Graz for under £100 a night: The joys of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s birthplace in Austria on a budget

Explore Graz, the second largest city in Austria and the capital of the province of Styria

If someone asks you to name the three biggest cities in Austria, Graz might not be on the list.

Which is a shame because it is the second largest in the country, in addition to being the capital of the province of Styria and the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It offers so much: a youthful feel thanks to four universities, as well as palaces, festivals and delicious cuisine.

Where to stay

Kai 36

This small hotel has recently opened and is well located for the main sights and restaurants of Graz at the foot of the hill below the city’s 16th century fortress.

Graz has so much to offer: a youthful feel thanks to four universities, plus palaces, festivals and delicious cuisine

Graz has so much to offer: a youthful feel thanks to four universities, plus palaces, festivals and delicious cuisine

There’s a real focus on design here, and even the standard rooms have beautiful artwork. On the ground floor, there is a stylish cafe which is popular with locals. Double rooms only from £90 (kai36.at).

Mariahilf

A traditional, comfortable hotel that has been around since 1663. It has 45 rooms, is directly opposite the futuristic British-designed Museum of Contemporary Art and a short walk from Lendplatz Farmer’s Market. Double rooms only from £74 (booking.com).

Hotel Weitzer

Take advantage of the sauna on the top floor and the rich breakfast buffet of the Hotel Weitzer, located on the banks of the River Mur.  Above, the view of the river from nearby Augarten Park

Take advantage of the sauna on the top floor and the rich breakfast buffet of the Hotel Weitzer, located on the banks of the River Mur. Above, the view of the river from nearby Augarten Park

The imposing Weitzer sits on the banks of the Mur River. There are seven different room types, but even the main economy doesn’t feel frugal. There’s a glass-walled sauna on the top floor to warm up on chilly days, and downstairs is a large restaurant where there’s an extensive breakfast buffet. Double room only from £71 (hotelweitzer.com).

Daniel

The trendy Daniel is right next to the main train station. And it is easy to spot with its facade balconies painted in pastel colors. There are 108 rooms, including a loft-cube suite that’s set in glorious rooftop seclusion — if it hasn’t been booked, the hotel runs a daily lottery to upgrade a group of guests to take advantage. Double room only from £48 (hoteldaniel.com).

What to see and do

Historical Center

Get acquainted with the historic center of Graz, pictured above, on a guided walking tour - tickets can be booked in advance at the city's tourist office

Get acquainted with the historic center of Graz, pictured above, on a guided walking tour – tickets can be booked in advance at the city’s tourist office

The freestanding double spiral staircase at Graz Castle (pictured), which is still functional after more than 500 years, is both ingenious and beautiful

The freestanding double spiral staircase at Graz Castle (pictured), which is still functional after more than 500 years, is both ingenious and beautiful

Get your bearings by joining one of the many guided walking tours which can be booked in advance or from the tourist office near the main square.

A 1.5-hour walk to the Schlossberg fortress, including the funicular ride up to its clock tower, costs £14.50. Or for £17, spend two hours strolling through trendy Lend with its shops, cafes, markets and kunsthaus (art museum) – the friendly alien (graztourismus.at).

Burg

Graz Castle, or Burg, now houses government offices, but dates back to the 15th century.

Even if architecture isn’t your thing, you’ll agree that its freestanding double spiral staircase, still functional after more than 500 years, is both ingenious and beautiful.

Schloss Eggenberg

Eggenberg Palace (pictured), the city's grandest and most elegant palace, dates from 1625

Eggenberg Palace (pictured), the city’s grandest and most elegant palace, dates from 1625

Above is an overview of Eggenberg Palace, where 24 state rooms were designed around the themes of astronomy and mythology

Above is an overview of Eggenberg Palace, where 24 state rooms were designed around the themes of astronomy and mythology

The city’s grandest and most elegant palace dates back to 1625. On a guided tour in English, you can explore its 24 state rooms, which were designed around themes of astronomy and mythology .

There are also extensive grounds and separate museums and galleries with paintings from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period. Tickets from £13.50 (museum-joanneum.at).

Explore Farmers Markets

The pictured Kaiser Josef Square market is particularly lively on Saturdays and has many bars and cafes.  Drop by and stock up on locally made pumpkin seed oil

The pictured Kaiser Josef Square market is particularly lively on Saturdays and has many bars and cafes. Drop by and stock up on locally made pumpkin seed oil

The region around Graz produces an abundance of produce, many of which are on sale at the city’s bustling farmers’ markets.

Go inside and prepare an impromptu picnic of hams, sausages, cheese and bread.

The region is known for its white wines and also pumpkin seed oil, which is found in many local recipes.

The large markets of Kaiser Josef Square and Lend Square are open every day except Sunday, but are particularly lively on Saturdays and also have many bars and cafes.

Where to eat

The Steirer

This boutique restaurant buzzes with locals at night, so book ahead. Start with Styrian tapas like beetroot carpaccio with horseradish dumplings (£2.50) before moving on to heartier dishes, for example, turkey fillet in a cream sauce with bacon and mushrooms for £14 (der-steirer.at).

Aiola upstairs

After dining in Aiola at the top of the Schlossberg hill, check out the clock tower (pictured) nearby - it's the symbol of the town

After dining in Aiola at the top of the Schlossberg hill, check out the clock tower (pictured) nearby – it’s the symbol of the town

Austrian delights: Traditional veal cutlet (file photo)

Austrian delights: Traditional veal cutlet (file photo)

If you’re climbing the 1,532 feet to the top of the Schlossberg hill, which towers over Graz, you deserve a good place for lunch, and Aiola delivers, especially if you grab a table outside on a hot afternoon. Once you’ve caught your breath, enjoy a panna cotta with local mountain cheese (£9) or an apple, leek and parmesan risotto for £15 then discover the clock tower which is the symbol of the city (up.aiola. to).

Frankowitsch

In the center of town, dating back to the early 1930s, should be on your list for lunch. It is famous for its range of snack-sized open-faced sandwiches priced at £1 to £2.80 each. Enjoy with a Pfiff, an almost toy-sized glass of beer that will set you back £1.30 (frankowitsch.at).

Landhauskeller

If you have a stereotype of an Austrian inn – woodwork, cheerful waiters, pants-busting meat plates – then this 400-year-old inn should be your first port of call. But alongside the traditional there is also the modern, so you can choose a martini instead of beer or grilled monkfish instead of veal cutlet. Average area £22 (landhaus-keller.at).

How to get there

London Gatwick to Vienna Schwechat Airport from £15 return (wizzair.com). Direct trains run from Vienna Schwechat Airport to Graz from £18 one-way (oebb.at). Visit www.graztourismus.at.

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