Deep within the lush, fertile region of Styria, Austria you’ll find Graz, Styria’s largest city and foodie capital. Built on either side of a quiet river crisscrossed with bridges, Graz feels both historic and modern all at once. You’ll find the modern side sipping cocktails in an uber-cool bar built as a floating island in the middle of the river, while simultaneously gazing up at the ancient clocktower overlooking the town from the city center. You’ll explore quiet cobblestone alleys and classic European architecture around the corner from a modern art museum that looks a bit like a giant, metallic alien.
Graz is a city of contrasts set against the backdrop of the agricultural center of Austria, filled with history, art, culture, friendly locals, and incredible food. And it’s thoroughly under-discovered and under-appreciated by most travelers!
When I was invited to speak at the Propel Conference in Graz, Austria, I was like “where?” … and then immediately accepted, because 1) Austria means schnitzel and 2) I jump at any opportunity to be on a stage with a microphone, because this means I am the center of at least a few people’s attention and let’s face it, I didn’t start a blog because I DON’T love attention.
Jeremy and I visited Austria last year over the Christmas holidays and I was fully charmed by musical, historical Vienna and adorable little Hallstatt, which is like a toy Christmas village meets that Tyra banks movie where she’s a life-size barbie doll.
Fast forward several months and I found myself staring down a platter full of fried meat while two Austrians in lederhosen yodeled and five travel bloggers began a round of German drinking chants.
I did not realize Austria was this lit, y’all.
Everything about my trip to Graz trip surprised me, and not just because I didn’t actually have time to do any preparation or research before I packed my bags and left (in my defense, the entire trip was fully and expertly planned by the wonderful Visit Graz tourism board).
Like, I did not know that Graz is a foodie city, where fresh produce is grown within a few hundred miles and everything is automatically local and organic without anyone having to specify it on their menu.
I did not know that Graz is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning and perfectly preserved Old Town – AND a UNESCO City of Design full of stunning modern architecture and art mixed beautifully in with its charmingly old surroundings.
I did not know that Graz is Arnold Schwartzenneger’s hometown. And yes, he comes to visit frequently. And yes, there is a museum all about him. Read all about it on Happy to Wander‘s hilarious recap.
Graz was a city full of delightful surprises, and the warm spring week that I spent exploring its many nooks and crannies shaped up to be one of my favorite European trips ever. Like, ever. And I’ve been to a LOT of Christmas Markets, y’all!
I returned from Graz with roughly a zillion photos, and found myself overwhelmed by the task of paring down my experiences into my usual 10-15 photos.
So I … er, procrastined for about 3 months… and then got to work. And I ended up with so many stunning, colorful, vibrant photos of beautiful Graz that I decided to throw them all into one post. And a video, too. For good measure.
Speaking of that video: If you want to see more videos of our trips, please follow our brand new baby YouTube channel. We currently have 1 subscriber: me!
Graz Travel Tips & FAQ’s
Let’s start with a few of the important things to know about visiting Graz! Here are all the specifics you’ll need if you’re planning a trip to Graz.
- When to Visit Graz: The best time of the year to visit Graz is in July and August. Which is super weird and rare – that’s usually high season! But because Graz isn’t a major tourist destination like every other city in Europe you’ve ever heard of, it’s quiet and not crowded at all. So next time you’re booking a summer getaway to Vienna or Salzburg, hop a train to Graz instead to escape the crowds! The other best time to visit is during the Christmas Market season, in early December. Graz has 14 different themed (!!!) Christmas markets, all within walking distance. Might we suggest adding Graz to your next Christmas trip along with Vienna & Hallstatt?
- How far is Graz from Vienna? The train from Graz to Vienna takes about 2.5 hours through lush, beautiful scenery. I recommend booking a direct train with Omio.
- Where to stay in Graz? I split my week in Graz between two hotels, the glamorous and luxurious Grand Hôtel Wiesler in Old Town, which is. where Arnold Schwarzenneger stays whenever he visits home; and the quirky boutique Lendhotel, located about 10 minutes’ walk away from Old Town in the artsy Lend district and therefore much more budget-friendly. I recommend either!
