Graz may be Austria’s second city but it’s tops when it comes to sustainable food culture. Read on to discover more than a dozen things to do in Graz as you dig deep into the city’s progressive food scene.
Graz is Austria’s second most populous city and the capital of the Styria region – the country’s southern farm belt at the Eastern foot of the Austrian Alps. It’s an impressive city with two different UNESCO designations – it’s both a UNESCO City of Design and a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Arnold Schwarzenegger hails from Thal, just a 21 minute drive from Graz. You can visit the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum while there. You can even check out the pull up bar that Arnold used to exercise next to Thalersee, a nearby lake.
Arnold attractions aside and most important to us as food travelers, Graz is Austria’s Culinary City of Delights. That moniker alone was enough to motivate us to spend a week in Graz peeling the city’s culinary layers. Traveling slowly, without rushing from meal to meal, seemed imperative in a city so focused on cuisine.
Ironically, we didn’t need a week to connect with the food of Graz. Instead, it took just one one bite of backhendl, Austria’s famous fried chicken, to win us over on our first night in the city.
But, as the days turned into a week, our connection continued to strengthen.
As we quickly discovered, Graz’s local food movement is nothing new.
Instead, the people of Graz have embraced culinary sustainability for decades, if not longer. We experienced the city’s commitment to local food every time we spoke to passionate producers at markets, ate local apples and dined at restaurants run by talented, committed chefs.
Food-Focused Things To Do In Graz
Many touring travelers breeze through Graz in a day or two on their way to Vienna. While we get the desire to see as many cities as possible, we don’t recommend this approach.
Graz is a city that warrants a longer stay. Food travelers who visit in August can attend the Long Table, the city’s premier ‘foodie’ event which occurs one day each year. Meanwhile, autumnal travelers can check out the city’s annual truffle festival.
Don’t worry if you missing both of these events – there are plenty of food-focused things to in Graz during the rest of the year. These are our favorites:
1. Eat Traditional Food At Local Graz Restaurants
Graz restaurants serve a range of food from vegetarian dishes to pizza. However, intrepid travelers will want to eat as much Austrian food as possible.
One option is to visit restaurants like Der Steirer which serves Austrian classics like backhandl and goulash as well as well as Styrian tapas. Or you could visit Gut Schlossberg, a gourmet grocery that sells products from 100+ Austrian producers and has an upstairs tasting room.
Another option is to eat open-faced sandwiches called belegte brote at Frankowitsch, a local Graz institution since 1932. The cicchetti-like canapes are fun to eat and pair well with little glasses of beer. You can alternatively eat pastries at Frankowitsch if you have a sweet tooth.
Discover the best Graz restaurants.
2. Taste Pumpkin Seed Oil During A Food Tour
A mainstay in Styrian cuisine, pumpkin seed oil called kürbiskernöl is easy to find in Graz. The nutty oil has a unique flavor and can be used is many ways from salad dressings to soups. Once you taste it, you’ll probably want to buy a bottle as an edible souvenir.
Our food tour with local food blogger Manuela Pucher was an interactive experience that took us to markets, food stands and stores. We even ate ice cream cones. However, the tour highlight was easily our stop at ‘s Fachl, one of Graz’s most inspired food stores which sells local food products on a consignment basis.
We sampled pumpkin seed oil as well as pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin seed candy and pumpkin eggnog during our tasting at ‘s Fachl. The pumpkin seed oil was so tasty that we returned and bought a bottle.
3. Meet Local Producers
It’s one thing to taste local products and it’s another to meet the people who make them. We met several during our visit.
Our biggest takeaway – the Graz commitment to sustainability is for real. Our other biggest takeaway – local Graz products taste even better at the source.
We were inspired when we met Bernhard Kremser-Greittbauer whose family has been hand-harveting grapes since 1900. Then there’s the team at Tax Dairy Farm who produce milk and cheese which they sell at their farm. And we certainly can’t forget Sigmund & Gisela Rosenkopf who passionately produce honey, including a special chestnut honey, from 140 beehives.
Don’t worry if you can’t get out of the city to take a similar day trip. You can easily meet producers at Graz’s urban markets. However, do try to get into the Graz countryside if you can.
It’s a gorgeous part of the world that you really should experience at least once in your life. Maybe twice.
4. Break For Pastries At The City’s Oldest Bakery
Although pastries are easy to find in Graz, it’s worth the effort to visit Hofbäckerei Edegger-Tax, a bakery with a recorded history that dates back to 1569. Its building is ornate and historic, but the building isn’t the primary reason to climb a small hill to nosh at Hofbäckerei Edegger-Tax.
