Treasures of UNESCO in Slovenia

Slovenia is rich in gems of natural and cultural heritage. Certain gems are an important piece in the mosaic of world heritage and are under the auspices of UNESCO. Slovenia is rich in gems of natural and cultural heritage. Certain gems are an important piece in the mosaic of world heritage and are under the auspices of UNESCO. The World’s Natural and Cultural Heritage list includes two natural and three cultural sites. Slovenia also appears in others of UNESCO's programmes, such as the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the Global Network of Geoparks and the UNESCO List of Written Cultural Heritage Memory of the World. Discover the treasures of UNESCO in Slovenia.

In the company of the world’s greatest gems

Natural and cultural sites and intangible heritage on UNESCO's lists in figures.

UNESCO's natural sites
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UNESCO's cultural sites
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UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage
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UNESCO’s World Natural and Cultural Heritage

The UNESCO World Heritage family includes areas, buildings and intangible heritage. The UNESCO Convention on World Cultural and Natural Heritage protects both cultural and natural sites that have outstanding universal value for all nations and for humanity as a whole. Among the more than 1,000 inscribed attractions are also Slovenian gems of natural and cultural heritage.

a. Richness of nature

The mysterious karst world has no shortage of natural wonders. One of its most mighty creations is the Škocjan Caves which with the largest underground canyon in Europe were the first in Slovenia to be entered on the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List. Two natural reserves, i.e. the Krokar and Snežnik-Ždrolce primeval forests, which are part of UNESCO heritage of ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe, are located not far away in the forests of Notranjska and Kočevsko.

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Škocjan Caves

This karst cave has the largest subterranean canyon in Europe that is 146 m high and it also has many kilometres of trails for visitors with no less than 500 steps. The trail leads you across incredible bridges allowing you to see underground waterfalls (there are no less than 26 in this cave system), grand halls, giant stalactites and stalagmites that have grown to 15 metres in height, and other underground creations made by the karst river. The area surrounding Škocjan Caves is a regional park – an area of protected natural and cultural heritage. Educational and biking trails take visitors around the park.

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Primal beech forests in Slovenia

The areas of primal beech forests of the Carpathian Mountains and other European regions which are part of UNESCO World Heritage List are the most preserved parts of beech forests which have had an important role in the development and impact of beech ecosystems in Europe since the last glacial period 12,000 years ago. Ancient beech forests, which secured their spot in the UNESCO list with their preservation, also rustle in the Snežnik Ždrocle Reserve. Both reserves are part of the protected Natura 2000 network.

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b. Cultural heritage treasures

When you visit Idrija, you will notice the heritage of the former mercury mine at every step. The people of Idrija have turned the mining tradition into interesting tourist experiences to bring the spirit of the old days closer to each visitor. The Ljubljana Marshes used to be marked by pile-dwellers. Rich archaeological finds and artefacts, which are among the oldest in the world, give us an insight into their lives. Plečnik’s Ljubljana is also included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. Plečnik’s Ljubljana is also included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Idrija and its mercury heritage

Idria and the Spanish town of Almaden are the keepers of the globally important mercury mining heritage. Anthony’s Underground Mining Tunnel, dating from 1500, is known as one of the oldest mine entrances in all of Europe. It is open for tours during which you can learn about old mining methods. What is more, there is also a mine dwarf waiting to surprise you. Numerous attractions in Idrija are connected with the mining heritage and the life of the former mining families: from the surprising technical heritage maintained by the museum at Gewerkenegg Castle to the tradition of original lace making.

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The Ljubljana pile-dwellers and the oldest wheel in the world

Slovenia is one of the countries safekeeping the protected world heritage of the prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps. Around 40 locations with remnants of piles have been discovered in the Ljubljana Marshes; nine piles in two groups are included on UNESCO lists. The most important find is a 5,200-year-old wheel, which is considered to be the oldest wooden wheel with an axle in the worldFindings related to the pile-dwelling culture are on display in various museums, and the Ljubljana Marshes is a landscape park, where you can explore the natural features of the marshy area near Ljubljana.

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Works by Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana – Human Centred Urban Design

The architect Jože Plečnik left a strong mark on the Slovenian capital. His architectural masterpieces, which provide the city with its recognisable panorama, have made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The selected works of outstanding value to humanity include sites along the water and land axis, such as the embankments of the Ljubljanica River from the Trnovo Promenade to the Sluice Gate, prominently featuring the Central Market and the Triple Bridge, National and University Library and the Križanke open-air theatre. Also placed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list are the Roman Wall archaeological park, renovated under Plečnik's plans, the Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana and the churches of St. Michael in Črna Vas and of St. Francis of Assisi in the Ljubljana borough of Šiška.

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With Plečnik around UNESCO's Ljubljana

Experience an intimate journey in the footsteps of the visionary master and his great mind and get to know Plečnik's legacy through an experience puzzle for a small group. Embark on a well-rounded trip that follows the trail of Plečnik's plans and visions, and get a special insight into his achievements and countless interesting architectural details.

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Slovenian gems of the World’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity

UNESCO’s Representative List of the World’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity promotes special concern for the protection and preservation of oral tradition, dances and skills. These are valuable customs from Slovenia that have been included on UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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Beekeeping in Slovenia

Beekeeping is deeply rooted in the Slovenian consciousness. Slovenian beekeepers were the pioneers of modern beekeeping. Slovenia also initiated World Bee Day, which has been celebrated on 20 May since 2018. Care for bees, which are very important for the existence of humankind, is being handed down from generation to generation, and beekeeping is still a way of life for more than 12,000 Slovenians who nurture this activity. At the initiative of beekeepers, a traditional Slovenian breakfast is served in kindergartens and schools on the third Friday in November, and this, of course, includes honey. In addition to care for bees and production of honey, culture, folk art on beehive panels and care for health and wellbeing with the use of bee products are also linked to beekeeping. Beekeeping in Slovenia is not only alive in the countryside, as urban apiaries are becoming a significant part of the tradition.

