If you look at the map, Slovenia is actually in the centre of Europe. There are centuries of history here. So many different empires marched through, some remained and built castles to defend their territory.
Lots of forts and castles still survive, many were destroyed, but check this fact out, Slovenia has hundreds of castles, even more than Wales and in all shapes and sizes! Pretty much every town, city and even many villages have their own castle in Slovenia.
What is more, we are lucky enough to be walking distance from one of the most beautiful and unique castles in the world, the fairytale Predjama castle, (10 mins), (it means castle in front of the cave).
It will take you just a 40 min walk along the beautiful "blacksmiths" forest trail direct from Lipizzaner Lodge to Slovenia's most famous castle, which is built into a cave and hangs out over a 123m high cliff face!
There are many, many other terrific castles to visit here, each with it's own special story.. we will mention some of them here below and we even did a Blog with our own personal TOP 20 castles to date..
We know there are so many more castles here still to find, but for the moment, please click here to visit our TOP 20 Green Slovenian Castles..
We really love the museum packed with room after room of treasures at Ptuj castle (110 mins) and there is another exhibition building, high up on the hill next to the castle, overlooking Slovenia's oldest town, containing costumes from Slovenia's carnival time. A day out to this fantastic castle could easily be combined with a tour around Slovenia's own Jeruzalem, close to Ptuj. This is a rolling wine growing region and is so beautiful, the returning Crusaders named it after the holy city.
You could combine a trip to the geographic centre of Slovenia with a visit to Bogensperk castle, (80 mins), the home of Slovenia's first travel writer, Valvasor. He was a 17th century prolific writer and publisher who brought many of Slovenia's unheard of treasures to the attention of the world, including the London Royal Society, who made him a member for his efforts. This is yet another castle that you can say, wow, great place for a wedding! Oh and kids.. Valvasor was very the first writer to publish a book containing vampires!
We can't pronounce Žužemberg, so we call it "Cucumber castle" (70 mins). This castle has been recently renovated by the local townspeople and is perfect for kids to run around and explore, with hidden chambers, wooden staircases and viewpoints everywhere. It also overlooks the bottle green Krka river and is near to an impressive cascade waterfall.
In yet another castle location, we are really excited about the medieval knights community festival and other events on offer at Celje castle (85 mins). This is the only royal castle in Slovenia, where the last Counts of Slovenia died off many centuries ago. Another big reason to visit Celje castle is the magnificent sunset view you might get as the sun lowers behind the mountains. You can also go up the huge tower for a quite breath taking view.
The view from the top of Velenje castle (90 mins), also requires a sharp intake of breath. Here you will see how a socialist town was built to accommodate industry and house workers for the nearby coal mine, (by the way, there is also a fab coal mine museum there too). the castle is one big living, breathing museum with frescoes, an old fashioned shop and would you believe it.. a large exhibition of wooden African Pigmy masks!
A poor chap who had explored Africa donated this amazing collection to the Velenje museum in a bizarre exchange for Yugoslavian residency was tragically knocked over by a car just days after finally settling in Velenje!
And if you want to get a little flavour of how socialism was in Slovenia, then Velenje castle is definitely the place for you as there are several rooms packed with exhibits and explanations about the development of a socialist town in the shadow of this beautiful castle on the hill.
As part of your daytrip to Lake Bled, you can easily hike up the side of a steep cliff to the amazing Bled castle (60 mins) overlooking the beautiful lake, with the Slovenian Alps, (Julian Alps) as the backdrop.
There is a really fantastic view and coastal hike available for Socerb castle.. You could even park up in the lower village of Kastelec and hike up to gaze over the Bay of Trieste with a view of 3 different countries!
If you are chilling around in Ljubljana, (30 mins), the castle has some Roman stuff, a glass lift like something out of "Charlie ans the Chocolate Factory" and great views over the smallest & cutest capital city in Europe.
Of course Predjama castle is our favourite castle, but there are so many others here that when you consider value for money / history / location & legend.. in all honesty, Ljubljana castle would probably not even get into our top 20!
This doesn't mean it is not worth going to see Ljubljana castle, it just means that you need to know there are so many more amazing castles to find here. We are so passionate about the "other" castles in Green Slovenia that we wrote a blog about it!
Our second favourite castle is the stunning Šneznik (Snow Mountain) castle, (50 mins), in the heart of the oldest forest in Europe, (below) and such incredible value to visit! A lot of our guests have visited Šneznik castle and combined this with a trip down the nearby Križna cave, the biggest disappearing lake in Europe at Cerknica or maybe exploring the wonders of a huge rock nature park marked by 2 massive stone arches, Rakov Skocjan..
We know a local guide who can take you walking here and you could also book a horse carriage ride into the forest.. just ask! There is also usually a knights tournament held here every summer with jousting and hog roasts.
So look up in Green Slovenia and you will see a church or a castle dotted along the forested horizons and leaning out over cliffs! Indeed wherever there is a vantage point over a valley or forest in Slovenia, you can be pretty sure to find a castle or tower controlling who comes and goes and to spot the raiding parties arriving through history.
A castle can be the focal point of your day or just a pleasant stop off as part of a bigger schedule. For example, you can visit a castle as part of a wine tour trip, en route cycling or hiking, or maybe you could also spend your time painting or sketching a castle on your own painting holiday?
We had an absolutely fantastic visit to Turjak castle, to the south of Ljubljana, which was home to a noble family that controlled more than enough castles than needed to win at medieval monopoly! Immdeiately as you walk through the entrance gate the courtyard is exactly how you would imagine a working castle, with smoke lifting from a fire, wooden benches outside the tavern and a mish mash of looming stone walls enclosing it all.
