Graz. It’s not the most inspiring of names, now is it?
Short, squat, and sounding more than a little like the French word for fat, it lacks the flourish that sweeps Barcelona and Vienna into the linguistic catwalk of European city names.
But names can be deceiving.
For Austria's second largest city not only has plenty of unusual things to do, she also has some unbeatable awards to her name.
UNESCO City of Design
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Austria's Culinary City of Delights
Home of Arnie "the Terminator" Schwarzenegger
So with that to whet your appetite, let me show you more beautiful and unusual things to do in Graz.
The Schlossberg Tram Ride - travel to the top of the city and the landmark Schlossberg area. Take in the clocktower, the cafes, and the Chinese pavilion or just relax and scenically admire the city spread out below (a la the top photo.)
Take A Tour Bus - yes, you will feel like a tourist. But, bah, whatever. It's the most straightforward way to see the architectural sites spread across the city. Find details here.
Dine on a Rooftop Terrace - Dine or grab some Apfelstrudel in the cool rooftop restaurant of Kastner Oehler, a cream and gold shopping institution in Graz.
Recommended reading: Käsestrasse: The UNESCO Cheese Road in Bregenzerwald, Austria
It was a church like any other. Well, already that’s not quite true. There are monastic churches, all barren and bare. Peruvian churches with links to Seville, all dripping with gold and ruby red blood. Masterpieces and hidden Welsh hermit houses.
But let’s for the sake of the story, stick with the basics of a church we’d know.
Quiet. Slightly cool. Altars, pews, the odd arch-angel. Still water in a silent font, stained windows in primary blues, reds and greens.
And there, in the midst of it all, two faces came to focus, to shimmer into view.
That flopping, loppy fringe.
There, indeed, as promised, in the crowd of the crucifixion, emerged the stained glass faces of one Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
I left the glass behind and stepped back into the busy, summer street.
Feel all veggie, wholesome and homemade in this cute little offering with streetside white tables.
OK, since it opened its doors in 1569 it’s hard to claim it’s new on the scene. But it’s definitely worth popping in to taste the sugar-dusted history of the city.
Full of fresh fruit and veg plus some sneaky caffeine and sugar-laced cafes at the edge. Look out for the nearby building painted black with symbolic poppies – a tribute to those who died years ago during the black death.
Grand Cafe Kaiserfeld
A cosy, Viennese-style coffee house with Andy Warhol style portraits of local boy Arnie.
Mariahilferplatz: The Creative Neighbourhood
Once a no-go area, this side of the river has transformed itself into a hub of hip creativity. Look out for coffee shops, charity design shops and plenty of outdoor spots for soaking up views of the Schlossberg.
Cool, creative design with a focus on recycling materials.
Bright, spacious vegetarian restaurant where you pay by weight for your food. Impossible to eat here and not leave feeling healthy and inspired.
Outdoor poetry readings in Graz
Once an art deco landmark in the city, today the Hotel Wiesler has embraced shabby chic and hipster cool.
I’d highly recommend staying here but if that’s not an option, stop in for dinner or drinks at the Speisesaal. Look out for art deco clues from the past or visit the barber for the hipster present. Plus, it’s right next to the Kunsthaus with great views of the old city.
Disclosure. My trip to Graz was a part of the #roundtripAustria project involving five blogs covering various cities, regions and activities all over Austria as part of a Captivate project in partnership with the Austrian National Tourist Office. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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