That reason is the bakery’s wonderful pastries.
We ordered a small smorgasbord of sweets during our visit for ‘research’ purposes. While we agreed that the chocolate-covered schlosbergkugel was special, we also give high marks to the bakery’s mozartkugel and linzer cookies.
5. Bite Into A Steier Hot Dog
The Steirer hot dog is unique.
It’s basically a sausage that’s wrapped in bacon and served in a bun with pumpkin seed oil, mayonnaise, horseradish, onion, and lettuce. Somehow, these disparate ingredients come together to create a sandwich that’s incredibly satisfying.
Sure, you could order a more simple wurst at one of the city’s many würstelstände but you could do that anywhere in Austria. The better option is to open wide and eat the unique Steirer hot dog at a spot like Standl 5 instead.
6. Eat, Drink And Be Merry At A Buschenschank
Some of our favorite wine regions are in beautiful parts of the world like Stellenbosch and Portugal. We can now add the Styrian countryside just outside of Graz to this list. However, Styria’s wine country offers an added benefit – buschenschanken.
If you’re wondering what a buschenschank is, the best way to find out is to visit one in the Graz countryside. Located at Styrian wineries, buschenschanken are basically taverns that can only sell the winery’s products, none of which can be served hot. Seriously, this is the local law and it couldn’t result in a more sustainable or delightful dining experience.
When you visit a buschenschank like Kremser-Greitbauer Buschenschank, expect to eat brettljause boards topped with a melange of cured meat, cheese, eggs, peppers and smoked fish. As for drinking, local wine is the obvious and only choice to make while you watch the sun slowly set in one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions.
Consider hiring a driver to take you to one or more buschenschank. This approach will allow you to appreciate the full buschenschank experience since it’s neither cool nor legal to drink and drive.
7. Shop At Local Markets
It didn’t take us long to discover Graz’s largest market, the Kaiser Josef Markt located near the city’s opera house and just blocks from our hotel. We returned again and again to ogle at stands that sell a rainbow of vegetables as well as pumpkin seed oil, cheese, meat and apples.
As we quickly learned, the market closes at 1pm sharp except on Sundays and holidays when it doesn’t open at all. We also learned that the city’s Lendplatz market, located in a vibrant neighborhood located on the other side of the Mur River, has the same schedule.
These markets teem with seasonal items like white asparagus in the spring as well as brilliant red radishes and an assortment of locally produced cheeses and smoked charcuterie. When you visit both markets, you’ll likely want to linger with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee when you do. At least that’s what we did.
8. Drink All The Coffee
As we expected, Graz has a coffee culture, dating back more than a century, which celebrates darkly roasted cups of coffee and decadent Austrian pastries. While we’re into the pastries, we can’t say the same about the the robusta coffee served at the city’s historic cafes.
Luckily, Graz has more specialty coffee options than we expected. These cafes serve what Americans call third wave coffee. Whatever you want to call it, we seek this kind of coffee wherever we travel.
Whether you have similar coffee tastes as us or prefer classic coffee drinks, you should try as many local cafes as possible. Actually, you don’t have a choice since Graz doesn’t currently have any Starbucks locations. We consider this omission to be a good thing!
Discover the best Graz cafes and coffee shops.
More Fun Things To Do In Graz
While we visited Graz with a specific goal related to its food scene, we were pleased to discover that Austria’s second largest city is both rich with culture and easy to navigate. Not only does a river literally run through it, but Graz’s center is filled with buildings that span the centuries.
These are our favorite things to do between meals in Graz and the ones you shouldn’t miss:
9. Wander Around The Historic City
Despite its relatively compact size, the city of Graz packs a charming punch. Some its most famous sites are located in the historic center while many Graz gems require a short scenic walk to districts like Lend and Gries. Other require a bus or train ride.
Slowly exploring the city allowed us to discover intricate carvings on doors and entranceways. Yes, many of Graz’s most impressive architectural details are hiding in plain sight.
One of Graz’s most iconic sits is its centuries-old clock which perches on top of the Schlossberg. We saw it up close after our leisurely lunch at Aiola Upstairs and then from afar the rest of the week. It’s a bit of a hike to the clock but there’s an elevator that whisks passengers straight up for a nominal fee.
