Balancing Heritage and Innovation: Discover Slovenia's oldest town

In partnership with The European Commission
Balancing Heritage and Innovation: Discover Slovenia's oldest town
Copyright euronews
By Aurora Velez
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In this episode of Smart Regions, Euronews Correspondent Aurora Velez travels to Ptuj to see how European funds have helped revitalise a decaying town centre, transforming it into a social hub boasting classic and modern design.

The ancient town of Ptuj, in northeast Slovenia, is enjoying a new lease of life. Set on the Drava River, the old Roman settlement oozes charm and timeless elegance but after years of neglect, the industrial heart of the town had fallen into despair.  

Home to approximately 23,000 people, it is now a hive of cultural and professional activity.

Thanks to donations totalling €4.9 million, the old glassworks factory and its' surrounding streets in the historic centre were transformed into an award-winning events forum.

Elementarna, a Slovenian architecture and design company, was tasked with transforming the space, the new centre boasts both traditional and contemporary styles.

Architect Matevž Zalar told Euronews that Ptuj is one of the oldest towns in the country: "It was really degraded before the intervention. So, what we wanted to do was remove all the cars and reintroduce the materials that were here historically and give the streets back to the citizens, not to the cars".

The events centre has several exhibition rooms and theatres which are regularly used by schools in the area. 

"Now, in this renovated glassworks factory, we have new spaces, which are of very high quality, with great acoustics. Here they connect, it feels like you are in a real theatre and that is why this work, this creation, feels more sophisticated, feels better," explained drama teacher Ajda Valcl.

Glass and concrete elements were expertly fused with the old façade to create a harmonious finish. In total, the municipality refurbished more than 1,300 m2 of the old town as well as the adjacent medieval alleyways and Vrazov Square.

"The objective was to revitalise the historic centre, recreate this space, give it a purpose and give young people their place in the city. Now there are several cultural associations in the area. We also have the elderly people to add an intergenerational dimension," said Nuška Gajšek, the mayor of Ptuj.

Who financed the project?

The renovation costs came to a cool €4.9 million. 

  • €2.1 million was granted by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which supports local development across the EU and is a key component of the European Cohesion Policy. The ERDF specifically focuses on investments that support economic growth, job creation, competitiveness, and sustainable development
  • €2.2 million was donated by the municipality
  • Slovenia’s Ministry of the Environment provided another €539,000

One of the crowning features of this project was the creation of the glass doors, connecting the interior space with the courtyard to facilitate larger events and exhibitions.

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