One good thing about the current economic woes is that there are great savings to be made in the cost of hotel accommodation. On previous visits to Graz we've stayed close to the train station, partly for reasons of convenience, but primarily to because the hotels in that area are cheaper than those in the real heart of the city.
Seeing what bargains there were to be had when looking for a room on a Saturday night in November 2012, we found we were able to book a nicer room, in a grander hotel and in a better location sights-wise, for less money than we'd generally pay on the edge of the city centre. The hotel was Das Weitzer, a vast hotel just set back from the River Mur in the heart of the city. The location is excellent: you are two minutes walk from the famous Kunsthaus Graz (the space age building known by locals as the 'Friendly Alien'), and five from the Hauptplatz, the handsome main square. There are tram stops close by (but not so close that the noise is an issue - though on the whole Graz's trams are almost silent) and you can be at the main train station in five minutes. The hotel has its own secure underground car-park.
Judging by the hotel's website, Das Weitzer appears to be undergoing a transformation, being promoted as much for its bar and restaurant and possibilities for non-residents, as for the accommodation. The image evoked is that his is a fashionable destination for stylish and young people with money to spend yet further investigation reveals that the hotel offers four classes of accommodation and is definitely more affordable than the images on the website would try to portray.
First impressions suggest that this is quite a swanky establishment but I've stayed in other hotels that have had very smart reception halls but shabby rooms and corridors. To back up this theory, reviews on Tripadvisor (I tend to take them with a pinch of salt as it is usually the fussiest guest that posts there, I find) stated that beyond the lobby the corridors were indeed tired and in need of refreshing. In fact I found no evidence of that and found all the areas of the hotel I stayed in or passed through to be well maintained and clean.
I can't say I care for the reception arrangement of a couple of overgrown lecterns rather than a conventional desk; perhaps someone at head office level thinks it makes staff seem less remote, more approachable. We declined to give a card for swiping; we'd booked on line and they already had our details should we try to use something with paying for it later. The receptionist didn't look happy about that but decided not to press for it. With hindsight I'm surprised she didn't insist because Das Weitzer clearly manages to keep prices reasonable by charging for everything other than the bed.
The hotel information folder listed a variety of extras such as bath robes, umbrellas and bicycles, which could be bought or hired for a mere Euro5 a day; you can even hire the hotel's chocolate brown 1960s Mercedes. I'm not convinced that the new direction is working because I didn't think that any of the guests I saw in the hotel looked the sort to hire a Mercedes to cruise round the city, or to get excited about their brand of shower gel (Daniel) enough to buy a bottle to take home for Euro12.
You might think, then, that for the lowest prices you're not going to get much for your money but we found our grade of room, 'Casual', to be perfectly adequate and very comfortable if horribly bland and cold looking. Colour seems to be missing these days from hotel rooms in central Europe: we stayed in three major cities on this trip and had colourless rooms in every one of them. Even in the UK's Premier Inns you get a purple runner at the bottom of the bed!
Our room was spacious and being L-shaped the sleeping area was away from the door to reduce the impact of noise from the corridor. Furniture and fittings were all in good condition and the bathroom was gleaming. In fact there was little about the room to criticise if you ignored the fact that it was so clinically cold looking. We'd read complaints on Trip Advisor about guests staying in Casual rooms having to traipse to the other end of the building along dank corridors to get a room with a grim view but this was not our experience at all. We were on the second floor, not far from the lift but not so close we heard it all night, and we had a fair view of the orange roofs of the street that runs alongside the hotel and which was largely free of traffic at weekends.
One thing that I really must compliment DasWeitzer on is the standard of service among the room attendants. I had forgotten to request a non-feather pillow and went to ask a maid in the corridor. I spoke to her in German and she understood my request but answered in perfect English, and within a minute she'd brought a pair of synthetic pillows to our room, asking, before she left us, whether there was anything else she could do. All the staff we encountered in the corridors were friendly and said hello as we passed.
You can, of course, get some of those missing features like colour and character by spending more money though we didn't expect to spend anything other than sleeping time in our room so we were happy enough to pay a few pence shy of £59 for our room. The Classic comes in at approximately £72 for a Saturday night booking in January 2013, while the highest grade is the Rubin priced at £96 for a double on the same night. What do you get for by paying extra? Instead of a mini-bar tucked under the desk, as was the arrangement in our room, you'll find it housed rather quirkily in a leather suitcase standing on its end. You'll also get features like parquet flooring or a 'proper' bedstead rather than a basic divan. If you feel like you need an ornate rococo style frame around the mirror, you'll have to pay more than the misers in Casual. We felt that we could live without these. Wi-fi is available free of charge in all grades of room and in the public areas.
We didn't take up the breakfast which was priced at Euro14 per person but as we passed by the breakfast room, which looks out onto the street, as we took ourselves off to a cafe near the Hauptplatz (where we dined on rolls, cheese and ham with coffee for a shade under Euro4 each) we could see that the breakfast buffet did look very good and if you think that Euro14 is a acceptable price to pay for a breakfast, I'm sure you won't be disappointed by what's on offer.
Nor did we take a drink in the hotel bar, but only because the every so chic seating just didn't look very comfortable. There is a lovely looking open fireplace that would have been great to sit by, but the choice of fashionable over functional seating had us turning to the comfort of our bed when we came in from the cold late at night.
The Weitzer has a small fitness room and sauna/steam room but it is in the field of food and drink that guests are well provided. There is Kaffee Weitzer, a coffee shop in the Viennese style, though it does serve a number of Styrian classics: the place is very popular with hotel guests and non residents, understandably so as the apple strudel is fantastic. 'Der Steirer' is not really part of the hotel but it adjoins it and as a result it has become the de facto restaurant of Das Weitzer; it is also very popular and it serves traditional Styrian cuisine and with a special price of Euro7.90 for soup and a main course, it's not as expensive as it looks.
The good thing about Das Weitzer is that having the different grades of room you can have the opportunity to stay in a good part of the city without paying through the nose. I think it's a great idea to offer these different classes because there are a lot of large hotels in central Graz (this one has 200 rooms) of a similar standard so none of them are likely to be continually full; there are fewer less expensive options in this part of Graz, however, so giving over part of the hotel to cheaper rooms draws in new customers. The only detail of this I don't care for is the labelling of rooms with the door number so that you can see what grade any room is from the outside. I'm not ashamed of staying in the cheapest room, but why does anyone else need to know how much you paid?
I would imagine that this location is going to appeal more to tourists than to business travellers as the larger international companies are based further out; we certainly felt the location was good for both sightseeing, and for proximity to bars and restaurants.
Would we stay again? Yes, if we were the sort of people to happily go back to a hotel; we couldn't complain about any aspect of stay and we felt the price was a good reflection of what we got. There are lots of hotels in the area, however, and, being a nosy traveller, I'll be looking out for good deals at any of the hotels in this part of town. I would recommend it to other visitors, however, but would advise you to look around for good deals (we booked through Expedia earning cash-back from Topcashback and 200 Nectar points). The room doesn't have a sky high rack rate, though, so booking directly through the hotel may be worthwhile if you want to take advantage of one of the seasonal packages which may not be available through a third party booking site.
Note: Hotel Wiesler is just a few steps along the same street. They are part of the same group but it is worth being aware of the similar names when booking.