One of the oldest settlements in Slovenia, Škofja Loka (Slovene for Bishop’s Meadow) is a picture-perfect medieval town that is both one of the easiest and most rewarding day trips from Ljubljana. The incredibly well-preserved old town is the main attraction here, followed by the great museum collection contained in the enormous castle ensconced on the hill above.
But the devil is in the details, as seemingly every building, bridge and alleyway in the old town has a story to tell, and it’s well worth engaging a local guide through the tourist office to provide a more in-depth explanation of the town’s intriguing history, culture and legends than we can fit within the following pages – you can also find out why the coat-of-arms somewhat bizarrely depicts an African man wearing a crown!
ŠKOFJA LOKA CASTLE & MUSEUM: Dominating the town below and visible from the entire surrounding countryside, Loka Castle is not only one of the finest castles in all of Slovenia, but also houses one of the country’s most impressive museum collections. First officially mentioned in the early 13th century, it served as the administrative seat for the vast feudal estates that were under the domain of the powerful Bishops of Freising from Bavaria for more than eight centuries. As with the rest of the old town, the castle had to be completely restored after the great earthquake of 1511, so the current ground plan dates from just after this time. Since 1959 the castle has been the home of the Loka Museum, which makes great use of the space to present a collection ranging from history and archeology to ethnology and natural history to fine arts and local crafts. Highlights include artifacts from the Palaeolithic Era, a copy of the founding deed in which German Emperor Otto II granted Loka and the surrounding lands to Freising Bishop Abraham, scale models of Škofja Loka’s development from the middle ages to modern times, well-presented exhibitions of the town’s early guilds and industries, and a great collection of modern art in a unique basement-level exhibition space. The panoramic views of the rugged snowcapped mountains in the distance, green fields and forests all around. Info: Grajska Pot 13, tel. +386 (0)4 51 70 400, www.loski-muzej.si.
MESTNI TRG: Unlike some other old towns in Slovenia, Škofja Loka’s Main Square is still the active centre of the city’s social life, where even during summer months locals going about their daily business outnumber camera-toting tourists such as yourself (and us). These facts, coupled with the colourful façades of the buildings facing the long narrow square, have led the town to be affectionately nicknamed ‘colourful Loka’. Most of the buildings on the square exhibit late Gothic architectural elements and were constructed in the early and mid-16th century, as a powerful earthquake in 1511 destroyed nearly everything that had previously been built.
DUO ARTS & CRAFT CENTRE: This small gallery and working space can be found on the main square in the heart of medieval Škofja Loka. In addition to viewing and purchasing a wide range of handcrafted items, visitors can also participate in workshops and various organized courses, or check out the frequently-changing exhibitions contained within. Info: Mestni trg 34, tel +386 (0)4 511 24 60, [email protected].
THE ŠKOFJA LOKA PASSION PLAY: The Škofja Loka Passion Play – dates from 1721 and is staged in the squares and streets of Škofja Loka during the Easter holidays, it’s actually the oldest dramatic text in the Slovenian language. With more than 1,000 participants, it is one of the most magnificent Passion Plays in the world and since 2016 has been included on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Info: www.pasijon.si.
NACE’S HOUSE (NACETOVA HIŠA): In 1755, Ignacij Homan – or Nace to his neighbours – had his home in the village of Puštal just across the river from Škofja Loka extensively renovated, and since then it’s remained almost unchanged. Although the mid-18th century renovations gave the exterior an unmistakably Baroque appearance, evidence suggests that structure had actually been built some 200 years early, with rare late Gothic stone detailing in the cellar and two still functioning ‘black kitchens’ the most obvious testament to this. The interior includes furniture and other personal objects collected by its occupants over the centuries, and is open to the public as a highly authentic ethnographical museum. Info: Puštal 74, tel. +386 (0) 40 500 791.
To discover other unique places in Slovenia, check out THE SLOVENIA BOOK – AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF SLOVENIA