Welcome to Graz, Austria’s second-largest city and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site! Nestled in the heart of Styria, Graz is a captivating blend of history, culture, and modernity. With its charming old town, vibrant arts scene, and stunning architectural treasures, Graz offers a unique and memorable travel experience.
Graz’s history dates back to Roman times, but it flourished during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, leaving behind a rich legacy of architectural wonders. The city’s Old Town, known as the Altstadt, is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets lined with well-preserved buildings that span centuries of architectural styles.
The crown jewel of Graz is undoubtedly the Schlossberg, a hill rising above the city center with a majestic clock tower and a medieval fortress. You can hike up to the top or take the Schlossbergbahn, a funicular railway, to enjoy panoramic views of the cityscape. The Schlossberg also houses the beautiful Grazer Dom (Graz Cathedral) and the Glockenspiel, a musical clock that entertains visitors with its melodies.
Graz’s vibrant cultural scene is renowned for its dedication to the arts. The city was designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2003, and it continues to foster creativity and innovation. You can explore a wealth of museums, galleries, and theaters that showcase contemporary and classical works. The Kunsthaus Graz, a futuristic art museum, is a must-visit for its striking architecture and cutting-edge exhibitions.
Food lovers will find Graz to be a gastronomic delight. Styrian cuisine is famous for its pumpkin seed oil, Styrian apples, and excellent wines. Be sure to indulge in local specialties like “Brettljause” (a hearty platter of cold cuts and cheese) or “Käferbohnen” (a type of bean) soup. Graz is also home to a lively market scene, where you can sample regional produce and culinary treats.
For those seeking outdoor adventures, Graz offers ample opportunities to explore nature. The nearby Schöckl Mountain is perfect for hiking and biking, while the picturesque Mur River invites leisurely strolls along its banks. Additionally, the city hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including the legendary Styriarte music festival and the Schlossbergspiele, an open-air theater performance.
Graz is a university city, which contributes to its vibrant and youthful atmosphere. The city’s student population infuses it with energy, ensuring a lively nightlife scene with a diverse range of bars, clubs, and music venues.
Whether you’re captivated by history, intrigued by contemporary art, or simply want to savor the charm of a traditional Austrian city, Graz is a destination that will enchant you at every turn. Its combination of old-world allure and modern flair makes it a remarkable city to explore and an unforgettable travel experience.
Graz City Guide: A Brief History Of Graz, Austria
Graz has a rich and fascinating history that spans over eight centuries. As a traveler, exploring the city’s historical background will deepen your understanding and appreciation of its cultural heritage. Here’s a brief overview of the history of Graz:
- Medieval Origins: Graz was founded in the 12th century by the ruling House of Babenberg. It quickly became an important strategic and economic center due to its location along trade routes. Graz gained city status in 1245 and began to flourish under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty.
- Renaissance and Baroque Splendor: During the 15th and 16th centuries, Graz experienced a period of cultural and architectural growth. The city became a center of humanism and attracted renowned artists and scholars. Under Archduke Ferdinand II, Graz underwent extensive construction projects, resulting in magnificent palaces, churches, and public buildings that showcase the Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles.
- Turkish Sieges: Graz faced several sieges during the Ottoman Wars in the 16th and 17th centuries. The city successfully defended itself against Turkish invasions, but the conflicts left a lasting impact. The Clock Tower on the Schlossberg, originally built as a defensive watchtower, stands as a reminder of Graz’s fortifications.
- Capital of Styria: In the 19th century, Graz became the capital of the Duchy of Styria and experienced significant industrialization. The city grew rapidly, and its population expanded. Many impressive buildings from this era still grace the streets of Graz, showcasing the architectural styles of the time.
- World Wars and Modernization: Like many European cities, Graz endured the challenges of both World Wars. In World War II, the city suffered from bombings that damaged parts of the historic center. However, extensive restoration efforts were undertaken in the post-war period to preserve and rebuild the architectural treasures of Graz.
- UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site: In 1999, Graz’s historic center, with its remarkable ensemble of buildings, was recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. This prestigious designation highlights the city’s outstanding universal value and its contribution to human history and culture.
Today, Graz embraces its rich history while embracing modernity. The city’s architecture seamlessly blends centuries-old structures with contemporary designs, creating a captivating urban landscape. Exploring Graz’s historic sites, including the Schlossberg, the Graz Cathedral, and the many palaces, will transport you back in time and allow you to appreciate the city’s journey through the ages.
