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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Slovenian Castles & Caves | Ljubljana & Day Trips

To be honest, our main objective of visiting Slovenia was to head to the mountains. However, with Slovenia being a small country of only 20,273 squared kilometers and just over 2 million inhabitants, everything is relatively close to one another, so it was easy to add in a few bonus places. In fact, it was only a 1-hour drive from Ljubljana to the famous Lake Bled. Our first couple of days in Slovenia we visited Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave, as well as spent a day exploring the capital city of Ljubljana and a quaint Medieval Town of Skofja Loka.

[We elected to stay in the area of Lake Bled, so we will cover that in our next post. However, a day trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana is also possible.]

Crossing Into Slovenia

Even though we were in the EU, there was a border check a couple miles past the Slovenia border. This check was purely due to Covid. They checked our passports, vehicle registration and checked our vaccination cards to make sure that we were able to continue into Slovenia without any quarantine restrictions. (Luckily, we had purchased the Vignette pass at the first gas station after crossing the border.)

[This experience was as of end of August 2021. Make sure to check up-to-date information on the latest border crossing restrictions.]

Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave

Predjama Cave Castle
Predjama Cave Castle built into the side of the Cave

As it was only a 2.5-hour drive from Venice to Ljubljana, we decided to stop part way and visit the Castle & Cave (1.75 hrs. from Venice). Plus, this would save us some backtracking, as well as we had some issues finding places to stay for the night in the area that fit within our budget of $80-100/night or slightly above. However, it would be an easy day trip if basing yourself in Ljubljana (45 minutes south).

The castle and cave are only a 10-15 minute (9 km) drive away from each other, so it was easy to fit a visit into both places in one day. There are different ticket options to see both sites, or a more inclusive ticket that you can visit other caves (during summer) and the museum, or even just a ticket to each individual site. We decided to get the ticket that gave us a visit to both the Castle and Cave for 38,50 Euro per adult, 23,10 per child (6-15 years old) and 2 Euro for children 5 years and younger. We decided to go to the castle first, and upon purchasing the ticket we had to choose a time slot for our cave tour that day. Unfortunately, there was also a parking fee at both places – 5 Euros at each location, so it definitely wasn’t a low-cost excursion. During the summer tourist season (July-August) there is a complimentary bus that takes you between the locations, so if driving you could just park at one spot and then take the shuttle bus between the two if you wanted to save 5 Euros.

Predjama Castle

Kids looking at Cave Castle
Kids were even in awe of the Predjama Castle.

This is the largest cave castle in the world and it was amazing to see it built right into the side of the cave. The castle was initially built in 1202 and then with different possessions it was added onto over time. The ticket included an audio guide tour (in 15 different languages) and it was interesting to learn that even the inhabitants didn’t think living in the castle was comfortable; as it was always cold and damp. However, during Medieval times the main importance of the cave was safety; and it being tucked away in the forest and up against this cave provided the best protection for the inhabitants.

In fact, they were so concerned about safety that the outer walls of the castle were over 2 feet thick! During the 15th Century the castle was occupied by Erazem Lueger, who was a robber-baron who stole from the rich and gave to the poor and used a secret passageway through the cave system. During the Austrian-Hungarian war he supported the Hungarians, so the Austrians had a target on his back and tried to take over the castle, which was unsuccessful. However, the thinnest wall in the castle was to the lavatory, and that is where Lueger met his defeat when the Austrians shot a canon as he was going to the toilet!

However, the natural elements of the cave provided some beneficial aspects. There were tunnels into the cave that they could use as an escape or protection and the coolness of the cave refrigerated their food well.

Postojna Cave

This is the largest Cave in the Karst Cave system in Europe. It is definitely a touristy cave visit, but we still LOVED it. We have been to a fair number of caves, and I would say this cave was one of the most impressive caves we have visited. The kids (as well as the adults) really enjoyed the fact there is a mini train that takes you from the beginning into the deeper part of the cave. It was super unique and one of the most scenic interesting train rides we have taken. We were surrounded by the natural elements of the cave as we went through, and there were several tunnels we rode through!

