TRAVEL

Green Graz

July 23, 2020

Overlooking Graz and the Central Alps

IMAGE: Tim Ertl

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Once just a small Roman fortress on a hill, Graz grew to become the regional capital of Styria and the seat of the Habsburg emperors, with power over Austria and the Holy Roman Empire.

 

Today, it’s Austria’s second-largest city, sitting astride the Mur river. Thanks to the strong fortifications it once had, which helped it remain the only place in the region to survive numerous attacks by the Turks, visitors can trace that journey and still see the wonderful architecture that spans the city’s history. Its historic centre (Altstadt or ‘Old Town’) is considered one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe, and in 1999, together with the city’s Schloss Eggenberg, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What visitors can no longer see, though, are the walls that protected that history, as the city tore down its defensive walls in 1784, confident the Turkish threat was at an end.

 

But aside from its rich history, what makes visitors flock to Graz? Well, the closeness of the Mediterranean means the climate is warm and sunny, and there’s a wealth of activities, green spaces and culture to enjoy; Graz was named European Capital of Culture in 2003. But there’s also Graz’s commitment to sustainability, which makes it a great location for an environmentally friendly holiday, event, meeting or incentive break.

 

Now all you need to do is get there…

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Graz and Green Travel

 

Graz Airport is around 9 km south of the city centre, with direct flights to Istanbul, Vienna, Munich Zurich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam and Palma de Mallorca. Regular buses from the station in front of the arrival zone take you to the city centre in 20 minutes, while a 5-minute walk from the airport takes you to the train station, where there’s a regular train service taking just 15 minutes to the city centre. If you’re arriving at Vienna Airport, Flixbus provides a direct bus service to Graz.

 

However, if you want a more eco-friendly journey to Graz, there are frequent trains between Graz main station to Munich and most Austrian cities, including Vienna and Salzburg, plus less frequent services to Zagreb and destinations in Slovenia and Hungary, and night trains as far as Zurich.

 

Once in Graz, you’ll find you can walk almost anywhere within 20 minutes and rental bicycles are available from various points around the city, including the train station. But there are also 6 tram lines, 24 bus services and 8 night bus services to get you anywhere you need to go.

Tickets are valid for all bus and tram lines in the ‘101 fare zone’ (which extends as far as Graz airport), and they’re also valid for trains and the Schlossbergbahn funicular. You can hop on the free-of-charge ‘Altstadtbim’ (Old Town Tram) too, which takes you, as you might have guessed, through the city’s Old Town!

 

However, in Graz, green travel is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Sustainability in Graz: A City of Short Distances

 

Graz has already been proactive in responding to environmental issues, embedding climate change protection into their urban planning—and its 300,000 residents (including 40,000 students at its six universities) are very much in support of this, with a 2019 survey showing that 94.1 percent of residents surveyed believed climate protection measures were 'very urgent' or 'rather urgent', and around 78 percent saying they were trying to live in as climate-friendly a way as they could.

 

The Mayor, Siegfried Nagl, is committed to sustainability and last year declared Wednesdays Veggie Day, when only meat-free food is served in urban canteens, schools and kindergartens etc. Styria already has the world’s highest density of environmental technology companies, and Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer emphasises that this is good for regional business and prosperity, as well as the planet: "Climate protection brings growth. For the first time last year, the Styrian environmental technology companies had a turnover of more than five billion Euros and more than 25,000 employees."

 

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

The City has already expanded its district heating, planted 1,500 new trees and installed photovoltaic technology on City-owned buildings. But late last year, the City and Governor Schützenhöfer announced investment of an initial 30 million Euros each in a fund for climate protection measures over the next 10 years. Dr Thomas Drage, project coordinator in the EU department of the city planning directorate, is the city's new climate protection officer and together with a specialist advisory board, will be overseeing these measures.

 

The City’s plans include:

 

  • the promotion of environmentally friendly mobility

 

  1. Public transport: 15 new, longer trams and 14 new buses. By 2021, the first tranche of the bus fleet will be operated exclusively with hydrogen, with the rest of the fleet soon to follow.

  2. Car sharing: the range of the successful car-sharing model TIM is being doubled. Around 40,000 trips are currently registered each year and it’s estimated that for each TIM vehicle, 24 cars aren’t purchased.

