Oh my dear Graz, you really are like an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, aren’t you. Sometimes you feel like the one that got away, and I’m still in love with your beautiful old town with all those little winding alleys and majestic buildings, your ever blooming scene of creative movers, thinkers and doers and your intimate provinciality.
But also, even though we parted on good terms, your unofficial title as “City of Prohibitions” makes me glad that I got away. Poor political decisions like forcing clubs and important cultural institutions to close down or making it extremely hard for them to sustain, banning cyclists from the park and the ridiculous regulations for street musicians and beggars don’t really throw a good light on you.
But let’s be real: in the end, I’ll always love coming back to you, not only because of my family and friends, but also because of all the other people in your arms, who keep pushing you to get better and know their way around all those dumb rules and laws your leaders press on you. These guys and girls really are what makes you Austria’s coolest city.
I spent the last three weeks in my hometown of Graz, in the south of Austria and brought some pictures. My lack of photographic skills and the grey skies of the winter don’t really show the beauty of this city, so trust me and just go there. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. And just in case you’ll listen to me (which you should, obviously), I also thought of six things you’ll need to see.
Remember when I told you about Austrian cuisine? Well this placed called Der Steirer has the best of it, focusing on dishes and ingredients from Styria, the part of Austria where I am from. It’s located on the ground floor of Hotel Weitzer, which also is quite a comfortable place to stay in Graz if you have a little money to blow. I was there on my mother’s birthday (Happy 17th Birthday again, Mami!), which was also my first time there and it was so good. I had the Tafelspitz which apparently translates to prime boiled beef or beef-cooked-in-soup-to-perfection-with-a-whole-lotta-fixings, as I personally like to call it. But everything else on the menu, from Schnitzel to cepe risotto and a good ol’ steak is quite the culinary revelation too, as far as I’ve heard.
There’s also a little store connected, selling regional goods like wine, pumpkin seed oil and other delicacies.
Blendend is a café-bar-bistro-breakfast heaven-hybrid located in Lend, which probably is what you could call the trendy neighborhood of Graz with it’s little stores, co-working spaces and all kinds of creative offices, agencies and what not. Blendend basically offers anything you need at any time of the day, starting from breakfast and coffee in the morning (don’t miss their brunch on Sundays and holidays) to two daily lunch options announced on their Facebook page and drinks when night gets dark and the crowd gets a little naughtier. It happens to be co-owned by my former boss and good friend Nina, who puts a lot of effort into the interior and decoration, so go there, look around and smile at all of the little details around you.
Stadtpark & Burggarten
Obviously the Stadtpark in the center isn’t really the first place to hangout at in winter, but just like any other park in a city – this is where everyone chills when summer comes around. Graz is known for it’s almost Mediterranean climate during the warmer months (which is enjoyed by most, but dreaded by me). As an alternative, you could also head to the connected Burggarten, which is really pretty and offers some nice locations for selfies and stuff. Just grab a blanket, a Frisbee and a couple of beers and enjoy some sun until it’s time to party, because the Stadtpark is also the home to Graz’ most reliable and also smallest clubs, which brings me to…
First up is Kombüse, and yes, it used to be Würstchenbude, turned into club/sauna-when-crowded. I can’t really tell you what it is about this place, but something about it just works. It’s tiny, and I really mean TINY, the music can be something you normally wouldn’t listen to (I’m talking French 70s Schlager, 80s Disco or some rock-ier tunes), but in the end nothing matters and usually some kind of unforgettable night is guaranteed. Or morning, as they tend to stay open quite some time when the party just isn’t ready to stop.
Next up is another, slightly bigger pavilion called Parkhouse. As it says in the name, the music here tends to be a lot more house-y and dancier with local DJ-Teams like Disko404 taking over. The best thing about this place is it’s terrace, ideal for some drinks before heading to the dancefloor inside. It can get a little crowded though, so you might just want to grab a drink and lie in the grass.
To be honest, partying can be a little bit hard in Graz. There might be a lot of bars and clubs here, but I don’t really like most of them. Of course it can be fun to get dangerously drunk and dance to horrible Avicii and David Guetta songs in one of the places around the university district from time to time, but in the end it’s not a real alternative to actually enjoying where you’re at. Postgarage close to Griesplatz has some nice acts sometimes, but check their homepage first before going there. If you can, try to schedule your trip around following happenings: Tripledecker at local art institution Forum Stadtpark, Tweety Party by Numavi on the 30th of December for some dirty guitar-oriented sounds or Elevate, a festival for music, art and political discourse, always with an exciting line-up every year.
And when in doubt: just find a party featuring OchoReSotto. Their space-filling projections and visuals will at least offer you something fantastic to look at.
In the mood for some contemporary art? Head over to the Kunsthaus, also known as the “WTF-moment” in Graz’ skyline. Seriously, that building is weird and of course didn’t fail to stir quite some controversy when it was built in 2003, the year Graz was European capital of culture. I personally like it, but I know of many people who don’t. It houses changing exhibitions, e.g. by Ai Wei Wei or Katharina Grosse, the Camera Austria, a Magazine and gallery focusing on photography and a café on the ground floor. Even if you’re not into art, I’d advise you to visit, as it also has it’s so called needle, a glass corridor offering a nice view onto the Schlossberg, and it is quite a sight to see, good or bad.
I’m pretty sure the Schlossberg is made of pride. I’m serious, us Grazers (Grazerians? Grazettos? Grazitties?) are really proud of this little mountain right in the city. There used to be a big fortress on top of it, but most of it got destroyed by Napoleon. But just to make something clear: it was never actually conquered, but Graz gave in when that little French guy threatened to destroy it all, so they could at least save the bell tower and the clock tower, which is now the city’s emblem. You should really walk up there when you’re visiting Graz, otherwise we are all going to be mad at you. Or if you’re lazy, just use the elevator inside the extensive tunnel system of the hill.
A big shoutout to my friend Ana, who had the pleasure to walk through the city with me for three hours and also let me use some of her pictures.