Austria’s second-largest city is its most relaxed. Graz is an appealing place dotted with leafy green parkland, a sea of red rooftops and a narrow but fast-flowing river Mur loudly gushing through its centre. A very beautiful bluff – connected to the centre by steps, a funicular and a glass lift – is the city's signature attribute.
Architecturally, Graz hints at nearby Italy with its Renaissance courtyards and baroque palaces. That said, there's a youthful energy here too, with a handful of edgily modern buildings, a vibrant arts scene and great nightlife (thanks in part to its large student population (some 50,000 in four universities). This extends to both sides of the Mur, although the Lend district, across from the historic centre, skews young and edgy.
The modern-art museum, the Kunsthaus, has a startling biomorphic blue shape that looms over rooftops like some alien spaceship. Along with this, the annual Styriarte summer music festival has become one of the most prestigious cultural draws in the country, and the city opera theater now attracts top companies like the Bolshoi. Graz is far from the cultural backwater it once was; in fact, it was designated the 2003 "European Capital of Culture" and was appointed as UNESCO city of design in 2011.