Celje is a small city with a big heart that is sure to make you feel at home. With its time-warp historical center, excellent museums, and enormous castle looming over the picturesque Savinja River, Celje might appear to have won the tourism sweepstakes. But as it often gets overlooked in favor of Ljubljana and Maribor, making it here feels like something of a discovery.
Slovenia’s third-largest city has a pleasant old town and tremendous views from its castle. The old town is a provincial mix of Renaissance, Baroque and 20th-century buildings and squares but the landmark is definitely the Old Castle, which is the largest castle complex in Slovenia. The castle was built by the Counts of Celje, one of Central Europe’s most powerful noble families and the ruins are set within extensive walls.
Written records about the castle actually date back to the early 12th century, but the fortress-castle was probably burned down and the present one rebuilt from the ruins. By the 15th and 16th century, the castle became one of the most important castles across the entire Eastern Alps (Switzerland, Northern Italy, etc). Its many architectural elements became a model for builders of the region. It is now an excellent museum and a vibrant cultural venue and in summer, medieval re-enactments are staged here.
On the opposite side of the town, there is a nice, relaxing place to recharge your batteries and do some fun stuff - Šmartinsko lake. It's an artificial lake with nice walking trails around it. Here you can rent a boat or have a nice drink, go fishing, rent a sup, play paintball or even go zorbing (get that adrenalin flowing!).
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