Graz isn’t a place to be marched through in double-quick time. The historical heart of the city is simply too small for that. Here’s why you should visit Graz on your gap year.
Much has already been written about the special southern flair of the city; many people appreciate its ‘italianitá’ — and possibly overlook the fact that Graz has drawn on a wide range of influences to become a quite unique place. Anyone wishing to experience the reality of Central Europe has to come and visit Graz in Austria. For centuries the city has been soaking up external influences like a sponge. It is located at an intersection of European cultural regions where the Italian, Pannonian and Slavonic have all blended beneath the external fabric of the city.
That’s done the city a power of good. There is no code of rules here setting out how things have to be. People enjoy arguing over how much contemporary architecture the historic centre of Graz — which after all was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO — can actually take. Vienna has its significance as a capital, Salzburg has its cultural hustle and bustle — and Graz has its fun.
On the Clock Tower, the emblem of Graz, the big hand shows the hours and the little hand shows the minutes. This isn’t a foolish flight of fancy but a well worked out trick to make peoples’ lives that more pleasant. For in the days when not everyone carried a watch about them it was easy to glance at the clock and see how late it was. Most importantly, it always tended to show that there was just enough time to enjoy a final swift glass of wine among friends. There’s still plenty of time to do so today.
The Clock Tower was built in the 16th century and Graz has maintained its resourcefulness ever since, particularly when it’s a question of the lightness of being. The southern splendour surrounding the city is just one symptom of many for this. Numerous Italian Renaissance architects were imported especially to this end and gave the city its face; you can still admire their accomplishments today in ‘Central Europe’s best preserved city centre’.
Graz is a capital of delights, especially culinary ones. Here, you will find the typical Styrian pumpkin-seed oil, also known as ‘black gold’, shimmering on a special kind of lettuce that owes its name to the city: the Grazer Krauthäupel. The natural dark green oil is drizzled on top of vanilla ice cream or scrambled eggs as well.
While pumpkin-seed oil is definitely a fabulous reason to mark Graz on the touristic map, the city offers a plethora of regional culinary delights. Graz is known as ‘Austria’s delicatessen’, and the possibilities to indulge in the city’s local flavours seem limitless. Countless bars, cafés, wine bars, traditional Styrian taverns and upscale restaurants have earned Graz the title ‘Epicurean Capital’. Make sure not to miss a stroll through one of the city’s many charming farmers’ markets, where farmers from the surrounding area offer fresh and organic products.
Because you will rarely have eaten so well at such low prices we recommend that you take your walking shoes with you after all, even though — as we mentioned earlier — Graz is hardly a place to be marched through in double-quick time. But those taking out their walking shoes from their suitcase after spending relaxing days here and nights strolling around from one place to the other usually know that already.
Want to know more about why you should visit Graz? Find out more here:
This article was in partnership with Graz Tourisme
Featured image: Lupi Spuma