As you wander through the charming streets of Graz, you’ll encounter the echoes of its past, which have shaped it into the vibrant and culturally diverse city it is today.
Graz Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Austria
Graz, with a population of approximately 300,000, is Austria’s second city. Long a centre of learning, it is also rich in war history.
Over the centuries, the Ottomans and the French fought over this region. By exploring its palaces, armouries, and museums, you’ll learn much about this city’s past.
Come check out our Graz travel guide for 1st timers as we cover the best things to do in Graz, Austria.
After getting settled in Graz, make the Eggenberg Palace the first stop on your sightseeing tour. A valued property among Austrian royals, it got further recognition from the UN in 2010. That year, UNESCO named them and the Graz Old Town as World Heritage Sites.
When you pull up to its curb, you’ll quickly understand why. Elegantly built in the Baroque style and surrounded by faithfully manicured gardens, it’s a sight to behold. While much of this building harkens back to the 17th century, parts date back to the Middle Ages.
The founder of this place had the money to build himself and his heirs a glamorous palace. Balthasar Eggenberger didn’t just influence the Holy Roman Emperor – he financed his operations. Through the centuries, the palace remained in family hands – until the Second World War.
In 1939, the state of Styria purchased the palace. After the war, the government carried out extensive renovations, converting the property into a museum. In addition to the palace itself being an attraction, it boasts two other institutions. It contains an archaeology museum, as well as an extensive collection of art.
As you move through its many rooms, its frescoes, chandeliers, and other fine accoutrements will keep you interested. However, the sheer scale of the place means you may struggle to get the most out of your visit. For this reason, we recommend taking a guided tour.
The following day, make the Landeszeughaus the focus of your sightseeing efforts. Also known as the Styrian Armoury, it is the world’s largest attraction of its kind. In its many displays, you’ll find no less than 32,000 pieces of armour and weaponry.
For almost 400 years, the Austrian state of Styria found itself on a perpetual front. Over those centuries, the Ottoman Empire repeatedly attempted to make headway into Central Europe. To defend itself against the constant threat of conquest, Styria built what became the largest armoury on Earth.
As you explore this complex, you’ll get to see suits of armour, chain mail, swords, and even primitive pistols. In summer, the museum is open six days per week, except on Mondays. Outside peak season, you’ll need to book a guided tour ahead of time.
Those wanting to check out some amazing visual art will want to spend time at the Kunsthaus Graz. Unlike other buildings in downtown Graz, this institution looks decidedly different. A post-modernist structure that lights up after dark, it is a polarizing attraction among locals.
Inside, you’ll get to check out artwork from leading contemporary artists. Pieces here date from the 1960s straight through the present day. There are no permanent galleries – all are on loan from other institutions. In particular, this place is a hot spot for new media and internet-based art.
Those looking for a place of worship to visit while in Graz will want to visit the Mariatrost Basilica. This Roman Catholic church is popular with those on pilgrimages, as it is a Marian shrine. Highlights include a statue of the Madonna, and rich frescoes which decorate the church’s ceiling.
Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Graz, Austria
When you have some free time, use it to lazily stroll through the Graz Old Town. It boasts beautiful architecture that draws heavily upon the styles of the Renaissance Era. Because of this, the United Nations inducted it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
As you wander through its streets, you’ll eventually come upon the Hauptplatz. This main square is where you’ll find many cafes and restaurants, making it perfect for people-watching. In season, it is also home to an amazing Christmas market.
During your walk through the Old Town, keep an eye out for Uhrturm – Graz’s town clock. While its base dates back more than 700 years, it didn’t become a clock until the 16th century. Despite nearly succumbing to bombardment by Napoleon’s troops, it still stands today. After getting selfies with it, stay for a drink at the on-site beer garden.
There is no better place for photos, exploration, and relaxation in Graz than Schlossberg. A sizable hill that spouts up near the Old Town, this place is now a beloved city park. At one time, though, it played host to a castle. Thanks to its superior positioning, it never fell during its history.
