by Michelle Lawson
Is Maribor Slovenia worth visiting? Many people would struggle to pinpoint Slovenia’s second city on a map, let alone plan a trip there. But its tucked-away location in northeast Slovenia is one of many aspects that makes a visit worthwhile. Sometimes you’ll feel you’re the only tourist in this undiscovered corner of Europe. What’s more, Maribor is nowhere near as difficult to reach as it looks.
How to Get to Maribor Without Driving
Maribor prides itself on being a Slovenia Green Destination. According to the Good Country Index, the country places fourth out of 169 for its global contribution to the planet and climate. Slovenia’s impressive record on environment, nature, and biodiversity makes the idea of arriving by plane a little uncomfortable. And even though Maribor has an airport, the lack of schedules means you’d be hard-pressed to book a flight.
Luckily, Maribor lies on a major railway line between Vienna and Ljubljana, making it easily accessible by train from Austria. The railway from Vienna takes you over the historic Semmering Pass, a much-loved escape for Vienna’s former artists and writers, before descending to the Austrian city of Graz. Equally overlooked and largely car-free, Graz is little more than an hour from Maribor, making an ideal stopover.
There’s also the option to arrive from Croatia in the east. Zagreb’s connections to Maribor take three to five hours. Or take in the university city of Ljubljana, just a couple of hours away by train. But why stop at that, when Maribor sits on the route from Vienna to Trieste? This classic European rail journey would take you from the Alps to the Adriatic — a trip that crosses three countries.
Editor’s note: We love Rome2Rio for finding ground transportation options all over the world.
Where to Stay in Maribor
Maribor’s compact center is perfect for car-free travelers. There’s plentiful accommodation within a quick hop of the bars, restaurants, monuments, and museums. If peaceful is what you go for, there’s no need to stay out of the center; simply avoid staying in the livelier streets like Poštna ulica. Unlike larger cities, you can get a decent night’s sleep here without compromising on location. In Maribor, even the backstreets are central.
What to Do in Maribor
So, you’ve arrived, dropped your luggage, and headed out into the cobbled streets. For the best orientation, walk across the Glavni Most bridge and along the opposite bank of the wide River Drava. From here, there’s an undisturbed panorama of long, low red roofs framed by waterside willows. It’s hard to believe so much of Maribor was destroyed during World War II, but a visit to the National Liberation Museum will fill you in on the events of the 20th century.
Maribor’s airy main square — Glavni Trg — gleams and dazzles when you emerge from the enclosing back streets. Yet the backdrop of Renaissance and Imperial Austrian architecture forms a charming contrast to the crumbling graffitied walls of the cobbled alleys. Certain areas of the city are dedicated to street art, so enjoy the sense of walking through an outdoor gallery.
A short walk north brings you to the foot of a small, vine-clad hill known as Piramida. It’s an easy walk to the little white chapel on the summit, from where there’s a bird’s-eye view over Maribor. Don’t miss the archaeological site showcasing the castle ruins.
If the vines encircling Piramida hill disappoint you with their tattiness, head down to the river to Lent, where the oldest grape-producing vine in the world is not only well-tended but still in use. It’s worth going inside the Old Vine House to see the stunning mosaic snaking across the floor. Equally impressive is the wine-tasting menu. Sipping a vintage as you sit next to a 400-year-old vine is a unique Maribor experience.
Beyond Maribor Slovenia
You don’t need a car to swap the city for greenery in Maribor. It’s a pleasant walk (or bike ride) westwards along the river to Maribor Island. Take your swimming gear during the summer months to take advantage of the large open-air swimming pool.
Even better is the option to get into the surrounding hills. The number 6 bus (direction Vzpenjača) takes you to the Pohorje gondola — it’s Slovenia’s oldest cable car, but don’t let that put you off. As it glides upwards, you get a panoramic view of the city and the mountain bikers wobbling beneath you. At 1543m, the top station is a ski resort and a mountain bike park, with signposted hiking trails of varying lengths. Plan your hike to include lunch at a mountain restaurant and download maps from the Visit Maribor website.
It’s no surprise to learn that Maribor’s mayor signed the city’s Green Policy Document for Tourism on Earth Day. It’s only natural the city wants to develop its tourism. But for now, it’s no bad thing that few people have heard of Maribor. For us travelers, anyway.