Predjama castle

Getty Images/Flickr RM

Predjama Castle

Top choice in Southwestern Slovenia

Predjama Castle, 9km from Postojna, is one of Europe's most dramatic castles. It teaches a clear lesson: if you want to build an impregnable fortification, put it in the gaping mouth of a cavern halfway up a 123m cliff. Its four storeys were built piecemeal over the years from 1202, but most of what you see today is from the 16th century. It looks simply unconquerable.

An audioguide (available in 15 languages) details the site's highlights and history. The castle has great features for kids of any age – holes in the ceiling of the entrance tower for pouring boiling oil on intruders, a very dank dungeon, a 16th-century chest full of treasure (unearthed in the cellar in 1991), and an eyrie-like hiding place at the top called Erazem's Nook, named for Erazem (Erasmus) Lueger.

Lueger was a 15th-century robber-baron who, like Robin Hood, stole from the rich to give to the poor. During the wars between the Hungarians and the Austrians, Erazem supported the former. He holed up in Predjama Castle and continued his daring deeds with the help of a secret passage that led out from behind the rock wall. In 1484 the Austrian army besieged the castle, but it proved impregnable. Erazem mocked his attackers, even showering them with fresh cherries to prove his comfortable situation. But the Austrians had the last laugh – finally hitting him with a cannonball as he sat on the toilet. An ignoble fate for a dashing character.

The cave below the castle is part of the 14km Predjama cave system. It's open to visitors from May to September (but closed in winter so as not to disturb its colony of bats during their hibernation). Another adventure option is to visit the narrow Erazem's Passage, through which the besieged knight was connected with the outside world (some climbing skills are required for this). Tours need to be booked at least three days in advance; caving tours range in price from €24 to €80.

Joint tickets can be bought for the castle and Postojna Cave. In July and August, a handy shuttle-bus service runs between the cave and the castle; it's free for guests who buy a combined ticket for both attractions.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southwestern Slovenia attractions

1. Postojna Cave

4.37 MILES

The jaw-dropping Postojna Cave system, a series of caverns, halls and passages some 24km long and two million years old, was hollowed out by the Pivka…

2. Vivarium Proteus

4.43 MILES

Just near the entrance to the Postojna Cave is the Vivarium, the cradle of a special branch of biology: speleobiology. Postojna provides shelter to dozens…

3. Expo Postojna Cave Karst

4.52 MILES

This well-designed, kid-friendly space displays details of karst phenomena in an engaging manner, and tracks cave exploration. Most interesting is all the…

4. Planina Cave

5.83 MILES

Planina Cave, 12km to the northeast of Postojna Cave, is the largest water cave in Slovenia and a treasure-trove of fauna (including Proteus anguinus)…

5. Rakov Škocjan

8.48 MILES

Rakov Škocjan is a beautiful, 2.5km-long gorge lying some 6km west of Cerknica. The Rak River, en route to join the Pivka River at Planina Cave, has…

6. Notranjska Regional Park

8.85 MILES

This 222-sq-km park is a real biodiversity hotspot and holds within its borders a good deal of the region's karst phenomena, including the intermittent…

7. Heritage House

10.56 MILES

This project, which opened in 2015, aims to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of the Notranjska Regional Park, and to that end it stages public…

8. Museum of Lake Cerknica

11.61 MILES

In the village of Dolenje Jezero you will find the Lake House Museum, with a 5m-by-3m, 1:2500-scale working model of Lake Cerknica. It shows how the…