An interview with Susanne Höller of Graz Tourism
- Tell us about your personal connection with Graz. What draws you to the city?
I have been living and working in Graz for most of my professional life. After working and living abroad and in Vienna, I chose to return to my hometown because I missed this special vibe of Graz. It’s so different from any other city in Austria – it’s much more relaxed than Vienna or Salzburg, it’s green and it has this certain Mediterranean vibe which I particularly love during summertime, when life basically takes place outside. The other thing I really like about Graz is, that it is big enough to be an international place but then small enough to bump into friends when strolling around. Graz also has the big advantage that most of the things we promote as „visitor attractions“ have been growing organically over the years, such as our farmers’ markets. There’s nothing that has been invented only for visitors.
- In what ways have you seen Graz change over the years?
Graz made a huge leap forward in the past 30 years. It grew from a sleepy little city with hardly any events to a magnet for visitors who like secondary destinations with lots of authentic charm and experiences. Today Graz is a young, vibrant and buzzing place, with lots of amazing events like the spring festival (festival of electronic art, music and visuals), the styriarte (main summer festival of classical music), the designmonth, and lots of opera & theatre performances. The approximately 50,000 students, international companies plus expats and a thriving start up scene make Graz a forward thinking and creative place, where the quality of living is always the top priority. In addition, sustainability is not only a buzz word but something we take very seriously, especially in tourism – that makes me particularly happy!
- If someone was visiting Graz for the first time, what community and nature positive experiences would you recommend to them?
First and foremost, I would recommend a stay in a hotel/b&b which is owned by a local family. This is the best introduction to Graz! It’s an easy task as well, because most of the hotels are owned by locals anyway. The next thing I would do is get a Graz Card which allows you to use our public transport for free and gives access to most of our museums. My favourite spot in Graz is Schlossberg, the hill right in the center of the city. From the top of Schlossberg you can enjoy the best views of the city. It is also a popular recreation area of Graz, with lots of green spaces for picnics or relaxation. Up there you’ll also find the historic and unique landmark – the Clocktower plus a couple of restaurants. I particularly love being up there for sunsets.
Another spot I recommend is a visit to one of our farmers’ markets. Here the farmers themselves offer their fresh produce coming from farms close to the city or even from farms within the city limit. This is where locals shop on a daily basis, a decades-long tradition. Farm to table has been a concept in Graz long before it became a buzz word for sustainability.
Also – loose yourself in the tiny little streets and lanes of the historic city. Graz has a very compact city center, so don’t be afraid of getting lost! Peek into the inner courtyards – most of them are open to the public so you don’t have to be afraid to invade private spaces. In many of these courtyards you may even find a cosy bar serving local food & wine. And as a contrast, cross the river Mur and explore the emerging districts of Lend and Gries. That’s the place where you’ll find lots of creative spirit, upcycling shops, contemporary art and cool cafes and restaurants. Once a bit of a shabby area, these are today one of the hippest areas of Graz.
One personal recommendation: don’t be shy and talk to locals. We are friendly people and are happy to share our insider tips with you!
- If you were a visitor to Graz yourself, what aspect of the city or attraction wouldn’t you want to miss, and why?
My way of travelling has changed over the years. Today I look for places away from the obvious; more hidden places, less crowded, more authentic. Because these are the places where I can find the true spirit of a place. For visitors, it’s not always easy to find these corners because tourism boards tend to market the obvious assets, but through my work with content creators, I’ve become aware of how helpful blog posts can be to find these places. So if I were to visit Graz, I would look for content that has been produced over the past years.
- What is something few travellers know about Graz?
Fact is that Graz itself is not so well known when it comes to city trips in Austria. Everybody knows Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck, but Graz doesn’t pop up immediately. But once visitors are in Graz, they are pleasantly surprised by its relaxed vibe, by the high quality of culinary experiences and the friendliness of its people.
- What does your ideal ‘day off’ in Graz look like? Where do you eat, hang out, what do you do?
I would start the day with a relaxed breakfast either at KunsthausCafe or on the rooftop terrace of Lendhotel (absolutely stunning views), then I would stroll over the farmers market on Lendplatz and maybe have a glass of prosecco at one of the little restaurants at the market and watch people shopping and chatting, i.e. just go with the flow, with no plan.
One of my favourites for lunch or dinner is the zero-waste restaurant „Die Hummel“, run by two ladies who dedicate themselves to zero waste, regional products and local staff.
As I am a very active person, I would either go for a long run along the river Mur or run up one of the mountains close by the city such as Schöckl mountain or Plabutsch, both with easy access by public transport. I would then treat myself to a hearty „Backhendl“ – fried chicken i.e. at the restaurant „Der Steirer“ accompanied by a glass of local wine.
- If you could describe Graz in 3 words, what would they be?
Relaxed – Friendly – Authentic
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Graz Tourism Supports Sustainable Cities