Maribor is full of tourist attractions: more than an excursion, it is a city break or weekend destination. A visit to Maribor must be part of every tour to Slovenia.
Main attractions of Maribor:
- Medieval town centre and Lent, the old river port
- The oldest grape vine in the world and excellent wine tasting
- Cultural events and heritage (European Capital of Culture 2012)
- Sports and recreational activities: cycling, walking and skiing
History of Maribor
Populated since the Bronze and Iron Ages, Maribor became an important settlement in the 12th century, when a fort was built on Piramida (Pyramid) hill above the city. In 14th century a large Jewish community established important trade links with major European cities of the time: Milan, Dubrovnik and Prague, and Maribor developed into an important regional commercial centre.
Modern expansion of Maribor started with the arrival of the Vienna – Trieste railroad line in the 19th century. Maribor was one of the main stations on this rail line and a number of important cultural and financial institutions was established at that time. In the 20th century Maribor developed into a major industrial city.
Main sightseeing attractions in Maribor
Historic town centre of Maribor is marked by the Austrian influence. Major attractions in Maribor are grouped around its three main squares: Grajski trg (Castle square), Slomškov trg (Slomšek square) and Glavni trg (Main square), and in Lent, the old river port. It is possible to cover all these attraction on a walking tour of Maribor.
Lent used to be the commercial hub of Maribor, as Drava river was the main transport route. Good were transported by boats and rafts. When the first hydroelectric plant on Drava was built after the World War 1, it had a canal for wooden rafts to pass through. The Old Vine House is the most visited tourist sight in Lent. Today the main landmark of Lent is the Judiciary Tower (Sodni stolp), which was built in 1310. Opposite the Judiciary Tower are the synagogue and the Jewish Tower, which hosts one of the best photography galleries in the country.
The main landmark of Maribor Main Square (Glavni trg) is the Town Hall (Mestna hiša), which was built in 1515 and got its present look in 1565. It is marked by a Venetian-renaissance front with a typical balcony and a coat of arms with the year 1565. The building also hosts the Maribor Art Gallery. On the south side of the Main square is the former Jesuit complex, which was transformed into a military warehouse after the Jesuit order was abolished. In the middle of the Main Square is the Plague column, commemorating all the Maribor inhabitants that died of plague. We can pass through the Town Hall passage and the adjoining Rotovž Square from the Main to the Slomšek Square.
Slomšek Square (Slomškov trg) is the home of the Maribor Cathedral. Until 1797 the Maribor cathedral was surrounded by a cemetery, but when the town extended, it was removed. Nowadays Slomšek Square is the most urban area of Maribor old town. Maribor Cathedral, the church of St. John the Baptist is in the middle of the square. It was first built in the middle of the 12th century as a romanesque church, but it got its gothic outlook in the 14th and 15th century. It became a cathedral in 1859. On the southern side of the square is the Slovenian Post Office headquarters in a mighty neo-renaissance building from 1894. On the opposite side of the square is the Maribor National Theatre.
Castle Square (Grajski trg) is the third of Maribor main squares. It is named after the Town Castle, which was built in the 15th century. It hosts the Maribor Regional Museum. Its main exhibitions include the costume collection with the largest collection of clothes in Slovenia, dating from the 18th century onwards.
Wine, vineyards and wine cellars
Maribor lies in the midst of a wine growing region, and vineyards literally spill into the streets of Maribor, inviting tourists to visit. Several wine roads start in the outskirts of Maribor, providing visitors with excellent opportunity for wine tasting and discovering Slovenian countryside heritage. There are wine shops and wine cellars, viticulture farms - specialized in wine tasting and selling, excursion farms - offering not only wine but also home-made meals, and farms with accommodation. You can visit the wine roads as a day trip, or arrange a longer tour and stay at some of the numerous farmhouses for a true immersion into local culture.
One of the main tourist attractions of Maribor is the Old Vine, a Guinness Book-certified oldest grape vine in the world. The Old Vine is more than 450 years old and still bears fruits, which are pompously harvested each year and produced into wine. This exclusive wine is used as a promotional gift for visiting state dignitaries, but the Old Vine House has a winery where you can taste regional wines. There is also an interesting exhibition on the history of the Old Vine.