Today, people come here to marvel at the past, take the best photos of Graz from above, and to chill out. Don’t miss it during your time here.
source: Rok Goes Around on YouTube
Top 55 Things To Do in Graz, Austria For Visitors
Here are 55 of the top things to do in Graz:
- Explore the historic Old Town (Altstadt), a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, admire the well-preserved buildings, and stop by charming cafes and boutiques.
- Visit the Schlossberg and enjoy panoramic views of the city from its hilltop. Hike up or take the Schlossbergbahn funicular railway. Explore the Clock Tower (Uhrturm), a symbol of Graz, and learn about its historical significance.
- Discover the Graz Cathedral (Grazer Dom), a stunning Gothic masterpiece. Marvel at its intricate architecture, step inside to admire the interior, and perhaps attend a religious service or organ concert.
- Wander through the Eggenberg Palace, a Baroque gem surrounded by picturesque gardens. Take a guided tour to explore its opulent rooms, art collections, and the impressive Planetary Room with its astrological frescoes.
- Visit the Kunsthaus Graz, a futuristic art museum known as the “Friendly Alien.” Explore its exhibitions of contemporary art, photography, and new media. Don’t forget to snap a photo of the unique architecture.
- Explore the Styrian Armoury (Landeszeughaus), the world’s largest historic armory. Admire its vast collection of weaponry, armor, and military artifacts from different eras, providing insight into Graz’s military history.
- Take a walk along the Murinsel, an artificial floating island in the Mur River. Enjoy the modern architecture, relax on its terraces, and take in the scenic views of the river and the surrounding cityscape.
- Visit the Graz Opera House (Oper Graz) and immerse yourself in the world of opera, ballet, and classical music. Attend a performance in the grand auditorium, known for its excellent acoustics and stunning productions.
- Explore the University of Graz, one of Austria’s oldest universities. Admire the historical buildings, such as the Main Building and the University Church, and take a stroll through the lively campus grounds.
- Discover the Botanical Garden of Graz, a peaceful oasis with a diverse collection of plants from around the world. Take a leisurely walk through the themed gardens, greenhouses, and ponds, and enjoy the tranquility.
- Visit the Graz City Museum (Stadtmuseum Graz) to delve into the city’s history and culture. Explore its interactive exhibitions, artifacts, and multimedia displays, providing insights into Graz’s past, including its Roman origins.
- Explore the Zeughaus, a former arsenal that now hosts various exhibitions. Learn about Graz’s military heritage, view historical weapons, and discover the intriguing stories behind the city’s defenses.
- Take a stroll through the Stadtpark and enjoy its green spaces, statues, and flowerbeds. Sit by the fountain, watch the locals, or have a picnic on the grassy lawns.
- Visit the Cathedral Mausoleum, a burial site for Archduke Ferdinand II and his family. Admire the exquisite tomb sculptures and the elegant interior design of this royal resting place.
- Explore the Graz Synagogue, a beautiful building that reflects the city’s Jewish heritage. Learn about the history of the Jewish community in Graz and its contributions to the city’s cultural fabric.
- Discover the Graz Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof), a peaceful and well-maintained resting place. Take a contemplative walk among the gravestones and pay homage to notable individuals buried here.
- Visit the Graz Museum of Natural History (Naturkundemuseum Graz). Explore its exhibitions on geology, paleontology, botany, and zoology, featuring specimens from the region and around the world.
- Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Herrengasse, Graz’s main shopping street. Browse the boutiques, fashion stores, and specialty shops, and perhaps find a unique souvenir or stylish item to take home.
- Visit the Mur Island Open-Air Pool and enjoy a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool complex. With its waterslides, sunbathing areas, and spacious green lawns, it’s a great place to relax and cool off during the summer months.
- Explore the Graz City Park (Stadtpark), a delightful green space with beautiful flowerbeds, walking paths, and sculptures. Take a break from the urban hustle and bustle and enjoy a peaceful moment in nature.
- Visit the Graz Museum (Museum im Palais) housed in the former residence of Archduke Johann. Discover the city’s cultural and historical heritage through its diverse collections, including art, furniture, and artifacts.
- Discover the Joanneumsviertel cultural district, home to several museums and cultural institutions. Explore the Neue Galerie, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Natural History Museum, all within a short walking distance.
- Take a bike ride along the Mur River. Rent a bicycle and follow the well-marked cycling paths that wind along the riverbanks, offering beautiful views and a chance to explore the surrounding areas.
