The historic Hotel Wiesler in Graz, Austria, does not believe in starred ratings. They are aiming for independence from arbitrary standards, and are setting their own. Are they succeeding? The endless line of celebrity and local patrons certainly seem to think so.
What do you get when old-world splendour is paired with contemporary design? You get a world-class hotel sprinkled with liberal doses of humour and elegance. With its beautiful old facade, chic furnishings, street art, restaurants and even a barber shop, The Hotel Wiesler in Graz stands proud and welcoming in the centre of Graz, Austria.
Graz is one of Austria’s best-preserved old cities. Home to several educational institutions, the city is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In the centre of Graz, the Hotel Wiesler has been witness to the changes that the city has seen over the last century.
The origins of the hotel can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it functioned as an inn. In 1909, the hotel was reconstructed in the Art Nouveau style and has since been a popular place to stay in Graz. More recently, after a series of renovations and refurbishments, the old walls have been given a new, contemporary lease of life.
You can’t beat The Wiesler for location. Overlooking the River Mur, next to the Kunsthaus (Museum of Fine Arts) and with views of the Schlossberg (The Castle Hill), the Wiesler has it good. In the city centre, trendy shops and eating places make it a hub for an eclectic and elegant cultural scene.
Florian Weitzer, the young owner and General Manager of the four-chain Weitzer hotels (of which The Wiesler is a part), is credited with the new energy of the hotels. Florian’s motto “From Five Stars to Independence” is a rebellion of sorts against the star-rating system. After all, what do you do when your hotel is better than 5-stars? Instead of adding more stars (as some hotels have begun to do), opting out sometimes makes providing first-class service easier to do.
“We want to be free to do what gives us, and you, the most pleasure. And to do that, we don’t need any stars,” says the hotel website.
The Wiesler foyer (with a huge ‘from 5 stars to independence’ sign behind the reception desk) branches out into the breakfast room and the Speisesaal restaurant. The art work in these beautiful rooms is so diametrically different that they are complimentary.
In the breakfast room, the walls are covered with ‘Spring’ – an original Art Noveau mosaic created in 1908-10 by Austrian designer and painter Leopold Forstner. In the restaurant, street artist Josef Wurm created a massive piece of dramatic art using wallpaper and spray paint, framed by distressed wood panels.
From the foyer, handwritten signs direct you to the upper floors – no mass produced signage here. With 97 impeccable rooms, The Wiesler has something for everybody. Divided into Small, Medium, Large and Extra, all rooms come with wide beds, flat-screen televisions, air-conditioning and beautiful furnishings.
The rooms also come equipped with quirky, individual touches – an old record player with LPs, a typewriter, a vintage guitar, a library, Chesterfield sofas or even a bathtub framed by dramatic teal curtains reminiscent of the golden days of Hollywood.
The two new restaurants have quickly become part of the dining scene in Graz. Speisesaal serves authentic Austrian food including its famous burgers cooked on a wooden coal grill while live music by a DJ “with soul” enhances the mood. The Senf und Söhne (“Mustard & Co.”) is a little traditional Austrian canteen that serves only meat dishes “cooked in every imaginable way”.
Next to the canteen is a Barber Shop where the in-house barber (from Istanbul) will trim a wild beard with a traditional Turkish hot shave and facial massage. Spicy Turkish coffee laced with cinnamon follows – the perfect end to a little pampering.
For those looking for a little more fuss, the hotel has a new spa called “Oase”. With a sauna, steam bath, fitness equipment and an Arabian tea room, steaming up in Austria seems easier than before.
Florian Weitzer proves at The Weisler that “tradition should not be confused with stagnation”. For the celebrities (including the Rolling Stones, Arnold Schwarzenegger, singer David Guetta and opera singer Cecilia Bartoli), tourists and locals who frequent The Wiesler, the unconventional and dynamic interiors of this historic building serve up more than just pretty eye-candy and exquisite cuisine. The old-new Wiesler continues to offer comfort, warmth and unexpected pleasures at every corner. Now that certainly deserves more than a handful of gold stars.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs The Wiesler