- Do I need a car? You absolutely do not need a car within Graz! The entire city is walkable and bikeable, and there are excellent trams running throughout the city – and stops within the Old Town are free. That said, if you want to take a trip to the countryside or visit other parts of Styria, you might want to get a car. But if you’re staying in town, you’re good without it.
What & Where to Eat in Graz
Graz is Austria’s foodie city, and there is a ton of deliciousness here to tantalize your taste buds. Yes, BEYOND schnitzel. (But the schnitzel is amazing too. In Graz, it’s served with tart cranberry sauce!)
Graz – and the region it’s located in, Styria – has two foodie claims to fame.
There’s white asparagus, which is… exactly what it sounds like. It’s thicc and creamy white, and any more descriptions of it would just end up sounding sexual. Graz managed to make asparagus sexy, you guys.
The other famous Graz food is pumpkin seed oil! The oil has a light, nutty taste that’s delightful in salads or sprinkled on top of vanilla ice cream – yes, that’s a thing. If you’re shopping for a bottle to bring back home, look for the green and white emblem on the bottle that denotes high quality.
There are a few must-visit places to eat during your trip to Graz. These are my favorites:
- Frankowitsch Delicatessan: These open-faces sandwiches are a Graz specialty! Think like, fancy Californian avocado toast meets Danish Smørrebrød meets Austria. You’ll have your pick of a wide selection, which is incredibly overwhelming because everyone else in line will already know exactly what they want. So, after much trial and tribulation, here are my 3 faves: roast beef with (fresh!) horseradish, salmon with horseradish, and curry. Yum!
- Linzbichler: This teeny-tiny, adorable little chocolate shop has been creating and selling innovative, locally sourced chocolate creations for over 50 years! Inside its cheerful yellow exterior, you’ll find over 200 chocolate bars – including the rad Graz-designed vegan bars pictured above – and delicious, unusual chocolate truffles. My favorite was a dark chocolate hazelnut liquor truffle with orange marzipan, wrapped in bright green foil.
- Gasthaus Stainzerbauer: Located in what used to be an old horse stable, this historic restaurant – which some say is around 500 years old – serves up traditional Austrian food, all locally sourced from Styria, of course. I’d love to give you some exotic food suggestions to try, but I went with Wiener Schnitzel because a) I’m predictable and b) I freaking love schnitzel. And y’all, was perfect! If by some miracle you make it through your trip without eating schnitzel at every opportunity, this is the one place to definitely try it.
10 Things Nobody Tells You About Graz, Austria
I spent a full week exploring Graz. After 3 days of studying, discussing, practical application, and literally talking myself hoarse (I woke up on day 4 with a wicked cough and could barely speak – watch my Graz Instagram Story highlight if you want to know what I sound like when I’m dying), the participants of the Propel Conference hit the scenic streets of Graz for the rest of the week.
For the first few days of our trip, while we dutifully studied and discussed indoors, Graz was vibrant and warm. The minute we were sent out to explore, a cold front moved in and it started pouring. Go figure.
But even in the rain and cold (I mean … California cold. It was like 60), Graz’s charm sparkled.
Because Graz isn’t one of Austria’s tourism hotspots, a group of roaming travel bloggers lugging around armfuls of camera and video equipment attracted a fair amount of attention from excited and friendly locals, all of whom were eager to hear about how we were enjoying their hometown!
We befriended several locals, including one friendly young gentleman out for a casual ride on his unicycle. What up, Graz?
As we explored the city, I found myself getting to know a quirkier side of Graz. The more random trivia I collected, the more I filled up the “adorable Graz things” section of my ever-present travel notebook. Here are my favorite selections.
- One of the best things to do in Graz is climbing the stairs to Schlossberg … and taking the giant underground slide back down!
Perched on a giant hill in the center of town, a giant, old clocktower keeps watch over Graz. This hill is called Schlossberg, and it dates back to the 10th century when some brave soul climbed up it and was like “oh dip, this view is hella tight though.”
