Where to go on a trip? Velenje

0
3410

A Youthful Town by the Lake

Velenje is the youngest town and the seat of the municipality of the same name in Slovenia. It’s a lively town, brimming with attractions and hosting numerous events that fill it with energy. The origins of old Velenje date back to the 13th century, but it was renovated in the late 1950s, giving it a fresh start. Velenje is definitely worth visiting, boasting modern architecture, elegant open spaces and event venues, and a beautiful riverside promenade. The town is at its liveliest during the summer months when residents can enjoy the three picturesque lakes to the fullest. The shore of the largest lake has a beach that rivals any seaside, allowing visitors to enjoy a day at the beach despite being 180 km from the nearest coast. Despite the hustle and bustle of the new part of town, Velenje doesn’t let it overshadow its past.

South of the town stands a magnificent 700-year-old castle, considered one of the best-preserved castles in the country. It houses a local museum with an extensive collection of historical artifacts from the Šalek Valley and the largest collection of African art in Slovenia. You can also visit the Leatherworking Museum, showcasing 210 years of local leatherworking craft, and the Coal Mining Museum, located in nearby Šoštanj. The Velenje countryside offers countless attractions to visitors, with numerous outdoor activities and many tourist farms ready to welcome guests with their traditional culinary delights.

VELENJE BEACH

This excellently maintained lakeside resort was completely renovated in 2014 and now offers all the fun you’d expect from a lazy day at the beach, from sun loungers, nearby grassy areas for leisure games, and a variety of boats (including the highly entertaining stand-up paddleboards) to take out on the water. There is a bar at the boathouse offering a wide range of refreshments, and the beach is dog-friendly. Every year at the end of June, the event “Jump into Summer” takes place here, combining water fun with numerous concerts and sports events.

VELENJE UNDERGROUND

In Velenje, or more precisely beneath Velenje, at the Coal Mining Museum, you can partake in one of the most unique gastronomic experiences. The entire experience lasts about three hours, starting with guests donning a helmet with a lamp, followed by a traditional miner’s greeting. Then you take Slovenia’s oldest continuously operating elevator down to a dinner 160 meters below the surface. The meal consists of local dishes rooted in mining tradition, making it a treat for all senses. Award-winning chefs from the nearby Vila Herberstein prepare the dinner, served by professional staff with excellent wine and live music accompaniment. After dinner, a train takes you back to the surface, where a glass of sparkling wine and a special souvenir await you in the miner’s black wardrobe. It’s easy to see why Velenje Underground has officially received the Slovenia Unique 5-star Experience label.

COAL MINING MUSEUM

We wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that modern Velenje owes its existence to the coal mine, which has been operating continuously since the 19th century and still produces about four million tons of coal annually. The mine is in many ways inseparable from the town’s history, culture, and economy, so you must visit it when in Velenje. The museum aims to present the long and dynamic history of Slovenian coal mining to the public. The extensive guided tour includes a multimedia presentation, followed by a journey 160 meters underground, where you can experience miners’ lives firsthand. After the tour, a train takes you back to the surface, where you can explore an interesting historical and ethnological exhibition and a unique contemporary art exhibition space.

Stari jašek / Koroška cesta, +386 (0)3 5870 997, muzej.rlv.si

VELENJE CASTLE AND MUSEUM

Velenje Castle is one of the most splendid castles in Slovenia. Throughout history, the town was represented solely by this medieval residence on the hill and a handful of buildings at its base. Around 1950, everything changed with the construction of the modern town that covered most of the valley, with the castle closely watching its development and still representing the most recognizable landmark of Velenje. Originally built in the 13th century, the castle largely took on its current form a few centuries later. In recent years, the castle has been fully restored, regaining its former glory. The building is visually and architecturally stunning, but the real attraction is the diverse collection of the Velenje Museum housed within its premises. In addition to the extensive collection offering an overview of the Šalek Valley’s history, there are permanent exhibitions of Baroque and modern art and a detailed presentation of the modern town’s beginnings. Perhaps the most unique part of the museum is Slovenia’s largest collection of African art, with a story of how it arrived here almost as interesting as the collection itself. We highly recommend opting for a guided tour, which is very engaging, especially at the end when you visit the old inn from the late 19th century!

+386 (0)3 898 26 30, [email protected], www.muzej-velenje.si

Visit lakes in Slovenia here

VELENJE PROMENADE

Before 2014, the promenade was a rather unattractive space, more or less just a road through the town’s center, but after its renovation, it is entirely unrecognizable. The promenade crosses the Paka River, connecting the area of elementary schools, the health center, and the town center. Nowadays, it also features an amphitheater hosting local events, a narrow bridge providing a better view of the river, and many green areas and seating spaces where visitors can relax and spend their leisure time. If you visit Velenje, you will surely cross the promenade while exploring the town, and if you are interested in modern architecture, you must not miss it.

TITOV SQUARE

Titov Square was envisioned as the grand center of modern Velenje and officially opened on September 30, 1959. The square is historically significant not only because of its name or the world’s largest statue of Tito but also due to several key political meetings during socialism. Among its many visitors were Soviet Union leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, the notorious Nicolae Ceaușescu, and other influential personalities of the Soviet bloc. Today, the square is still considered the town’s geographic and cultural heart, hosting numerous outdoor events.

