Predjama Castle: Slovenia’s Fairytale Cave Castle
Updated: Jan 10, 2020
If a medieval fairytale type castle is one your agenda, look no further. Less than an hour from lovely Ljubljana Slovenia lies one of Europe's most dramatic castles, Predjama Castle.
Predjama Castle is a must see site in Slovenia, and one of the country's most popular attractions. Tucked into the mouth of a towering cliff, it's a cave fortress filled with secret tunnels and hidden caves.
Your first glimpse is breathtaking. Predjama Castle's whitewashed walls are set off by the landscape and natural rock. It's foreboding and exudes mystery.
History of Predjama Castle
The photogenic castle was first mentioned in historical records in 1274. It was built in a Gothic style in a nook that was intentionally hard to access. It's 123 meters high. The word Predjama means "in front of the cave."
In 1570, the castle was rebuilt in its present iteration in a Renaissance style by baron Philipp von Cobenzl. The aristocratic Lueger family, also known as the Knights of Adelsberg, subsequently acquired and expanded it.
One interesting factoid for Game of Thrones geeks is that George R. R. Martin visited Predjama Castle in 2012. In his "not a blog," he announced he was so taken with the unique castle that he might use it as a "model" for a Westeros castle in his Song of Ice and Fire book series.
The Legend of Erazem
No fairytale castle is complete without an accompanying romantic folk legend. And Predjama Castle has one. It's a romantic legend featuring a rebellious knight and robber baron who fancied himself a Slovenian Robin Hood, named Erazem Lueger.
Erazem had a reputation as a robber baron who stole from the rich to give to the poor. But Erazem got himself in a spot of trouble with the Habsburgs of Austria when he killed the commander of their Imperial army. Fleeing the Habsburgs' wrath, Erazem installed himself in his family's impregnable castle.
The Hapsburgs thought they could easily starve out the castle occupants. To their astonishment, Erazem withstood the imperial siege for one year.
How'd he accomplish that? There's a secret tunnel and cave at the top of and behind the castle nicknamed "Erazem's Nook." The cave is also referred to Erazem's Cave or Predjama Cave.
Siege of Erazem
During the siege, the cave network and tunnels allowed Erazem to smuggle food and supplies in from surrounding areas, unbeknownst to his captors. He also used it as an escape route to continue his plundering ways.
There are some colorful tales associated with the siege. In one, Erazem would taunt his adversaries by pelting them with fresh cherries. In another, to mock them even further, and perhaps because he knew they were hungry, he sent out a whole roasted pig.
Erazem's story doesn't end well though. Eventually, he was betrayed by one of his servants and had an ignominious end. The servant sent a signal when Erazem went to the castle outhouse. The bathroom was in an easily targeted area on the outside of the castle. One cannon ball later, Erazem died Tywin Lannister style.
Highlights of Predjama Castle
What makes this place special and visually appealing is that the castle is partly built into the cave. The thick upper walls have chutes through which large boulders or boiling oil was poured on would be attackers. The moat and drawbridges also provided protection.
It’s worthwhile visiting the interior of the castle as well, if the entry fee doesn't dissuade you. It's a little bare, but there are quite a few exhibits. Even a medieval torture chamber. Each room is presented the way it would have looked in Medieval times.
Of special interest is the clever way Erazem installed pipes into the rocks of the caves. This way, he obtained crystal clear water for the use of its residents. This too helped fend off the siege.
The audioguide explains everything as you walk through.
Caves Under the Castle
Underneath the castle, there's a massive cave. It's the second longest cave in Slovenia, at 14 kilometers. The section accessible to tourists is 700 meters long. The cave has a secret tunnel leading to the outside. And it's home to a colony of bats.
In May through September, you can enter the cave as part of the regular tour. Other parts of the cave can only be accessed on a guided adventure tour for brave spelunkers. There's no electric lighting in the cave. You'll be given a flashlight. The cave is closed in the winter months when the bats are hibernating.
Practical Information and Tips for Visiting Predjama Castle
The castle is an east day trip from Ljubljana. You can combine the castle with a visit to the Postojna Caves, just 9 kilometers down the road. Here are some sample distances:
Postojna Cave to Predjama Castle -- 15 minute drive
Ljubljana to Predjama Castle -- 45 minute drive
Lake Bled to Predjama Castle -- 1:30 drive
Piran to Predjama Castle -- 1:15 drive
You can buy different bundles of tickets to suit yourself: entry to the castle, entry to the castle cave only, entry to the Postojna Cave, or a combined castle and cave ticket. Check the website for prices (below). If you buy a combined ticket, there's a shuttle that runs from the caves to the castle in the summer months.
It will probably take you a couple hours to see the whole site, if you go inside and explore the cave. The admission fee seems a tad steep, to me. Dress warmly or bring layers in the summer. It's chilly. And there are quite a few steps inside.
There's a small cafe outside if hunger or thirst sets in after your explorations.
Practical Information for Predjama Castle:
Address: 6230 Predjama, Slovenia
Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 7:00 pm May through September and at least 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in the winter months
Entry fee: 13.80 euro, audio guide included
Pro tips: There's ample free parking around the castle. If the main parking lot is full, head (with caution) past the castle and down the hill to the left for additional parking. There are free public restrooms near the parking lot. There are none inside the castle.
Adventure Tours to the castle cave
Website (including various individual and combo ticket prices)
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