Idrija located in the western Primorska region, is the oldest mining town in Slovenia, renowned for the second largest mercury mine in the world, and elegant white lace.

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Town of silver mercury and exquisite white lace

Idrija located in the western Primorska region, is the oldest mining town in Slovenia, renowned for the second largest mercury mine in the world, and lace-work. In the last three decades Idrija has turned into a modern large international manufacturing base in electric motors, components and furniture. The town is nestled in a scenic wooded landscape at the confluence of the Idrijca and Nikova Rivers at the foothills of the Julian Alps. The Idrija-Cerkno Hills are protected as a Regional Park of 4,230 hectares (1992) by the Idrija municipality. Natural attractions are located in the park of vast forests, deep valleys and ravines; a wonder is the blue-green Divje Jezero (Wild Lake). In 2010, the population was over 16,000.

For a time Idrija was amongst the most prosperous towns in Europe, second to Ljubljana in the state of Carniola. Idrija produced 13% of the world mercury during its operation. Almaden in Spain was the leading producer for 2,000 years. After mercury was discovered in 1490, the mine’s Anthony’s Shaft (Antonijev rov) opened in 1500. In 500 years the mine produced 107,000 tons exported throughout the world. Miners dug more than 1,000 kilometres of shafts; the deepest reached 380 metres. The mine employed the majority of the town’s population and surrounding villages, there were up to 1,300 miners. In the 17th century mercury yields were 5,700 kilo. a day, a value of 4,000 gold ducats. Idrija Mine was a major Central European corporation, a highly profitable state company. With the fall in the world price for mercury, the mine closed in 1977, and Almaden closed in 2000.

Over the centuries, Idrija’s mining industry attracted doctors to treat severe illnesses caused by exposure to and toxicity of mercury, and other experts, which lead to contributions in science, technology, and education. Among them were: J. A. Scopoli who wrote the first book on Carniolan flora, Entomologica Carniolica (1763), and B. Haquet Oryctographia carniolica (1784), the first geological and minerological study of Carniola, Istra, and a report on the Idrija mine. The other important craft founded in Idrija is lacemaking, a unique refined style of bobbin lace, flourishing to world recognition. Lace education and production is part of the cultural life of the town with; the annual Idrija Lace Festival in June, the Lacemaking School (since 1876), established sales galleries and lace fashion studios.

Gewerkenegg Castle (1533) built for the management of the mine, houses the Idrija Municipal Museum founded in 1953. It is responsible for the area’s nature park, technical, ethnological and cultural heritage. Monuments include; including; the largest wooden water wheel (kamšt) in Europe of 13.6 diametres (1790-1948), mine machines, a miner’s house, first theatre house (1769) and first Slovenian grammar school (1901). Heritage from World War 11 presented at the Slovenia Partisan Printing Shop in Vojsko, operated from 1944 to May 1945. The Partizanski Dnevnik (The Partisan’s Daily) was the only daily newspaper printed by a resistance organisation in occupied Europe; a daily edition of 4,000 to 7,000 copies, were distributed in Slovenia by couriers who risked their life. Another historical monument is the Franja Partisan Hospital (Dec 1943 to May 1945), a clandestine hospital built by the Slovenian resistance.

The Museum has two departments for Idrija and Cerkno regions. In the castle an extensive museum complex is the museum’s main permanent exhibition “Five Centuries of the Mercury Mine and the Town of Idrija”, Anthony’s Shaft is open to the public. A permanent exhibition of Idrija’s lace in 2008, “Idrija Lace, A History Written in Thread”; presents the development, trade, and activities of Idrija lace, with a collection by Slovenian fashion designers. The Museum received the Valvasor Award in 2008 the highest award in Slovenia for achievement in museology.

In 1997 Idrija Mine Museum received the Luigi Michelleti Award, as the best European museum of industrial and technical heritage. In 2011 Idrija was awarded two prestigious titles in Europe, Alpine Town of the Year, and Idrija – European Destination of Excellence.

Further reading: 

Idrija Mine Museum

Idrija Municipal Museum

Lace beauty created with needle, and bobbin

Trail of Idrija Lace – Lace International Centre

Learning Activities
1. Create a route map from Ljubljana to Idrija, with driving directions.
Text-type: route map, instructions,
Linguistic element: proper noun, cardinal directions, directions
Look at Google Maps at and  and 
use the directions tools for the route.

2. Write a menu for lunch with at least three courses for four persons.
Text-type: menu, list,
Linguistic element:  noun, request,
Look at menu at Hotel Jožef restaurant, and note the courses

3. Construct a reservation form to stay at Hotel Jožef.
Text-type: request, order, guide,
Linguistic element: numbers, dates, months,
Look at accommodation guide as a model

4. Produce a promotional brochure on the natural attractions in Idrija region.
Text-type: index, description, list, brochure,
Linguistic element: noun, adjective,
Include: Scopoli Garden, Divje Jezero, Natural Park, Idrija Fishing Assoc., hunting

5. Design a webpage of a tourism website featuring:
technical and cultural heritage
OR World War 11 heritage of Idrija and Cerkno
OR Idrija lace production today and new fashion studios.
Text-type: index, description, list, map, legend,
Linguistic element: conjunction, adjective,

Include mining monuments, or lace production history
6. Write a tour program on the historical attractions of Idrija and Cerkno.
Text-type: list, plan, program,
Linguistic element: complex sentences, dates,

Include: Franja Partisan Hospital, Divje Babe archaeological site,
Castle Gewerkenegg, Kamšt, Klavže,


In Slovenian
Town and Heritage


In English

Town and Heritage




Divje jezero (Wild Lake), Virtual Panoromas. Boštjan Burger.

Videos Online

Idrija Lace – A History in Thread by Matjaž Mrak (2008) 

Idrija Municipal Museum – The Best in Heritage (2010)

Documentary on Idrija Lace (2006)


Bogataj, J, Handicrafts of Slovenia : Encounters with Contemporary Slovene Craftsmen, Rokus, Ljubljana, 1999
Kranjc, A, Likarja, V, Žalik Huzjan, M,(eds) KRAS : Pokrajina – Življenje – Ljudje, ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, 1999
Krušič, M, Slovenia, The Tourist Guide, Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1999
Leskovec, I, Peljhan, M, Idrija : Zgodba o petstoletnem srebrnem studencu, Občine Idrija in Rudnik živega srebra d.o.o., Idrija, 2009
Raztresen, M, Zorko, D, Najlepša mesta Slovenije, Mladinska Knjiga, Ljubljana, 2004



Sandi Ceferin

Sandi Ceferin (B.A. CELTA) is a researcher and Thezaurus editor. She is a writer of language materials and the Slovenian Webclassroom. Her studies in Slavic linguistics and Indo-European languages has been a springboard to collaboration and development of new model applications of technologies for languages and culture study. Sandi produces curricula and resource materials including Course Outline - Slovenian CSF Years 1-10, published by the Victorian School of Languages, Melbourne (2003).