Vipava old town
So, the largest undiscovered secret in Slovenia is easily the 40km long Vipava Wine Valley and it has a stunning river running down the centre called.. the Vipava river and the river comes directly from 7 freshwater springs that burst out of the mountain in a little town, which happens to be the most beautiful town in the valley and also happens to be called.. you guessed it.. Vipava!!
But there are more than several things you need to know to look out for in Vipava old town, or you may miss them and come back disappointed.. we know this only too well.. as several years ago a guest family with "too little time and not prepared to wait a few moments for some tips" came back from this town and said it was rubbish!!.. we were a little shocked, as of course we knew this statement was also total rubbish!! But it only served to underline to us that if people are well prepared and know what little secrets to look out for in this fascinating, pretty town, then they will return to the Lodge, (20 mins drive by the way), just like 99.9% of the rest of our guests have done, with glowing, shiny memories of the most beautiful town in the Vipava valley!
With all the things to do and see in the town you could easily spend the whole day in Vipava and we will go through all the possibilities we have found in this article below.
But maybe you will just have time to see a few of them on a shorter visit.. Vipava is also an excellent stop off point for an ice cream or a high quality meal on the way back to the Lodge from a longer daytrip to say the Upper or Lower Soca valley's, (the Soca is the amazing river), or visits to some of the other nearby wine regions, Skocjan cave, the costa del Slovenia or the Lipizzaner stud, to name but a few!
Ok so we will do this article like a list so it will be easier for you to choose and remember the things you don't want to miss, but this list is NOT in any order.. your fave thing might be at the end of it or on the middle.. it all depends on you!
the old town centre
The minimum that you should experience in Vipava is a stroll around the old town and if you could keep your eyes closed on the way in and then open them in the centre, (please don't that if you are driving, altough we sometimes feel some of the local drivers actually do this!) then you would probably imagine you were somewhere in Italy when you open your eyes.
There are little stone statues all over the place, Italian style houses and a neat row of shops.. it's very very lovely. You can park for free in the blue parking spaces, but Vipava is very small, so if you don't get a spot, just drive out a little bit and park near the supermarket maybe.
the amazing ice cream
People come from Ljubljana to get an ice cream in the little cafe in the centre of the old town and you wouldn't even know you could get ice cream in here unless you saw the regular queue outside and wondered what was going on. Local people sit and relax on the tables outside like a normal cafe and it's only when you get inside and see the big glass counter that you would even know you can buy ice cream here.
It's very very good and we always warn our guests not to arrive here too late in the evening as it's so popular the trays are often completely scooped out each day! What better way to start your exploration of Vipava than with a double ball cone in your hand and a slurp of creamy gelato running down your face!
the 7 Sources of the Vipava river
You can't miss the steep overpowering mountain cliffs towering over Vipava and the old town is nestled into the side of this rock face. There are 7 spots where fresh, crystal clear mountain water springs out of the mountain to start it's journey through the town, flowing to the centre of the valley and the stunning Vipava river.
If you go down the pretty little alley next to the ice cream cafe you can walk around (bear right) to where most of these sprngs are! The first is probably the most impressive as the water forms a little freshwater pond next to a restaurant (Podfavorz) terrace and then gushes away under a bridge. Take a close look in the water and you might see freshwater trout, a local delicacy here in the valley. You are pretty much guarunteed to see them jumping out of the water to catch insects here at dusk.
You really must continue to the larger lake around the corner, which is fed by 3 more sources of the river. You need to walk past the entrance of the next restaurant and continue following the waterside into the small park with the absolutely massive trees.. these trees are amazing, go on, give one a hug.. if you can!
Right at the back of this park at the stone wall, you will find one source, sometimesjust bubbling out of the rocks to you left and two more sources coming from your right.
the Venetian bridge
So the 7 springs pop up through the rocks and even out of the ground in places to flow out of the town and there are several bridges scattered around the town to facilitate this flow. It is an exageration to say Vipava is a little Venice, but if you do go back to the town centre by the gate through the courtyard then.. for a brief moment, you might get that deja vue Venetian feeling for one of the stunning bridges!
the Wine University
And the large town hall like building by that pretty bridge is actually a wine uni.. yes, they take viniculture very seriously in the wine growing Vipava valley!
