Travel black book: Live like a duke

Who: Italian Simone Caprari, 32, sales director of Hairdreams Singapore, a haute couture hair salon in Cuppage Road

Favourite destination: Graz, Austria

Why: I lived in Graz for 11 years and now visit at least twice a year. Graz is where I met and married my love, Aida, a Bosnian. It is also where our son, Adrian, now four, was born, so it is full of many nice memories.

Culture and history are everywhere in Graz, with a beautiful Unesco protected city centre. Yet, it is a very liveable, quiet city without many tourists.

Because of its location, it is a sort of cultural bridge between Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Italy and the Germanic centre of Europe, and is just a few hours away from other interesting cities such as Budapest, Prague and Venice.

Favourite hotel

The Palais Hotel Erzherzog Johann (Sackstrasse 3; tel: +43-3-1681-1616; is right in the city centre, a few steps from the main square.

It has a nice old breakfast room and a garden inside, a setting which makes you feel like a duke in the time of the Austrian Empire.

If you're visiting the marvellous Weissensee (White Lake) in the neighbouring region of Carinthia, I recommend the Seehotel Enzian (Neusach 32, 9762 Neusach, Austria; tel: +43-4713-2221; The air and water cannot get purer and clearer than here, and with good food and the spa on the lakeside, your perfect relaxing holiday is set.

Favourite restaurant

The Schlossberg restaurant (Am Schlossberg 1, 8010 Graz, Austria; tel: +43-3168-0750; a very beautiful view from the top of the city's mountain, fine international cuisine and friendly service. A meal here costs about €50 (S$73) a person, including wine.

For more traditional food, go to Zur Schmied'n (St Peter hauptstrasse 225, 8042 Graz, Austria; tel: +43-3-1640-2832;

During hunting season from summer through autumn, try the tasty and juicy wild game on the menu; the eierschwammerl mit serviettenknodel (local mushrooms with bread knodel); kasespatzle (cheese spaetzle with roast onions); kaferbohnensalat with pumpkin seed oil, a bean salad or young field salad with potatoes and speck (smoked ham), and special pumpkin seed oil from the region surrounding Graz; and zwiebelrostbraten, traditional roast beef with onions and vegetables.

A meal here costs about €40 to €50 a person, including wine.

Favourite museum

You can find Europe's greatest collection of intact mediaeval weapons and the biggest historical armoury in the world at the Styrian Armoury (Herrengasse 16, 8010 Graz, Austria; tel: +43-316-8017-9810;

Another interesting museum is in the Eggenberg Palace (Eggenberg, 8020 Graz, Austria; tel: +43-316-8017-9770;, a unique, well-kept Baroque palace complex surrounded by a beautiful garden and park. The mountain behind it is also good for hiking and jogging.

Best place for breakfast

The day cafe of the Kastner & Ohler department store has a unique approach to breakfast, with Fashion Breakfast menus with names like Dolce e Gabbana, Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld - with either continental, Italian, classic butter and marmalade breakfast made with fresh produce, accompanied by finely roasted coffee.

Located on the fifth floor of what is the oldest store in Graz, the cafe has a marvellous view of the rooftops of the city centre and the Uhrturm (clock tower), the symbol of Graz.

It is the perfect place to people-watch and get a taste of Graz life.

Best view

Schlossberg, the hill right in the middle of the city, offers a very romantic view of all the mountains surrounding Graz.

Best hidden find

Lunch at La Pizzata (Reitschulgasse 20, Graz, Austria; tel: +43-676-3602746;, for a square slice of Ligurian-style pizza and other delicacies from the north-western Italian region at affordable prices.

You must try the focaccia al formaggio and its pizzata, which is different from a regular pizza.

It has two layers of dough with stracchino cheese in between and tomato sauce and taggiasche olives on top. There is no mozzarella. It is like a pizza with a surprise inside and it is as good, if not better, than those you find in Italy.

A meal here costs less than €15.

Necessary day trips

Travellers to Graz must try the Weinstrasse, or wine road, in the southern area of Styria, the state where Graz is located.

It is called the Styrian Tuscany and is a great place to spend a day in nature, trying different delicious wines and brettljause, a snack of homemade sausages, cheese and homemade bread.

In the spa towns of Loipersdorf or Radkersburg, you can relax and recharge in natural thermal water and get pampered by spa treatments.

In winter, the ice skating on the small Thalersee lake is worth the 20-minute drive there.

Event to bookmark

The Aufsteirern festival, held in September, is when the whole city dresses up in traditional Austrian clothes to enjoy wine and good company.

Il Ballo di Casanova is an Austrian ball, but, with its flavour of Venice, shows the influence Italy had over this southern Austrian city.

Held in February, guests dress in Baroque costumes as in the time of Casanova and can only enter if they are wearing a mask.

Ideal length of stay

Plan five days for Graz and the surrounding area.


This article was first published on April 19, 2015.
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