On a busy pedestrian street in the old town, just a few steps from the city's main square, the Erzherzog Johann is our choice for the best hotel in Graz. It offers fair rates, a sense of history, and a friendly, family-owned atmosphere - with a touch of surrealism thrown in as well.

The convex façade of this five-story former Baroque palace has just enough decoration to make it stately and inviting. Guests enter through the old, vaulted carriageway, which has been converted into a small lobby with marble floors and a large wood-paneled reception desk. On the left is an opulent little bar designed by the surrealistic Viennese artist, Ernst Fuchs. During the day, with its lack of windows and Freudian decor, the bar looks rather gloomy. At night, however, it is much more alluring. Fortunately, the spacious breakfast room behind it is brightly lit and vividly colored with canary yellow walls framing a large cobalt blue abstract painting.

Though the public rooms are stylistically very different, they show good taste and nicely complement one another. A favorite room is the sunny, covered atrium behind the lobby, which is framed on three sides by heavy wrought iron railings lined with a forest of old palm shrubs and rubber plants. The overall effect is Mediterranean...in a Central Europe sort of way.

Almost every floor of the Erzherzog Johann has an interesting little sitting area to display the hotel's attractive collection of antique furniture and porcelain cabinets filled with ancient bric-a-brac.

The attractive accommodations tend to be large with high ceilings and polished parquet floors, although a few have wall-to-wall carpeting.

The traditional furnishings are of good quality and handsomely accented with striped or floral fabrics. The sparkling mid-to large-sized baths have beige and white tiles and halogen lighting. Some rooms have separate toilets. The only sour note in the guest quarters are the TVs perched atop brown laminated minibars.

For a few dollars less than the "superior" accommodations, business rooms are available with fax machine, video recorder, a larger desk, and a bit more room.

Contact: Hotel Erzherzog Johann Sackstrasse 3 -5, A-8010 Graz, tel. +43/0316/81 16 16, fax 81 15 15, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Daily Rates: Double rooms from about €125

Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 16/20