Walking through Graz, you encounter the same air of culture, architecture and coffee shops that make Vienna so popular. But just when you think you know whatâ€™s coming, Graz springs a leafy green surprise. Right in the middle of the city stands a stocky hill, the Schlossberg, popular for its views, its gardens and the castle it holds. Â
If your lungs are up for it, make for the trails along the hill. If they arenâ€™t, try the funicular. Another great option is to try the glass elevator that shoots through the rocky heart of the hill (if you are claustrophobic, this may not be a very good idea!). As you walk in for your tickets, you learn that this cave system was dug out during the Second World War and served as a shelter for the people of Graz. Today it shoots tourists up and down the hill and offers a great mini-train ride around the caves. Â
The Schlossberg offers the best views of Graz – red-tile rooftops and church spirals; neat little courtyards; dots of traffic passing by while the river Mur flows on silently. On the hill, the remains of a fortress, a mere shadow of its once majestic self, still stands proud. The surrounding gardens are scattered with university students and their books, young lovers and eager tourists.Â
At the edge of Schlossberg, stands the old Clock Tower. A local landmark, the tower has been a part of the landscape for over 300 years. A popular anecdote associated with the clock is from the 1800s. They say when Napoleonâ€™s troops threatened to destroy the Clock Tower, locals coughed up nearly 3000 guilders to ensure its safety.Â
You can easily spend the day up here. Have lunch at the little cafe, laze around the castle grounds, a cup of coffee later, head back down along the Kriegssteig, a stone staircase carved along the edge of the hill; the walk down is just a spectacular as the view from above.