I was invited to Graz on a press trip back in August (side note – one of the most thoroughly planned press trips with an invite months in advance which was very helpful to organise for Tom to some shared parental leave). I have to be honest, I hadn’t actually heard of Graz before, but a quick google image search had me replying yes please to joining a Graz Travel Deeper trip, focusing on food and sustainable travel!
Where is Graz?
Graz is Austria’s second city, located in the southern province of Styria. It boasted the accolade of European Capital of Culture in 2003 and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And, most excitingly for the foodies, Graz is Austria’s culinary capital, providing local produce including apples, wine and the infamous pumpkin seeds to farmers markets, restaurants and independent shops around the area.
Best running routes in Graz
While in Graz, I was completing Week 1 of my Valencia Marathon training (using the RUNNA app – use code CHARLIE for 2 weeks free). We were only there for a few days so I didn’t have to complete a long run, but I did fit in a short sightseeing run, 400m repeats and a longer easy run. Even if you aren’t training for anything in particular, I highly recommend exploring Graz on foot and enjoying its charming streets and unique mix of architecture. Stay for a few days (or more!) to really get a feel for the city and run like a local! With water fountains all over the Old Town, you don’t have to carry water with you, which is so helpful especially in Summer (it was 30*C when we were there).
Mur River Path
The Mur River flows through Graz, providing a scenic route for runners along a traffic free cycle and pedestrian path. The Mur River Path stretches along both sides of the river and is perfect for a leisurely jog or a more intense run. You’ll pass by modern art installations, charming bridges, and vibrant neighbourhoods as you enjoy the calming presence of the water. Don’t miss the Mur Island Bridge, an accessible artificial island/floating platform in the river.
If you’re looking for a serene and well-maintained route, the Stadtpark Loop is a great option. This park, located near the city centre (a round the corner from the hotel we stayed in), offers a plethora of paved trails that wind through lush greenery, making it a peaceful escape from the urban hustle. I easily found a stretch to complete my 400m repeats and there are a number of coffee shops lining the park edges for a post run refuel.
For a challenging yet rewarding run, head to the iconic Schlossberg Hill. This historic hill is nestled in the heart of Graz, Austria and offers stunning panoramic views of the city. You can opt for the steep incline or steps up to the top (or a lift option for those feeling less energetic!) You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of Graz and the surrounding countryside once you reach the top – however you get there! I opted for the stairs up and the road back down 🙂 It’s best visited early in the morning before the crowds gather, or enjoy a sunset run and enjoy a glass of wine at Aiola Upstairs or SkyBar.
Augarten Park Trails
Nestled on the bank of the River Mur is Augarten Park, featuring a network of trails that wind through wooded areas and open spaces. It also features playgrounds, a Children’s museum and skate park for those with little ones to entertain.
Running Events in Graz
Graz Marathon – 8th October 2023
As well as the 26.2 mile race, there are also kids races, a 5K, half and ‘quarter’ marathon as well as a relay option during the marathon weekend. With the 5K taking part on the Saturday and the main event on the Sunday, you can complete multiple events during a mini break weekend in Graz!
Trail Run Graz – 10th September 2023
With a 5.5K and 10K option (plus a 1K kids race), this event is described as the most beautiful city trail in Styria (and having driven through Styria, I can attest to the fact that the area is gorgeous).
Graz Coffee Shops & Restaurants
As the culinary capital of Austria, I was expecting big things from the food scene in Graz, and it did not disappoint. Daily markets featuring local goods from small producers, shops selling regional produce and restaurants promoting seasonal Styrian dishes.
Where to Get a Coffee in Graz Post Run
Post run grab and go coffee is made even easier with a BackCup scheme, allowing you to utilise the reusable coffee cups at locations across the city, and return to hotels/cafes etc participating in the scheme (without having to carry it with you on the run!)
Ducks Coffee Shop has a range of coffees (with plant based milks), smoothies, and a ‘Graz Smog’ – an Earl Grey with foamed milk and vanilla syrup that I want to try next time!
For a great coffee on the go, I went to Tribeka a couple of times post-run. They have their own reusable coffee cup scheme across the city locations. Another option I frequented for a caffeine hit was AUER (I have to admit, the pretty pink facade was what first drew me in). I don’t think the coffee was as good as Tribeka, but the pastries were delish.
There are a couple of lovely looking coffee shops and cafes lining the edges of Stadtpark that I wish had been open when I finished my morning runs. Das Promenade and Cafe Parkhouse have gorgeous outdoor seating areas, ideal for enjoying a coffee and brunch, or a local G&T and a meal after your run or stoll. Das Promenade has actually been around since 1870 and serves traditional Austrian breakfasts in a contemporary setting. For fairtrade coffee and veggie/vegan food, Parks is a social enterprise coffee shop that is on my hit list for my next visit to Graz.
Whilst I didn’t make it up to Freiblick Tagescafe during my short trip, the others in my group loved their trip to this rooftop terrace overlooking Graz old town, situated at the top of Kastner & Ohler department store.
