Why avant garde Graz is Vienna’s cooler little sister

A huge student community and a multicultural edge combine with a rich history of innovative art to make Austria’s second city an alluring city break choice

Graz, Austria’s second city, is like Vienna without the pomposity. There is the sweep of architectural styles – from gothic to Renaissance to baroque – you’d expect in a former imperial city with a Unesco-listed old town. But it is less traditional than the capital and the vibe is more relaxed, thanks partly to the fact that nearly one person in five is a student, and partly because it hosts the oldest avant garde festival in Europe.

Steirischer Herbst (until 16 October), which has run annually since 1968, will see 650 artists transform the city with 100 projects including screenings, readings, music, theatre and parties. Highlights of this year’s festival include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Kunsthaus, Kneaded Knowledge: The Language of Ceramics (to 19 February 2017).

The vibe is more relaxed than in Vienna, thanks partly to the fact that nearly one person in five is a student

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