Inside the castle is huge and it is really surprising how much there is to see here, including so many weapons and suits of armour.. all hand made. Step carefully into the murky dungeon, which has poor models, at least we hope they are models, being tortured to death.. We rally loved Turjak castle and there is even a pub where you can also get food there.. a proper castle!
Having visited Sevnica and Rahjenburg castles within a few miles of each other along the mighty Sava river a thought came ito our minds for the most excellent day out here.. how about taking a bike and cycling along the river path between the two fortresses.. what a day!
Sevnica is a more traditional looking castle, looming high over the river with the best gardens we have see for a castle in Slovenia! There are huge trees and lots of flowers including lots of roses.
There are stone lions guarding the entrance and we recommend you book ahead and take a tour here as there is a lot to see, especially the secret fresco and the childrens puppet room.. YOu can also buy local wine here in the cellar and the monks also made rather good honey.
Then just 17km down the river at Brestanica you could visit the monstrous Rahjenburg castle with a door that will make you feel small, a fantastic cobbled courtyard and a dark display about the days when the Nazis were in charge and the castle was effectively a women's prison.
You absolutely must go up to the roof, so if this is closed go and politely bend the arm of the lovely guide there and see the craziest collection of 500 yr old wooden beams you could imagine.. ALL holing up the roof!
To round it all off this castle was bought by a load og French monks a long time ago and they made chocolate to a secret recipe sending it all around Europe! The good news there is some left in the chocolate shop opposite!
And don't forget how close Lipizzaner Lodge is to Italy and Croatia..
There are 2 incredible coastal castellos to visit near Trieste. One, Duino castle (45 mins), has a fantastic breezy cliff walk on rocky Karst stone with views along the Adriatic coast and the castle. You could also go to the Italian seaside during this day out. Another beautiful castle is Miramar castle (50 mins), with a huge Hapsburg created park attached and amazing sea views.
Trieste itself has a castle at the top of the town up a series of steps near the Roman ampitheatre.. the castle is not much cop, but the view over this coastal city is well worth it!
We haven't made it into Muggia castello yet as it is always closed when we go there, but again the sea view and vista over the multicoloured old town makes it well worth the walk up!
All along the Istrian coastline there are little hill top villages and castles overlooking the islands and Adriatic sea.
There are an awful lot of hills in Green Slovenia and crumbled castles all over the place, with enough stone and rock to provide excting exploration and to conjure up memories or trigger the imagination.. these are European treasures and we hope some day they will be properly restored and then Slovenia will become a true Castle superpower!!
These ruined castles are a great place to stop off for a quick visit, stretch the legs and have a sandwich break.. they are everywhere, so easy to drop into on the way to whichever day trip adventure you are planning for the day. It might be you see a brown sign for GRAD, so if you do just look up to see where the nearest hill is and follow the sign to the mysterious castle.
Some of these castles have been taken over by the private sector and usually become hotels, the most famous example is the beautiful Otocec castle hotel which sits on an island in the bottle green Krka river. BUT don't be shy, Slovenia is a country without snobbishness, so no matter how posh or private a place looks, just go in and smile and that is what we did at Otocec and pretty soon we were sat in their cafe room tucking in to a fantastic blueberry cake with an exclusive view to the interior courtyard.. now that is a place to have coffee.. and you can also eat here!
One motorway junction back from Otocec, we always notice a castle high up in the hills on the other side of the motorway and we asked lots of locals about it but noone seemed to know what its name was! We even tried to google and go, but got completely lost, but one day we will ge there!
You really should book a table in advance at the castle, Grad restaurant in Stanjel hill top village in the Kras wine region.. the restaurant has a fantastic open outdoor terrace inside the huge castle walls with the resturant inside.
We also have Mokrice castle used for a 1980's Pet Shop Boys video that is now a hotel on our go visit list.. we spotted it from the motorway.. it is just before the border with Croatia towards Zagreb and so we looked it up and you could have knocked us down with a feather when we made the connection with the video and watched it on You tube.. so here is the link to Pet Shop Boys.. Heart.. at Mokrice castle!
(Old people please explain to spotty young people who the Pet Shop Boys were and how music is just nowhere near as good now as it used to be)!
We found a great castle crumbling away on top of a hill with amazing views over the Ljubljana valley at Smlednik (35 mins). This castle has such an amazing location and 360 degree vista that it is now a very popular wedding location with wonderful newly built dancing platform .. book early to avoid disappointment.
There will always usually be a fantastic view from these crumbling castles, none more so phenomenal than the Mali Grad, (little castle) with incredible views over Kamnik old town, the river and to the mountains.
Kromberk castle near Nova Gorica is a real rennaissence castello, with a chilling exhibition how the Fascist Italian state forced Slovenians living in the occupied Slovenian zone to speak Italian between the two world wars.. hopefully that one will get some English translations.
We haven't tried the new restaurant just opened at the castle, but next time we head up to the Soca river, this is exactly where we will stop off for lunch!
Two final crumbled castles to mention that are pretty much destroyed, but still have bits to explora and sit high up on the top of beautiful hills and are totally worth the hike up for the fantastic views are Tolmin castle and Vipava castle for sensational views of the Lower Soca and Vipava valleys respectively.
In the Gallery below, please find some photos of just some of those other amazing castles you might find on your adventures around Green Slovenia.. we cannot urge you enough to be curious and go explore.. even if there is nobody around.. that is quite normal in little old Slovenia.. happy hunting!