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A Guide to Maribor, Slovenia

Maribor, Slovenia

Maribor is the second biggest city in Slovenia, often referred to as “the Little Switzerland”: low houses with orange tiled roofs are reflected in the calm waters of the river Drava; green hills and the nearby Pohorje mountain enclose the city and give it the aura of an enchanted valley. Life moves slowly in this charming town, home to the finest wines, ski slopes and stunning scenery, aside from the buzz of tourists of course. If you're planning a visit to Slovenia, you definitely shouldn't miss this beautiful spot, so to help you plan your trip, we've put together this handy guide of the top things to do in Maribor, Slovenia.

Porhorje Lookout Tower - Image: Arianna Meschia

Porhorje Lookout Tower

Image: Arianna Meschia

Winter - Pohorje Ski Resort

While Pohorje doesn’t offer the seemingly infinite expanses of the Italian, French and Swiss Alps, its 42km of ski slopes do provide a good mix of easy and medium runs, along with a handful of black runs for the most daring skiers.

It is without a doubt an excellent location for the beginner skier, especially if trying to keep an eye on your finances: with day passes starting at €31, Pohorje is a cheaper alternative to most alpine ski resorts.

A mixture of cableways, chair lifts, ski lifts and a bus take you across the whole 1000km2 of the Pohorje complex, which boasts the longest illuminated ski slope in Europe, and is home to the women's World Cup alpine slalom and giant slalom races every year.

If you fancy a break from the skiing and a bit of extra exercise, take the Marinova Proga lift (number 12) and climb up the Razgledni Stolp (Outlook Tower), where you can enjoy views of Maribor and the surrounding valley.

Pohorje Woods, Maribor - Image: Arianna Meschia

Pohorje Woods, Maribor

Image: Arianna Meschia

Spring - Urban Maribor & Its Outdoors

With its mild temperatures, spring is the best time to explore the history and architecture of Maribor. Start with the riverside Lent district, home to some remnants of the city walls, including the Judgement Tower and the Water Tower, where you can taste and buy some of Slovenia’s finest wines.

Continue with the mixed romanesque and gothic Saint John The Baptist Cathedral, resting place of Slovenia’s very own first saint, Bishop Anton Martin Slomšek. Its bell tower can be climbed for a donation, and it still features an apartment that was reserved for the city guard to look out for fires in the city and surrounding countryside until 1933.

Cross Glavni Trg, Maribor’s main square, with its beautiful baroque Plague Column, which commemorates an outbreak that nearly wiped out the entire city in the late 1600s. Lastly, check out Maribor’s Castle, an original defensive structure so modified through the centuries, that nowadays it looks more like a palace. If you’re a history buff, go in for the Regional Museum of Maribor.

Maribor in the summer

Maribor in the summer

Summer - Lent Festival & River Side Walks

While it has nothing to do with Easter celebrations, Lent Festival takes its name from the homonymous district facing the waters of the river Drava, where it is hosted for two weeks every June.

During Lent, Maribor transforms in a hub of live music, theatre, ballet, opera and family activities, which take place both in the area of Lent and in the nearby Maribor City Park. A real must for Slovenians, Lent marks the official beginning of summer, and it is very common for people to run away to the coast as soon as celebrations are over, leaving Maribor half empty.

As temperatures can reach the mid-thirties, summer post Lent is all about the water. Take a stroll or cycle down the riverbanks to Maribor Island (Mariborski Otok), where a small aqua park with pools and slides offer a fantastic alternative to those too scared of the icy cold Drava waters – ideal for families.

Leave the town behind and stroll through Maribor City Park, with its turtle and fish filled ponds, merging with the much bigger Mestni Park, which slopes up next to Kalvarja Hill, and features vineyards as well as wooded areas.

Vineyards in Maribor - Image: Arianna Meschia

Vineyards in Maribor

Image: Arianna Meschia

Autumn - Wine & Hiking

If wine is your thing, be sure to visit around September, when the Old Vine Festival takes place (in 2020 it will be hosted between 17th and 20th).

On this occasion, the Mayor himself ceremoniously tastes the first harvest of the year in front of the Old Vine House in Lent, where the reportedly oldest vine in the world (of the Žametovka variety) still grows strong after over 400 years.

Don’t miss out on visiting Vinag as well, one of the oldest wine cellars in Europe, and the biggest underground wine cellar under a city in the world. For a mere €7 you will get a tour of the cellar, with its dark passages and huge wooden barrels, as well as a tasting of some regional wines.

Continue your wine journey in the scenic vineyards that crawl up Kalvarja and Pyramida hills, a pleasant hour and half round trek with beautiful views of Maribor town and the Drava river. On top of Kalvarja, don’t forget to make a wish and ring the bell in the small chapel if you want it granted!

Franciscan Church, Maribor

Franciscan Church, Maribor

Food and Travelling Beyond Maribor

Slow living and coffee culture are a big part of Maribor life all year-round. For a taste of authentic vegan Slovenian, head to Slovegija, while if you want some contemporary street food, be sure to visit London Street Food, where hearty meals and plenty of veggie options await.

Enjoy a coffee, juice or špricer (white wine with sparkling water) at Terrassa Coffee & Lounge, just next to the Old Vine House, while watching swans and ducks lazily gliding down the Drava waters; or treat yourself to cake or ice cream at Slaščičarna Ilich, a delicious patisserie with a quiet back garden.

If you have time and can use Maribor as a base, consider travelling to nearby Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia (about an hour and a half); Graz, Austria (under one hour); Zagreb, Croatia (under two hours); and even Trieste on the Italian coast (under three hours).

Written by Arianna Meschia

I travel (a lot), I write (always), I take pictures (too many). Born and bred in Italy, London adopted me until I grew bored of the film production routine, bought a one-way ticket to Malawi and gave into my first and biggest passion: putting words together to tell stories, better if unheard. I’ve just come back from an East Africa bike trip churning 8,000km through six countries, and I’m about to continue into Europe, aboard a trusted BMW F650GS, before moving back to South Africa.

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