The city of Maribor came on to many peoples’ radar, including mine, in 2012 as it was then announced as Europe’s City of Culture.
Today Maribor, is known as the Styrian capital of Slovenia. Located in the Štajerska region, it does not however get the headlines that are afforded to the likes of Lake Bled, or Ljubljana.
Despite this, Maribor is the second largest city in Slovenia and is in my opinion well worth a visit. Particularly for those that enjoy sports, nature, wine, great foods, and wandering along the pretty banks of the Drava River that flows through the heart of the city.
I visited back in 2013 en route from Ljubljana to Budapest. At the time it was the annual harvest and lots of stalls were present selling local food products while shops were decked out in autumnal colors signaling the end of the harvest.
A very much more low-key city with relatively little tourism, I feel Maribor will in time, increase in popularity, especially for those looking for that off-the-beaten-path city break that offers both the city and an outdoor activity lifestyle.
The History of Maribor
Maribor lies between the Pohorje mountains and the hills of Slovenske Gorice on the Drava river near the Austrian border in North East Slovenia. The Austrian city of Graz is sometimes considered a better gateway for flights as it’s a 45-minute drive to Maribor. There are some flights into Maribor itself or of course, there is the capital Ljubljana which is an hour drive away, or as I did just a short and scenic trip by train.
The city was heavily bombed during the Nazi occupation with over 50 bombing missions destroying the city’s infrastructure and industry. Over the subsequent years, it was rebuilt with new roads and various bridges crossing the Drava River.
Maribor still has some old fortifications from the 15th and 16th, including the picturesque Judgement Tower and Water Tower. There is also a medieval monastery, now converted into a 21st-century puppet theatre and museum and the Slovenian national theatre.
The Heart of Slovenian Industry
Maribor is the center of the country’s most fertile region specializing in grape and apple growing so in the autumn the surrounding vineyards celebrate their harvest.
Despite the attraction of wine, the main income for the region comes from the chemical, engineering, electrical, and aluminum industries. There is also truck and bus manufacturing, railway equipment, food processing, and textiles. I know my washing machine comes from Slovenia which was not perhaps what I expected!
The Old Vine, Maribor
The one claim to fame that you will soon become aware of on any trip to Maribor is that it is home to the Old Vine, the oldest vine in the world. What’s more, it is right in the center of the old town of Maribor!
The Old Vine House has a delightful wine cellar with a tasting room where you can sample the produce from the wine-growing region of Styria in Slovenia.
Also on site is a wine museum and souvenir shop where you can pick up your favorite wine along with the Slovenian Lucifer chocolate which is excellent.
Throughout the year Maribor hosts festivals and events many dedicated to local and national Slovenia wines. In September there is the Old Vine Festival or in November the very popular St Martin festival.
Glavni Trg (The Main Square)
The central square of Maribor is called Glavni Trg and is surrounded by architecturally beautiful and important buildings. The town hall and the Baroque Aloysius Church are perhaps the most recognized however other symbols like Mary’s which is in memory of those who perished during the plague in the 17th century.
Also known as the Hauptplatz or Main Square the site was a popular trading center where farmers and craftsmen sold their produce and products. This has been revived in recent years and you will regularly stumble across a really lovely organic farmer’s market.
Lent & The Water Tower
The port area, Lent, is a center of leisure activities and in the summer months, the riverside Lent quarter is taken over by musicians and street performers.
The Lent Festival is the largest open-air festival in Slovenia and takes place in June and July. It celebrates local art, culture, and creativity. Consider buying a “Water Passport” for around 20 euros for which you get free or reduced entry to an incredible 600 events.
The city also hosts several other events, including various music and cultural festivals, as well as the International Puppet Festival and the Maribor Theatre Festival.
In spring the Kurent Carnival, populated by outlandish mythological figures, takes place in nearby Ptuj.
Active Holidays in Maribor
In the nearby area of Pohorje, there are many fabulous activities to enjoy. During the summer months, the Pohorje Mountains are ideal for cyclists who get their fix on the many forest trails. Cyclists can also enjoy the route along the banks of the Drava River culminating in Maribor itself for a cold beer.
Hiking and walking are popular with some of the best views from up at the hillside town of Piramida. For those looking for more summer adrenalin then how about rafting which is another very popular Slovenian sport.
In the winter months skiing up in the Pohorje mountains is popular and is also home to a famous women’s World Cup race known as “The Golden Fox”.
As with all of Slovenia they love their sport and Maribor is also home to one of the country’s leading football teams NK Maribor. If your trip coincides with a game then why not take a trip to the Ljudski Vrt stadium?