The giant clocktower is one of the most recognizable icons of Graz. Every so often (on a schedule I couldn’t figure out for the life of me, nor could I read the actual clock face itself) it begins to chime with bellowing importance, letting you know that IT IS A TIME.
Sometimes it chimes for what seems like hours, sometimes it doesn’t chime at all at a time you’d fully expect it to be chiming. Full disclosure: I have no idea how Austrian clocktowers work.
Other than the adorably bewildering clocktower, the best part of Schlossberg is a winding set of steps leading up its face all the way to the very top. It’s a gorgeous walk, and the scenery on the way up is absolutely worth the climb!
Plus, you can take the shortcut back down again. ON THE WORLD’S TALLEST UNDERGROUND SLIDE. How freaking rad is that?!?!
By the way: if climbing stairs isn’t your jam, there is an elevator you can take to the top.
- If you make the effort to purchase a proper pair of lederhosen, you should NEVER wash them.
Never. It’s not like jeans where you’re only supposed to wash them rarely. It’s like … you’re not supposed to wash it at all. The shabbier your lederhosen, the more Austrian street cred (mountain cred?) you have.
- Real lederhosen comes with a knife.
It’s not for Austrian street cred, though. It’s for like, snacks. Like slicing cheese and sausage. On mountain hikes.
A typical Austrian thing to do, apparently, is to pop on your lederhosen, toodle up the nearest Alp, perch on a rock for a little cheese and sausage snack, and yodel over to the next mountaintop to let them know if you’ve run out of crackers or saw a really cool bird or whatever.
You guys. I LOVE Austria.
- The feminine companion to lederhosen is the Dirndl.
Dirndl styles vary by region so that if you’re an expert, you can tell where someone is from by the color of their skirts and such. There are different dirndls for different occasions, so like, you have your everyday dirndl and your fancy dirndl and your “thirst trap” dirndl.
Sadly, Dirndls do NOT come with knives, to which I side-eye hard and say #destroythepatriarchy.
- Yodeling is a form of communication.
Yodelling isn’t singing: it’s actually mountain yelling. It’s a musical language that doesn’t require words – meaning is sent through the music itself, using changes in pitch, rhythm, and intonation.
It reminded me a bit of Joiking, which I heard for the first time in the Norwegian Arctic earlier this year while doing a homestay with a family of indigenous Sami reindeer herders. Y’all, I think I actually just turned into Nigel Thornberry while typing that sentence. Smashing!
To hear a little bit of authentic yodeling, turn your volume up and watch our Graz video all the way to the end!
- The Graz Art Museum is nicknamed “The Friendly Alien.”
This is because it looks a bit like a big, blobby alien. The museum itself is fantastic, because Graz is an art and design city, and luckily, it’s quite easy to find.
You can spot the museum all the way from the top of the clocktower. You’ll often run into it blobbing its way around street corners. It’s the perfect landmark to find your way around Graz: you can always get walking directions to, from, or near the Friendly Alien.
- Graz is a ghost town on Sundays.
It turns out that Graz is a very religious city, which I should have picked up on from the religious iconography decorating its street corners and building edifices. But I was shook by how empty the streets of Graz were on a Sunday.
I mean, EVERYONE was gone, like I’d woken up in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The charming cafes, which all week long had been full of stylish Austrians sipping coffee on outdoor patios, had all shuttered. Be forewarned: buy some groceries to tide you over if you’ll be in Graz on a Sunday!
- There are 14 farmers markets in Graz.
Graz is smack dab in the middle of Styria, which is FULL of farmers growing delicious Austrian specialties like pumpkins and white asparagus and schnitzel. So it should come as no surprise – although I was like, very surprised – that there are FOURTEEN farmers markets in the little city of Graz, two of which are open EVERY DAY (Kaiser-Josef Market and Lendplatz).
Er, every day except Sunday, that is (see previous point).