  3. Cycling: The state of Styria and the City of Graz are investing 100 million Euros between 2021 and 2030 in a ‘Greater Graz cycling offensive’ to make the city the ‘bicycle capital of Austria’, expanding the already excellent network of cycle paths. Three cycling networks with lighting, safety devices and overtaking areas will be established: long-distance, high-speed A-network routes between Graz and surrounding communities, medium-range B-network routes ad short distance C-network routes. There are also plans for city centre bicycle garages above and below ground, video-monitored bicycle parking spaces and a comprehensive charging infrastructure for e-bikes.

 

  • the avoidance of surface sealing

  • facade and roof greening

  • thermal insulation on buildings

  • greener electricity: increased use of photovoltaics is planned and a scheme to use the waste gases and digestion gases from the sewage treatment plant in Gössendorf to generate electricity. Two new gas storage facilities are being built for this.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Urban planning director Bertram Werle says that the crucial goal is the ‘City of short distances’, in which all daily needs are met are within walking distance. Graz is growing but there’s limited space, so the focus is on turning parts of the inner city, with its excellent infrastructure, into energy-efficient, resource-conserving, low-emission residential areas with a high quality of life. I Live Graz was a project defining Smart City goals for Graz in the areas of economy, society, ecology, mobility, energy, and facility management, aiming to provide appealing residential spaces alongside attractive public spaces and walking/cycling routes. This formed the basis for Smart City Project Graz Mitte, a new urban district created on a former industrial area near Graz's main railway station. The project will involve low emission energy technologies, spaces for small businesses pioneering building technologies, demonstration facilities, and strategies for sustainable urban mobility, with the aim of making the area self-sufficient in energy and zero-emission. Citizens are actively encouraged to participate in development.

 

ECR Energy City Graz Reininghaus, due for completion by 2025, is intended to become a trail-blazing urban region self-sufficient in energy. The plan is to link up surplus-energy buildings and feeding their surplus into a communal grid, while also making maximum use of renewable energy sources.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Not Just Fridays for Future, but Every Day for Future

 

"Our motto is not just 'Fridays for future', but 'Every Day for future" says Mayor Nagl, pointing out how enthusiastic the city’s residents are about sustainability. And he’s right—businesses, institutions, and individual residents are all joining in the effort.

 

Ökoprofit® Graz is a successful and longstanding programme that promotes active corporate environmental precautions and provides professional advice on sustainability, while Refill-Austria is a scheme started by the owners of Das Gramm (see below in shopping), allowing people to refill their reusable water bottles free of charge at participating locations, which all display the Refill-Austria sticker.

 

With the support of the City, there are now many urban gardens where the community comes together to grow and harvest produce. One such project is the Morning Gardens, set up in 2015, where the soil is professionally prepared and planted with organic plants.

 

So, green credentials? Tick. Now what is there to do in Graz?

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

See the sights

 

Grab your walking boots, bike, or a bus or tram to:

 

  • The Schlossberg, built over 1000 years ago, sits on the hill around which Graz developed—and you’ll find the impressive Clocktower here too, with its three bells and confusing hands! If you don’t fancy the hike, use the funicular or take the elevator up, but do walk back down to enjoy the views and woodland trails.

  • Eggenberg Palace (Schloss Eggenberg), surrounded by beautiful parkland and designed to represent a precisely calculated cosmos as per the wishes of Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg.

  • The historic old town. Walk through history, from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, or make use of the free Old Town Tram. As you wander, look out for ‘AEIOU’ inscribed on buildings, which Emperor Frederick III mysteriously ordered to be inscribed on all the buildings he had erected.

  • The famous Glockenspie. Visit at 11:00, 15:00 or 18:00, when its twirling figures appear and it plays five melodies.

  • The Cathedral, which started life as a parish church in 1438 and achieved its present form in the early 18th century.

  • The Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II. A stunning building with an impressive elliptical dome.

  • The Museums. There are several, including the dramatic Kunsthaus--a museum of contemporary art that’s a work of art in itself--and the Landeszeughaus Armoury, housing 32,000 exhibits of 15th-19th century weaponry and armour.

  • The Murinsel (Island in the Mur), an artificial island accessible from the river bank with a performance area, originally a temporary space built in 2003 for the Cultural Capital of Europe celebrations and a great place to enjoy a cocktail of coffee.