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Lipizzan horse breeding traditions

Lipica Stud Farm is considered one of the oldest stud farms in Europe, having operated continuously for more than 440 years. The breeding of elegant white Lipizzan horses represents an important heritage of Slovenia and that of another seven countries which participated in the nomination for placing this activity in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. For centuries, Lipizzan horses have played a symbolic role in all eight countries and still represent numerous communities. Their symbolic significance is passed on through oral tradition and folk songs testifying to the close emotional bond between man and horse. As the 'home' of Lipizzan horses, Lipica is one of the major Slovenian attractions due to its tradition of breeding horses and its architectural heritage and cultural landscape.

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Škofja Loka Passion Play

The oldest Slovenian play has been re-enacted on the streets of the medieval town centre of Škofja Loka since its origin in the time of Baroque. Rich costumes and scenery and the numerous, over 900-member ensemble of local actors attract many visitors to Škofja Loka for every performance. This is a historical re-enactment, which is performed every six years due to its complexity. Škofja Loka Passion Play was entered on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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Door-to-door rounds of Kurenti

When you hear cowbells in the Ptuj area in February, you will surely know that spring is approaching. The bells are only a part of the costume of a Kurent, a traditional Shrovetide character, typical for Ptuj, the Drava Field, the Haloze Hills, and the Slovenske Gorice Hills. A Kurent wears a sheepskin, a distinctive head mask, high-ankle shoes, and red or green knitted socks. In its hand, it spins a ježevka, a thick stick with hedgehog spines. Its roots are from Slavic mythology, and it is considered to chase away winter and herald spring and a good harvest. The door-to-door rounds of Kurenti have been entered on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A unique tribute to this custom are the traditional Kurentovanje celebrations in Ptuj.

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Bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia

Bobbin lace is a unique artistic expression and one of the recognisable symbols of Slovenian identity. For centuries stunning products have been made by bobbin lacemakers, and the skill of bobbin twisting is passed on from generation to generation. Bobbin lacemaking is a manual production of lace by braiding, twisting and interlacing thread wound on special wooden spindles known as bobbins. Bobbing lacemaking is about following a pattern drawn on paper attached to a cylindrical pillow in a basket or on a special base. Today, Slovenia is home to over 120 bobbin lacemaking associations, sections and groups. Lace is meant to be a fashion accessory and decoration on clothes and home textiles, and today it is also an inspiration for artistic creations, in architecture and even cuisine.

Lacemaking skills are also promoted by lacemaking schools. The most famous is the lacemaking school in Idrija, which has been operating continuously for more than 140 years.

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Dry-stone walling

Dry-stone walling means that no binder is used during construction. Instead, the secret to its firmness is in the particular way stones are stacked up. It is popular around the Mediterranean area. In Slovenia, we can find it in the Karst region and Istria. The art of dry-stone walling, knowledge and techniques are on UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage and connects eight European countries including Slovenia.

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Other Slovenian properties within the UNESCO family

In addition to the treasures of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, Slovenia with its properties is also included in others of UNESCO's programmes and networks.

World Network of Biosphere Reserves
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UNESCO's Global Geoparks
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UNESCO's Creative Cities Network
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UNESCO's Memory of the World
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World Network of Biosphere Reserves

The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves within the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) connects areas which are examples of land or coastal ecosystems outstanding natural and cultural value. The purpose of the network is to spread knowledge and exchange best practices in the field of sustainable development and preserving biodiversity in this field. The network also includes four Slovenia biosphere reserves.

UNESCO’s global geoparks in Slovenia

Global and European networks of geoparks were formed within the framework of UNESCO. The networks include areas with exceptional geological characteristics and where special attention is dedicated to the landscape and the preservation and research of geological assets in the sense of sustainable development. There are currently two such geoparks in Slovenia, which are involved actively in the European and global networks of geoparks: the cross-border Karavanke/Karawanken Geopark and the Idrija Geopark.

This is a mine that you won’t easily forget

Become a part of an underground adventure in which you will row through the flooded tunnels of the largest lead and zinc mine in this part of Europe. You will row 700 metres below the earth's surface and explore gigantic excavation areas, tunnels, and spacious underground chambers. 

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Ljubljana – UNESCO's City of Literature

Within UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, which brings together different spheres of urban life, the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is among UNESCO's Cities of Literature. It is considered to be the centre of literary creation, as an average of 850 books are published here every year. The city has an extensive network of public libraries with more than 500,000 members. Ljubljana was also awarded the title of the World Book Capital in 2010. It was the first host of the World Book Summit, at which the Ljubljana Resolution on Books was adopted, emphasising the importance of books as the key drivers of sustainable development and cultural diversity.

Slovenia as part of the Memory of the World

The Memory of the World is the UNESCO list of documentary heritage. It includes the Codex Suprasliensis, an Old Church Slavonic Cyrillic manuscript, which is deemed the oldest preserved written document in a Slavic language. The manuscript originated from Bulgaria, and later found itself in Poland; part of the manuscript ended up on Slovenian soil thanks to the Slovenian linguist Jernej Kopitar. Today, it is kept at the National and University Library in Ljubljana.

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