rebuilt in Baroque style in the early 18th century by the Italian architect Domenico Rossi. After the Second World War the Order of the Teutonic Knights moved out and the complex was renovated by Jože Plečnik, who took his inspiration from Renaissance architects. Today the Križanke houses Festival Ljubljana and the College of Design and Photography. Festival Ljubljana organises the Summer Festival in Ljubljana, the oldest festival and cultural event in the Slovenian capital. This year’s 60th festival will be officially opened on 20 June by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
Also read our series on Vienna´s 23 districts
Districts in our partner cities
Part 1: Belgrade
Part 2: Bratislava
Part 3: Budapest
Part 4: Bucharest
Part 5: Ljubljana
Part 6: Krakow
Part 7: Moscow
Part 8: Prague
Part 9: Sarajevo
Part 10: Sofia
Part 11: Zagreb