Velenje, Slovenia is not the first, second, or even third place you consider visiting, but I’m here to tell you that it should be added to your list. Driving back from the Koroška region I noticed a beautiful medieval castle that I never saw before. I checked my map and noticed it was the Velenje Castle, and within a couple of weeks I was spending my Saturday there.
While the area of present-day Velenje was first mentioned in 1250, prehistoric and Roman remains have been found in the Šalek Valley (Šaleška dolina). During medieval times this area was known as the Valley of Castles. There were over 20 of them in the region, and today primarily the Velenje Castle and the remains of a few others.
Velenje Castle was first mentioned in 1270 so just about as long as Velenje existed. It was purchased in 1322 by the Ptuj gentlemen and gifted as dowry to the Liechtenstein family. Then passed hands from the Counts of Celje, Habsburgs, and so forth until WW2. The castle was nationalized and renovations took place. It was a fairly calm history from what I found in my research. This is probably why Velenje Castle is said to be the best-preserved castle in Slovenia.
There are 11 museums and gallery collections inside the castle which now houses Velenje Museum. You can see remains of a mastodon found in the area, history of Velenje and Šalek Valley, castle chapel with Baroque art, Slovenian modern art, sculptures, and more.
If you are interested in Yugoslavia artifacts they had an interesting exhibit full of pro-Tito paraphernalia. In fact, Velenje changed the name of the town to Titovo Velenje which literally translates to Tito’s Velenje in 1981 and it wasn’t changed back until 1990.
One of my favorite parts of the museum were two rooms where you purchase your ticket. There is a 1930’s reconstructed shop and connected an inn. Full of original items, advertisements, and furniture. I loved the attention to detail and seeing how much has changed, but yet remained exactly the same in 90 years!
My favorite exhibition had to be of African Art collected by Czech sculpture artist František Foit. It was collected during his time living and working as a researcher in the 1930’s. He and his partner traveled by car from Prague and lived there for over 20 years. Foit originally wanted to study art in various regions around Africa, hence why such a massive collection of masks, puppets, and pottery. You can also see some of the photos taken during this time, and stories of them traveling country to country.
As a traveler and anthropologist, I naturally connected to this exhibit but also struggled morally. Reading about Foit and his wife attempting to navigate different cultures and languages was fascinating and seeing actual photographs from the 1930s was amazing.
On the other hand, this truly impressive collection has no record of how the items were obtained. It simply states that it was Foit’s own personal collection. Masks in many African cultures are not regarded as art but rather to be used in spiritual or religious activities. I failed to find any more details about this collection beyond just the fact that it exists.
I really enjoyed visiting Velenje Castle because let’s be honest, I enjoy most castles, but the exhibits were all so different from one another and none too exhausting that I easily spent several hours exploring all of them.
Things to do in Velenje
Velenje Beach / Velenjska plaza – Velenje Lake is equipped with a finished “beach”, chairs, bars, cafes, food, showers, inflatable slides, and even a solar-powered charging station Velenje Beach has everything you need for a whole day of relaxing.
The Coal Mining Museum of Slovenia / Muzej premogovništva Slovenije – A chance to go 160 meters deep into a coal mine to learn about mining in Velenje and Slovenia in the past and today.
House of Minerals / Hiša Mineralov – A massive collection of minerals from across the world. First collected by a local miner and now part of 2700 exhibits in an old house just below the castle.
How to get to Velenje
If you are new to the blog, I always suggest renting a car when visiting Slovenia. While trains and buses do exist throughout most of the country sometimes they aren’t the best option. Getting from Ljubljana to Velenje is best done via car as it will take about one hour.
There are a handful of bus routes that take around the same time (1 hour 15 minutes give or take) but tickets cost 9.40 € each way with only one route before noon.
Velenje has two train stations; Velenje and Velenje Pesje. The former is in the center of Velenje and closer to the castle while the latter is near Velenje Lake.
There are many trains traveling between Ljubljana and Velenje every weekday. Check the Slovenian Train Schedule in English here. Note: The train can take from 2.5 to almost 3 hours and sometimes has a change in Celje.
Additions for your Itinerary
If you are planning to add Velenje to your itinerary here are some other points of interest in various directions.
Celje – The 3rd largest town in Slovenia with one of my favorite Slovenian castles.
The Green Gold Fountain in Žalec – Žalec is the largest hop growing region of Slovenia and 5th largest in the world. You can buy a glass mug from various vendors around town and try beers from the fountains in the town park.
Slovenj Gradec – The center of the Koroška region and a stunning preserved medieval town with fascinating churches and beautiful sights close by.
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