City Guide Maribor
Maribor is usually overlooked in favour of more obviously beautiful places like picturesque Bled or historic Ptuj but Slovenia’s lively second city has plenty to offer. A series of popular annual sporting and cultural events ensure there is always something going on, and the city makes an excellent base for visitors wishing to explore the countryside of central and eastern Slovenia.
A city of two halves, Maribor straddles the River Drava; the northern side is the oldest part of the city while the southern side mostly comprises post war residential districts and industrial zones. That said, with around 110,000 inhabitants, Maribor has the feel of a provincial town rather than a city and, with hills on all sides, there’s a feeling that you’re never far from the countryside.
A car is useful for exploring the local wine routes and for venturing further afield but a twenty minute bus ride from the city centre drops you at the lower cable car station at the base of the Mariborsko Pohorje mountain. The city benefits from a network of cycle routes; most hotels have secure bicycle storage and the city also has a citywide bicycle rental service. The Drava path is a scenic cycle route that starts to the north west of Maribor near the Austrian border and passes through Maribor on its way to the historic Ptuj but there are a number of other excellent sign-posted routes in the wider region to suit cyclists of all abilities.
Maribor has a pleasing mix of the old and the new. The once nearly derelict riverside district of Lent, formerly referred to as ‘Little Venice’, is undergoing extensive redevelopment, providing new venues for concerts and exhibitions, while just across the river the gleaming new medical faculty of the University of Maribor is just one of the latest in a series of impressive new buildings in the city. Once a city dominated by industry, Maribor is today being transformed into a vibrant tourist destination, reflected in its status as European Capital of Culture in 2012. Maribor’s young people are at the fore-front of the city’s regeneration, leading the way with new businesses focusing, in particular, on new media and the arts.
Snow, sport and spa
With more than 41 kilometres of slopes, as well as an additional 27 kilometres of cross country ski runs, 5 chair-lifts, 16 ski-lifts and a gondola, Mariborsko Pohorje is the biggest ski centre in Slovenia. Maribor hosts the annual ‘Zlata Lisica’ – the Golden Fox – a women’s slalom event on the FIS international roster; ski fans come from across Slovenia and beyond to watch two days of top class skiing and to soak up the atmosphere. A good part of the slopes is lit at night making it ideal for locals who wish to ski after work, or tourists who want to continue skiing into the evening.
In the snow free months Mariborsko Pohorje becomes an ‘Adrenalin Park’, a magnet for hikers and cyclists. There are five bike trails ranging in difficulty and culminating in the World Cup DHI black route. In the same way that winter sports enthusiasts can attach their skis and boards to the outside of the gondola, cyclists can have their bikes transported to the upper cable car station before tackling the 717 metres of vertical descent.
Bolfenk, at the upper gondola station, provides a springboard for hikers wanting to visit some of the area’s natural attractions such as the Črno Jezero or ‘Black Lake’, so called because the peat moss at the bottom of the lake which causes the crystal clear water to appear inky black, and the waterfalls Veliki and Mali Šumik. For a less strenuous stroll Mestni Park, to the north of the city centre, offers a variety of landscapes as well as the three picturesque fishponds for which the ‘Gostilna pri treh ribnikih’, one the city’s most popular and enduring restaurants, gets its name.
While Mariborians are very active people, they also know how to relax and they like to take advantage of the numerous spas and wellness centres in the area, many of them attached to hotels. Pick of the crop is the spa centre at the five star Hotel Habakuk situated near the lower cable car station: as well as swimming and sauna facilities Habakuk offers a full range of beauty treatments and therapies within luxury surroundings. Those preferring an outdoors swimming experience should head for Mariborski Otok during the summer months, where there are three pools situated on an island in the River Drava. Spectator sports are popular too and NK Maribor is Slovenia’s most successful football team, regularly qualifying for the EUFA Champions’ and Europa Leagues. Attendances at the Ljudski Vrt for their home games are the biggest of any team in the Prva Liga.
Capitalising on Culture
Maribor’s tenure as European Capital of Culture may have ended but there is still plenty to occupy visitors interested in history and culture. The calendar is punctuated with a range of annual events that draw visitors from all over Slovenia and there’s even an outpost of the Slovenian National Theatre. Many of the events reflect the history of Maribor as an important trading centre on the Drava and its wine making tradition. Until the early twentieth century timber from Pohorje was transported by raft down the Drava to Belgrade; today freight is moved by road, of course, but the traditions of the rafters live on; tourists can take rafting trips on the Drava, enjoying a meal and local wine on board the raft as they pass by the charming Lent riverfront.
At the end of June the city hosts an international arts festival known as Lent (named for the old town district of the city and not after the religious festival). Attracting over half a million visitors each year, the event sees more than 1200 events take place at 40 locations around the city; these range from stand up comedy and street theatre to jazz and world music. Performers come from all over the world with past line-ups including the likes of Uriah Heep, John Coltrane, Eric Burdon & the Animals and B.B. King. Towards the end of the summer Festival Maribor takes place: this mainly classical music festival comprises ten performances by international performers with a European focus.
September’s Festival of the Stara Trta is a week long gastronomic event, the finale of which is the cutting of the grapes from the Old Vine in the Lent district; this ancient grapevine is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest living example and is one of the city’s most recognisable sights. Each year the growers of a different Maribor wine area are responsible for cutting of the grapes which are made into rich red wine, bottled in specially designed flasks and given to visiting dignitaries. A network of well sign-posted wine roads around Maribor connects vineyards and tourist farms that are open to the public. Many tourists find that, when visiting Maribor in September, it’s possible to find a vineyard owner who will invite them to join the grape-pickers. Those who are more interested in the end product may find the labyrinth of underground cellars at Vinag less strenuous; they can take a guided tour to explore the two and a half kilometres of tunnels where the region’s biggest producer makes and stores its wines.
Though much of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, Maribor still has a lot of historical character. From the imposing city squares of Baroque buildings and monuments to castles and mansions, it’s easy to get a feel for Maribor’s historic past simply by wandering around the city. Maribor Castle, in the heart of the city, is home to the regional museum while, just a few streets away, the excellent Museum of the National Liberation has a fascinating exhibition on Maribor during the Second World War.
On the southern edge of the city, the pretty pink and white baroque mansion at Betnava is the seat of the Archdiocese of Maribor and houses a museum chronicling the history of Catholicism in Stajerska and the life and work of Anton Martin Slomšek, the nineteenth century Bishop of Maribor who was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Betnava in 1999. A statue of Slomšek stands next to Maribor’s cathedral; originally a twelfth century Romanesque building, todays church is in the Gothic style, a distinctive cream coloured building with an imposing bell tower. The tower can be climbed by arrangement with staff at the church offices across the square.
Maribor in the Future
Though Maribor has suffered due to the economic downturn it remains a friendly city with a strong sense of community. Good road links make it easily accessible from airports at Ljubljana, Zagreb and Graz, and new links with foreign investors are being forged while young entrepreneurs are encouraged and nurtured.
Attractive real estate in both the city and the surrounding region has made Maribor a popular choice for foreign buyers for investment and for re-location. Apartments range from purpose built modern flats near the ski slopes to classical city centre properties or luxury options with riverside views. Among the types of houses for sale are characterful Austrian style villas, terraced family homes and modern eco-friendly houses. The Pohorje is well known for its ‘vikends’ small wooden cabins that many Slovenians keep as a weekend getaway.
Maribor is the second city of Slovenia has much to offer in terms of good value properties so if you would like to learn more about Maribor Real Estate you can find more details on our site and as a Estate agent Based in Slovenia, we have a wide variety of properties to suit all budgets.