From an adorable duck-themed café to a 16th century clock tower, surfing on the Mur River and unusual modern architecture, Graz in Austria is quirky, colourful and full of great things to do.
I was invited to visit Graz as part of whistle stop tour of Austria. Over one week, I’d visit three cities with the aim to #UncoverAustria! I got to discover each city on my own, finding places that really appealed to me (and hopefully you guys too!) One of my favourite things about this trip was that I asked you guys on social media where to go, what to eat, and the top things to do. You came up with so many fab ideas… and I managed to squeeze a whole heap of your tips in to my trip!
So first up, we’re off to Graz – Austria’s second largest city after Vienna, and it turns out there are plenty of things to do!
Climb up Schlossberg for the views
You can’t visit Graz and not climb up to the hill to the clock tower. Yet, this walk isn’t just about the clock. The views on the way up are incredible. As you reach the summit, you really take in what a stunning red roofed city Graz is, and how mountainous the surroundings are. I stopped several times on the way up… and I’m not telling whether that was because my legs were burning from the climb, or because of the views!
Marvel at the giant clock tower
The clock is the icon of the city. It sits perched on the top of the hill, and it’s only once you reach it, that you realise just how enormous it is. The clock tower was built 16th Century and if you look closely, you’ll notice something surprising. Yes, the second and hour hands are the wrong way around (long hand points to the hour, short hand to the minute).
Have a glass of bubbly next to the clock tower at Aiola Upstairs
There’s only one way to recover from the steep climb, and that’s with a pit stop at Aoila Upstairs – the restaurant next to the clock tower with incredible views. I visited on a gorgeous sunny day in May and sat outside on the terrace. As it was lunchtime I treated myself to glass of bubbly and sampled their seasonal white asparagus with béarnaise. While the food here is on the pricier side (great quality though), you can always stop by for a quick coffee to rest your tired legs.
Window shop, and actually shop
I was really impressed with the variety of stores in Graz. From high street chains like H&M and Mango, to Graz specialities and the boutiques along Herrengasse and Sporgasse, there’s plenty to suit any budget. I also spotted a lot of shops selling Graz souvenirs – but not your usual tourist tat! These were unique designs and local produce.
Drink coffee at Ducks Coffee Shop
Slightly off the main streets of Graz, but totally worth the detour is Ducks Coffee Shop. It ticks the ‘cute’ box from the second you walk in the door! With rubber duckie murals on the walls, a neon duck behind the counter, duck cups and saucers, and even a duck stapler, this café hasn’t missed a single detail. Oh and if you’re a design lover, check out the amazing hanging lights too.
Snap pics of the colourful buildings and beautiful architecture
Graz is a bit of a treasure trove. You’ll be walking along an ordinary enough street then turn a corner and be met by beautifully colourful buildings with ornate exteriors. Along with some key buildings such as the Rathaus (town hall), Landhaus (government building) and beautiful stucco-decorated Haus Am Luegg, I loved snapping pics on Sporgasse – a pretty street lined with shops and cafes.
Watch surfers on the Mur
How often have you seen surfers on a river? Erm… never?! Yet, brave souls regularly head down to Graz’s River Mur with their boards and attempt to surf under the main bridge. When I was there, lots of people stopped to watch, and while it’s not something I’d plan to try myself, it added to the quirky vibe of the city!
Get cultural at Graz Kunsthaus
I was so disappointed to visit on a Monday, when it just so happens a lot of Graz’s museums and galleries are closed. However, I heard such great things about the Museum of Contemporary Art. If the unusual, bubble-like exterior is anything to go by, it would be a great place to spend a few hours.
Try modern Styrian tapas at Der Steirer
I’d heard Graz was famed for its food scene. Being towards the south, the country (Styria) is known for its Mediterranean climate, which is certainly reflected in the fresh produce and cooking techniques. Head to Der Steirer and order a selection of Styrian tapas to share. I tucked into a tasty salmon tartar, duck breast with rhubarb, ham rolls with a tasty veggie filling and some summery pasta with crayfish. Der Steirer is also famous for its crispy fried chicken and huge wine selection.
Indulge in some of the best ice cream you’ll ever eat at Eis Greissler (and yes, the queues says it all)
Michelle on Facebook recommended this place, saying it was the best ice cream in Graz. There are two ice cream stores opposite each other… but only this one had queues out the door, and for good reason! She’d recommended I try the butterkeks (I think that translates as shortbread flavour) but once I saw raspberry and salted caramel on the menu, my decision was made! Genuinely, this is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted, and if I ever come back to Graz (come summer or winter!) I’ll definitely stop by for another scoop!
Chill out in Burggarten
Graz is a green city with countryside moments away from the city, and plenty of parks in the centre. Just below Schlossberg is Burggarten – a lovely park with fountains, a long water feature and plenty of space to relax on the grass in the warmer months.
Have drinks on the roof of Graz’s most famous department store
Kastner and Ohler is Graz’s fancy department store, with several floors of designer labels, homeware and cosmetics. Hidden away on the top floor is Café Freiburg – a cafe/restaurant with a huge roof terrace. When the weather is warm, it’s a great spot for an afternoon beer or a coffee. I enjoyed a passion fruit and prosecco spritz – light, summery and refreshing.
Sample green pumpkin oil at the Farmers Market
On Sunday and Monday morning, the square at Lendplatz is filled with local producers selling fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Take in the aromas as you tour the market, and be sure to try a local speciality – green pumpkin seed oil.
Dine like a king or queen at Aiola Im Schloss
Just a little north of the city centre is Aoila Im Schloss. Located next to a beautiful yellow palace (which is now used for special events, weddings etc) the floor to ceiling glass restaurant serves high-quality food in sophisticated surroundings. I enjoyed a salmon salad with strawberries and white asparagus to start, followed by pork wrapped in bacon with crisp potatoes and a creamy mushroom sauce. If you fancy a treat, or are celebrating something special, this is a great place to come!
Cross the River Mur via Murinsel – The Island in the Mur
Graz was named a UNESCO City of Design and as you wander the city, it’s easy to see why. Murinsel is a modern floating bridge structure and was created by US-American artist Vito Acconci to celebrate the city’s role as Capital of Culture in 2003. In the centre there’s a bar – a great pace to stop for a drink while checking out Graz from a whole new perspective!
Travel like a local
Want to feel like a local? Then hop on a tram or a bike. They’re the most popular ways to get around the city (if you don’t fancy walking). If you need to get further afield, you can purchase a 24-hour pass for Graz’s public transport for just 5 EUR.
Enjoy panoramic views of Graz from your hotel room
Hotel Daniel describes itself as smart urban living. With a cool workspace and restaurant downstairs, one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve seen in a long time (featuring smoked salmon, huge cheese board and all the pastries and bread you could dream of), plus super contemporary bedrooms, it’s a great base for a trip to the city. Even quirkier is the Loftcube – a room with a view! The glass room at the top of the hotel offers incredible panoramic views of the city, a rain shower, home cinema and more.
I was invited to #UncoverAustria by the Austrian National Tourist Organisation. As always, opinions are my own.
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