- Explore the Graz Alpine Garden (Alpengarten), a botanical garden showcasing alpine plants from the Styrian region and beyond. Take a guided tour or wander through the various themed sections, enjoying the alpine flora and mountain views.
- Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (Neue Galerie) located in a former iron foundry. Explore its modern and contemporary art exhibitions, featuring works by local and international artists.
- Take a guided tour of the Graz Town Hall (Rathaus) to admire its impressive architecture and learn about the city’s governance. Visit the council chamber and see the grand ceremonial hall.
- Discover the Austrian Sculpture Park (Skulpturenpark), an open-air museum showcasing contemporary sculptures by Austrian and international artists. Take a leisurely walk among the artworks set against the beautiful backdrop of Styrian nature.
- Enjoy a performance at the Helmut List Hall, a renowned concert hall known for its exceptional acoustics. Attend a classical music concert, a chamber music performance, or a recital by world-class musicians.
- Visit the Church of Our Lady (Mariatrost Basilica), a stunning pilgrimage church located on the outskirts of Graz. Marvel at its Baroque architecture, magnificent interior, and panoramic views of the city from its terrace.
- Explore the Church of St. Andrä (Andräkirche), a magnificent Gothic church in the heart of Graz. Admire its ornate facade, intricate stained glass windows, and beautiful interior decorations.
- Discover the Graz Mosque, a striking modern architectural landmark. Visit during prayer times to experience the peaceful atmosphere and learn about Islam in Graz.
- Visit the Graz Opera Museum to delve into the history of opera in the city. Learn about the performances, famous composers, and the cultural significance of this art form in Graz.
- Explore the Stadthalle Graz, a multi-purpose event venue hosting concerts, exhibitions, sports events, and more. Check the schedule for upcoming events and entertainment options during your visit.
- Discover the Graz Synagoge Cultural Center, a vibrant hub for Jewish culture and education. Attend a lecture, workshop, or cultural event to gain insight into Jewish traditions and contemporary Jewish life in Graz.
- Visit the Schloss St. Martin castle and vineyard located in the picturesque countryside surrounding Graz. Take a guided tour, sample local wines, and enjoy the serene ambiance of this historic estate.
- Explore the Styrian Vineyards and indulge in wine tastings at local wineries. Take a guided tour or join a wine-themed excursion to learn about Styria’s winemaking traditions and taste their exceptional wines.
- Take a day trip to the Riegersburg Castle and its museum. Explore the medieval fortress, learn about its fascinating history, and enjoy panoramic views from the castle walls. Visit the museum to delve into the castle’s past and discover the world of knights and nobles.
- Visit the Graz Adventure Pool (Auster Wellnessbad) for a day of fun and relaxation. Enjoy the indoor and outdoor pools, water slides, saunas, and wellness facilities, perfect for rejuvenation and family enjoyment.
- Discover the Lurgrotte, a large limestone cave system located near Graz. Join a guided tour to explore its fascinating stalactite formations, underground rivers, and intriguing rock formations.
- Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town to immerse yourself in Graz’s history and architecture. Learn about the city’s UNESCO World Heritage status, hear intriguing stories, and discover hidden gems with the help of a knowledgeable guide.
- Visit the Graz Planetarium and embark on a journey through the cosmos. Enjoy immersive planetarium shows, educational exhibits, and stargazing sessions, offering insights into the wonders of the universe.
- Explore the Graz Outdoor Swimming Pool (Freibad Graz), a popular spot to cool off during the summer months. Swim in the large pool, sunbathe on the grassy areas, or enjoy refreshments at the poolside cafe.
- Enjoy a performance at the Graz Schauspielhaus, a renowned theater showcasing a wide range of productions, from classical plays to contemporary dramas. Experience the vibrant performing arts scene of Graz.
- Visit the Murpark shopping center for a day of retail therapy. Explore its diverse range of shops, boutiques, and department stores, and take a break to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or cafés.
- Explore the Mur-Auen Nature Park, a protected area along the Mur River. Take a leisurely hike or bike ride through the park’s scenic trails, observe the local flora and fauna, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of nature.
- Attend a concert or cultural event at the Dom im Berg, a unique venue set within a mountain. Experience the extraordinary acoustics and the magical atmosphere created by the natural surroundings.
