Until 2019, there was no unified answer to where a five-star experience awaits in Maribor. Today, the locals will undoubtedly say it is at the Chocolate Village next to Teta Frida. The resort is synonymous with luxury experiences, and its location along the Drava river seems ideal. The founder of Teta Frida, Uroš Mlakar, stumbled upon a former boathouse in the natural reserve Maribor Lake. Given all houses boast scenic views of Maribor Lake, the location is fit for a movie set and reminiscent of a fairy-tale. The holistic village seamlessly blends with its surroundings. Chocolate Village became an instant hit and one of the central tourist attractions in Maribor with its chocolate factory, cafe and trendy Jack & Joe Restaurant. The resort has appeared in distinguished international media, including The Independent, The Sun, Forbes and Lonely Planet.
The Chocolate Village sits in the Natural Reserve of Maribor Lake, protected by the Natura 2000 program. It is around five kilometres away from the heart of Maribor. Considering the resort is tremendously popular, parking demands a bit of patience. Luckily, there are plenty of parking spots available. If you are arriving in Maribor from abroad, we recommend opting for Graz Airport. Alternatively, airports in Zagreb and Ljubljana are not too far away. There is no public transport leading to the resort. Hence, guests arriving by other means of transportation will have to decide on taxis. We full-heartedly recommend renting electric bicycles in the village, as the Drava cycling path runs through the Chocolate Village. Another must is to wander around the stunning natural park, visit the heart of Maribor or embark on a five-kilometre journey to the cable car leading to Pohorje.
COLD STARTER - Architecture and aesthetics
The Slovenian start-up Lushna, founded by Peter Ličen and partners, envisaged the architectural design of the glamping village. Peter’s impressive list of achievements includes designing the first Slovenian luxury glamping named Garden Village Bled. All 12 glamping houses follow the concept of a cosy hotel room in nature. They boast gable roofs and offer guests unparalleled views of the Drava river. Amid the meticulously designed resort, there is a spacious pool and a fireplace that seems perfect for social gatherings. Guests can choose between three types of houses named after types of cocoa: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario. The wooden houses in natural chocolate colours feel harmonious and in touch with nature. More importantly, they were designed sustainably and insulated with eco-friendly materials made from wood fibres. Thus, guests can stay in the houses year-round.
WARM ENTRÉE - The staff and the culinary experience
We can only dream of receiving a welcome in the style of Chocolate Village in all hotels we evaluate – a chocolate-infused welcome upon arrival, a personalised map with a description of the house and most importantly, an utterly kind receptionist. She showed us around the Forestero house and explained how all devices work. In our opinion, that is the way guests should be welcomed in a luxurious resort that promises a five-star experience. The charm of staying here is breakfast in three versions: local, fit or chocolate-inspired. At an arranged hour, breakfast awaits in front of guests’ houses in a lovely wooden box: a miniature of the glamping houses. The hand-picked selection of delicacies by local providers was phenomenal. Firstly, because of the trackability of all ingredients, and more importantly, the mouthwatering flavours.
For gourmet pampering, we recommend visiting the Jack & Joe Restaurant, a culinary hotspot for fantastic burgers and steaks. Making a reservation is wise, considering the restaurant is one of the hottest gastronomical surprises in Maribor.
MAIN COURSE – The meetings offering at the hotel
The hotel room is, in fact, an entire house. We stayed in the Forestero house that has two beds on two floors. On the second floor, the bed is almost magical and reminiscent of sleeping in a tent. Upon stepping foot in the room, guests will find a surprise chocolate box featuring chocolate beer, fruits and products by Teta Frida. A fully-furnished kitchen is suitable for longer stays, and guests can thus cook their favourite dishes. We were amazed by the chocolate cosmetics in the bathroom. The trump card of the house is a spacious terrace with a view that we could not enjoy fully due to bad weather. It goes without saying, however, that sitting outside on a warm summer evening and marvelling at the river is an incredible experience. With summer turning into autumn, the wooden floor was rather cold, and the floor heating was difficult to manage. Nonetheless, the quality of stay in the house is world-class and, regardless of the weather, superb.
The resort does not offer classic meeting capacities, apart from the venue in the chocolate factory, where chocolate workshops for up to 25 attendees take place. Chocolate Village is a venue where meeting planners can reserve and privatise event space in the Jack & Joe Restaurant or other locations scattered throughout the Instagrammable resort. The outdoor fireplace, for instance, seems an apt spot for organising special events. When creating unique experiences, experienced staff will help you implement your ideas.
DESSERT – The extras
The venue is a textbook example of sustainable tourism, partnering with local providers such as Esen Woodcraft, Moi Style, Pottery Centre Maribor, Lobik Brewery, Baron Farm, Kovačnik Farm and Maister Gin. Their cooperation is not only admirable but also responsible to the local community.
FLOP – NEGATIVE SURPRISES
Having any remarks in such a perfect resort is hairsplitting. Perhaps only a well-intended suggestion: warming houses in colder months can be simplified. We were unsuccessful in starting the heating. Luckily, the temperatures were not too low during the night.
TOP – POSITIVE SURPRISES
The Gourmet Cellar is a speciality that other hotels will undoubtedly try to copy. If you are hungry or thirsty, a rich selection of the best local wines and products awaits you in the cellar. You can enjoy them anytime. Delicious!
FINAL IMPRESSION AND CREDIBILITY
Glamping connected with event organising belongs to a special boutique category of hotels. Often, such glamping resorts are limited by capacities or focused solely on classic tourism. The inspiring story of Maribor’s Chocolate Village, however, deserves to be named among the best boutique meeting venues in the region. You will have to plan ahead with your reservation. Due to its unmatched story and quality, the resort is booked months in advance. The details show that the owners did their homework before the official launch on the market. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine. The premium five-star glamping can compete with the most prestigious regional hotels. What sets it apart from the competition is its extraordinary chocolate story. Chocolate Village by the River is a one-off venue and possibly the most genuine experience in the region.
FINAL GRADE: 4.91 GOLD Boutique Meeting Hotel
GOLD final score from 4.81 to 5.00
SILVER final score from 4.61 to 4.80
BRONZE final score from 4.41 to 4.60