Maribor; European Capital of Culture 2012.

When Maribor and Guimaraes were announced as European capitals of culture for the year 2012, veteran visitors to the Iberian Peninsula at least, were more familiar with the name of the latter than the former.

Maribor is Slovenia’s second city after capital Ljubljana, with a population of less than 100.000 and is located in the north east of the country, just 20km from Austria. As gateway to Slovenia’s ski area, Pohorje, you’ll need to wrap up in winter, but it makes for an interesting weekend break.

Wander the 17th century Old Town, built on the river Drava with it Medieval castle and taste the hearty local cuisine (blood sausage is a speciality) washed down with a ‘home’ produced Maribor Riesling, Chardonnay or Muscatel. The outside of the town’s Old Vine House sports the world’s oldest vine, planted in the 17th century.

Be sure to cross the footbridge to Mariborski Otok, the verdant island in the middle of the Drava, where there’s an outdoor pool for summer bathers. A must-visit for opera and or ballet lovers is the town’s National Theatre where you can see a performance for £15 tops, a luxury for UK capital dwellers.

Fly Easy Jet (www.easyjet.com) to Ljubljana from London Stansted, where you can catch a bus or drive to Maribor.

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