- Visit the Graz Children’s Museum (Kindermuseum FRida & freD), a museum designed for children to play, learn, and explore. Engage in interactive exhibits, workshops, and hands-on activities that stimulate creativity and imagination.
- Discover the Graz Christmas Market (Grazer Christkindlmarkt) during the holiday season. Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere, browse the stalls selling handicrafts and delicious treats, and enjoy the enchanting decorations and performances.
- Explore the Graz City Library (Stadtbibliothek Graz), a modern library housed in an impressive contemporary building. Browse its vast collection, relax with a book in the reading areas, or attend literary events and workshops.
- Take a guided tour of the Graz City Hall (Rathaus) to learn about its architecture, history, and municipal functions. Visit the council chambers, the mayor’s office, and the grand ceremonial hall, gaining insights into the city’s administration.
- Visit the Graz City Park Planetarium (Stadtpark Planetarium) and enjoy celestial shows and educational programs. Learn about astronomy, space exploration, and the wonders of the universe through immersive multimedia experiences.
- Explore the Graz Synagogue Museum, housed in the renovated synagogue building. Discover the history of the Jewish community in Graz, learn about Jewish traditions and rituals, and gain insights into their cultural contributions to the city.
- Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Graz Spring Festival (Grazer Frühling), an annual celebration of music, theater, dance, and visual arts. Attend performances, exhibitions, and cultural events held throughout the city.
- Visit the Graz City Beach (Grazer Stadtstrand) during the summer months for some relaxation and recreational activities. Enjoy the sandy beach, sunbathe, swim in the designated swimming areas, or participate in water sports and games.
- Attend a sports event in Graz, such as a soccer match at the UPC-Arena or a handball game at the Stadthalle Graz. Experience the excitement of live sports and cheer for the local teams.
With this comprehensive list of things to do in Graz, you’ll have plenty of options to create a memorable and diverse itinerary during your visit. Enjoy exploring the city’s historical sites, cultural attractions, natural landscapes, and immersive experiences.
Graz Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
As you wrap up your Graz travel guide journey, it’s important to highlight the city’s remarkable features and offer a more detailed overview. Graz is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends centuries-old history with a vibrant modern atmosphere, making it an enchanting place to explore.
Graz’s designation as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site is a testament to its historical significance and architectural treasures. The city’s Old Town, with its labyrinthine cobblestone streets, transports visitors back in time. The well-preserved buildings showcase a range of architectural styles, including Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic, creating a captivating tapestry of design.
One of Graz’s iconic landmarks is the Schlossberg, a hill towering over the city center. Ascending the Schlossberg rewards visitors with breathtaking panoramic views of Graz’s skyline. The Clock Tower, perched atop the hill, not only offers a glimpse into the city’s past but also presents an opportunity to immerse yourself in its rich history.
Graz’s cultural scene is vibrant and diverse. The city’s commitment to the arts is exemplified by the Kunsthaus Graz, a futuristic art museum that hosts groundbreaking exhibitions and installations. Additionally, Graz boasts a range of museums and galleries, such as the Styrian Armoury, which houses an extensive collection of historical weaponry, and the Graz City Museum, where visitors can delve into the city’s past through interactive exhibits.
Food enthusiasts will find Graz to be a culinary paradise. Styrian cuisine delights with its signature ingredients, including pumpkin seed oil, Styrian apples, and delicious wines. Exploring the city’s markets and dining establishments allows you to sample local delicacies, such as the hearty “Brettljause” platter or the flavorsome “Käferbohnen” soup.
Nature lovers will appreciate Graz’s proximity to stunning natural landscapes. The Mur River, flowing through the city, invites leisurely walks, cycling, and picnics along its banks. The surrounding Styrian countryside offers opportunities for outdoor adventures, with hiking and biking trails, as well as vineyards to explore.
Graz’s vibrant and youthful atmosphere is attributed to its thriving student population. The city’s universities contribute to a lively nightlife scene, with an abundance of bars, clubs, and music venues where visitors can enjoy live music, performances, and socializing.
In conclusion, Graz is a captivating city that seamlessly blends its rich history, architectural marvels, cultural events, and natural beauty. It offers a diverse range of experiences, from exploring the historic Old Town and immersing yourself in the arts scene to savoring the flavors of Styrian cuisine and embracing the youthful energy that permeates the city. Graz guarantees a travel experience that will leave a lasting impression and create cherished memories.