According to archeological surveys, the area of the present castle has been settled continuously since 1200 BC, when the first settlements and later fortifications were built. The hill summit probably became a Roman army stronghold after fortifications were built in Illyrian and Celtic times.
The oldest mention of Ljubljana Castle is inscribed on a parchment sheet Nomina defunctorum (names of the dead), which is kept by the Udine Cathedral Archive. It dates from 1112 till 1125. It mentions the nobleman Rudolf of Tarcento, a lawyer of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, who had bestowed a canon with 20 farmsteads beside the castle of Ljubljana (castrum Leibach) to the Patriarchate. In 1144 Ljubljana Castle was mentioned as a property and the seat of the Carinthian dukes of the House of Spanheim. In 1335 it became property of the House of Habsburg. In the 15th century it was almost completely demolished and rebuilt with a complete wall and towers at the entrance, where a drawbridge was placed. A chapel was also built at that time. In the 16th and 17th centuries, other objects were gradually built.
The castle's purpose was to defend the empire against Ottoman invasion as well as peasant revolt. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle became an arsenal and a military hospital. It was damaged during the Napoleonic period and, once back in the Austrian Empire, became a prison, which it remained until 1905, resuming that function during World War II. The castle's Outlook Tower dates to 1848; this was inhabited by a guard whose duty it was to fire cannons warning the city in case of fire or announcing important visitors or events.
Because it was not a home of a ruler or another important noble person and because a fortification in the area was no longer required, the castle started to lose its importance. The maintenance costs were too high so the castle began to crumble. In the 19th century, the castle was redesigned partially as a prison and partially as a military stronghold, making it less popular among the citizens. Several famous people were jailed in the castle, including the Italian revolutionary Silvio Pellico, the Hungarian Prime Minister Lajos Batthyany and the Slovene author Ivan Cankar.
In 1905, the castle was bought by Municipality of Ljubljana, on the explicit wish of the mayor, Ivan Hribar, who planned to establish a city museum in it. The plan was however not carried out. Instead, the city decided to settle poor families into it. The residents stayed there until the mid-1960s, when preparations for renovation of the castle began.
At the end of the 1960s, the long and extensive renovation works started. The whole renovation took more than 35 years. In the 1990s, the use of the castle as a place for weddings and cultural events began. The Ljubljana Castle funicular, a funicular railway to the top of Castle Hill, was built in 2006 and brought to service on 28 December 2006. The hill also features a 1974 monument by the sculptor Stojan Batič dedicated to the Slovene peasant revolts (especially to the Slovene peasant revolt of 1515 and the Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt of 1573). It is also a tourist attraction.
The remains of the fortifications on Castle Hill were reworked into a promenade called Šance, designed by the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik.
- Festival Ljubljana
- "Ljubljanski grad / Ljubljana Castle". Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- Peter Štih (2010). Castrum Leibach: the first recorded mention of Ljubljana and the city's early history: facsimile with commentary and a history introduction. City Municipality of Ljubljana. ISBN 978-961-6449-36-6. COBISS 252833024
- "850-letnico Ljubljane smo praznovali prepozno. Ljubljana je starejša." [850th Anniversary of Ljubljana was Celebrated Too Late. Ljubljana is Older.] (in Slovene). MMC RTV Slovenia. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
- "Historian Finds New Oldest Mention of Ljubljana". Slovenian Press Agency. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
- "City castle in Ljubljana". Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- "5 Years of the Funicular Railway to the Castle". City Municipality of Ljubljana. 28 December 2011.
- "Festival Ljubljana". Retrieved 2008-07-30.
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- Panoramic view from the castle tower