Our Pick of Castles in Slovenia
4.10.2016 | Fiona Thompson
Slovenia’s long and tumultuous history is one of the reasons that the country is home to so many castles. Many of them were built for the purposes of defending the territory of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from the invading Turks. During the Second World War many castles were requisitioned by the Germans to be used as military headquarters or hospitals, and after the war they came under the ownership of the state, during which time they housed schools, homes for people with disabilities and even hospitals for people with mental ill health. Sadly, when the Germans retreated many of the castles and their important historic contents suffered a great deal of damage and when some of the castles eventually re-opened, new exhibitions had to be found to display to the public. Fortunately, some interesting collections escaped damage, while collectors of all kinds of fascinating artefacts bequeathed or loaned their collections to the new museums. Here’s our selection of a few of Slovenia’s most interesting castles.
Just outside the town of Postojna – which is famous for its magnificent show-cave complex – Predjama Castle is perhaps Slovenia’s most breathtaking castle. This 800-year-old castle is built into the stone of an immense cliff and the Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the world’s largest cave castle. The castle itself is open year-round but between May and September the cave beneath the castle is also open to the public; the rest of the year it is out of bounds because it is home to a thriving colony of breeding bats. The castle is managed by the same group that looks after the Postojna Cave and it’s possible to buy a joint ticket to visit both attractions.
Ptuj’s imposing castle watches over the town and beyond to the hills of Haloze towards the Croatian border. It’s not only a must see for visitors to Slovenia’s oldest settlement, but the castle’s fascinating museum makes it one of the country’s best attractions. The castle contains a variety of collections ranging from arms and armour to historical paintings and an interactive display of old musical instruments and a look at the history of Ptuj’s famous ‘kurenti’.
Velenje’s is one of Slovenia’s best-preserved castles and it is also one of the best to visit because it has ten diverse exhibitions, offering something for most interests. One unusual exhibition is a collection of carved wooden African masks which was donated to the museum by a local man who had travelled often to the continent, while another exhibition displays the unearthed remains of a mastodon, a huge prehistoric beast. There is a reconstructed old grocer’s store and the Velenje Room which presents the period during Tito’s premiership when Velenje developed into one of the most important industrial cities in Yugoslavia.
Watching over Ljubljana’s quaint old town,Ljubljana Castle is the capital’s most visited attraction. The main parts of the castle date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Admission to the grounds and the central courtyard as well as the castle walls, from where you can get brilliant views of the city and beyond to the Julian Alps, is free but there is a charge to view the collections such as the Museum of Puppetry and the old penitentiary.
Sevnica Castle enjoys a fabulous position in south-eastern Slovenia overlooking the River Sava but it is the ‘energy points’ in the Castle Park that has the locals talking; it is believed that these points are places where the earth’s natural energy can be easily accessed and they are said to be good for our wellbeing. Sevnica’s castle boasts a variety of attractions including a vineyard, a puppet theatre which holds regular workshops for children, an important archaeological collection and art displays.