OLD VELENJE

Thanks to the massive urban and engineering feat carried out here in the 1950s, Velenje is often called Slovenia’s ‘youngest town.’ However, Velenje’s origins actually date back to the mid-13th century, as historical records first mention it then. Today, you can still see many parts that once formed this small market town, especially on the streets west of Vila Bianca and on the street winding past the Parish Church of St. Mary all the way to the castle.

VELENJE GALLERY

The Velenje Gallery was originally built in 1971 according to the plans of architect Adi Miklavc, and it underwent a thorough renovation in 2015. Its unmistakably modern form makes an immediate impression on visitors even before they enter the building. Inside, there is a large collection of works by 20th-century Slovenian artists, most of whom are locals from the Šalek or Savinja Valleys. The exhibitions focus primarily on contemporary works by younger generations of Slovenian artists, and the gallery also serves as a regional center of creative activity, hosting the annual Colony of Fine Arts Graduates and Design Ljubljana and many other events.

Titov trg 5, +386 (0)3 828 00 10, [email protected], www.galerijavelenje.si

PIPI LONGSTOCKING FESTIVAL

Every year, Velenje hosts the Pipi Longstocking Festival, the largest children’s event in Slovenia, dedicated to the famous Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old with a small freckled nose and distinctive red braids. At the festival, you can meet a multitude of Pippi Longstockings encouraging children to have fun and join creative and educational activities, workshops, performances, and watch films.

www.pikinfestival.si

JUMP INTO SUMMER

In 2016, readers of the international guide In Your Pocket chose Velenje Beach as the best swimming area in Slovenia. The unofficial start of the summer season in Velenje is celebrated annually at the end of June with the event “Jump into Summer,” which includes a rich program of various events, including a bonfire, concerts, rafting, cycling, and of course, spectacular jumps into the lake.

KUNIGUNDA

Every year, the streets and public spaces of Velenje host Kunigunda, the summer festival of young cultures. The festival’s name is of Germanic origin, derived from words for ‘clan’ and ‘war.’ Kunigunda brings together a wide range of different artistic practices, combining them into a week of performances, learning, fun, and excitement.

www.kunigunda.si

SUMMER CULTURAL EVENTS

The Summer Cultural Events is one of the oldest summer festivals in Slovenia, providing entertainment and enrichment through cultural events in July and August. The program includes everything from performances, open-air cinema, street performances, exhibitions, musical events, and concerts, ensuring there’s always something on the schedule. The festival also features an excellent children’s program, which includes creative workshops, puppet shows, and play days. Early September brings the Pippi Longstocking Festival, dedicated to one of the most beloved children’s characters. This festival has been running for over 30 years and is considered the largest children’s event in Slovenia.

LAKES

One of the most recognizable features of Velenje is its three lakes, located northwest of the city center, which come alive with a burst of activities during the warmer months. Just behind the city stadium and other sports facilities lies Škale Lake, the smallest of the three, easily circumnavigable via a well-maintained walking path that leads past an excellent fish restaurant, a horse ranch, and numerous anglers. Velenje Lake, much larger, has trails along its southern and eastern shores, and the surrounding area includes a large public sports complex, a water sports center, a camping area, and a surreal floating art installation. To the west lies Šoštanj Lake, which is closed to the public due to its proximity to the mine and power plant. Most foreign visitors are unaware that all three lakes are actually artificial, formed only a few decades ago when water filled the subsidence pits created by lignite mining.

HOUSE OF MINERALS

Former Velenje miner Jože Rihtar was so passionate about his field that he amassed a collection of minerals from around the world, totaling over 2700 specimens. He began collecting them during his school years and later acquired special samples from abroad and remarkable pieces from all over Slovenia, including a unique piece of amber found in the coal mine.

Stari trg 19, +386 (0)3 898 26 30, www.muzej-velenje.si

ŠALEK CASTLE

The massive stone tower on the hill east of the city center represents the ruins of Šalek Castle, the oldest castle in the Šaleška Valley. The tower was abandoned in the late 18th century but remains one of the most impressive landmarks of Velenje, boasting a unique triangular floor plan found nowhere else in Slovenia. At the tourist information center, you can request the key to the outer gate for free, allowing you to climb up to the tower and enjoy spectacular views of the city.

VELENJE COUNTRYSIDE

Velenje may be one of the most modern cities in Slovenia, but it is surrounded by a rural atmosphere. The city is encircled by green hills that offer many opportunities for hiking, cycling, and enjoying nature. The nearby villages of Vinska Gora, Škale, and Šentilj are excellent destinations for walking. For more information on trails and specific attractions, visit the main tourist office in Villa Bianca.

ŠALEŠKA VALLEY TOURISM BOARD

If you arrive in the city by car, you can’t miss Villa Bianca, one of the most magnificent 19th-century buildings, located near the main roundabout in Velenje. It houses a well-stocked and welcoming tourist information center. The extensive mansion, a combination of Renaissance and Neo-Gothic styles, has been renovated in recent years, preserving its cultural heritage and modernizing its interior. Besides the tourist information center, it includes an art gallery, a gift shop, spaces for official events, and a cozy café.

Stari trg 3, +386 (0)3 896 17 15, [email protected], www.visitsaleska.si

VELENJE IN NUMBERS

  • Population (municipality): 32,959
  • Population (city): 11,920
  • Area: 83.5 km²
  • Municipal holiday: September 20
  • Postal code: 3320
  • Known for: Largest coal mine in Slovenia