Slovenia's second largest city is cuddled between the green slopes of Mariborsko Pohorje, and rolling hills covered with vineyards and criss-crossed with wine routes. Tourist farms and wine shops along these routes offer a pleasant introduction to the culinary delights and wine-making traditions of the area. The Drava winds its way slowly through the town. Through the ages, it has been largely responsible for Maribor's prosperity, providing an important commercial route. Today, it is an indelible part of Maribor's ambience and a source of recreation and entertainment.
Maribor's history goes back to the Middle Ages when a castle called Marchburch stood in its place. A market developed by the castle in the early 13th Century, and the new settlement grew quickly under Habsburg rule. The city walls with four defence towers proved strong enough to resist two Ottoman sieges, in 1532 and 1683. Until World War I, its population was 80% German, 20% Slovenian, while the surrounding area was populated predominantly by Slovenians. In the aftermath of the war, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia unceremoniously took control of Maribor, forcing many Germans to emigrate to Austria. Nazi Germany annexed it in 1941, and the German population that had been subjected to a cultural assimilation policy welcomed them. Being a center of heavy industry, the town was bombed systematically by the Allies, and at the end of World War II the remaining German inhabitants were expelled. Conveniently located near the Austrian border, Maribor soon developed into a transport hub, an industrial and cultural centre in Eastern Slovenia. Its secession from Yugoslavia in 1991 led to the loss of markets but Maribor recovered quickly, not without the help of tourism.
If you are keen on winter sports, Pohorje Mountain right next to Maribor has an excellent skiing centre, the largest in Slovenia. Some 40 kilometres of ski runs are serviced by 21 ski lifts. A seven-kilometre floodlit run provides quite an experience of night skiing. During the summer months, the beautiful mountain scenery is a magnet to hiking enthusiasts.
Back in town, take a stroll through the colourful Lent: the Medieval quarter along the Drava, roam the city streets and admire the castle (Mariborski Grad) with its beautiful Baroque stairway, the painted ceiling of the Knight's Hall and fine furnishings, the Town Hall with its distinctive bulbous turret, the Plague Monument. Visit the market in the Central Square or take a raft ride for a different view of the city. Explore the inns and taverns for hearty traditional dishes such as pork leg, goulash, beer sausages, fresh fish and crusty bread, all accompanied by a glass of wine or local beer, the pride of Mariborians. Want to take home a typical souvenir? Why not a traditional reed pipe, or a fine glasswork item.
Small, orderly, picturesque, hospitable and friendly, Maribor welcomes leisure as well as business visitors. It has excellent conference facilities, and hosts a variety of events. It is waiting to be discovered - chances are you will love it.