Slovenj Gradec is the cultural and economic centre of the Mislinja valley. With its number of inhabitants, it is a small town, but when you take its creative tradition and institutions into account, its importance extends over many borders. Numerous exhibitions in the art gallery and events (some of them under the aegis of the UN) have brought the town closer to its foreign neighbours and that is how in 1989 Slovenj Gradec got the distinguished title of the Peace Messenger City. The historical image of Slovenj Gradec and its surrounding area stretches back to pre-historic times. This may be traced in the remains of Illyrian and Celtic settlement called Colatio. The medieval town was (like the other oldest Slovene towns) founded in the 13th century. It has survived centuries of turmoil but the town folk (most often artisans and merchants), together with foreign and native masters and artists, have managed to care for the image of the town. The old town centre has remained the focus of cultural and social life right up to the present day.
Slovenj Gradec has always been and still remains rooted within its historical and cultural tradition. The most important artistic monuments in the town are to be found in the Gothic church of the Holy Spirit and in the church of St. Elizabeth; it is also interesting to examine the old town centre which has been preserved in its original design. In the nearby surroundings, there are quite a few cultural and historical monuments, whose particular characteristics resonate in a wider cultural context. The most important are the church of St. George at Legen, the ruins of Vodriž castle and the church of St. Pancras above Stari trg (the Old Square). There are also some sites of ethnological interest that have been preserved, and among them we find many traditional Slovene hayracks (Slovene: “kozolci”), old peasant houses, chapels and, here and there, a few old watermills and sawmills.
In Slovenj Gradec there are also the birthplaces and places of creativity of numerous important people, such as: one of the last European printers of the “Incunabula”, Mateuz Cerdonis; the Baroque painter Franc Strauss, the composer Hugo Wolf, the poet Ernst Goll, the sculptor Franc Berneker, the writers Franc Ksaver Meško and Ljuba Prenner, the painters Jože Tisnikar, Bogdan Borčič, Karel Pečko and many others. Traditional artisan work has also been handed down to contemporary masters, working from their homes.