Graz – Rome of the North
Despite being the second largest city in Austria, Graz is much less well known than Vienna and Salzburg. The city’s charming old town is full of small passageways and hidden courtyards. Although this might not be unique for Austrian cities, there is one thing that seperates Graz from all other cities in Austria, and this is the Italian influence. It doesn’t matter if you take food or architecture, it is evident that Graz is close to the Italian border – you can get Gelato and Aperol Spritz at almost every corner and enjoy them outside in the sun. The Mediterranean-like climate contributes to the feel-good vibe here, and a holiday in Graz is one you will not forget.
What is especially beautiful about the city is its location. Graz is nestled in between rolling green hills and vineyards, so you are spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking and bike riding. Graz’ local mountain, the Schöckl, is a 30 minute walk away and on top you not only have a beautiful view over the valley, you can also thunder down the hill on a mountain bike track if you are brave enough.
For those of you who like it a bit more tranquil, there is also plenty to do in the city centre. You should definitely take a stroll down Sporgasse, which is the main shopping street. The street itself is older than the town – the Romans built it as a trade route between Graz and the town of Colonia Claudia Savaria, which today is Szombathely in Hungary. The name comes from Medieval times when shops produced weapons and spurs in this street.
When in this area of the old town you should visit the the city’s largest department store, but not only for the shopping. Head to the top of Kastner & Öhler, walk through the Freiblick Bar (don’t worry, they are used to that), and you’ll find a little viewing platform which is a great spot from which to appreciate Graz’s rooftops and stunning architecture. You also get a magnificent view of the clock tower on top of Schlossberg hill just ahead.
Another top tip is to stroll around Lendviertel, one of Graz’ neighbourhoods. This quarter was long known for being a bit run down, but since 2003 when Graz was “Europäische Kulturhauptstadt” (Europe’s capital city for culture) the area got more and more popular, and today there are a large number of small, artsy shops there.
After all this walking and looking at beautiful landmarks you are bound to be hungry… When it comes to food, Graz has a few things that are uncommon in the rest of Austria. First of all, there is Kernöl, a pitch black oil made from roasted pumpkin seeds. You can find this delicacy not only in your salad, but also in scrambled eggs, and… vanilla ice-cream. Yes, you read correctly – vanilla ice-cream with Kernöl is one of the most delicious desserts you can find on this planet. Try it before you diss it! What you also have to try is Brettljause, a mixed plate with different sausages, cheeses, bacon, pickles and bread – always a great way to eat with friends!