Aiola Upstairs’ sister restaurant Landhausekeller is next to another key site – the Landhaus. This 16th century building is still standing and its courtyard is worth a visit. The Romanesque Landhaus’ columns are hard to miss, though the best view of the site may be from the Landeszeughaus Armor Museum.
10. Appreciate Art At The Friendly Alien
It’s impossible to miss Graz’s Kunsthaus museum located on the ‘other’ side of the Mur River. Open since 2003, the year that Graz was named the European Capital of Culture, locals gave it the nickname friendly alien due to the building’s wacky appearance which resembles a space ship.
This modern art house doesn’t have a permanent collection; however, it’s well worth visiting if the current exhibit appeals to you. As for us, we enjoyed a wonderful retrospective about art and feminism while we were there.
The submarine-like Kunsthaus is a work of art in its own right. Plus, it offers epic views of Graz that can’t be replicated elsewhere..
There’s yet another benefit unrelated to art or architecture. This museum has an indoor/outdoor cafe that serves impossible-to-resist cakes and other snacks.
11. Get Regal At The Eggenberg Palace
Located just outside the city limits, Eggenberg is a magnificent baroque 17th century palace originally commisioned for imperial governor Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg. It was also a harmonious reaction to the chaos of the 16th century.
Eggenberg purposely built the structure with the calendar and universe in mind. The palace has 365 windows, 31 rooms on each floor and 24 state rooms as well as 52 doors, 60 windows and four corner towers
Our tour guide transported us back through the centuries with her stories about the family who lived in the palace until there were no longer any Eggenberg heirs to continue the legacy.
The palace is located in the center of a wonderful park with a series of rooms that surround a central courtyard. Its main hall, called the planet room, is a showstopper with paintings symbolizing the seven known planets surrounding the opulent hall.
You can only enter the planetensaal if you take a tour of the palace.
12. Get Your Guard Up At The Styrian Armory Museum
A museum dedicated to ancient armor sounds like it might be boring. Graz’s landeszeughaus (i.e. arsenal) is the opposite with 32,000 objects from the 15th to the 18th century meticulously stored in the museum’s four floors.
Perusing those four floors reveals the world’s largest of collection of authentic ancient armor including suits of armor designed for both for people and horses. The museum also contains a massive collection of swords, shields and firearms.
While we can’t say that we’re experts on the world of armor, we were awed by the huge collection of weaponry. We also wondered how the floors could hold such a heavy collection of metal without collapsing. It’s a mystery.
13. Visit The Lippizaner Stud Farm In Nearby Piber
If you have time to visit the Lipizzan stud farm in Piber, we say go for it. Located 50 kilometers (approximately 32 miles) from Graz, this farm is the breeding site for Vienna’s famous Spanish Riding School.
Originally launched in what’s now Slovenia in 1560 with horses imported from Spain, the famous stud farm uses a scientific approach to prevent the extinction of Austria’s prized ponies. Though only ten percent of the horses bred here make it to Vienna, others are prized around the world for their trainability and longevity.
Take a carriage ride after you tour the farm’s museum and stable. Doing so will give you an added appreciation for the powerful horses as well as Styria’s beautiful hills.
14. Pay Respects At The Church Of St. Barbara
Located in Bärnbach, just 2.5 kilometers (approximately 1.5 miles) from the Lippizaner stud farm, the St. Barbara Church is well worth a quick visit.
Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the bodacious church is covered in mosaics and filled with symbolic icons. It’s also worth wandering through the interdenominational gardens which surround the church. Be sure to check out the gates that salute all the religions of the world. There’s even a gate for atheists.
Head behind the church to see the Moses Foundation built in 1980 with 420,000 pebbles and 144,000 glass mosaic pebbles. It’s just a few blocks from the church.
15. Shop Til You Drop
While we often eschew shopping when we travel, we couldn’t skip shopping in Graz. And not just one type of shopping.
Kastner and Ohler, the city’s largest store which dates back to 1873, enticed us with its beautiful space and rooftop cafe. However, we equally enjoyed shopping at smaller stores that we encountered while exploring the city.
We have only one regret about purchasing a bottle of pumpkin seed oil and a pair of Reidel coupe glasses during our Graz shopping expeditions. We wish we had bought more of both.
European travelers can travel to Graz though some may need to connect in cities like Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna. The city’s airport offers flights via both premium and discount airline carriers.
Upon arrival, it’s easy to navigate the city’s network of trams and buses. Walking is also a great option since many of the best Graz’s best restaurants and attractions are located in or near the city center.
More Things To Do In Europe
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: July 24, 2022