Geographically, Graz is a Austrian city, but aesthetically it is Italian. The most Italian of all outside the country in the shape of a boot. Elegance that adds to its dual status, awarded by UNESCO, as a world heritage city for the good state of preservation of its medieval historic center and, since 2011, as a city of design thanks to how it understands and values its environment. More than artistic and creative, Graz and its inhabitants are aware of the benefits that culture and design bring to their lives. The city is a hotbed of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, in which today almost Martian constructions are also erected that barely squeak with the environment on both banks of the Mura.
The river, with a good current, that crosses the city draws Murinsel, an artificial island shaped like an oyster designed by the New York artist Vito Acconci from an idea of Robert Punkenhofer. Since 2003, the year in which Graz served as the European capital of culture, it has connected both sides of the riverbed by means of two footbridges. On the island that lights up at sunset there is a cafe and an amphitheater where many people take a seat and read, rest and talk. In the east is the old city and in the west the new. Both shores are frequented by about 40,000 students. Of its four universities, one of them founded in the 16th century – the Karl-Franzens University– It is not uncommon for brilliant architects to come out. Neither are musicians, because in its streets whoever does not play an instrument on a sidewalk carries it on a bicycle on the way to a stage.
9.00 The alien friend
The day can start with a breakfast in the Hotel Daniel (1), a post-World War II-style construction in the Plaza de Europa, next to the train station, on the western bank of the Mura. In this same margin is the Casa del Arte o art house (2). A fluorescent, biomorphic, alien-looking bubble popularly known as Friendly Alien. In this building, as interesting on the outside as on the inside, collections of contemporary art are exhibited. On the other side of the river, and before wandering through the old town, it is worth visiting the Universalmuseum Joanneum (3). The complex houses three historic buildings accessed through a glass inverted cone-shaped entrance. In addition to its museum collection, it exhibits a comprehensive overview of local science, art, and culture.
10.00 An architectural tour
Outside the Joanneum you can continue to admire the magnificent architecture that makes up the historic center, declared a world heritage site in 1999. Ornate mansions, buildings with colored and stuccoed facades such as the town hall and the Luegg House (Hauptplatz, 1 and 12), as well as the Cathedral Gothic (Burggasse, 3), so that no one will forget that Graz was an imperial city. Very close to the temple is the mausoleum where the remains of Emperor Ferdinand II rest. To the Baroque and Renaissance constructions are added buildings Art Nouveau as the Casa painted (Herrengasse, 3) (4). Of course, we must pay attention to where we step. The streets and courtyards are paved with round edges of the river –murnockerl they are called— and they are that polished by the force of the current of the water.
11.00 Inside a hill
The hill Schlossberg it can be crowned or entered into it. During World War II, a system of galleries 6.3 kilometers long and 20 entrances was pierced, which served as a bomb shelter for some 40,000 people. Today its use is more of a shortcut than a defense. Lets go to the squares Schlossberg (5) Y Carmeliter (6) and to the elevator that goes down to a room set up for underground activities and that goes up to the top of this small mountain.
12.00 Iconic medieval watchtower
The 473-meter-high Schlossberg makes it a sought-after balcony from which to look out and dominate the city below. At the top was the small castle that gives Graz its name, Gradec, and which was also a Renaissance fortress. Of this construction only remains Bell tower and the Clock Tower (7), the most repeated advertising image in the town. This 28-meter-high medieval watchtower that measures time is surrounded by a wooden corridor that in the past was used to monitor and warn of possible fires. The walk up this hill can end in the restaurant Schlossberg (8), a place where, in addition to tasting a Viennese schnitzel or schnitzel, you can see the sea of red tiles that Graz becomes when you look at it from above. An architecturally eclectic city without fanfare.
16.00 Afternoon of patios
On the street Sackstrasse (9)Among many others, there are several interior patios with arcades that are worthwhile. It is best not to look for them, they are found by chance. These jewels camouflaged between streets and alleys make Graz look like an Italian city. The most famous are the patio Landhaushof (Herrengasse, 16), a Renaissance genius that evokes a Venetian palace, and the courtyards Generalihof (Herrengasse, 9) and Herzogshof (in the Gemaltes House). Beautiful enclaves that can be seen and in which the afternoon can be culminated with dinner in a calm and quiet environment, as in the restaurant Old Styrian Schmankerlstube (10).
20.00 Symphonic dinner
In Graz, art, culture and design are wonderfully intertwined, as the House of Music and Theater (MUMUTH) (11). An inflatable-looking building that lights up at night and hosts concerts by symphony orchestras and plays. Dining and enjoying the nightlife – which the pandemic allows – is possible on the banks of the Mura River, where restaurants and bars alternate.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.