As Austria's culinary capital, the city of Graz will make your mouth water! It's also packed with culture and has a cool nightlife scene. You can take your pick from jazz bars, rooftop bars and clubs. Lots of students live here, so it's no wonder the atmosphere is so laid-back (though you'll find plenty of chic coffee dens to perk you up with a caffeine fix). Stroll round the UNESCO-listed old town for a flavour of historic Graz.
A Graz hostel has everything from laid-back communal areas for meeting other travellers to views over the city. At one hostel, select a cappuccino or a cocktail from the on-site bar and take it up to the roof terrace. To get conversations (and competition) started, there's also a lively games area with a pool table and foosball. Other Graz hostels have private bathrooms and air con. Most stays throw in free Wi-Fi, and are usually near the city centre so you can easily pop out to the city's bars and cafés.
The west bank of the River Mur is an exciting area, full of artists and businesses taking over empty stores and creating a real buzz. There's a similar startup vibe in Griesplatz, a neighbourhood that holds energetic street festivals and pop-up markets. Graz old town is a mix of styles, from the medieval to the 18th century – a leisurely wander round lets you soak it all up.
Graz is a famed centre of the Avant-garde, with a massive annual festival, the Steirischer Herbst. If you're here during this time, you'll experience the bustle of hundreds of performers, from electro acts to dancers. Known by residents as 'the friendly alien', the Kunsthaus is an arts exhibition space and café housed in a curved structure made up of more than a thousand glass pieces. Film fans can explore the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum that's filled with props and mementos – the star is a Graz native.
There are direct flights to Graz Airport from nearby Austrian and German cities, as well as international destinations. The airport is about 10km outside the city. Trains and buses will take you from the airport to Graz Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. The quickest bus journey is around 20 minutes. If you're heading to Graz by train from Vienna, it's a 2.5 hour ride. There are a couple of places to hire bikes, plus trams and buses to get around town.