Slovenia- the land of Lake Bled. This small European country nestled between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria is on many a bucket-list. Slovenia may be small, but this beautiful land packs a mighty punch! Today, I am going to talk about another Slovenian attraction that MUSTN’T be missed, an architectural feat built in the 13th Century. Welcome to the biggest cave castle in the world- Predjama Castle.
I had seen photos of Predjama Castle online the day before I visited the castle. Sat drinking an ice-cold beer in the Croatian town of Pula, we were discussing where to go next. After pulling up the Google Maps, I didn’t realise we were only an hour drive away from the Slovenian border- a bucket-list country for me, and I knew we would be heading north for Slovenia without any hesitation! Trying to plan our route into Slovenia, I came across Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle and we booked our tickets to go. The next day, we jumped in the hire car and drove the scenic route, firstly to Postojna Caves (you can read more about our time at the caves here), and the caves totally blew me away, and I actually thought the best bit of the day was over as we got back in the car and drove the 9km towards Predjama Castle.
We parked up in the little car park, out of view of the castle and started the small walk towards Predjama. As the castle came into view, we both stopped in our tracks and glanced at one another, struggling to comprehend how on earth this castle was actually built- I’d never seen anything like it before! After taking photos and trying to discuss how one would build such a castle back in the 13th Century, we made our way inside.
Top Travel Tips
- There are various ticket options available to visit Predjama Castle, depending on what you require, but if you decide to make a full day of it, then I recommend purchasing either the Full Park Experience Ticket, which gives you access to Postojna Caves, the Vivarium and Expo Cave Karst, and this is €41,90, or ‘Two Adventures’ package which includes Postojna Caves and Predjama castle, this was €35,70. You can buy tickets here.
- Visit Postojna Caves first, get an early tour in and then visit the Predjama afterwards. There’s a lovely restaurant next door with awesome views of the Castle to enjoy lunch.
- Book your tickets in advance. We were lucky enough to visit in the shoulder season, so the crowds weren’t too bad, but the queues can get quite bad in the high season (especially for the caves as this is guided tour where you have to book a time slot), so make sure you do this ahead!
- Bring a light jacket or coat- being a cave castle, Predjama can get quite chilly inside!
- Wear sensible shoes. There are a few stairways to walk up and down. This castle was designed to protect, so stilettos don’t mix well here!
The Legend of Erazem
Once you’ve paid your entry fee or shown your tickets to the lovely people at the entrance, you will be handed an audio-guide. Use it! Probably one of the most well put together and interesting audio-guides I’ve ever had, it is available in a variety of different languages to accommodate all. The audio-guide takes you through each area and you gives you information as prompted, and we learned about the fascinating history of this castle!
*Spoiler alert* if you are planning on visiting the castle and DON’T want to know this crazy fact about Predjama, I would jump down to the next section! Otherwise, read on!
Predjama Castle first graced the history books in the early 1200’s and was occupied by the Habsburg family until the 15th Century, when a rogue Knight named Erazem Lueger sieged the castle. He was a well known crook, who took things a little bit too far when he murdered a kinsman of Frederick III’s Holy Roman Empire. As a consequence of this, Frederick sent out a whole army to kill Erazem who took refuge in Predjama Castle.
The design of Predjama makes it almost impenetrable. It sits 123m in a cliff that drops down into a deep ravine, from the castle you can see the land for miles and fend off any impending attack. What makes Predjama extra unique, is that it leads into the caves within the cliff and forms a 9km route that connects to Postojna Caves.
The Holy Roman Empire’s army surrounded Predjama but couldn’t get in to it. Erazem still needed supplies- food and water, and so every day he would climb through the caves, taking him the 9km into the nearest town, where he would stock up on supplies. He carried this out for an entire YEAR and one day! Unfortunately, one of the soldiers managed to bribe one of Erazem’s servants, and so after entire year of holding off the army successfully, the following day would be the end. Erazem went to use the outhouse, and whilst sitting on the toilet, the servant who sold him out raised a single flag to the army, and on cue the army fired a cannon ball straight into the outside and blew Erazem off the toilet and killed him!
Nowadays, the castle doesn’t see the sieges and toilet cannons anymore…instead it is open to the public to visit all year round. Throughout your tour the audio-guide will take you through the bedrooms, the chapel, the dining room, kitchens, a room displaying medieval weapons and the old torture chamber, as well as the infamous outhouse!
I think our total time spend within the castle was approximately 1.5-2 hours altogether with the guide. It was really great value for money and we really enjoyed our time here. Combined with beautiful views and a fascinating history this castle in a cave really is a gem of not only Slovenia, but the whole of Europe.
Getting to Predjama
Most, if not all, tourists to Predjama Castle combine it with a visit to Postojna Caves which is 9km. There are various ways to visit Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves (you can read more about my time at the caves here).
Our personal choice, and in my opinion, the most convenient method of getting here was by hiring a car for several reasons:
- The roads in Slovenia are a DREAM to drive on (especially when you’re from London!).
- The route to Predjama/Postojna is incredibly scenic. Honestly a spectacular drive.
- We had the freedom and flexibility to get to and from places and not tied down to a schedule.
We hired a car from Pula in Croatia (read my post here for information and tips about hiring a car in Europe!), and it was a lovely 2 hour drive up the A1 and E751. Predjama and Postojna is easily accessible from numerous places, being less than an hour from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana and just over a 2 hour drive from Zagreb and Venice.
Public transport is only really viable from Ljubljana- click here to get details on the route. I use Rome2Rio as a really good guide if I am trying to work out public transport routes in other countries and highly recommend them to help you plan your route!
The other option is joining in as part of a guided tour. This is a good option if you are staying in Ljubljana or the coastal towns such as Koper and Piran, however (and this is just my opinion!), you are basically paying for transport to and from the sites, because at Postojna Caves you have to do a scheduled guided tour (normally running every hour during high season), but this is given to you by the staff of Postojna, and at Predjama you have an audio-guide which allows you to go round at your own pace. If you do decide to book a tour, then Viator or Getyourguide are great places to book a tour where you can see the best rated trips. For us, we found it to be better value to hire a car for a day and book our tickets directly through the park.
I thoroughly enjoyed our time at Predjama- it really isn’t something to skip in your time in Slovenia or if you are in the Istria region! Leave a comment below if you’ve been to Predjama, or planning on visiting!