Graz is a picturesque and historic city astride the river Mur, composed of fantastic architecture and beautiful open spaces. In fact, about 90 percent of its 127 square miles are comprised of parks, gardens, fields and forests. It is the second largest city in Austria with a population of well over a quarter of a million and is the capital of the Styrian region. The Habsburg Monarchy was resident in Graz during Medieval times and the Renaissance period and today the historic city centre remains one of the best preserved in Central Europe.
The Schlossberg Mountain, at 473 metres high, provides a striking backdrop to the city and dominates the landscape for miles around. The top offers sensational views of the area and can be reached on foot or by a small railway that runs every 15 minutes. Hidden courtyards and Renaissance buildings give the city a Mediterranean flair and the numerous beisels (the Austrian version of an English pub), beer halls and little bars throughout the city, give ample opportunity to relax and enjoy the local brew
Capital of Culture:
The conference of European Culture Ministers has chosen Graz to be the ‘Capital of Culture’ for 2003. In anticipation of this the city is undergoing a make over including several futuristic new buildings. The River Mur, which separates the old town from the newer parts of the city, is to receive a temporary island in the shape of a gigantic seashell and the city’s modern art collection is to be housed in a brand new building designed by two British architects, the roof of which looks like a giant inflatable liver. This may sound quite bizarre but it is nothing new to Graz, a centre for the avant-garde in the late sixties.
The wider region of Styria, surrounding Graz, is itself an attractive holiday destination, boasting a wealth of scenery and cultural sights. Visitors can explore some of Austria’s grandest scenery in Styria’s North, the land of towering mountains and unfathomably deep lakes, overshadowed by mighty the Dachstein glacier. There are numerous spa resorts in the East, which is noted for its verdant beauty, pleasant climate, mineral springs, lush green meadows and gently rolling foothills that go on forever. The sun-drenched vineyards in the South produce internationally acclaimed wines. The West is home to the unique Schilcher wine and is the place where pumpkin seeds are pressed to produce a dark, rich, aromatic oil that is a particular speciality of the area. It is also the place that the Lipizzaner horses are brought up before going to Vienna to be trained at the world-famous Spanish Riding School.