Metelkova: Old Military Barracks Turned Into a Culture Hub

Metelkova was a former military barracks for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Slovenian Army. It is now an autonomous social and cultural center located in the city center of Ljubljana. Seven buildings extending over 12,500 km2 have been squatted since 1993. The name ”Metelko” comes from a Slovenian Roman Catholic priest and a philologist Fran Metelko.


After the army left, the youth organization of the city asked for permission to use the barracks for peaceful, independent, and creative activities in 1991. In 1993, the relevant city institutions declared the site a squat again, but it was redefined as a social and cultural center in 1995. Since then, Metelkova has been used and decorated by many groups like LGBT, minorities, and non-governmental organization volunteers. The official situation of the ex-barracks is still a topic of debate as the disputes between the state and the non-governmental organizations continue. UNESCO, in fact, even recognized the barracks as a national cultural heritage site in 2005 but it did not help it to receive proper legal status.


Metelkova is similar to Freetown Christiania, a world-famous comune that was once a military base, in terms of history and concept.

In 1993, a group of young activists consisting of artists and young students occupied Metelkova to use it as a place for cultural activities and renewed the whole site. They painted and decorated the buildings with graffiti and have held art exhibitions, concerts, and other performances since then. Today, there are many artists with their ateliers, studios, and offices in Metelkova as they try to represent street art, freedom of thought, and youth activism. The edgy, punky, and activist concept of the site attracts a large number of tourists which promotes the image of the city as an art center.