The patron saint of wine and wine makers is St. Martin, so the Michaelmas or St. Martin Day Celebrations on 11. November are taking place in Maribor and in its wine-producing vicinity. St. Martin Day marks the occasion when grape juice turns into wine, which is celebrated with festive parties and traditional food not only in Maribor but all over Slovenia and tourists are welcome to visit and enjoy these festivities along with the locals.
Sports and recreation in Maribor
Maribor is known as a city of sports and recreation. It is also known for organizing numerous world-class sports events, most notably the alpine skiing Golden Fox World Cup competition for women, which has traditionally been organised on Pohorje, the ski resort above Maribor, for more than fourty years. Maribor is also known for hosting international football matches at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium, home of Maribor Football Club, one of the most successful football teams in Slovenia. Other successful sports teams in Maribor include Branik Women volleyball team and Maribor Branik Men Handball team. Maribor is also famous for organising international volleyball, ice hockey, basketball, rugby, swimming, tennis, cycling, athletics and shooting competitions.
Because of good sports infrastructure, Maribor is an excellent choice for sports teams preparations, ranging from world-class to university or school teams. There is a good range of accommodation options to choose from when planning to stay in Maribor for sports preparations.
Maribor also offers numerous recreational activities. The wooded Pohorje offers hiking and mountain biking in summer, and skiing in winter. Drava river is a great place for watersports. Other popular activites include golf, horse riding and activities in the air - baloon rides, glider planes, paragliding, sky diving and panoramic flights.
Cycling is the best way to experience the countryside and bicycle trips around the hilly countryside covered by vineyards are a special experience. Bicycle tours can be guided or self-guided, and you can either bring your own bicycle, rent a bike from an agency or use the Maribor city public bike system. If you come to Maribor by train from Ljubljana or any other place in Slovenia, you can put your bike on the train for a small surcharge.
Maribor, European Capital of Culture
Maribor has a rich cultural tradition. The Slovenian National Theatre of Maribor with its combination of drama, opera and ballet is probably the most important cultural institution in Maribor. Also Narodni Dom cultural and events centre has recently been the driving force in Maribor culture. There are numerous museums, galleries and exhibition areas.
Many important cultural events traditionally take place in Maribor. The most popular is the summer Lent multicultural festival, taking place on the banks of the Drava river. The most prestigious is the Borštnik Theatre Meeting (Borštnikovo srečanje). Other traditional events in Maribor include Maribor Music Festival, Old Vine festival, Colourful December, DokMa (Documentaries in Maribor), Etnika ethnic festival, the Rafters Christening, open-air New Year Eve celebrations and Magdalena young designers festival. Because Maribor enjoys special connection with wine, St. Martin Day Celebrations (Michaelmas) are very important.
The pinnacle of Maribor culture has been the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
Tourism in Maribor: a City break destination
Although you can easily visit Maribor as a day trip from Ljubljana, Maribor has become a popular city break or a weekend break destination. The easiest way to reach Maribor is through Graz (Austria) airport, which has numerous flights to the UK, Germany and many other countries.
There is a good and wide choice of accommodation, tasty traditional food and excellent local wines, and plenty to see and do in Maribor. Maribor is ideal for sports and recreation enthusiasts, culture buffs or people looking for relaxation in one of Maribor spa or wellness centres.
From Maribor you can visit near-by attractions and towns. People interested in medieval heritage should not miss a medieval circle, visiting Slovenske Konjice, Žiče Monastery, Ptujska gora church - the best preserved gothic building in Slovenia, and Ptuj - the oldest Slovenian town and a most interesting place. You can easily do this tour on bicycle.
In Maribor you can arrange day trips and visit numerous major tourist attractions in Slovenia: Lake Bled, Postojna cave, Bohinj lake, Slovenian coast (Piran, Portorož, Izola & Koper), Lipica horse farm, Soča river valley, Škocjan UNESCO caves.
From Maribor you can also visit several rarely visited regions of Slovenia, where you will tread totally off the beaten track: Prekmurje is home of sunflowers and storks, wooded Koroška is full of misteries and underground treasures, and Dolenjska with its Krka river valley is a place of tranquility and rich cultural heritage dating since the Celtic times.
From Maribor you can easily visit several European capitals as excursions or day trips: Ljubljana, Zagreb, Vienna, Budapest or Bratislava. It is also possible to arrange an excursion to Venice or Salzburg.
Are you ambitious? Visit 4 different countries in one day: Slovenia, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.
Do you need any more reasons for visiting Maribor?