Foodie Things to Do in Graz: Restaurants, Markets, and Local Food in Austria’s Culinary City
We didn’t know what to expect when we first arrived in Graz, the second largest city in Austria. It didn’t feel large though it was bustling with a mix of tourists and residents going about their day. Graz is an inviting city with a small town feel, and while there were tourists, it’s far from the crush you’ll find in Vienna. Being slow travelers, we love wandering streets and alleys leisurely popping into places as we go, and Graz is a great place to do just that. There are lots of things to do in Graz and Old Town is as charming as it gets. You’ll find historic sites from 1,000 years old to World War II and museums featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, their most famous son.
But if you’re a food and wine lover, well, you’ve come to the right place — arguably one of the best cities in Austria for food, and just a few days here will show you why. Graz restaurants rank among the best in Austria, and cafe life is alive and well. Fresh produce, seafood, and local meats are available daily at several popular markets around town. Pair it with a visit to the green heart of Austria in South Styria — Südsteiermark — and Graz becomes the perfect destination for foodies.
A Food Tour With TestEsser
We love taking food tours of a new place. It’s one of the best ways to try the local foods that place is known for, and which restaurants you want to go back to later on. We’ve been on many food tours in the US and more in Italy, and each was a little bit different. We took a dedicated cheese tour in Tuscany, three in Bologna — one highlighted the famous foods of Emilia Romagna, one took us truffle hunting, and one was a walking food tour in Bologna. The slow food tour we took of Venice was on the lagoon island of Santerasmo visiting local honey and prosecco producers, followed by dinner with a local Venetian family. All the food experiences were a little different. So when we decided to take a food tour of Graz, we weren’t sure what kind of tour it would be or whether we’d visit local restaurants in Graz, food producers, farmers markets, or food factories. But we knew of Graz’s emerging gastronomy scene, so we knew it would be good. What better way to start out a foodie tour of Graz!
We were excited to join local foodie and food blogger Manuela Pucher of Testesser Graz on an afternoon food tour. Manuela is a wealth of great information about the local food scene and restaurants in Graz, and taking a tour with her was a real treat. We made three formal stops along her afternoon tour with lots of good info along the walk. Plus she gave us some great recommendations of what to do in Graz for the rest of our time.
s’ Fachl Graz
Our first stop with Manuela was s’ Fachl, a must visit for lovers of local foods and products. Located off a small courtyard near the center of town, this shop has a very unique concept — the majority of their products (90%) are from Styria. Local producers rent a space the size of a wooden crate in which to display their merchandise. The shop, run by Markus Groß, acts as the retailer for everything inside thereby supporting local artisans and producers. You can find all sorts of delicacies here - candies, honey, jams, craft beers, wine, and oils, and a huge assortment of products made from one of Styria’s famous foods, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds. There’s no shortage of crafts either - carvings, purses, candles, ceramics, and scented oils to name a few and many made from recycled materials. This is a great place to find small gifts that are easy to pack to take home with you. There’s a small seating area made from wooden pallets where you can enjoy tasting something you’ve purchased. This is an interesting, friendly and fun place — be sure to stop in.
Herrengasse 13, Graz 8010
We love aperitivo time whenever we visit Italy, and Bar Albert had the right vibe as soon as we walked in. Located in Old Town Graz, Bar Albert is one of those chic Graz bars every local knows. They serve small plates of Styrian meats and cheeses with garnishes and breadsticks, and cheese spreads with fresh baked bread. It’s so cozy here, you’ll want to spend a few hours. There is seating at the bar and 4 or 5 half circle cafe tables mounted along the wall of the narrow room. It can get a little crowded about the time local folks are getting off work but we didn’t feel cramped at all. This was another friendly place and the staff thankfully spoke perfect English. They also have over 50 varieties of tinned fish with serve freshly baked bread from Hofbäckerei Edegger Tax bakery. Go for a little something light before dinner but definitely have some wine. The wine list here is amazing with Austrian white wine and wines from around the world.
Herrengasse 11, Graz 8010
If you’re looking to try some of Austria’s best restaurants, Graz has its share, and Restaurant Eckstein is high on that list. We couldn’t believe our luck in getting a table here on the tour, because this is truly one of the best restaurants in Graz. Located in the center of town, the atmosphere here is low lit and comfortable, delightfully noisy like most European restaurants, and upscale but very approachable. They just really love their food and delight in chatting about it! Dining indoors feels like you’re eating in a wine cellar with low brick walls and arched ceilings, and there’s also outside seating for when the weather permits. The wait staff at Eckstein was knowledgable and friendly as we asked for explanations of various dishes before ordering. The wine recommendation was spot on and luscious, pairing well with our selections. Come with an appetite when you eat here. We opted for the traditional Styrian Tasting menu since it’s Styrian food they do best. The tastings — while artfully presented — are generous, and we thought the pricing was appropriate given the quality of the food and service. It’s popular with locals so make reservations especially on weekends.
