4 Fairy-tale Castles in Slovenia You Simply Must See!
Visiting Slovenia is like stepping into a fairy tale. This pint-size nation at the crossroads of Europe is a wonderland that will take your breath away. Snowy mountains with caves, enchanting forests, and deep blue glacier lakes. Not to mention picture-perfect villages and lively Old Towns. And what self-respecting fairy tale doesn’t boast at least one castle where Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel would feel right at home? Slovenia is rich in castles and these are the four I feel beg for a visit in this magical land.
Ljubljana Castle, Ljubljana
Slovenia is home to about 500 castles, manors, mansions, and ruins. All are within a 90-minute drive of Ljubljana and make ideal day trips, using the capital city as your home base. However, you don’t need to leave town to visit the mighty Ljubljana Castle. This 900 year old hilltop citadel stands guard over the capital city. Most of the castle dates from the early 16th century when it was rebuilt after a terrible earthquake. You can roam the grounds for free, but you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter the Viewing Tower and the marvelous Chapel of St George (1489).
An excellent way to get the full castle experience is the Time Machine. This engaging, 90-minute tour is led by guides in period dress. They’ll walk you through six of the city’s most noteworthy periods. The tour spans from ancient Roman Emona and ends in the early 20th century.
You can also choose to explore on your own. I recommend stopping to admire the stunning views of the city, with the Alps in the distance. The absolute best views are from the panoramic Archer’s Tower. Enjoy a leisurely gourmet lunch or dinner at the award-winning Strelec Restaurant. Simpler, but no less delicious, is the Gosilna Na Gradu and the castle coffee house.
Bled Castle, Bled
Only 35 miles north of Ljubljana in the foothills of the Julian Alps sits Bled Castle. Perched atop a stone crag overlooking Lake Bled, it’s the oldest castle in Slovenia dating to 1004. It also just might be the most fairy-tale-like of them all.
Wandering among its towers and terraces, you expect to run into Sleeping Beauty or Prince Charming around every corner! The views from the castle’s incredible vantage point are spectacular. You can even see all the way to the snow-covered alps. Magical!
Predjama Castle, Predjama
You’ve probably never seen anything quite like Predjama Castle. This 13th century marvel is just six miles from Postojna in the southwest corner of the country. It’s a four-story fortress in the mouth of a cavern halfway up a 400 foot cliff.
Predjama has all the classic features you’d expect from a medieval castle. There’s a drawbridge above a raging river, “murder holes” for pouring boiling oil on intruders, and also a very creepy dungeon.
An “eagle’s nest” at the top of the castle called Erazem’s Nook is named after Erazem Lueger, a 15th-century highwayman who used it as a hiding place. He gained access to it via a secret passageway, confusing the local authorities. Erazem came and went as he pleased until one day he was hit by a cannon ball while sitting on the toilet. Apparently, a renegade servant had betrayed him by marking the location of the wash closet with a little flag for the enemy. What a way to go.
Ptuj Castle, Ptuj
Built as defense against the Hungarians, Ptuj Castle sits at the pinnacle of Slovenia’s oldest town. It’s said to have been built atop the remains of an ancient Roman temple. Passing through the castle’s Renaissance Peruzzi Portal, you’ll find the excellent Ptuj Regional Museum. This treasure trove of period rooms are stuffed with original tapestries, painted wall canvases, portraits, weapons, and furniture.
Amusing are the “Turkerie portraits” of aristocrats, generals and courtiers in Turkish dress that became all the rage in Europe in the early 18th century. The museum also displays costumes and other items related to Kurentovanje, Slovenia’s foremost traditional carnival, celebrated the 10 days preceding Mardi Gras (this year it falls on March 5th).
So if you’re planning to visit Slovenia in 2019 (and you totally should), be sure to include a couple of castles in your itinerary.
Have you had the pleasure of visiting Slovenia’s castles? Let us know in the comments below!