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About the castle

Perched atop a steep cliff above emerald-green Lake Bled is one of Slovenia’s oldest castles. With a history spanning more than a thousand years, Bled Castle captivates visitors with its magnificence, stunning location, and breath-taking views.

Bled Castle, a symbol of Bled and Slovenia, ranks among the country’s best-preserved and maintained citadels. The first written mention of the castle dates back to 1011. Ever since, the castle has been an integral part of the broader Central European area and a vibrant cultural centre. Bled Castle is where the past meets the present and the future.

Through the centuries, Bled and its castle have attracted popularity and worldwide renown. A traveller standing at the castle terrace gazing at the lake and the island and further across this region bordering on the Karavanke mountains and the Julian Alps, will never forget the view. As Slovenia’s greatest poet France Prešeren wrote in one of his poems: “No, Carniola has no prettier scene, than this, resembling paradise serene.”

History

Year
1004 - 10111011 - 13711371 - 15741597 - 16221803 - 18131838 - 19371945 -19611999 - 2017
Castellum Veldes – Bled Castle

Castellum Veldes – Bled Castle

On 10 April 1004 the Henry II, King of Germany, signed a deed in Trento, Tyrol, ceding the ownership of the Bled estate in Carniola to Bishop Albuin of Brixen, and the Diocese of Brixen as a sign of gratitude for the assistance the church offered to the Emperor in his attempts to strengthen the German rule in this part of Northern Italy. The charter makes no mention of the castle. Most likely, only a Romanesque tower stood on a steep white rock at the time.

One of the oldest castles in Slovenia
Upon the first subsequent mention of Bled made in 1011 in another Henry II's donation deed, the name was explicitly used to refer to the castle on the rock – castellum Veldes. This 1011 charter is proof to the fact that at that time the castle building had already been erected. With it, Henry II awarded Albuin’s successor, Bishop Adalberon, the castle and the land in the size of thirty king's farms. In terms of written documents, Bled Castle is one of the oldest castles in Slovenia.

The Bled estate is administered and protected by the bishop's ministeriales

The Bled estate is administered and protected by the bishop's ministeriales

The Bishops of Brixen never lived in Bled and would only rarely venture here from their seat 300 kilometres away as one would have to ride for six days, using four horses, through valleys where countless dangers lurked. The Bled estate was managed by ministeriales (people raised up from serfdom to be placed in positons of power and responsibility), castle keepers, or governors of the castle and its lands, castellans. Until 1349 this role was performed by the Knights of Bled.

The earthquake that shook the area in 1511 caused considerable damage to Bled Castle. All the residents of the castle fled, convinced that the building was going to crumble and fall into the lake. Despite the efforts of castle lords, in particular Herbard von Auersperg (Slovene name: Herbard Turjaški), it took more than 60 years for the castle to be completely restored.

The Bishops of Brixen give up direct control of the castle

The Bishops of Brixen give up direct control of the castle

In mid-14th century (1371) the Bishops of Brixen gave up direct administration of their estate. They leased it, as a collateral for a loan, to Konrad von Kreigh, the chief administrator at the time. The Kreigh family ruled Bled for almost 200 years (1371–1558).
The Kreighs and their successors, the Turns – under whose rule the peasants, revolted by the Turns’ ruthless behaviour and violation of peasant rights, decided to join the Slovene Peasant Revolt in 1515 – were succeeded as castle owners by Herbard von Auersperg, who had made a name for himself through his heroism fighting the Turks.

Under Auersperg, the castle became a stronghold of Protestantism and, in 1561, it was visited by the leader of the Slovenian Protestant movement, Primož Trubar, the author of the first two books written in Slovene, Katekizem, or Catechismus, and Abecedarij, Abecedary. Because of his Protestant beliefs, Herbard von Auersperg had to leave the castle in 1574.

Managed by governors: first nobles then middle-class townsmen

Managed by governors: first nobles then middle-class townsmen

When the leasehold period came to an end, the bishops appointed governors to manage the Bled estate. Up until the 18th century, the castle was administered by the nobles, and later also by the adherents of the middle class, including the Eggenberg, Turjak, Petschacher and Gallenfal families. Some of them stayed in Bled, while others managed the estate through castle keepers.

The castle is no stranger to natural disasters
The castle has withstood many natural disasters. It was struck by lightning (twice!), which caused a fire that destroyed most of the castle buildings. In 1960 the castle was again hit by an earthquake, which left it unfit for human habitation. The renovation was carried out by baron Gallenfels (1965 drawings of Bled Castle are kept in the archives of the Diocese of Brixen).

800 years of Brixen rule come to an end

800 years of Brixen rule come to an end

In 1803, after 800 years of Brixen rule, the Bled estate, including the castle and its surrounding land, was transferred into state ownership by a decree of the Court Commission in Vienna.

Bled Castle at the time of the Illyrian Provinces
In 1809 Napoleon took over Carniola and Bled became part of the Illyrian Provinces. From 1809 to 1813 Bled Castle was therefore property of France, and its income went to the area’s governor-general, Auguste de Marmont, Marshall of France.

Bled Castle changes hands

Bled Castle changes hands

In 1838 the Diocese of Brixen regained its property, including the Bled estate and its castle. However, after the feudal order came to an end, Brixen lords were no longer able to sustain the rising costs of the estate and eventually sold it to an industrialist, the owner of the Jesenice ironworks, Mr Viktor Ruard.

Viktor Ruard and Adolf Muhr
In 1858 Viktor Ruard, the owner of the Jesenice ironworks, assumed ownership of the Bled estate. For a few years he held onto the castle, lake, and the construction land around the lake, but sold the forests of the estate to the Krainischen Industrie Gesellschaft. The castle and adjoining land were sold to merchant Adolf Muhr in 1882.

Ivan Kenda and his dream of turning the castle into a hotel
In 1918 hotelier Ivan Kenda from Bled bought the castle, the lake and the island with an ambitious plan to turn the castle into a hotel. Unfortunately, his investments failed and in 1937 his entire property was confiscated by Zadružna gospodarska banka, which passed it on to Drava Banovina.

Designs of architect Bitenc give the castle a more modern look

Designs of architect Bitenc give the castle a more modern look

After WWII, Bled Castle was in decay until 1952, when the National Museum of Slovenia started an extensive renovation project based on the designs of architect Tone Bitenc (1920-1977). Bitenc, a disciple of Jože Plečnik, received numerous awards for his work, and the renovation of Bled Castle earned him the title of professor at the Technical Faculty in Ljubljana. The renovation was financed by the government (SFRJ) and the Municipality of Bled.

Castle remake took ten years and was completed in 1961. The renovation works gave the castle a slightly more modern appearance better suited to tourist visits.

Bled Castle, a cultural monument of national importance

Bled Castle, a cultural monument of national importance

By way of a decree by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, Bled Castle was proclaimed a cultural monument of national importance on 9th September 1999. Since 2007, the castle has been managed by the Bled Culture Institute.

Renovation
Besides the museum, renovated in 2008, most of Bled Castle has been refurbished or expanded in terms of content or size in recent years. The castle tactile guide for visually impaired visitors and audio guides in 17 languages create a much more engaging, meaningful and memorable visitor experience.

Events
Bled Castle's increasingly diverse and comprehensive events programme accommodates music festivals, children's events, medieval shows, as well as exhibitions and museum evenings.

Legend

Around 1500 AD the administrator of Bled Castle was Hartman Kreigh, who was not a kind master. Peasants complained about the encroachment on their rights and brutal oppression to the bishop and the king. One day Kreigh disappeared without a trace. There were rumours that he had been killed by robbers. For all we know, peasants may have taken the justice into their own hands, but nothing was ever proven. In short, Kreigh was never to be seen again. His wife Poliksena, who also ruled with a firm hand, squeezing the last dime from her subordinates, grieved for him deeply.

In her grief, the widow collected all the gold and silver she had stored in her chests. She used it to have a bell cast for the chapel on the Bled Island. When the boatmen were taking the bell to the island, a storm broke out, sinking the boat, the boatmen and the bell. From time to time, the sunken bell can still be heard ringing from the depths of the lake. Devastated, Poliksena left the castle and went to a convent in Rome. When the Pope heard her sad story, he had a new bell made and sent it to the island.

Presentation

Museum

The Baroque section of the castle houses a permanent exhibition, curated by the National Museum of Slovenia, which will take you through the eventful history of Bled and its inhabitants.

The history of the Blejski kot area from its creation to the present day is presented through thematic units which bring together nature, everyday life, crafts, spiritual culture and all that defines life in this important part of Slovenia.

A bird of paradise – a 6th century find

The castle museum proudly showcases one of the most beautiful 6th century finds, a peacock-shaped brooch found at Pristava below the castle. The peacock is known to adorn the Garden of Eden and is often referred to as the bird of paradise and a symbol of life and wealth. These are also the values that have been associated with Bled in the past, in the present and the values Bled is likely to embody in the future.

The castle chapel

The upper courtyard is dominated by a stunning, 16th century, Baroque  chapel, which entices you to enter its sacred space adorned with Barowue frescoes. The chapel is dedicated to the patrons of the Diocese of Brixen in Tyrol, St Albuin and St Ingenuin.

After the second major earthquake, which nearly destroyed Bled Castle in 1960, the chapel was increased in height and Baroque vaults were added. In this time, or slightly later, the chapel was also adorned with frescoes. The fresco on the northern wall depicts German Emperor and King Henry II, who ceded ownership of the Bled estate to Bishop Albuin of Brixen on 10 April 1004, and his wife Kunigunde is painted on the southern wall of the chapel.

On 10 April 2014 the chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Ljubljana, Andrej Glavan, and the Bishop of Bozen and Bressanone, Dr Ivo Muser. The chapel, which can now serve its original purpose, also hosts wedding ceremonies.

The castle printing works

The castle's printing works contains a replica Gutenberg wooden press which you can use to print a souvenir certificate, with some help of the master printer.

Whilst under the ownership of the Diocese of Brixen, the Bled estate was managed by ministeriales, (people raised up from serfdom to be placed in positons of power and responsibility), castle keepers, or governors of the castle and its lands, castellans. Later, the Bishops of Brixen leased out their land. One of the leaseholders was Herbard Auersperg of Turjak, who had made a name for himself through his heroism fighting the Turks. Under Auersperg, the castle became a stronghold of Protestantism and, in 1561, it was visited by the leader of the Slovenian Protestant movement, Primož Trubar, the author of the first two books written in Slovene, Katekizem, or Catechismus, and Abecedarij, Abecedary. Both books were printed on Gutenberg's old printing presses in Tübingen in 1550.

A special room above the printing works is dedicated to the life and work of Primož Trubar, and his importance for the development of standard Slovene.

The wine cellar

A visit to the castle wine cellar is a must for all lovers of exquisite wines. Come in and let the richness of colours, smells, and flavours overcome you.

The castle wine cellar hosts regular tastings of selected wines and demonstrations of traditional bottling of wine aged in oak barrels. Visitors are invited to fill, cork and wax their own bottle of wine and those who do are also presented with a souvenir certificate.

Wine is considered to be the tears of the Earth, a gift from the sky and the sun, the juice of life. The castle wine cellar is well-stocked with a selection of top-quality wines from Dornberk in the Primorska region.

The castle wall

The castle wall offers impressive views of the villages of Zasip and Gorje. Zasip is also known as 'the altar of the Gorenjska region', as the village was described by France Prešeren, Slovenia's greatest poet.

The only parts of the original castle structure that have been preserved are the Romanesque walls with an entrance tower. Summits of the Karavanke range and the Mežakla plateau can be seen through the slits in the battlements, and in summer days these slits act as a sun dial when the rising sun shines right through them.

The castle wall offers impressive views of the villages of Zasip and Gorje. Zasip offers stunning views over Bled and its surroundings, opening up from the Hom hill above the village.

To the north, Zasip borders the Radovna river and its 1.6-km-long Vintgar gorge. On its western boundary, it is delineated by the Podhom – Bled jezero railway line, to the east by the Sava Dolinka river, and to the south its plains open up towards Bled.

Gallery STOLP

When paying a visit to Bled Castle, do not miss the current exhibition at the Gallery STOLP. The gallery can be accessed from the lower courtyard and is open during the opening times of castle.

The gallery inside the round tower of Bled Castle houses monthly exhibitions and regularly displays works of photographers, painters and masters of contemporary applied arts.

The gallery has already hosted exhibitions by many renowned artists and is developing into a cultural centre of fine arts.

Arnold Rikli's room

Make some time in your visit to Bled Castle for this special room, where you can catch a glimpse at what the forefathers of modern wellness integrated in their therapies more than 1600 years ago.

A renovated room on the third floor of the round Renaissance tower houses a permanent exhibition about the life and work of the famous Swiss naturopath Arnold Rikli. 

Bled earned its reputation as a thermal spa resort in the 19th century, in the years following 1855 when the Swiss-born physician Arnold Rikli started his treatments here. Arnold Rikli's healing approach was based on exposure to air, water and sun, a healthy diet, and spending time in nature.

Wealthy patients from across Europe flocked to Bled to undergo treatments proposed by Arnold Rikli, which boosted further development of health tourism in Bled.

The museums and towns of Gorenjska

You can explore the landscape of natural and cultural attractions, neighbouring towns and museums using the sophisticated visual information point located on the top floor of the castle’s round tower.

The castle tower is one of the best vantage points to observe the region of Upper Gorenjska. The largest towns in this alpine region that borders on the Karavanke Mountains on the one side and the Julian Alps on the other are Bled, Gorje, Bohinj, Lesce, Radovljica, Žirovnica, Jesenice and Kranjska Gora.

Gorenjska is a region of streaming rivers and cascading waterfalls, with verdant valleys nestled between lofty summits, rich cultural and landscape heritage, and friendly people.

Coffeeshop

Coming through the gates of Bled Castle, you will be greeted by the Castle coffeeshop at the lower courtyard, where you can taste premium Slovenian wines and craft beers. 

In hot summer months, our offer includes delicious homemade lemonade, ice tea and custom ice cream blends. In the pleasant setting amidst the castle walls you will be rewarded with memorable views of the island in the lake, the aroma of coffee or tea, and the queen of Bled desserts - the Bled cream cake. Visit us and give yourself a 'royal' treat.

Coffeeshop is open between May and November.


Beehouse

The Gorenjska region is not only known for its numerous natural beauties, but also as the homeland of an autochthonous bee species - Carniolan honey bee, of which Slovenes are particularly proud.  

Besides the restaurant and coffeshop, in the picturesque surroundings of Bled Castle there is also a boutique shop called Castle Beehouse, where visitors are offered honey products and souvenirs from Slovenia, free guided tasting with more than 20 types of honey and handmade and unique souvenirs from Slovenia. They will also enjoy the unique hive-shaped interior design of the shop and learn many interesting facts about Slovenian beekeeping.

Bled Castle Restaurant

Enhance your visit to the castle with a taste of delicious food, a glass of fine wine, a cup of fresh coffee or tea, or a scrumptious dessert enjoyed on the terrace with magnificent views of the surrounding landscape.

At Bled Castle Restaurant local and regional dishes are made in contemporary and sophisticated way with an aim to preserve the gastronomical heritage of the Zgornja Gorenjska (Upper Carniola) region and Slovenia. Working closely with local suppliers, Jezeršek’s creative team of chefs delivers culinary experiences that are suited to ceremonial visits, tourist groups and individual customers.

We are committed to putting Bled Castle on the map of top culinary venues. And the cherry on the top: the view through the large panoramic window in this stylishly furnished restaurant is one of the most stunning and most romantic views you will ever see!

Visit us

To visit Bled Castle, please look us up and select your preferred type of visit. You can plan the entire visit ahead, and feel free to use the audio guide to learn more about the castle.