so much more here than Ljubljana castle!!
This might come as a bit of a surprise, even a wake up call for your holiday plans to Green Slovenia, but in our current Top 20 Slovenian castles, Ljubljana castle doesn't even get in!
Of course a top 20 is always a matter of personal opinion, we don't know the visitor numbers, but we would guess Ljub castle gets the most by virtue of being in the middle of the capital city with all that marketing, and right next to the airport.. but we know some even better castles here and so we are going to flatten the playing field and tell you all about them!
And please do not get us wrong.. we really like Ljubljana castle.. there is that funicular thingy to go up, (but we prefer to walk) and you can have a reasonable hour or so wandering around with good views of the cutest capital city in Europe..
For us though, a castle needs to have at least a bit of juicy history, maybe a spot of torture or a murder or two.. a decent legend, a dispicable lord or lady, a real connection with the town or people below or some really cool features or exhibits inside that make it really stand out.. for us Ljubljana has none of that.
And you really don't even need to go up to this castle to look over the Ljubljana skyline vista as you can go in the lift or up the fantastic wooden spiral staircase in the fantastic "art deco" Neboticnik tower in the city centre for free! There is a glass terrace with 360 degree vista and a reasonably priced coffee and slice of cake!
We even detected a slight air of desperation on our most recent Ljubljana castle visit.. The busy actors are wonderful and you can see they are doing their very best to make the place seem interesting, but as far as we can make out.. nothing much actually happened here.. the only decent legend recalled is "borrowed" from and about a completely different castle .. Predjama.. there is also a spurious link that Erasmus of Predjama was once imprisoned here in Ljubljana.. well.. after an hour or so here we had a good idea how he might have felt!
Another example of raising the white flag is the exhibition room filled with models of all the other Slovenian castles.. like as if there is just not enough stuff here to actually tell you about! ( and before you think this might be an attempt to inform tourists about visiting the other castles.. forget it.. there is zero info there about how you get to see them.. nothing like the useful guide and list we will provide for you below)..
But Ljubljana castle always seems to be absolutely crowded out!.. Why is that??
We couldn't help thinking that if only these visitors knew a bit more about the other amazing castles in Green Slovenia, then maybe they might go visit one or two instead and would very probably get a much better overall castle experience!
So now, please be honest Mr, Mrs or Miss Visitor to Slovenia!.. Do you actually know about any other Slovenian castles other than the world famous Predjama?
Thought not.. AND this is exactly the problem.. Tourists get drawn to Ljubljana like a magnet with all the mass marketing, transport connections, the internet buzz and the lazy guide books.
We absolutely love Ljubljana, but Europe has a lot of pretty cities.. what most other countries do not have compared to Green Slovenia, the most beautiful country in Europe, are the numerous waterfalls, disappearing lakes, rivers, vineyards, gorges, forests, mountains and you could easily combine a visit to these with one of the "other" fantastic castles below!
So all we are saying here is Green Slovenia has sooooooo much more to offer than just Ljubljana, Bled and Piran.. but it is easy peasy tourism on all sides to just sleep walk around these places..
YES, you would have a really fantastic time and WE did exactly the same on our first visit to Slovenia ten years ago.. it was absolutely wonderful and enough to make us decide on the spot to come live here.. but now we know so much more, we want to share it with you!
There are hundreds of fabulous castles here from different periods, in all shapes, sizes and conditions..
All of the castles we will list below have something special or unique about them..Maybe they are a castle built around a medieval church as protection, maybe they have a special legend or story or an amazing location, maybe the castle will help you put your finger on the pulse of Green Slovenia, so you can really get what it was like to live in the castle and the relationship between the lord and the local people..
Maybe the castle has a sensational view, a great restaurant or pub or a cellar selling locally made wine and honey or a dragon hidden in one of the rooms.. hopefully too, you will get a chance to chat with a local person about what this castle means to them..
Please remember this is just our humble opinion, but wouldn't it be great if just one new visitor to Green Slovenia read this article and decided to divert their limited time, energy and budget to one of the other amazing castles we will list below.. it's your holiday, the choice is yours!