Mehlplatz 3, Graz 8010
Graz Farmers Markets
This traditional market is open every day except Sunday. The stalls of fresh produce and flowers are filled most days, but Saturday is the big day for Graz residents to stock-up on fresh produce, freshly baked breads and pastries, smoked meats and maybe a nice bouquet of flowers. Pretty much any farmer’s market product you can think of is here. Saturday is also the day to socialize at one of the cafes or snack bars around the market. The day we walked around was sunny and all the fall colors were on full display, especially apples, gourds, and pumpkins. Vendors were friendly and the atmosphere was almost festive. Get here early. market rules dictate that the market must close by 1:00pm.
Lendplatz Market is located in a huge market plaza on the west bank of the Mur River, and on some days can welcome as many as 800 urban farmers. Interestingly, it’s the farmers and local producers themselves who man the stalls which always makes for good insights into this urban farmer culture. We really enjoy street food and this market has a lot of good things to try… fresh breads, pastries, sandwiches, coffee, fresh fruits, juices, pizza, sausage, and seafood can all be had at cafe stalls. This is another market where you should get there early, especially on Saturday. It opens at 6:00am but on weekends many of the vendors pack up early.
Graz Food Locations With History
Hofbäckerei Edegger-Tax Bakery
Since 1569, Hofbäckerei Edegger-Tax is the oldest bakery in Graz — in fact, in all of Austria — that’s still in operation. Make your way to Hofgasse Street in the pedestrian zone and look for one of the most fascinating carved wooden building facades you’ll ever see. As you get close they might be baking bread and the aroma will guide you. Either way, you can’t miss it. They still bake two specialty pastries. There’s Panthertatzen, a Styrian pastry with pumpkin seeds and almonds that was a favorite of Archduke Johann, and a chocolate cookie called Sissi-Busserl — Sissi kisses for short —which is rumored to have been the favorite of Empress Elisabeth who was known as Sissi. Who knows for sure but we love these small folklores that remain in a culture. Adjoining the bakery is a small cafe that’s seems like it’s the same place but is actually a different store. It’s a little confusing. You buy your pastry at one counter and pay, go and sit at a small cafe table and a different person brings the pastry and coffee but you pay that person separately for the coffee. No matter, they were both excellent.
Aiola Upstairs Restaurant on the Schlossberg
Not only should a visit to the Schlossberg be on your list of things to do in Graz, but a stop off for drinks or dinner at Aiola Upstairs should be too. The historic 1,000-year old castle on the Schlossberg is one of the famous Graz attractions and interesting to see and walk around, but getting up there is half the fun. You can take the Schlossbergbahn funicular up the castle hill. It’s moderately steep with a 60% gradient but it has a glass roof that provides great views of the historic center of Graz. It runs up Schlossberg hill about every fifteen minutes and a one-way ticket costs 2,40€ for adults. For a faster way up take the Schlossberglift with a glass cabin — it only takes about a minute to reach the top and opens up at the Graz clock tower with an incredible view of the city. The Schlossberg lift costs 1,60 € for adults. Walk the short distance up the hill and look for the queue and the bright umbrellas on the terrace.
Aiola Upstairs restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The pub area is first come/first served seating and on nice days there will almost always be a line but with seating for 120 the wait generally isn’t too long. The views from the terrace are spectacular. If you’re planning on dinner, a reservation is an absolute must.
The Grand Hotel Wiesler Graz
As the saying goes ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, and we can’t let a foodie tour of Graz go without mentioning the delicious breakfast buffet at the Hotel Wiesler. The folks here take their food very seriously. Served in the funky Speisesaal dining room, the breakfast buffet is a lavish feast. Eggs, fresh juices, yogurts, cereals and granolas, typical meat and cheeses and a few not so typical. But our favorites were the fresh baked breads and sweet rolls with freshly made coffee drinks. Notice that every food item we just mentioned is plural? Breakfast became a very important meal indeed. But the dining room is also open to the public and guests for afternoon sweets and tea, nightly dinner, and after dinner refreshments. Though we didn’t catch dinner here, their hardwood charcoal grill is rumored to be a big reason the dining room fills up quickly. We can’t wait to go back and stay longer, if only for the heavenly frühstück.
The Frankowitsch is an institution in Graz and has been a local favorite since 1932. At first, we weren’t sure where to enter — it’s part deli, part bakery, a candy shop, coffee shop, cafe, wine shop, and a gift shop too. And your experience is determined by which door you enter. We wanted a sandwich but ended up in the pastry and coffee queue… there are worse things, right? But once we figured out the system, we spied the counter with a dozen or so varieties of open sandwiches, similar to bruschetta, some with savory toppings, others with meats, veggies, smoked salmon and lots of combos. It was the time of day when people were getting off work so the place was hopping. Luckily we found seats outside along the sidewalk and suddenly a waitress appeared. Along with a couple of small beers — called pfiffs — the sandwiches were a perfect afternoon treat. This was Austria’s version of late afternoon aperitivo!
