February 8 is Prešeren Day, when Slovenia marks the death of its national poet - France Prešeren (1800 – 1849) - and more broadly its cultural heritage, along with that of the wider world. As such all state and municipal museums and galleries will give free entry, and various other cultural programmes will be on offer. If there’s a cultural institution you’ve been meaning to visit a long time then this is the day to make plans for. Go online and check out the galleries and museums that share your interests and then see how much culture you can absorb in one day.
On a national scale, perhaps the main event is in Kranj, where the poet died at the age of just 48. Prešeren Fair takes you back to the days of 19th century Romanticism. You can expect people in costumes, traditional crafts, poetry, dancing and music, plus the usual open doors and guided tours of museums and galleries. The occasion also sees the “ Gathering of the muses on the Carniolan Parnassus”, which draws some of the artists and writers who have won the Prešeren Award or Prešeren Fund Award, and makes them available to the public. The day starts at 10:00 with the Kranska kuhna street food event, open till 18:00, although the official opening of the fair is at 11:00 in front of the Prešeren Theatre. The full programme can be found here.
If you’re in Ljubljana then there are plenty of options, from recitals of Prešeren’s work in front of the Prešeren Monument in Prešeren Square, to all the public museums and galleries the city hosts. Good places to focus are the Metelkova Museum Quarter, home to the branch of the Modern Gallery that covers contemporary art, the Ethnographic Museum and a branch of the National Museum. On the other side of town, but still not far away, you could focus on the National Gallery and the main branches of the Modern Gallery and National Museum.
Note: not all of the museums and galleries market are public ones. For example, Union's "beer museum" will not be free to enter
There’s also the chance to see inside the Presidential Palace (Erjavčeva cesta 17), with two events on Saturday. One at 11:00 is limited to the first 100 people who start gathering in front of the Palace at least 30 minutes beforehand. Those allowed inside will hear a speech from President Borut Pahor, enjoy some music, and get a tour of the building. Less exclusive tours will also be on offer between 13:00 and 15:00, with no limits on the numbers given by the President’s Office – just turn up and wait at the entrance.
Overall, if you’re in Slovenia on 8 February then you’re in luck with regard to culture. On the downside, it's a national holiday, and thus many supermarkets and other stores are likely to be closed. As such please remember to get your coffee, milk, bread, wine and other essentials on Friday, unless you plan on eating out or know an always open convenience store.