Ptuj is has the distinction of being the oldest settlement in Slovenia and it's a popular choice for day trips with tourists staying all over the country as its central location makes it accessible within a couple of hours from anywhere in the country. It's main attraction is the castle which I have also reviewed in this journal but there are enough other attractions - as well as just the enjoyment of strolling the quaint streets - to justify a visit and you can quite nicely occupy a whole day, even two or three if you take in nearby sights such as the monasteries.
First things first - it's pronounced Puh-too-ee (its German name is Pettau) or something approximating that - the locals are quite tolerant of weak attempts, just don't pronounce the j.
If you are coming by car there is plenty of parking on the edge of town and, if you use public transport, the bus and train stations are close to each other and a five minute walk from the town centre. The castle is perched on the hill overlooking the town and you should have no problems finding it as several paths lead to the top of the hill. The town stands to the north of the River Drava, to the south is mainly open fields and this makes for stunning views when you are at the summit of the castle hill.
Before we embark on a brief walking tour of Ptuj I need to make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes. The pavements are quite narrow in the old town and you often have to step onto the road and back again. In spite of the narrow streets and the historic nature of this part of town cars are permitted (though somewhat restricted) and you should take care if walking on the road (- it's easy to forget that a car could come around one of the tight bends). There are some cobbled streets too which can be tough going on feet and calves but the town is small and you won't be on your feet all day.
In the town itself there are lots of things to look at but not so much to make you stop for any amount of time. One of the most important sights in town is the statue of St Florian. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in particular, Ptuj was ravaged by a series of fires. The citizens of Ptuj appealed to St Florian to save them and this statue was built to honour him. At the feet of St Florian (whi is depicted in a miltary uniform) is a little putto (a boy angel) who is pouring a bucket of water onto a church.
Another important monument is the Orpheus Monument which was originally a Roman tombstone erected in the 2nd centruy AD. It got its name from the mythological figures carved in relief onto the stone which is Pohorje marble ( we know Pohorje well as it is the region we live in in Slovenia). In the Middle Ages the stone was used as a pillory.
A popular attraction is Ptujski Klet - the wine cellars; you can simply go into the shop and browse, but it is more fun (and more interesting) to have a guided tour and watch an interactive presentation that tells you all about where the wine comes from and how it is produced. The wines sold here are from the Halze and Slovenske Gorice hills areas. Ptuj has a great rivalry with Maribor over which area produces the best wines (as a Mariborcan I am biased!). Unfortunately the cellars are not open every day so you should contact them in advance if you wish to be sure of reserving a place on a tour because they are very popular.
My favourite thing in Ptuj is a collection of simple metal sculptures displayed in different parts of town; if you come with children I am sure they'll enjoy hunting for the sculptures as some of them are nestled away behind towers or partly shaded by trees. There's a man with a bicycle, some children playing, someone struggling with an umbrella...
Ptuj is generally an arty sort of place with lost of statues and sculptures, independent galleries and boutique-y shops selling handmade jewellery and other gifts. Although shops don't usually open in Slovenia on Sundays, some of the shops in Ptuj do because of the high number of tourists. The are a small number of high street type stores as you come in from the bus and train stations but the majority are situated in an out of town Mercator Centre. I like this arrangement as it reduces the amount of traffic in the town centre and leaves the units available for more interesting shops.
Like all Slovenian towns there are plenty of places to get a drink and lots of them have outdoor seating. In the cooler months they have cosy fleeces on the backs of the chairs so you can out one over your knees and stay outside and watch life pass by. The variety of bars is immense from arty coffee shops selling rich aromatic coffees and extravagant chocolates to the sort of places where old men make a beer last all afternoon and sit in companionable silence.
A short walk from the centre is Ptujska Gora where you will find the Church of the Virgin Mary. The church is thought to date from the 1490s but, unusually, there are no documents giving a definitive answer. The church is perched on steep ramparts which were erected slightly after the church was built in order to keep out the invading Turks. It's an important pilgrimage church, known throughout Slovenia and, indeed, central Europe. The splendid Gothic interior is magnificent and worth the short walk and climb.
Other nearby sights (but one requiring a drive unless you are a serious walker) of interest are the Mithras shrines found in the villages of Mitrej and Spodnja Hajdina. Mithras is a Persian religion but cme to this area with the Roman soldiers who were stationed here. In order to protect them, buildings have been erected over the excavated tombs and there is plenty of information available in different languages to guide through what you're seeing. Many of the items found when the tombs were excavated are on display at the regional museum at Ptuj Castle.
Domincan and Minorite monasteries a short drive from Ptuj are also worth seeing and there are a number of attractive manor houses and homesteads (more ordinary houses presented with original furnishings, etc) in the area around Ptuj that can be visited. (I intend to review some of these in detail in the future).
Ptuj is an attractive and interesting town with an eclectic range of sights and activities. It's a good place for walkers but the centre is compact enough to get around easily and a day would be enough to get a feel of the place and see at least a couple of attractions. The statues and sculptures as well as the well-presented and cared for buildings give the impression of a town with real civic pride and you soon start to feel at home here. It's a working town which gives it some vitality but it's also one of Slovenia's must-visit towns and if you are planning a trip of more than a couple of days to Slovenia I would urge you to visit Ptuj. In British terms I would describe it as a mini York, perhaps, but less commercial and obviously touristy and less crowded. I think there re prettier places in Slovenia but the combination of looks, location and interesting sights make Ptuj a great choice for a day trip