Mini Train driving through cave
Miniature Train through the Postojna Cave - Slovenia

Upon entry, visitors are divided into groups based on their language preference for the tour. All visits are guided – the English tour was led by an English-speaking guide, but it looks like some of the other language groups were given an audio guide and led by a group leader.

The initial part of the 1-hour tour was a steep ascent up 'Big Mountain'. However, after that, as we headed into the Beautiful Caves section it flattened out and wasn’t as steep. The beauty underground was so impressive as we walked through the caves. The photos below definitely can't do it justice.

Postojna Cave Big Mountain Slovenia
Looking down from the top of Big Mountain within the Postojna Cave

There was lots of time to explore the cave as you walked as a group, but every 15-20 minutes or so, we’d stop and our guide would share information about what we saw or were about to see. All the stalagmites and stalactites were formed by the dripping of water from the outside of the cave – there were SO many of them in this cave!

At the end of the tour we also had the opportunity to see some of the olms (A.K.A. ‘baby dragons’). These are blind amphibians that live in the very bottom portion of the cave and can actually survive 10 years without any food because their metabolism is so slow! They are actually so sensitive to light that we weren’t able to have our phones on around them or take photos of them.

We were a little hesitant to pay the large ticket price, but both the Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves were super impressive. There are other smaller caves that many locals will recommend going to, as they aren’t as busy and touristy. However, we visited during the start of shoulder season and the crowds weren’t bad; and the train was a big highlight for the kids.

1-Day in Ljubljana

We wanted to spend a majority of our time in the mountains, but we didn’t want to skip over Ljubljana so we spent a quick day in the city. It was a really nice and small European city and felt laid back and trendy. Also, most of the places in Ljubljana are centrally located so it’s easy to explore quite a few of the places within the area.

We initially walked along the river to see some of the iconic spots, like the Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge, Preseren Square and the Marketplace with several fresh produce stands.

We had read that the city is super bicycle friendly, so in the afternoon we decided to rent bikes to help cover more distance during our short visit. We rented 2 bicycles – 1 with a child’s seat and another with a bike trailer (they wouldn’t let both kids sit in the trailer and they said Clara was too big for the child’s seat). They also had kids’ bikes, but Clara wasn’t too interested and it’s still difficult for her to go up hills. For the 2 bikes, seat and trailer it was 29 Euro for a 5-hour rental. This gave us the opportunity to get out and explore a bit more, as well as stop at a couple of playgrounds along the way for some playtime.

During our bicycle rental, we also headed up the hill to Ljubljana Castle at the top of the hill. Most people take either the tram or funicular up to the top of the castle, but we ended up walking our bikes up. It was a steep ascent, but worth it for the views from above. You can walk in the courtyard of the castle without paying, but if you want to go inside there is a fee. We just decided to forego visiting this particular castle as we were a bit short on time.

Skofja Loka

Another easy day trip from Ljubljana is the town of Skofja Loka, an Old Town just 30 minutes outside of Ljubljana. This town has lots of character, including a church in its main town square and Loka Castle at the top of the hill.

They even have a playground near the castle that is based on the town folklore on how the town received its town coat of arms. The story is that the king was saved by a black man and then given a crown and treated as a royal while also being recognized by being put on the coat of arms.

Playground with castle behind it in Skofja Loka, Slovenia
Skofja Loka Playground with Castle Views

There is also Cappuchin Bridge, which is the oldest preserved bridge in Slovenia. There is a sad history, with several mass grave sites being located around the castle after WWII, but the medieval town was preserved.

stone bridge over water in Medieval town of Skofja Loka, Slovenia
Cappuchin Bridge in Skofja Loka - The oldest bridge in Slovenia

Just on the edge of the town is a scenic spot with several waterfalls and bridges that is a relaxing place to hang out or go for a swim if you choose.

While there aren’t loads and loads of things to do in Ljubljana, there are lots easy day trips that could be taken, especially if you have a car or have the flexibility to take transportation. We enjoyed the experiences at Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave and a quick exploration of Skofja Loka – all less than an hour’s drive from Ljubljana. We’ve been blown away with all we have seen thus far in Slovenia and we’re excited to see what else Slovenia has to offer, especially in the Julian Alps!


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