Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city, but somehow often overlooked as a tourist destination. The charming capital, Ljubljana, seems to steal all of the attention. While there is no disputing that visiting Ljubljana for the city sights is a must, Maribor is distinctly different. The more industrial city offers a ‘real-life’ vibe, yet the area abounds in nature retreats and an incredible inner city wine culture. For people who wonder if they should visit Maribor, here are six marvellous reasons.
6 Marvellous Reasons to Visit Maribor
Pyramid Hill Views
On the northern edge of the city center is Pyramid Hill (Piramida), a vine-covered, 1,250-foot high hill with a small chapel overlooking the city. In the 12th century, the old Maribor Castle was built on the hill where it stood until 1790. Remains of a well and part of the floorplan are visible today. The chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary was erected in 1821.
The easily walkable path leads visitors on a half hour stroll to the top through hillside vineyards. The vines, which at one time were left to wither, are maintained and harvested by a collaboration of wineries in Maribor. In addition to the lovely city views, the café on the top of Pyramid Hill serves wine made from the hillside vines.
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Old Vine House and Vinag Cellar Wine
There is a long history of winemaking in the Maribor region. In fact, Maribor is home to a 400-year-old vine, which is the oldest known producing vine in the world. The vine grows on the front of a building that was once part of the city wall along the Drava River, now the Old Vine House that is used as a wine museum and tasting room. The vine was planted during the Middle Ages, but still produces 75-120 pounds of grapes each year – making the wine highly valuable and only offered as prestigious gifts rather than for sale or tastings.
The Vinag Wine Cellar isn’t quite as old as the vine – only dating back to 1844. However, it still ranks as one of the largest classic wine cellars in Europe, stretching 1.5 miles below Maribor’s city center. The cellar was the biggest producer of wine for Yugoslavia, but is now a museum, storage facility and tasting room. Featuring 100-year-old oak barrels, a 16,920-liter barrel built in 1862 and a concrete tank that was used from 1888 to 1915, the highlight (besides the tasting, of course) is the cellar where cobweb-covered bottles of wine from around the world are stored.
Lent District on the Drava River
Lent, the oldest district in Maribor, is laid out along the banks of the Drava River and was once a busy trading port full of rafts carrying products to shops and inns. In the 16th century, protective walls and towers were built to fortify the city, which successfully secured the residents from Turkish invasion. When the railway reached Maribor in 1844, however, the river and Lent fell out of favor, only recently revived in the 1980s.
Home to the Old Vine, Lent is marked by defensive towers, historic churches, the old Jewish Quarter and many cafes and restaurants. Promenading through Lent’s preserved sights provides a history lesson on the region, however, the best views of the district are from across the river.
Food and Drink Outdoors
At the center of Maribor are a number of pedestrian-only streets and wide squares lined with impressive architecture. And on those streets and squares are a copious number of outdoor cafes and restaurants. Start with a cup of coffee or glass of wine on the main square, Glavni Trg (or head across the street for a better view of the square). The square features Maribor’s Town Hall, built in 1515, and a white marble Plague Column, dating to 1743. From the northwest corner of the main square, Postna Ulica heads north to the Maribor Cathedral. The narrow street is packed with outdoor tables to enjoy craft beer (Fudo and Isabella) and regional fare (Bascarsija).
In Lent, trendy restaurants, bars and clubs line some of the city’s oldest streets like Dravska Ulica (Rooster Lent) and Mesarski Prehod. Along the riverside, there is a cafe in the Water Tower, craft beer at a rocker bar (Rokaj) just east of the Glavni Most Bridge and ridiculously good burgers at Jack & Joe.
Enjoying a meal or drink outdoors isn’t limited to dining establishments. City Park, located on the north side of the city, has ample benches and grassy knolls perfect for a picnic.
Bell Tower History
The bell tower at the Maribor’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has been multi-functional since its inception. Built in 1325 next to the town’s parish church, it served as both a defensive structure and the church steeple. In 1792, after earthquakes and fires, the tower was redesigned to include a balcony and apartment, which was the home of the city guard. The duties of the city guard were to look out for and alert the fire brigade of fires in the area, a service that was performed until 1933.
Steps to the balcony and preserved apartment can be climbed for free (donations accepted). The stairs wind around the interior of the tower, passing the enormous hanging bells that ring out the time. The apartment is full of interesting historic details and views from the balcony stretch across the rooftops of Maribor’s city center to the surrounding sloping hills.
Pohorje is a mile-high mountain range to the southwest of Maribor, easily accessed by Maribor’s #6 bus. The wintertime ski resort transforms in the summer to a green space for hiking, biking and outdoor activities. A cable car transports visitors to one of the peaks where trails scatter in all directions. For a real workout, however, there are hiking paths that lead to the top from the lower cable car station.
Need more reasons to visit Maribor? Check out the official tourist office website for more things to do in the city!
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