Maribor is the European Capital of Culture for 2012, along with Guimaraes in Portugal, and now’s a good time to visit. It’s a small town though, so two nights is plenty of time to spend there — just make sure you spend your one full day wisely.
First of all, head to the tourist office and pick up a city map. There are several offices throughout the city, and they’re well-signposted, so you should find one without too much trouble. The train information office also stocks these maps, but you might have to ask for it in German — English isn’t that widely spoken here among older adults.
The map has Maribor’s top ten sights marked, though there’s no suggested route. Create your own by taking the shortest route between points, and don’t worry about going in numerical order. You’ll visit three old towers (the water tower, the Jewish tower and the judgement tower) as well as a church, the cathedral, the “city castle,” an extremely old grapevine, the sports stadium (skip this one if you like, I certainly did), the city hall and plague monument, and the VINAG wine cellars. Plan to arrive at this last stop at 1pm, when they run a tour of the cellars for €3.50. You’ll get to see old wooden barrels, ceramic storage rooms, and modern stainless-steel vats, and the guide will tell you a bit about the history of the company. Plus, a taste of one of the wines is included in the price… well, they said it was a taste, but it looked like a pretty full glass to me!
Have lunch at Stajerc on Vetrinjska street, where you can try some traditional Slovenian fare, and — more importantly — drink green beer. This place is packed with locals and you’ll see that they almost all have a pint of green liquid in their grasps, so join in! It’s delicious.
Maribor is surrounded by hills, so use your afternoon to hike up one or two of them. Head through the gardens towards Piramida Hill and follow the signs to the top; you’ll pass the grapevines, walk through light forest, and see ruins at the top of the hill. And there’s a great view of the city from up there.
If you’re up for an evening out, there are many bars to choose from. We decided to stay in, and had a fantastic time — all thanks to Couchsurfing. Although our host was out for the evening, her parents were in — and they went out of their way to look after us. They cooked us a delicious dinner, introduced us to traditional Slovenian music, and talked to us about the history and current situation of their country. It was awesome — much better than a night on the town, in my opinion!