  • The Landhaus, the Renaissance Styrian parliamentary building, with a spectacular courtyard used for concerts and plays.

  • The Burgh with its famous double spiral staircase, once home to Emperor Frederick III when he was Duke of Styria.

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Experience the Culture and Green Cuisine

 

There’s plenty to do in Graz, whether that’s watching Football at the UPC-Arena, attending the AIMS Festival (American Institute of Music Studies), or seeing an opera at the Opera House Opernhaus. Graz is also a UNESCO City of Design, so take the time to appreciate not just its stunning architecture but projects like Mur Rocks, which have transformed blocks used to stabilise the river banks into durable, riverside furniture.

 

In spring, you can enjoy the Styrian Seed Festival or a herb hike; in the summer months, you can stroll along the Herrengasse, where you’ll find musicians of all sorts playing.

In autumn, enjoy the Truffle Festival and in winter, try your hand at outdoor ice-skating or head indoors for a workshop on making green cosmetics. Whatever the season, there’s always something to do in Graz—and always delicious food and drink to enjoy.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Wine lovers should head to a traditional ‘buschenschank’ wine tavern to try delicious Styrian wine, but if coffee is more your style, many places in Graz are happy to fill your reusable cup. Alternatively, or you could visit one of the numerous cafés participating in the BACKCUP scheme, which allows you to take a reusable cup for a 1 Euro deposit and return it to any scheme partner. There are plenty of sustainable eateries too, including:

 

  • Cofeba Café, offering vegan and vegetarian meals with an emphasis on regional and fair trade produce, organic quality and home-made preparation. You can also swap books here!

  • Mangolds Restaurant And Shop, selling organic and vegan food, cosmetics and wellbeing products.

  • Ginko Greenhouse, where all ingredients are sustainably produced, and organic, fair trade, seasonal and local wherever possible.

  • Bistro 'Pumpkin and Cake’ caters for both meat eaters and vegetarians. It’s been a climate alliance partner since 2016 and has been Ökoprofit® T-certified since 2013. Soups, stews and vegetable side dishes are also available to take away in refillable glass jars.

  • Parks café focuses on regionality, seasonality and sustainability, with a good choice of organic wines and beers, and both veggie and meat-based meals.

  • Velofood is a food delivery service that delivers food by bike in sustainable packaging and by bike.

  • TooGoodtoGo is an app now operating in Graz, allowing you to collect surplus food from restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Get Active and Get Outside

 

If water sports are your thing, you can kayak or surf on the river, swim in one of the city’s many outdoor swimming pools or visit Schwarzl Leisure Centre 5 miles south of Graz, where you can water ski, swim, dive, surf, sail, mountain bike, beach volleyball, fish, and ice skate in season. You can also boat or skate on the Hilmteich or Thalersee, or head indoors for skateboarding, inline skating or BMX at the Xciting Funhall Skatepark.

 

Climbers can try the climbing wall or outdoor climbing at the City Adventure Centre, or tree-top forest climbing at the Wiki Adventure Park, while hikers can challenge themselves on the Plabutsch, a steep hill on Graz’s western edge, or on a hike up to the ruins of Gösting castle. For something more gentle, walk around the grounds of the Schlossberg, Eggenberg or the Burg—all spectacular—or play a round of golf on one of Graz’s several courses.

 

The stunning Hilmteich Lake and the adjoining Leechwald Forest offer natural beauty and a host of outdoor activities, while the charming KunstGarten, a museum and cultural initiative in a garden space that’s home to projects, exhibitions, talks, performances, concerts and a gallery.

 

Many of the city’s extensive cycle and running paths follow scenic routes, some of which follow the river, and you can get a free workout at one of Graz’s two outdoor gyms at Schwimmschulkai or Augartenpark. Augartenpark, like the StadtPark, is family-friendly with a playground, but for a more sophisticated stroll, visit the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

 

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Shop (sustainably!) until you drop

 

Graz has a wealth of second-hand shops and swap-shops, where you can exchange anything from books to clothes. There are also many shops happy to fill your own reusable containers or bags with produce, and the morning fruit and vegetable markets at Kaiser-Josef-Platz, Lendplatz and Eggenberg am Hofbaurplatz —why not pick up a bottle of pumpkin seed oil (‘Kernöl’), a traditional Styrian product with a unique taste. Also look out for:

 

  • Packaging-free shops like Das Gramm and das Dekagramm, started by two girls from Graz. Das Gramm also has a café, while Das DekaGramm is the place for a big shop.