Walking through the farmer’s markets is a treat, not only because I’m a sucker for fresh flowers and cheerful baskets of tomatoes, but because it’s truly a slice of everyday life in Graz.
People here actually do all of their grocery shopping at farmer’s markets. They buy flowers every day with their meat and vegetables and I want to be just like them. I want a bike with a little basket on it and I want to ride my bike to the local farmer’s market and fill my little basket up with flowers and fresh farmer’s market schnitzel and then ride home and pour pumpkin oil on an ice cream cone.
I’m moving to Austria, everyone.
Please note: you cannot actually buy fresh, cold-pressed, organic schnitzel at the farmer’s market. Just in case someone shows up to Graz and is like “excuse me, Practical Wanderlust said I could get a glass of fresh-squeezed schnitzel here?” You cannot. I’m sorry.
- The best view in Graz is on top of a department store.
Kastner & Öhler is a giant department store in the center of Graz’s Old Town. The historic store, first opened in 1873 by the same family who runs it today, grew from a tiny shop to an entire city block of converted homes, which gives the department store a unique, maze-like feel inside as you emerge from glittering store displays to a courtyard and back again.
But the best part of the store is the rooftop, complete with a stunning view over the city center and the Clock Tower perched atop Schlossberg. Sit a while and enjoy drinks and food from the cafe (it’s quite good!) or just take your next Instagram photo on the overlook.
- Be sure to venture out of the city center to explore the Lend neighborhood.
Once the red light district, today, Lend is a multicultural neighborhood full of international restaurants and stores, budget-friendly hotels, and design details to thrill even the least knowledgable art aficionado.
We stayed in the Lendhotel, an art/design hotel owned by, fun fact, a Formula One racecar driver who partially owns the Redbull team. While I sadly couldn’t find a Redbull vending machine, the hotel is covered head to toe with unique art installations, like walls that appear to be ordinary walls only to suddenly break into geometric panels and flip over to display a work of art hidden on the other side. If you blinked, you’d miss it, turn around, and start to question your own sanity.
We also became mildly convinced that the sweet girl at the front desk, who was literally there from the time we woke up until the time we returned late at night and never seemed to show signs of tiredness, was part of the art somehow – a clever AI robot, perhaps?
On our last morning, though, we were seeing double: were there two robots running the front desk!?!
It turns out they were just identical twins who worked back-to-back shifts in identical outfits (possibly to f**k with easily impressed tourists like us). But in a place like Graz and a hotel like that, you never know, you know?
- Graz has a bunch of ethical & sustainable shops.
Coming from California, it takes a lot of kombucha and bamboo toothbrushes to impress me, but y’all, Graz has California BEAT!
Not only do they have the cutest little zero waste store FULL of the reusable, compostable essentials I’ve spent years hunting down, but there’s an entire section of town full of with back to back sustainable clothing & accessories stores!
There’s Zerum, a lifestyle store full of eco-friendly and sustainable clothing all made from bio-friendly fabrics like Tencel (compostable eucalyptus pulp). You can pick up a glass water bottle or a wooden clock and never need anything made from plastic again. And much like all the food in Graz, everything is locally made in Austria.
In addition to the eco-friendly shops, there are ethical shops, too. Offline Retail sells secondhand and handmade goods and innovative design items all handmade by folks participating in the Offline drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. The store proceeds go towards supporting the program and providing work opportunities for those battling addictions. Also, the store & everything in it is cute AF.
Why Was I in Graz, Again?
I was invited to visit Graz as a speaker at the first-ever Propel Conference for travel bloggers!
Although Jeremy couldn’t join me on this trip because May is smack dab in the middle of the craziest part of the school year (and “craving schnitzel” is not a good reason for a high school teacher to abandon their students for a week, I guess), I was in fantastic company.
The Propel Conference consisted of a small and carefully selected group of talented travel bloggers, plus an incredible panel of knowledgeable, talented speakers and veteran industry leaders (…. and me!).
I made fast friends with bloggers I’ve long admired from afar, and even finally had a chance to hang out with my awesome Slaying Social business partner, Christina!
