Velenje offers a wide range of places of interest for those interested in history, tradition or leisure. Here's some of our favourite places that you won't want to miss.
One of the many treasures of antiquated rural architecture still standing in Slovenia, this several hundred year old wooden farmhouse has the southernmost example of a smokehouse (dimnica/kuhna). These were used, prior to the more modern black kitchens (črne kuhinje) commonly found in Slovenia, to smoke meat. A precious example of cultural heritage, it has been rightly preserved since it ceased to be occupied in the 1980s. For those who romanticise simple country living, the traditional farm tools, furniture, artifacts, and indeed whole layout of the property, will delight.
Located in the heart of Velenje the promenade connects the areas of elementary schools, the health centre and the city centre, as it crosses the Paka River. The project was completed in 2014 and replaced a somewhat dated and unattractive space in the middle of the city that was actually a road when ‘new’ Velenje was first designed in the 1950s. Its overhaul transformed the area into a modern and stylish space; it now has an amphitheater along the river, a narrower bridge than previously, meaning more of the river can be viewed, ample seating and green areas for folks to enjoy outdoor space - rather than just pass through it. Those visiting Velenje will no doubt pass through it at some point and appreciate its splendour, and it’s definitely a must for those with an interest in modern architecture.
The three lakes situated to the northwest of the city centre are one of the signature features of Velenje, and become absolutely abuzz with activity during the warmer months of the year. The smallest of the three, Lake Škale, is just beyond the city stadium and various other sports centres, and can be easily circumnavigated along a well-kept pathway that passes an excellent fish restaurant, a horse ranch and countless fisherman. The much larger Lake Velenje has paths along its southern and eastern shores, and is also home to a large public sports complex, a water sports centre and campground, as well as one slightly surreal floating art installation. To the west, Lake Šoštanj is closed to the public due to its proximity to the mine and power plant. In fact, unbeknownst to most foreign visitors all of the lakes are actually artificial, created decades ago when the land sunk into the mining pits and was flooded.
Envisioned as the grand centrepiece of modern Velenje, Tito Square was officially opened on 30 September 1959. Its historical importance is not derived solely from its name or the fact that it boasts the world's largest Tito statue, but it was also the site of several key meetings during the socialist era, counting Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev among its many visitors, as well as the infamous Nicolae Ceaușescu and other top-ranking figures from the Soviet Bloc. Today the square is still the geographic and cultural heart of the city, and the host of numerous open-air events.
Velenje Castle & Museum
One of the finest castles in all of Slovenia, for much of its history the town of Velenje consisted of little more than the this medieval hilltop residence and a handful of buildings at its base. While everything changed in the 1950s with the construction of a modern town covering much of the valley below, the castle has maintained a watchful eye over the development, and is still the single most recognisable sight in Velenje.
Franc and Anica Čanč from Plešivec are the owners of the beekeeping business with the longest tradition in the Šalek Valley. During the visit, you can observe comb foundations and bees, touch raw beeswax or try their honey products, all to the tuneful backdrop of birdsong. Besides honey, they offer several other charming products, such as sparkling mead, creamy honey, royal jelly, pollen, honeycombs, honey liqueur and wax products.
While Velenje officially shed its formal name Titovo Velenje (or Tito's Velenje) in 1990, the city's main square Titov Trg still boasts the world's largest statue of the man who for many symbolises the idealised glory of the former Yugoslav state: Josip Broz Tito. Standing some 10m high, the statue captures the long-time ruler in a somewhat solemn and reflective pose, donning his signature military garb with his hands clasped behind his back. It was unveiled on 24 June 1977 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Communist League, and remains one of Velenje's most famous attractions.
Topolšica Memorial Room
The Second World War brought the German occupation to the Šalek Valley, which ended with the German forces signing the capitulation for the SE Europe in Topolšica. This surrender was one of the most important events on Slovenian ground during the Second World War. In the Topolšica Spa building, there's a memorial room where you can watch a short movie about the events of May, 1945. The most eye-catching object is the pistol of the German General Alexander Löhr, who surrendered it after signing the capitulation documents.
Award winning restaurant Vila Herberstein produces traditional Slovene recipes made from fresh, locally produced ingredients through the hands of its highly skilled chefs, which are then paired with exceptional wines. Vila Herberstein was placed among the top 50 restaurants in the country and top 10 in the region. So how can dining of this standard possibly be enhanced? Well, you could take the whole experience 160 metres underground into the depths of Museum of Coal Mining. Yes, you did read that correctly. Join them for an evening in an unusual but beautiful and ambient setting and engage your five senses through this gastronomic adventure. It really is a dining experience like no other!
The giant stone tower perched on a hill to the east of the city centre, is the ruined remains of Šalek Castle, the oldest castle in the Šaleška valley. Abandoned in the late 18th century, the tower is nevertheless one of the most impressive sights in Velenje, boasting a unique triangular layout that is the only of its kind in Slovenia. The lookout also affords spectacular views of the city, and is free to enter - although you'll need to enquire at the tourist info centre to get the key to the outer gate.