Last weekend I went to Graz, Austria’s second-largest city which is only a 2.5-hour train ride from Vienna. With its compact, walkable downtown as a UNESCO World Heritage site and its mediterranean character, Graz is probably Austria’s most beautiful city and also one of its most vibrant.
As the New York Times recently stated, “you might not expect to find such a cultivated metropolis two hours down the road from Vienna toward Ljubljana, but Graz has a palpable joie de vivre, thanks in part to the presence of its six universities and over 40,000 students.”
A city that offers “rich design, art and culinary scenes” and is “home to scores of boutiques, shops, restaurants and museums, many housed in restored Baroque-era buildings in the city’s well-preserved Old Town”, is probably also Austria’s bicycle capital, was Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2003 and sees itself as a City of Design and a City of Human Rights.
By buing built around the Schlossberg mountain, it also offers superb views over the city. Its Central Station is home to Peter Kogler’s famous art installation, the city’s most impressive bike rack, a grey and lifeless new station forecourt, one of Europe’s largest smart city projects and a new light-flooded underground tram terminal.
Speaking of the city’s characteristic green trams, Graz offers free public transit on its tram system in its downtown. On the downside, the city is also known for having the highest levels of air pollution in Austria.