Castle Card.. (a brief diversion).. how about this for an idea to give the other amazing castles here a fairer chance to compete with Ljubljana Grad for your attention.. what about if Slovenia offers a "castle card" purchased to allow visitors entry into every castle in Slovenia, so the money is shared around more fairly and the other fantastic castles have a better chance to be visited and noticed.. Just an idea..
so here it is.. Lipizzaner Lodge Fave Castles.. ok this is our current Top 20, but even we haven't visited ALL the castles in Green Slovenia and we are very excited about trying to do just that! Whether true or not, we have gotten the impression that it isn't a fair fight for your attention between the other castles and Ljubljana, so we just wanted to help a bit! So grab your sword, put your helmet on the right way and let's go avoid the crowds at the very best castles in Green Slovenia!
(If you would like to see or read more about what you are missing at each castle, then we included a link at the end of each mini description).
1. PREDJAMA castle.. the best castle in Slovenia and probably Europe too by a country mile, there is no other castle like this in the world, hanging 70m up out of a 123m cliff, dripping with legend and you MUST make time to explore the really fantastic secret cave hidden under & behind the castle.. all this just a 40 min forest path walk direct from Lipizzaner Lodge.. wow, how lucky are we! see the Batcave at Predjama and should we go inside Predjama castle..
2. SNEZNIK, (Snow Mountain castle).. a stunning location in one of the oldest forests in Europe in bear country.. a bit like an extravagent hunting lodge with a moat, room after room filled with trinkets and furniture.. feels as if the family just popped out and will be back any minute for a cup of tea.. an ice field and lots of little details to admire inside and out.. we totally love this place! see Snow Mountain Castle and a Jolly day out at Sneznik Castle..
3. ZICE Monastery Fortress.. Yep, a monastery with towers a little bit like Hogwarts hidden at the end of a beautiful green valley with huge castle walls protecting it all.. totally magic and will blow up your Wowometer as you walk around! see ZICE Monastery Fortress..
4. TURJAK castle.. this is a proper castle.. huge inside with display after display of armour, weaponary, with models of soldiers AND an invading Turkish knight.. there is a "Game of Thrones" like banquet hall, probably the spookiest dungeon in all Slovenia, a noble family who earnt their castles with real fighting and a tragic tale to read in one of the towers.. the smoky cobbled courtyard is just like you would imagine a castle courtyard should be and there is even a Ye olde Pub! see Turjak a proper castle..
5. ZUZEMBERK castle.. this is the one for kids and big kids to run around and totally explore.. restored to perfection by the locals and you can really feel the connection.. lovely little cafe outside to admire the castle.. towers over the stunning Krka bottle green river and we prefer to call it Cucumber castle if you might be struggling with the name! see Cucumber Castle on the Krka river..
6. HRASTOVLJE fortress church.. is it a church or a castle? well we think it is both, so we call it a "fortress church"! Absolutely uberstunning location in the Slovenian coastal hinterland with a MASSIVE surprise inside the church.. a rare and unmissable 500 yr old Medieval "Dance of Death" fresco all along one wall.. Do not miss this fortress church! see Church with Dance of Death Fresco..
7. BOGENSPERK castle.. fairy tale castle and home to Slovenia's first travel writer.. Valvasor.. find out about how he first brought the world's attention to the wonders of Green Slovenia and also printed the first ever vampire story! A really fantastic restaurant in the castle courtyard.. young lovers beware, you may end up booking this castle for your wedding! see Vampire Castle Bogensperk..
8. CELJE castle.. home to Slovenia's last royal family.. a monster of a castle on the hill overlooking one of Slovenia's largest towns.. a castle to run around and explore.. fantastically restored and really connected to the local community.. huge main tower to climb up, with torture display in the basement and.. see one of the best sunsets in Slovenia from the tower battlements.. really great integrated castle cafe with huge glass window.. don't miss the sunset here! see Sunset at Celje Castle..
9. GRAD GRAD castle castle.. so good they named it twice! the biggest castle in Slovenia with 365 rooms, one for every day.. (except leap years)! explore room after room after room.. fab cellar.. big dragon sitting by a piano..with a dragon legend.. extravagent displays, strong connection to the local community.. it is so big there is a park in the middle courtyard section.. a big reason to go visit the flat north east of Slovenia. see Grad Grad.. so Big they named it twice!..
