The Graz is greener in Austria
Graz is Austria’s second largest city, with many facets. Closer to Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary than to Austria’s capital, Vienna, Graz displays Mediterranean and Eastern European influences. It combines modern urban traits with local traditions, baroque buildings, picturesque courtyards and avant-garde art.
Among its population of about 265,000, there are more than 45,000 students, which gives Graz a metropolitan liveliness that many medium-sized European cities lack. Graz was European Capital of Culture in 2003 for its many art and cultural-experience opportunities. It’s also a Unesco City of Design, a title currently assigned to 12 cities in the world with an established design industry.
A comfortable bed
Once the city’s only five-star property, the stylish Hotel Wiesler (www.hotelwiesler.com; 0043 316 70 660) has been renowned among visitors to Graz since 1909. It’s given up its star rating, aiming to focus more on what’s important: its guests’ experience. Guests can enjoy breakfast while marvelling at an art-nouveau mosaic masterpiece by the late Austrian painter Leopold Forstner. The Graz Art Museum is just round the corner. Doubles run from about €110 (Dh547) per night.
The Schlossberg Hotel (www.schlossberghotel.at; 0043 316 80 700) is in an intimate setting at the foot of the Schlossberg hill in Graz’s historic city centre. Its 61 rooms, suites and apartments are individually decorated with original art pieces and in traditional Austrian style. The outdoor pool on the rooftop terrace is open during the summer months. Doubles from about €160 (Dh796) per night.
The Augartenhotel Art & Design (www.augartenhotel.at; 0043 316 20 800) is a modern four-star-superior hotel located one kilometre south from the centre of Graz. The boutique hotel was built by the famous Austrian architect Günther Domenig. Both this and the Schlossberg Hotel are run by the former sports-car racer Helmut Marko. Doubles start from about €140 (Dh696) per night.
Find your feet
Graz’s central square (Hauptplatz) is the perfect starting point to explore the city by foot. On sunny days, head towards Schlossberg, a 123-metre-high hill whose name translates into “Castle Hill” in English. The speediest option to reach the top is the spectacular glass-enclosed Lift im Berg elevator (tickets cost €1.10/Dh5). At the top, you can enjoy the magnificent panorama of the city’s red-tiled roofscape and take a coffee break at the cafe & restaurant Aiola Upstairs. To go back down, you can take the city funicular or walk 260 steps downhill to Schlossbergplatz square. The municipal park (Stadtpark), the Graz Art Museum (Kunsthaus) and Mur Island (an artificial floating platform in the middle of River Mur) are all a short walk from the square.
Sackstrasse is the city’s oldest street and extends from the main square to the northern part of the city. Together with the charming Sporgasse, it’s one of Graz’s most beautiful streets to stroll.
Meet the locals
The farmers’ market held every Saturday on Kaiser-Josef-Platz is quite popular among Graz residents, who go there in search of the best local produce: pumpkin seeds, cheese, freshly baked bread and juicy apples, as well as colourful flowers. Many shoppers enjoy taking a break at (the often too-crowded) Frankowitsch (www.frankowitsch.at), beloved for its legendary open-faced sandwiches.
You can find Graz’s younger generation at Tribeka’s three coffee houses. The most popular branch in Graz is between Hotel Wiesler and the Graz Art Museum. For a traditional coffee house, head to Café Promenade (www.cafepromenade.at), midway between two parks: Stadtpark and the scenic Burggarten.
Book a table
Located in the heart of the historic city centre, Hofkeller (www.hofkeller.at; 0043 316 832 439) is a beautifully decorated restaurant serving a modern interpretation of Mediterranean and traditional Styrian dishes. The dish of the day (eg a large salad composed of spinach, fennel, rocket, orange, goat’s cheese, and pumpkin seeds) costs €7.90 (Dh39).
Landhaus-Keller (www.landhaus-keller.at; 0043 316 830 276) is a cosy inn known for its more traditional southern Austrian cuisine and homemade sodas. A Styrian cheese platter, with bread, butter and candied fruits, costs €11.50 (Dh57).
The locals’ favourite shopping area is the pedestrian zone, nestled in the centre of Graz and around the street Herrengasse. Kastner & Öhler (www.kastner-oehler.at) is in the immediate vicinity and sells everything from designer-label clothes to kids’ toys.
Lena Hoschek (www.lenahoschek.com) is a unique fashion label inspired by Hoschek’s passion for 1940s and 50s fashion. In recent years, it’s become popular outside Austria thanks to celebrities such as the pop singer Katy Perry.
Zerum (www.zerum.at) is a young and bold fashion label that produces exclusively sustainable and fair-trade clothing lines.
What to avoid
Sundays. All shops and most restaurants are closed.
The Styrian Armoury (www.museum-joanneum.at) is a one-of-a-kind museum, showcasing a collection of more than 32,000 weapons and devices. It’s part of Universalmuseum Joanneum, a group of museums and cultural spots in Styria. If you plan to visit other Joanneum museums, you can buy 24-hour (€11 [Dh55]) or 48-hour (€17 [Dh85]) tickets.
How to get there
A return flight with Etihad and partner airlines (www.etihad.com; 02 599 0000) from Abu Dhabi to Graz via Berlin costs about Dh3,650, including taxes.
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