Dining goes up a level or two in quality, presentation, but not so much in price in the Vipava valley compared to the already delicious Slovenian cuisine available generally elsewhere. In Vipava, the little restaurant we described by the first freshwater mini-lake is called Podfavorz and it has an excellent choice of local dishes, with that amazing terrace by the first spring lake.
Just a few doors along from the ice cream cafe on the other side of the alley is another restaurant, called Krhne, extending into a deep cellar where you can get fantastic local starters, pasta, gnocchi and other local dishes. You can also get a mighty fine dessert and coffee here.
Just outside the town past some vineyards and up the curvy hill in the next village of Vhrpolje is the uber excellent restaurant, Thedosius on the site of the cross that marks the huge Roman battle that took place in the Vipava valley many years ago.. Theodosius was the winner of the battle by the way and Gregor's restaurant is our very favourite restaurant in the whole of Slovenia and this is saying something!
If you thought you got lucky with Vipava being relatively easy to say, then these restaurants just went and blew your new found confidence with the Slovenian language.. but don't let the names put you off and book ahead.. PS, Wednesday tends to be the day of death in Vipava, where the restaurants close for a well earned night off.
the castle.. (Grad)
Standing in the old town, if you avert your gaze away from the overpowering mountain side and look a bit lower, just above the terracotta roof skyline, then you will spot a hill, so perfect it can't be real, with a crumbled castle on top.. why don't you hike up there for an amazing view?!
(And by the way, you will notice lots of small rocks on the roofs here in Vipava and this is to protect them from the occasional fierce winds that blow through the valley as Mediterranean air collides with Alpine air.. but this is also rather good for drying the delicious meats you might have a a starter here).
Castle in Slovenian is Grad, so from the centre, try to find the patchy signs for grad.. but of course you know roughly where the hill is and that you need to go up! Indeed it doesnt take long to ascend a few streets and already the view is really great.
The tricky thing is finding the stony green side path that seems to run alongside an allotment for a bit before you start going up steeply to the castle.. so ask a friendly local.. maybe they will get so used to giving directions that the penny might drop and they might improve the signs!
(But seriously, it is so common here in Slovenia for the signs to be terrible and one reason is the locals couldnt imagine that you, coming from an apartment in Melbourne, or a high rise tower in Singapore or a suburban street in Manchester could possibly be interested in having an adventure climbing up the side of a hill to find a medieval castle and a view over a stunning green wine valley.. why would they)!!!
The castle sits in an absolutely world class position and is one of the hundreds of Slovenian castles that when restored can become another major attraction for the undiscovered Vipava valley.. We are not saying rebuild the whole castle, but maybe repair the crumbled walls a bit, put a few decent signs explaining the history of the place and how the castle functioned, but definetelymake a signed path up here possibly as neat as the lovely wooden and stone path you can take up to Bled castle, for example!
It is a bit steep in places, so good shoes required, might be a bit slippy in the wet, but this adventure would also be a family thing to do.
not one but TWO 4,500 year old Eygptian Stone Coffins!
And in a quiet cemetary on the edge of Vipava you will find 2 of only 6 sarcofogi from an ancient Eygptian dynasty! Oh yes, in the 1800's an Eygptologist from Vipava decided to send two of these remarkable hieroglphicled stone coffins home for hismum and dad! They are parked up in a quiet corner of the graveyard just before a petrol station.
You can walk here from the centre or politely park outside the walls of the cemetary and pay your respects to something that was being worked on so long ago.. just another one of Slovenia's secret very special places!
other fab stuff in Vipava..
There is a very good little wine shop in the centre where you can get local wines from the valley and a few doors down on the other side of the alleyway you can find a really great little bakery shop.. the home made slovenian pasta here is very good, especially if you are cooking for yourselves here on holiday or in need of a typical Slovenian product to take home as a present.. but leave some space for the lovely little home made biscuits they do here with green and red jam!
Look out for the Napoleonic row of trees shading the road into the town and imagine lords feeling cooler when driving around in their carriages here. and just enjoy strolling around this magical little town.
If we were moving to Slovenia to live then Vipava would be very high on our shortlist.. it's just we found the little village of Landol on the other side of Nanos mountain and we are verry happy here thank you, but very grateful that we are just a 20 min drive around the corner from this delightful little town.