The One Minute Guide To...Maribor

By James Martin, TravelMail


Good vintage: the world's oldest grapevine


Take off: to one of Slovenia's best kept sercets...

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Maribor is the unfashionable member of the Slovenian family, but it's hardly the ugly sister ¿ more like Cinderella, once you look under the workman-like exterior and uncover a lovely little Austro-Hungarian gem.

It's renowned for wine, skiing and wilderness but its party piece is the 'miraculous' Donat (pronounced donut) mineral water, which despite its name, is apparently great for weight loss.

Where? About 60 miles from the capital Ljubljana, Maribor sits on the River Drava among the rolling green hills of north-east Slovenia wedged between Austria, Hungary and Croatia. If the Sound of Music was Slovenian, this is where it would be set.

Why go? No need to turn water into wine here as there's enough of both in Maribor to float a small ark. Mariborians swear by their local dry white wine so be prepared to enjoy it. Make sure you tour and taste at the historic Vinag cellar ( in central Maribor. Plus, the region is really cheap, mostly cheerful, and off the beaten British tourist track. It's also linked directly to London by RyanAir.

While the wine will tempt you, it's not the only liquid the region is famous for. While Britons might not have caught on, Continental Europe has been coming to the region for years to drink the Donat water. Just down the road from Maribor at Rogaska Slatina, the Donut water flows a freely as the long line of sensibly dressed Russians and Germans who come to sample it. Myriad spa hotels have sprung-up around the spring.

Random fact: At over 400 years old, Maribor claims (and the Guinness Book of Records backs them up) to have oldest grape vine in the world.


Vine balance: the region produces some great tasting wine

Best bit: The whole city is dirt cheap and once you've paid the fare between London Stansted and 'Maribor International', you'll find the city a hard place to spend money. A coffee that wouldn't be out of place in Milan or Paris costs just ¿1.10, while a bottle of the region's famous white wine will set you back just a couple of euros more. Try Café Cajek ( for a coffee or herbal tea. Your simple, yet comfortable room will set you back just ¿60 a night, and most come with breakfast. English is also not a problem in most hotels.

Downside? Maribor is proof there are still parts of central and eastern Europe that are yet to completely draw the iron curtain. Maribor's airport is linked to city by a pot-holed filled single lane road. The hotels generally come in three colours; brown, beige and cream.

When to go? This weekend or December to March if you fancy skiing on a budget. If not, in Autumn, when the grape harvest is in full swing and the whole region is painted with red grapevine leaves. It's also the best time for hiking and climbing, while the prices drop even more.

How to get there: RyanAir ( flies from London Stansted directly to Graz. There are regular rail services to Maribor.

Stay and further information: For information about Slovenia and details of accommodation, visit or call 0870 2255 305 For information about Maribor visit or call 00386 (0)2 23 46 611.