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Trip-planning generally follows the same formula: pick a destination, figure out a way to get there, and find a place to stay. Every so often, you come across an accommodation so luxurious, curious, or charming that where you want to stay determines where you want to go in the first place. That’s exactly what happened to me on a recent trip to Slovenia when I stumbled upon the website for the Chateau Ramšak glampsite in Maribor.
Maribor is Slovenia’s second-largest city after Ljubljana, the capital. Beyond its quaint Old Town, the city is most famous for being a gateway to the Štajerska wine region. The oldest vine in the world, which has been bearing fruit for some 450 years, adorns the façade of a medieval building in the city’s riverside Lent area called the Old Vine House, which doubles as a museum dedicated to the red-wine-producing Žametovka grapevine.
I knew that I wanted to see a Slovenian wine country on my recent trip but was torn between visiting Goriška Brda (“Slovenia’s Tuscany”) near the Italian border or Štajerska, which is located just south of Austria and produces similar wines — until I found Chateau Ramšak.
A love of Austrian rieslings and pictures of the romantic two-person tents, spacious four-person tents, and single family-sized treehouse at Chateau Ramšak ultimately swayed me toward Maribor’s wine region. But I soon learned that the Ramšak estate is well worth a visit independently of the glampsite. The 37-acre estate has existed for more than two centuries, houses the largest wooden wine press in Slovenia, and owns a graft of the world’s oldest vine.
The Chateau Ramšak glampsite is considerably newer. When it opened in 2016, it became Slovenia’s very first glampsite, according to the manager who showed us around the property. He noted that the concept of glamping is “very compatible” with the ethos of Slovenia, a country that’s more than 50 percent forested, and has since spread to popular areas such as Lake Bled.
Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about our $300 booking when we pulled up to the property. Chateau Ramšak is only 10 minutes from Maribor by car and much closer to the less-than-scenic road that accesses it than I’d imagined. Suddenly, I feared that the convenient location that I’d initially counted as a selling point might be too close to town.
Photo: Alex Bresler
My nerves began to settle as we walked past the communal outdoor cocktail bar and lounge space, known as Glam Island, which looked like a pleasant place to relax by the fire pit, if not quite as new and shiny as pictured on the website. Our two-person tent was exactly as advertised, complete with an ensuite bathroom, patio, and private hot tub that’s included in every accommodation, although I wondered if our proximity to neighboring tents might infringe on that privacy.
By the time we dropped our bags, welcome wine in hand, my apprehensions were completely assuaged. Despite being closest to the road, our tent faced a pond on the edge of the property that obscured our view of the buildings across the street. The clever twists, turns, and landscaping around the paths leading to the tents similarly protected our seclusion. As far as I could tell, most of the other glampsites were occupied during our stay, but the noise from our closest neighbor barely carried. Only the edges of their tent were visible from our patio.
Everything that followed exceeded expectations, starting with a visit to Glam Island to treat ourselves to a bonus welcome drink. Wine was the obvious choice, but the property manager whom we’d spoken with earlier convinced us to sample Slovenian gin instead. We shared two gin and tonics, one with a cardamom and coriander flavor profile from a craft distillery in Ljubljana and another sage- and citrus-forward gin that was local to Maribor. Aromatic, smooth, and complex, they were two of the best gins I’d ever tasted.
Official gin tastings are among the experiences offered at Chateau Ramšak. Wine tastings at the estate, neighboring Horvat winery, and Old Vine House can also be arranged. But even without a formal tour, Chateau Ramšak ensures that guests have the chance to experience the region’s wines and spirits in the form of the most well-stocked minibar I’ve ever seen. Ramšak, Horvat, and other local bottles practically spilled out of the minifridge alongside beer and spirits, accompanied by housemade sweet and savory treats and other snacks.
Photo: Alex Bresler
Tempted by the idea of a minibar picnic in our hot tub, we decided to order a proper dinner at the glampsite instead. A menu was already laid out for us on our patio table. Each dish was accompanied by a photograph — a trend that generally signals a questionable restaurant, although these particular pictures showcased artfully decorated plates of Slovenian fare, vegetarian options, and international cuisine. We settled on ajdovi zganci (buckwheat porridge), kranjska klobasa (Carnolian sausage), and a green salad with grilled vegetables.
Dinner was delivered directly to our patio. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the dishes looked exactly like their photographs, down to every carefully curated smear of sauce and delicately placed garnish. The food tasted even better than it looked, pairing perfectly with a Slovenian rizling that we opened from the minibar for a reasonable $16.
Photo: Alex Bresler
Breakfast, which is included and also delivered to your patio, was equally delicious — a spread of cured meats and cheeses, a full basket of fresh breads, buttery pastries served with a side of jam, seasonal fruit, and two yogurt parfaits, plush fresh orange juice and a hot beverage of your choosing. Together with an early morning soak, it was the perfect way to end a fabulous stay.
The only thing that might have made our night at Chateau Ramšak more enjoyable was if we’d taken advantage of the property’s small modular spa, which advertises a prestige wine massage with grapeseed oil among other offerings.