Where to Eat in Graz
Roam the local food markets to taste and enjoy goods from the surrounding farms and local producers, including Styrian Cheese, a naturally occurring by-product of milk.
Do not miss a visit to a s’Fachl to stock up on presents and souvenirs to take home. These shops rent a crate, or a ‘Fachl’ to small producers, allowing them to sell directly to consumers. I recommend purchasing a bottle of Pumpkin Seed Oil, a local speciality, and trying the chocolate covered pumpkin seeds.
For those that enjoy Farm-to-Table dining, try Die Speis am Lendhafen, a veggie restaurant set up by three young chefs, focusing on sustainability. They create tasty, unique dishes with two-thirds of their ingredients coming from within a 50km radius. We sat outside on a warm evening and enjoyed listening to the four piece band busking in the courtyard.
Looking for some traditional Styrian grub? Head to Gut Schlossberg where you can enjoy the regional speciality ‘bug beans’ dish – which is actually Runner Beans in a pumpkin seed oil dressing, known as Kaferbohnensalat. Alternatively, try Gasthaus Glocklbrau for some locally brewed beer and pretzels, alongside a Schnitzel or Backhendl.
And for something special, I’d recommend a sunset visit to Aiola Upstairs for fine dining with incredible views over Graz. We enjoyed seasonal locally foraged Chanterelle mushrooms as well as delicious Austrian wine, among an array of internationally inspired dishes.
If you have a car, you need to get out to the surrounding countryside in Styria and experience a drink and meal at a Buschenschank. We loved our early dinner and wine tasting at Buschenschank Dokter, a family run farm where they produce wine, fruit juices, bread, cheese, fruits, vegetables and meats. Buschenschanks are only allowed to serve cold plates or ‘Brettljause’ which translates as ‘snack on a board’, serving food produced from their own land and a small amount of locally produced items by a law dating back to 1784.
Whilst out and about, pop in to Pipifein to taste their home distilled gin (including a Pumpkin gin!) made by the father-son owner duo. If I hadn’t been travelling with hand luggage only I would definitely have bought a bottle or two.
Where to stay in Graz
During our trip to Graz, we stayed at Hotel Gollner, a family run establishment that has been passed through the generations since the 1960s. It had one of the most impressive continental breakfast buffets I’ve ever enjoyed, as well as very friendly and welcoming staff. With a free tram stop around the corner, or the main square a 10-12 minute walk away, the location is ideal for exploring Graz on foot or public transport.
I’d recommend staying within the city for ease of getting around, other options include NH City Graz (a modern hotel built in 2018, right next to Stadtpark and Schlossberg), Grand Hotel Wiesler (a sleek upmarket option on the banks of the Mur River) or for something with a little flair try Schlossberghotel (decorated with antiques and works for art, plus there’s a pool!)
What to do in Graz
Beyond running and eating…obviously.
Top of my list for my next trip to Graz is the Schlossberg slide – after walking or running up to the Schlossberg clocktower, what better way than to slide back down. It’s the tallest underground slide in the world at 64m high and 170m long, this isn’t for the faint hearted.
Luckily I did manage to enjoy the view from the Clocktower on a couple of occasions, it is gorgeous at all times however I loved heading up in the early morning on a run to have the view to myself. The clocktower is iconic and one of the most distinctive landmarks in Graz. Peculiarly, the hour hand is longer than the minute hand, apparently so that it can be seen from a greater distance!
For those into architecture and history, Graz has a lot to offer. The historic centre became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and boasts a pleasing mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. Walk (or run!) the cobbled streets and enjoy the blend of old and new that co-exists within Graz. I’d highly recommend stopping for a treat at Hofbäckerie Edegger-Tax, one of the oldest bakeries in Graz.
Foodies will enjoy a stroll around one of the many local produce markets, the biggest of which occurs daily in Kaiser Josef-Platz showcasing the best of the region, from fruits and veg, meats and cheeses and gorgeous flowers. I tried wild strawberries for the first time there in August as well as delicious fresh juices, Styrian cheese and would have bought some of the seasonal chanterelles and more if I had room in my luggage!
Enjoy the wanders of the Double Spiral Staircase. Built in the Gothic period, this unique the ‘staircase of reconciliation’ feels like it would be more at home at Hogwarts than in the Burg in Graz, the official regional government headquarters. Kids and adults will love this feat in architecture!
The stunning Graz Cathedral and Mausoleum are well worth a visit. Dating back to the 1400s, the cathedral is a relic of the Gothic ages in Graz whilst the next door mausoleum with its iconic turquoise roof is the Imperial resting place of Emperor Ferdinand.
Take a stroll down Herrengasse the main pedestrianised street running through the old town. Tucked behind the beautiful buildings lining the street are impressive courtyards, bustling alleyways with independent restaurants and coffee shops.
One of my favourite activities on our trip was a visit to the training facility for the horses in the world famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna. It was fascinating to learn how they horses are bred, trained and chosen to perform with their rider.It’s made me really want to see a performance next time I’m in Vienna.
Thank you to the Graz Tourist board for inviting me to experience Graz like a local! I’m excited to come back to take on one of the city’s races, and to experience the Christmas markets!