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Explore the charms of Austria’s second largest city and its beautiful countryside. Combine arts, architecture, and culinary highlights in one spectacular itinerary.
Local cheeses, nutty pumpkin seed oil, cured meats and fresh produce of all kinds – a delectable breakfast awaits at both the Kaiser-Josef-Market and the Lendplatz Market, the city’s two largest farmer’s markets. There's no better introduction to Graz than its home-grown specialities, and you'll find a mouth-watering array here Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m. till 1 p.m. Despite being Austria’s second-largest city, Graz has a historic centre that's conveniently compact. From the modern Kunsthaus and Island in the Mur to the medieval armoury and remaining fortifications on the city mountain, you can cover much of the Old Town in a single morning.
Graz is a great shopping town. Start at one of Austria's most established department stores, Kastner und Öhler, which was founded in 1873. Be sure to take the escalators to the gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant, great for a light lunch. The new terrace affords a unique vantage point on Graz's city mountain and sweeping views over its medieval roof-scape.
After Kastner & Öhler, leave time for the boutique stores in the streets and alleys off the Herrengasse. You'll find an assortment of local brands and designers like Lena Hoschek, as well as international high street brands.
Summer brings evening concerts at romantic spots like the Island in the Mur, in the renaissance courtyards of the Old Town and even in Kasematten (former dungeons) on the Schlossberg. The Graz Opera is famous for its modern interpretations of the classics, and they contrast beautifully with the historic opera house itself.
Take a day trip to the western part of Styria, the province surrounding Graz. A 45-minute drive will bring you to the small village of Piber, home to the world-famous Lipizzaner horses – with a 400-year old tradition of breeding and rearing them. The animals are reared here in preparation for life at the renowned Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Enjoy a typical Styrian buschenschank at lunchtime, stopping first in Bärnbach, the small town where famed Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed the St. Barbara Church in his colourful and eccentric style.
A visit to a local wine tavern, usually right next to the owner’s vineyard, is always a special occasion. Rolling vineyards, clean air, baskets of fresh bread and generous platters of smoked meat, cheese, spreads and pickles – it's a rustic paradise. Typically, the Brettljausn is served family-style on a big wooden board, or "Brettl." A variety of local wines is available to accompany your meal. One favourite is the rose-colored Schilcher, also available as a sparkling wine. Round out the day with a visit to one of the many pumpkinseed oil mills, such as Hamlitsch in Deutschlandsberg. Pumpkinseed oil is the signature produce of Styria, a healthy, dark-green oil made from a special pumpkin that produces seeds without a husk. It's delicious on salads – for example, the one with scarlet runner beans and onions you might have tasted earlier at the Buschenschank.
Still feeling adventurous? Back in Graz, head to the restaurant der Steirer for tapas from the region you just visited. By now you just might recognise the local wines, which are also available for purchase in the adjacent shop.
The Open Air Museum in Stuebing is just a 30-minute drive to the north. Set in a pristine nature park, the museum comprises more than 100 historic buildings from all over rural Austria, and brings to life a time without electricity, telephone or even motorised transportation. From stately farms to small barns, rural schoolhouses and chapels to an authentic grocery store, the architectural reconstructions are genuinely astonishing.
Should you care to spend the afternoon here, a number of restaurants and refreshment stations are nearby. So, too, is Schoeckl mountain, a favourite hiking destination that delivers stunning views over the region -- and the most Alpine feeling you’ll get this far south. (The mountain is also accessible via cable car if you don't feel like hiking.) For more of a cultural stop on your way back to Graz, the animal park and exhibition at Herberstein Castle is also popular.
Graz for Art and Design Enthusiasts:
For lovers of art and culture, the city delights year-round. In addition to its stint as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2003, Graz has also been distinguished as a UNESCO city of design, reflecting the active expression of urban culture and conscious design of the city environment. This is visible in its many museums and galleries, and in the newly developed areas around the Kunsthaus and the Joanneum Quarter.
This top drive was provided by the Austrian National Tourist Office