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Austria’s second largest city, Graz, is a serene holiday destination with a low-key yet interesting cultural scene, charming Renaissance architecture and a lively student crowd. Its modest size means that it is easy to explore over a weekend. Here are some key sights you may want to check out.
If you arrive late (after work or school winds down for the weekend), find your bearings by taking a short stroll through the city. A good place to start is the Old Town in the centre. The area is a World Cultural Heritage site, brimming with beautiful architecture and winding alleyways that lead to hidden gems. Wandering around here will give you a feel of the city’s character. While you’re here, do stop for a beer at the Glöckl Bräu pub before heading to Schmiedgasse, a fun pedestrian zone, for dinner. The restaurants here serve a blend of modern and traditional dishes.
This is the day when you can get the maximum amount of activities in, so be sure to get a good start. Graz has some great offerings when it comes to eating out. Granola Company is an American inspired cafe with a splendid choice of breakfasts that will keep you feuled for a day of sightseeing. The peculiarly named ‘Bonnie and Clyde Breakfast’ is a towering tier of goodness, with a selection of Austrian bread rolls on the bottom layer, meats and cheeses in the middle and pots of the cafe’s homemade granola mixed with yoghurt on the top. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more quintessentially Austrian, try a traditional coffee house such as Cafe Weitzer, where you can enjoy a grand atmosphere and some homegrown cuisine. For coffee lovers, Aroom Kaffeebar and Tribeka are highly recommended.
After breakfast, head out to see the sights. Graz accommodates both history buffs and culture seekers. If the latter sounds more like you, be sure to visit the Eggenberg Palace, which can be reached by taking the No.1 tram from Hauptplatz. Furthermore, you can also make a trip to Schlossberg, literally translated as ‘castle hill.’ Situated in the Old Town, the hill was once the site of a fortress. After being transformed into a peaceful public park, it has become one of Graz’s most popular spots. Once here, do look out for the Clock Tower, the Bell Tower, the Chinese Pavilion, the Turkish Cistern, and the Open Air Theatre which makes use of the fortress’s original cellars. You can also enjoy scenic views of the Old Town from the top of the towers and an elevator is also available. Moreover, this part of the city is home to a number of great cafés and restaurants along the park pathways.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the art scene in Graz, there is no better place than the Kunsthaus. This striking, bulbous building, sticking out like a sore thumb on the banks of the River Mur, looks more like something out of a sci-fi movie than a modern-art gallery (it has been even nicknamed by locals as ‘the friendly alien’). However, the Kunsthaus is not just an exceedingly curious piece of architecture but also an innovative exhibition space, housing works since 1960. Built as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations in 2003, the structure has received mixed reactions from the public.
For lunch, consider a speciality sausage from one of the many stands that you’ll find dotting the city.
It’s always nice to end your evening with a hearty meal and some merrymaking. First, take a walk to Murinsel – an island in the Mur accessible through a pedestrian bridge – that is one of Graz’s architectural highlights. You can enjoy a coffee here, and take delight in the view of Schlossberg.
Settle down at the M1 Café Bar at 1 Färberplatz for a cocktail as you unwind and watch the sun set over the skyline. For a decent farewell meal, try Aiola Upstairs. The restaurant offers delicious and imaginative Styrian dishes, and quite possibly, the most dazzling views in town.