The Bermuda Triangle of Graz
If you spend even a few days in Graz, you’ll no doubt hear locals tell you about the “Bermuda Triangle” of Graz. This pedestrianised area around Mehlplatz, Farbergasse and Glockenspielplatz in the historic town have such a concentration of bars and restaurants, the nickname seems to have stuck. And in this case, it’s a very good place to hang out to eat well, drink well, people watch, and take in the historic sites of Graz. If you wish to see the sweet maiden and hearty lad dressed in traditional costume pirouette three times a day in the clock tower above Glockenspielplatz, get there by 11:00am, 3:00pm, & 6:00pm. Plant yourself at the Glockenspiel Bar with a glass of local white wine, and wait for the charming dance to begin.
Noteworthy and Otherworldly Food and Drink
It’s hard to miss this otherworldly island of steel floating (not really, it’s well-anchored) in the Mur River that flows through the historic heart of Graz. Commissioned by the city in its role as the Capital of Culture in 2003, the Murinsel Graz was designed and constructed by American artist Vito Acconci. The ultra-modern structure may seem starkly out of place at first against the historic backdrop of the castle Schlossberg, that is until you begin interacting with day after day, and realize its significance. After years of pollution affected not only the water quality but the residents relationship to the river, the Murinsel has brought new life to the neglected resource, inviting visitors and locals to recognize it, interact with it, and even linger a while in the cafe and event space that holds unique events and productions year round.
All we can say is, wow! Located in the pedestrian zone near the Graz Museum, Xocolat is a chocolate lover’s paradise. The extensive selection of chocolates is amazing and the aroma of fine chocolate fills the air in the shop. We wanted to taste everything in the case from one end to the other. But like most fine confectioneries, a lot of tasting comes at a price. So we settled for a few treats and a couple of chocolate bars that were incredible. Chocolate makes us so happy. Try the Schlossbergkugel, a special chocolate ball with truffle filling that’s uniqely Graz. The box it comes in will remind you of the clocktower perched on top of the Schlossberg and makes a perfect souvenir of Graz if you don’t eat it before you get home. This is a must stop in Graz. We promise it’ll make you happy too.
Der Steier is definitely one for your Graz restaurants bucket list. Serving local Styrian food and some Slovenian and German dishes as well, it’s a lively place and noisy with plenty of seating and happy diners. We decided to check it one night without a reservation and were lucky to get a table since the place was packed, so be sure and reserve ahead of time. The maître d' was super friendly and accommodating, and we were seated within minutes. There’s a ton of great choices on the menu, including tapas small plates of Styrian specialties, traditional Backhendl fried chicken, and lots of meat and potato dishes unique to the Steiermark region. The extensive wine list was impressive — having just come from the wine-producing region in South Styria, we were happy to recognize a few on the menu — and our server gave us a great recommendation. Even with a full house we didn’t have a long wait for dinner, which were very good with generous portions. Der Steier is one of the most popular restaurants in Graz and definitely worth a visit.
Getting to Graz
Graz is located in southern Austria, closer to Slovenia than any major cities in Austria. It’s just over 2 hours from Graz to Ljubljana by car, and just a bit longer by train. Train travel through Europe is so efficient. The network of trains is extensive, and we love how relaxing train travel is, so getting in and out of Graz within Austria is simple. Taking the train from Graz to Vienna, or Graz to Salzburg is direct. Salzburg is 3 hours from Graz, and the Vienna to Graz train is a short 2 hours.
We drove a rental car from Slovenia to Austria and would highly recommend driving this beautiful region on your own. We spent a week exploring northern Slovenia on day trips from Ljubljana, our home base for the week. From there, we drove to the South Styria countryside for a few days, then the hour drive to Graz. Although we did accidentally drive into a Pedestrian Zone — oops — when we arrived in Graz during rush hour at 3:00pm, thankfully the police officer directing traffic was nice about it and stopped traffic while we made a hasty exit! A not-so-nice-officer could have ticketed us, so watch for signs. I was just too busy taking pictures to co-pilot for my husband who was driving! Lesson learned.
If you’re driving across international borders — like from Slovenia to Austria — just remember to pick up a vehicle decal known as a “Vignette” at a local convenience store for around $15 USD.
Pay attention to Pedestrian Zones (and put away the camera!)
Where to Stay in Graz
The Grand Hotel Wiesler
For our short visit, we were centrally based at the hip and fun Grand Hotel Wiesler, which made daily excursions around the city on foot pretty easy. Set on the River Mur, the Wiesler is close to all the main historic sites and so many great restaurants and local markets. The hotel has been completely renovated in recent years from a former 5-star hotel to a more hip and casual, yet fun, stay. Rooms are airy and spacious, and ours had a roomy and modern shower. We especially loved the fun amenities like the bikes for rent and Polaroid cameras you can borrow for the day to create your own #WieslerMoments. For its history, cool design aesthetic, and great location, the Wiesler is a great choice, with reasonable rates and a variety of room types from which to choose.
Grand Hotel Wiesler, Grieskai 4-8, 8020 Graz
We were guests of Visit Graz during our foodie tour of the city. As always, all opinions, photos, and experiences are ours based on our own firsthand experience.