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Slovenian towns are centres of employment, education, administration, culture and services and play a key role in the balanced development of the country. They are home to 50 % of the population of Slovenia and employ more than 90 % of all employees.

Towns and protected areas in Slovenia

Urbanisation is one of the major phenomena of the 21st century, with more than half of the world's population now living in cities. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, more than 80% of Europe's population will live in cities. However, the situation in Slovenia is somewhat different: unlike countries with rapid urbanisation, Slovenia is characterised by suburbanisation and a relatively small share of the population living in cities. The proportion of the population in urban areas has not exceeded 50 % since the 1980s; the United Nations projection predicts that it will rise to 68 % by 2050.

Size of Slovenian cities

Slovenia is characterised by the spatial dispersion of settlements. Compared to cities in other EU Member States and the rest of the world, Slovenian cities are small to medium-sized. Out of a total of 6,035 Slovenian settlements, as many as 90 % of settlements have fewer than 500 inhabitants and only two settlements have more than 50,000 inhabitants. This situation is also reflected in the different treatment of cities in Slovenia and the European Union. According to the definition of the Slovenian Statistical Office we we have 104 urban settlements in the country. On the other hand Eurostat establishes that there are only two cities in Slovenia: Ljubljana as a medium-sized city and Maribor as a small city.

City and urban municipality status

A city (mesto) is a larger urban settlement, which differs from other settlements in size, economic composition, population density and historical development, has more than 3,000 inhabitants and obtains the status of a city by a government decision. In Slovenia there are 69 settlements with the status of a city.

A municipality may acquire the status of urban municipality (mestna občina) if there is a city within its territory with at least 20,000 inhabitants and 15,000 jobs constituting economic, cultural and administrative centre of a wider area. In addition to local matters of public importance, urban municipalities also perform tasks determined by law from state competence, which relate to urban development. In Slovenia there are 11 urban municipalities:

  • Celje,
  • Koper,
  • Kranj,
  • Ljubljana,
  • Maribor,
  • Murska Sobota,
  • Nova Gorica,
  • Novo mesto,
  • Ptuj,
  • Slovenj Gradec, and
  • Velenje.

Polycentric development

In Slovenia, spatial development follows the principles of polycentric development. Slovenia's Spatial Development Strategy (SPRS 2004) thus defines a system of centres, a polycentric urban system, in which it defines centres of national (15), regional (15) and inter-municipal (20) importance. Centres of national and regional importance are the most important centres of social infrastructure, care, service, administrative and other activities, and the most important economic areas and transport hubs. The network of other centres is connected to them through appropriate division of tasks and interconnections.

Supported by infrastructure, urban centres play a key role in the balanced development of a country as economic, trade, educational, cultural, housing and service centres. From the development point of view, three urban areas in Slovenia stand out as centres of international importance. These are Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper. These three centres are crucial for Slovenia's global competitiveness, as they play an important role in the context of transport networks, accessibility and connections, and the concentration of knowledge and innovation. Within the context of country's development, each of them has a specific significance and development opportunities and challenges. Ljubljana and Maribor are the largest urban centres in the country (the only urban centres with more than 100.000 inhabitants), while Koper has a special geostrategic role due to its coastal location and port.

Along with specific development opportunities, cities also face development problems. In particular, air pollution, poor accessibility by public transport and the problem of bottlenecks, poorly used internal urban areas for the development of the city alongside a need for new areas for economic development, and, in some places also feature social exclusion.

Urban development guidelines

SPRS 2004 emphasises the need to increase the competitiveness of cities through improvements in entrepreneurship, services and urban housing in the city through urban renewal, which includes improving the conditions for sustainable mobility and quality of the environment in urban areas. The competitive role of urban centres calls for a high-quality and attractive working and living environment, which as a location is generally well incorporated in the traffic flows, has high availability of services, is tailored to the needs of modern life and takes into account external factors, in particular, climate and demographic changes. It is also important to preserve the cultural and landscape identity of settlements and open space as important sources of Slovenian identity.

Sustainable urban development is thus based on the principle of internal urban development (exploiting degraded, vacant and poorly used sites for development within urban areas) and good functional collaboration and networking with other cities and the surrounding areas. The renovation and revitalisation of cities are key strategic directions of internal urban development, defined in the SPRS 2004.

National report on urban development – Habitat III

  • The report summarizes the overview of urban development in Slovenia, emphasizes development trends, key characteristics and challenges of Slovenian cities, and presents some examples of good practice of urban development in Slovenia. The report was prompted by the United Nations World Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development Habitat III, held in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016.
    Reports | Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning