In the recent years, Vipava Valley has become one of the favourite tourist destinations in Slovenia. The international breakthrough came with the reports in numerous leading tourist publications, such as Lonely Planet, which placed Vipava valley on its 2018 list of ten most recommended destinations in Europe. Foreign explorers were thrilled mostly by the rich culinary offer and excellent wines, as well as the abundant choice of leisure activities. Today, culinary tourism is one of the highlights in the offer of Vipava Valley, but nature lovers and sports enthusiasts will also find plenty of possibilities for hiking, cycling, climbing and paragliding.

It is not common knowledge yet, but Vipava Valley also has a rich cultural heritage, visible in many castles and mansions. If castles testify to the military and trading importance of the valley in the Middle Ages, its many baroque mansions bear witness to the lavish life of various noble families that chose Vipava Valley for their home. Unfortunately, not many of the castles and mansion are in a good state, and none has its interior furnishing preserved entirely. In spite of the poor conditions of some buildings, visitors still get a significant glimpse into the past cherishing the architectural value and the rich history of the sites. In the following numbers of the Newsletter, we will present some of the most beautiful and interesting castles and mansions of Vipava. Let us begin with the Rihemberk Castle which is surely one of the mightiest and most striking castles in Vipava Valley.


Rihemberk Castle, the „pearl“ among castles in Vipava Valley

If castles and mansions were rated in order of importance, Rihemberk Castle would no doubt take the first place among castle buildings of the wider Vipava Valley. Perched on a slope overlooking the village of Branik, the castle, its high defending walls and the impressive bergfried dominate the valley of Branica river making it one of the most picturesque castles not only in Primorska region but in all of Slovenia. Its supremacy does not only come from its position and the overwhelming architecture, but also from its age. It is namely one of the rare castles in this area that have kept their basic appearance from the Middle Ages onward. The noblemen of Rihemberk, who were liegemen of the Counts of Gorizia, started building the castle on the site of a prehistoric fortress already in the 12th century. The fort gradually developed later on. In the 13th century, the tall tower or bergfried was built representing the central part of the complex to this day.  

In the following centuries the castle passed to different owners, the last noble house to own the castle were the Lanthieris in the mid-17th century who gave the castle its final look. Rihemberk Castle outlasted its numerous owners and turmoils that afflicted the Vipava region. The last and worst blow came during the Second World War when it was burnt down, yet the strong walls survived the flames. Several renovations were attempted after the war, the last restoration ended in 2020 and returned the castle to its original glory.

After the restoration was completed the castle reopened to visitors who can now admire probably the most important example of the architecture of medieval castles in Slovenia. The highlight of any visit to the castle is the ascent to the bergfried offering a magnificent view of the vineyard area along the Branica Valley and of the village of Branik with its pretty church of Saint Ulrich. It is worth noting that Rihemberk Castle lately stands not only for an important cultural point of interest but also takes on an unexpected role in nature protection. Some parts of the complex have been offering shelter to different endangered species of bats. The castle area is therefore included in the protected areas of Natura 2000.


Author: Matic Batič