10. SEVNICA castle.. fantastic gardens and postion high above the Sava river.. monk's cellar with honey and Blue Frankinja wine.. fab kids room filled with wooden puppets.. great tour.. another castle very close to the community.. big stone lions outside.. check out the monk's aviary on the side of the castle.. make sure you find and study the huge fresco to spot the secret! see Muppet show and Fab Fresco at Sevnica Castle..
11. BRESTANICA castle.. home to chocolate making monks.. chocolate shop opposite.. do we need to say any more? huge front door.. must go up to see massive wooden 500 yr old wooden beams zig zagging to support the main tower roof.. the kind of castle used by the Gestapo with a chilling WW2 history.. definetely do the tour to find out the full story. see Chocolate making Monks..
12. PTUJ castle.. high up on the hill over cobbled old town and river.. stuffed full of carpets on the walls, grandfather clocks and massive swords.. lovely courtyard with cafe.. exhibition of Turkish medieval art.. carnival museum in the stables.. one of the best castles for seeing stuff inside.. do not miss the carnival exhibits! see Ptuj Castle and Carnival..
13. VELENJE castle.. high on a hill next to a ski jumping slope overlooking the socialist industrial past and the green hills of Velenje.. cute courtyard with shiny wonky stone steps.. fantastic castle door with kill holes, excellent castle to see how it all was in old Yugoslavia with exhibits in several rooms.. crazy big collection of African pigmy masks in the basement.. huge wooly mammoth cousin display in a side hall.. see Castle with African Masks..
14. TABOR fortress church.. high on a forested hill.. wonderful green views from the bell tower.. high castle walls fit snugly around the church.. thick with history.. walk the wooden barricades.. like a film set but real.. frescos on the walls inside the protected church.. see and feel how the villagers sheltered safely from the Ottoman storm. see Tabor Fortress Church..
15. SKOFJA LOKA castle.. huge castle renovated by the bishop.. dominates the hill above the pretty old town and river with views to the Green Poljane valley.. learn about the legend of the Black Prince.. large gardens on top of the hill.. this is also where you find out more about the unique Skofja Loka Passion Play where the town becomes the stage and the townspeople become the actors every 5 years at Easter. more in Bishop's Meadow Castle..
16. METLIKA castle.. a big part of the old town.. excellent winery in basement cellar.. another beautiful courtyard.. Metlika was burned down at least 17 times in it's history so handy there is a big fire fighters museum here and local regional museum. more in Black & White Metlika..
17. IDRIJA castle.. lovely courtyard with big clock tower.. closely connected to the huge mercury mine that defines the town.. fantastic lace exhibition to show local specialism of this mini region.. huge collection of rocks and further mine nik naks.. towers above this Unesco protected town.. more in Idrija.. a Jolly good day out..
18. BLED castle.. sensational view of the most picturesque Alpine lake you will see.. lovely printing display.. great restaurant.. make sure just over half way around the lake you go up the hill path following the "Grad" sign.. try to photo the "Trio" when you walk around lake Bled, there is just one spot where you can frame the castle, the church on the island and the big town church spire in one fantastic shot!.. see EVERYWHERE! there is so much info out there on Bled!
19. PREDIL fortress.. breath taking location protecting a mountain pass on the Slovene Italian border.. largely destroyed, but still lots to explore and climb around.. fabulous breath taking views.. incredible history with Austrian troops defeated by Napoleon's army.. huge stone lion statue commerating their bravery.. see in Predil Lake & Fortress..
20=. OTOCEC castle.. stunning location on an island in the Krka bottle green river.. is now an hotel, but you can go across the bridge for very good coffee & cakes or a meal. see more in Chestnut Island..
20=. SOCERB castle.. sensational views high over the bay of Trieste.. when open a superb Venetian fortress for a coffee or meal.. sea vista over 3 different countries.. Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.. amazing cellar with antique wines and real cobwebs.. hidden cave nearby.. see in Secrets of the Coastal Hinterland..