Hanging out with & learning from other travel-loving, content creating business owners is my favorite part of going to travel blogging conferences.
I’ve been making an effort to go to at least 1 or 2 a year, despite my natural inclination to hole up at home and devolve into an antisocial, socially awkward troglodyte, which I’m particularly at danger of doing now that I work by myself, for myself, with nobody but myself and spend hours and hours alone each day. On the bright side: the more time I spend alone, the more energy reserves I have for social interaction, so it balances out.
We spent 3 days learning, discussing, and practicing advanced travel blogging techniques. We got into the really sexy stuff, like Search Engine Optimization and Long-Term Brand Partnerships and Advanced Monetization Techniques – that last one was my talk.
Oh, by the way~ if you’re wondering how the heck travel blogs make money, I’ve got a whole guide to travel blog monetization on my travel blogging resource site, Slaying Social.
Annnnd if you’re low-key nosy and wondering how MUCH I make off my travel blog, I posted a bunch of my income reports last year. Let’s just say they’re a little out of date now 😉
Oh, who am I kidding – modesty isn’t my strong suit. In fact, my strong suit is unabashed, unashamed, unconditional self-love. So f**k it.
Y’all, I am earning multiple 6-figures worth of income from my little baby 3-year old travel blog. And yes, I have to pinch myself just typing that!
Wild, huh? How did I get all the way here from like, this crappy thing I posted 3 years ago while sitting behind a desk at a corporate office, scared to death!?
My trip to Graz was an opportunity for me to step back and marvel at myself a lite bit.
To celebrate myself among newfound friends (with lots of beer) and give back to the amazing travel blogging community that I’ve joined over the last few years. It felt amazing to have the opportunity to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated on this crazy journey!
Propel was my second ever speaking opportunity – I also spoke at TBEX, the largest travel blogging conference, last year. And I’ll be speaking at the Mediavine Conference in Austin, Texas in November of this year.
Hopefully, there will be a lot more to come, because it turns out that I LOVE public speaking!
Anyone have a stage I can hop on? Maybe like a karaoke machine and a folding table in someone’s backyard? Anything? I’ll take it!
And hey, fellow travel bloggers: if you see me at a conference, please come say hello!
More Graz Resources & Travel Guides
Considering a trip to Graz now that you’ve seen how utterly stunning it is? Or just craving schnitzel? There are bunch of fantastic blog posts published by the participants in the Propel Travel Conference! Here are some of my favorite resources that will help you plan a trip to Graz.
- 2 Day Graz Itinerary by Hues of Delahaye
- Alternative/Quirky Things to Do in Graz by Happy to Wander
- 13+ Best Cafes in Graz (a local’s guide) by Nomad Epicureans
- The Sustainable Tourism Guide to Graz, Austria by The Mindful Mermaid
Ready to pack your bags and take off on a trip to Graz? Had you ever heard of Graz before? Did our photos make you want to visit? Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Planning a visit to Austria? Check out some of our other posts to help you plan your trip!
- 47 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Charming Vorarlberg, Austria
- 10 Cozy Things to do in Vienna, Austria in the Winter
- 21 Photos Proving that Hallstatt, Austria is a Winter Fairytale
- The Ultimate Winter Guide to Prague, Czech Republic
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Disclaimer: We were invited to visit Graz by the Propel Conference, and our entire trip was organized & hosted by Visit Graz. We are deeply grateful to them, as well as the many local businesses who helped support us during our visit! As always, all opinions, bad jokes, implications that schnitzel is Austria’s only food, and inaccurate depictions of yodellers are 100% my own and entirely not their fault.
Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
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My dear grandmother is from Graz and I visited each throughout my childhood. Many happy memories which your article awakened
The city and region has so much to offer and the fact that it’s not packed with tourists is a plus!
Jacob Laby says
What a great article! We’re currently dreaming of going to Graz again – we’ve been there before and we love, love love it! Here’s to hoping for a better 2021 with loads of travel plans and new experiences!
Beautiful pictures of beautiful Graz.