I love a second city. I live in one of the worlds great capitals, yes. And I love London. But for a weekend break I love to go to a second city. Second cities are vibrant, fun, people choose to live there for the more relaxed lifestyles but they still want city life. As a result there is often vibrant food and drink culture, and lots you can do for a weekend break.
To Graz then in Austria. I had heard much about it but had never been. Graz is a beautiful well preserved city in the east of Austria. Beautiful architecture, entirely walkable, lots of lovely cafes and bars. Overlooking the city is the Schlossberg, a hill in the centre of Graz that is accessible by lift or funicular. There are steps too if you feel energetic! A public park and bars and restaurants overlook the city below. Many were picnicking in the park the weekend that I visited. There are lots of museums and it is a beautiful city to just walk around.
Surrounded by wine regions and ell placed for a weekend break, there is plenty to keep the food and wine obsessive busy. I I focussed on the food and drink of course! Here is my list.
Eating and Drinking in Graz
Come here for the views over the city (book a table outside at the edge) and to sample contemporary Austrian cuisine with a twist and excellent local wines.
Lendplatz Farmer’s Market (Bauernmarkt am Lendplatz)
This thriving local market was packed with vendors selling local produce from cut flowers to local meats and cheeses. There are many cafes and bars where you can have coffee and brunch also.
The Hungry Heart
Philipp Carstanjen serves his very tasty house gin and tonic braised beef on a bagel matched with cold brew and local beers. For vegetarians there is a beautiful carrot version, which all omnivores should try also, it is delicious!
I have always associated open sandwiches with Denmark and Scandinavia but lo they are historic and popular in Austria too and the best of them are served at Frankowitsch. Inside is a beautiful art deco interior (it was the first supermarket in Graz) but if the weather is good take a seat outside after you have selected your choice of open sandwich which will be brought to your table. I recommend accompanying your sandwich with a glass of sekt (local sparkling wine.
Biergarten am Schlossberg
Ascend to the Biergarten am Schlossberg by funicular. Admire the views before taking your seat and enjoying a local beer and pretzel.
Positioning themselves as a Styrian Tapas restaurant, Das Steirer serves delightful small plates of local food at extremely reasonable prices. They have a wine and produce shop too and sell several local gins too.
The Long Table of Graz
Every summer in Graz in Austria, the centre of the city becomes an open air restaurant with food cooked by their best chefs from their best restaurants. This year 750 people gathered at beautifully decorated long tables and enjoyed a 5 course dinner with matched local wines. The atmosphere was celebratory with live music and it was so social. Everyone was chatting and having a great time.
The evening starts at the Landhaushof, an ornate renaissance palace (built in 1527) with an enormous open courtyard. At the sides local winemakers were serving their wine and there were platters of canapes and local foods. It is here that I discovered the sublime Styrian Vulcano ham, an air dried ham aged for at least 6 months and finished with a touch of beechwood smoke. Live music boomed from the terrace above while over 700 people mingled an enjoyed.
Naturally this is popular and sells out immediately so you need to be very organised to get tickets.
Here local producers rent a crate and sell their crafts.The result is a small shop packed with diverse and interesting artisanal produce, most of which is food and drink. Pop in here to stock up on local beer, wine and gin. Be sure to take home some of the wonderful pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin seed pesto and the terrific local beans. Service is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very helpful.
Here produce is sold by weight with no packaging There is lots on offer and a communal table where you can relax and enjoy your purchases also.
While you are in Graz…
With thanks to Visit Graz who I travelled to Graz and Styria with. All opinions and editorial are my own, etc.!