  • Beaux Chouchous, run by Graz native Lydia Kramberger, specialises in upcycling of second-hand goods and clothes.

  • Peaces.Bio, which sells sustainably and regionally produced, hand-printed organic fashion for the whole family.

  • Chic Ethic Fair Trade Shop, where you can find homewares and fashion produced to strict ethical criteria.

 

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Your greener stay in Graz

 

You’ll find three hotels in Graz that have been awarded the Austrian Eco label for Tourism: the cosy Gasthof Pension Zur Steirerstubn, which has also been awarded the AMA-Gastro-label and has views of the clocktower; Häuserl im Wald, with its wellbeing park, landscaped gardens and adventure playground; and Hotel Süd, with its Finnish sauna and forest walks on its doorstep.

 

If a large chain hotel is more to your liking, the Mercure Graz City in the city centre holds a GreenLeaders Bronze level award and offers 143 rooms, a 40-person meeting room, and a free fitness and wellness area.

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Sustainable MICE in Graz

 

With six universities, an international reputation for research and academia, and a host of high-tech businesses, Graz is an ideal environment for your conference or meeting—and its compact nature makes it ideal for hosting events. Even if you have 1000 delegates, Graz can provide accommodation, conference centres and restaurants all within walking distance in the city centre. When public transport is required, it’s efficient and extensive, and concessionary tickets are offered to conference hosts and delegates.

 

The Graz Convention Bureau pays an extra contribution to conference organisers who attain the Austrian ‘Green Meeting’ Eco label, which recognises environmentally conscious and socially responsible management of a meeting and can be awarded to events and meetings of all kinds. Conference organisers, event management companies and venues can all become licensees, so checking for the label is a great way to reassure yourself your meeting will be sustainable.

 

If you’re looking for sustainable catering, Österreichische Mensen is an independent company owned by the Ministry of Science, providing environmentally-friendly catering services and also operating several cafes and canteens in Graz. They include Mensa TU Rooftop und M- Café TU Graz, which turns into an event location after 5pm. The company uses sustainable, regional produce, to make freshly prepared meals. All their venues have received awards for their consistent sustainability.

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Eco label event venues include the Alte Universität Graz, an old university building in the heart of the historic city centre, which offers space for up to 600 guests and the latest technology. Another part of the old university building, Medienzentrum Steiermark (Media Centre Styria), can also be used for hosting events of up to 50 people and offers sophisticated multimedia equipment.

 

Messe Congress Graz has been an Ökoprofit® partner to ten years and owns a network of venues—Congress Graz, Messecongress Graz, Stadthalle Graz, Messe Graz and several sports arenas—which between them offer 44 multifunctional rooms for events of all kinds, together with seven exhibition halls and the most modern multifunctional hall in Austria. Whether you’re hosting 15 people or 75,000, there’s a suitable venue. The company strives to achieve greater sustainability and a 385kW photovoltaic roof has recently been installed at one of their venues, which will supply electricity to homes in Graz with an annual CO2 saving of around 170,000 kg/a., and staff members travel from site to site by bicycle. All promotional literature is made from environmentally friendly materials and heating and hot water at their ice stadium is now powered by district heating.

 

It’s impressive—but it’s not a castle. If you want a castle, choose the Bildungshaus Schloss St. Martin. Set in its own organic orchard, this unique venue offers well-equipped seminar rooms, a central location with views of the clocktower and 38 rooms for delegates (20 within the castle and 18 in an annexe).

 

IMAGE: Graz Tourismus

Austria’s Green City

 

Having a sustainable holiday or hosting a green event is easier when your destination shares those values, and that’s certainly true in Graz, where sustainability is increasingly an accepted standard rather than a desirable attribute. Add a kind climate, beautiful green spaces, a wealth of history and a host of year-round activities, and it’s easy to see why Graz is increasingly popular with visitors, all keen to make every day for the future—not just Fridays.

 

 

 

 

 

Immerse yourself in the province of Styria’s multi-facetted capital city and find out more about how to book your perfect sustainable stay by visiting:

 

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