Discovering the Best Things to Do in Graz, Austria: A Comprehensive Guide
Graz is the second-largest city in Austria, but it often gets overlooked by tourists who flock to Vienna or Salzburg. However, Graz has a lot to offer for those who are looking for a mix of history, nature, and food. In this blog post, I will share some of the best things to do in Graz, based on my personal experience and research.
Schlossberg Castle and Clock Tower
One of the most iconic landmarks of Graz is the Schlossberg Castle, which sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The castle dates back to the 10th century and was once a formidable fortress that resisted several sieges. Today, you can visit the castle grounds and enjoy the panoramic views of Graz from various viewpoints. You can also see the famous Clock Tower, which has been a symbol of Graz since the 13th century. The tower has four clocks with different sizes and shapes, and it chimes every hour with a distinctive melody.
To reach the castle, you can either climb up the stairs (there are 260 of them), take the elevator inside the Schlossberg Tunnel, or ride the funicular railway. The entrance fee for the castle is 1.5 euros, and you can also buy a combined ticket for 6 euros that includes the elevator, funicular, and admission to some museums on the hill.
Another striking sight in Graz is the Kunsthaus Graz, or the Graz Art Museum. This futuristic building looks like a giant blue blob that contrasts with the historic architecture of the city. The museum was built in 2003 as part of the European Capital of Culture project and showcases contemporary art from local and international artists. The museum also has a glass facade that can display different patterns and messages at night.
The Kunsthaus Graz is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is 9.5 euros for adults and 3.5 euros for students and seniors. You can also get a discounted ticket for 6 euros if you visit after 2 pm.
Old Town Graz
The Old Town of Graz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the historic charm and beauty of the city. You can wander around the narrow streets and admire the diverse architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque. Some of the highlights of the Old Town include:
- The Hauptplatz (Main Square), which is surrounded by elegant buildings and features a statue of Archduke Johann, a local hero who promoted arts and sciences in Styria.
- The Landhaus (Provincial Government Building), which has a stunning Renaissance courtyard with arcades and fountains.
- The Dom (Cathedral), which was built in the 15th century and has a Gothic exterior and a Baroque interior. Don't miss the impressive frescoes on the south wall depicting scenes from the Last Judgment.
- The Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II, which is a splendid example of Mannerist architecture and houses the tombs of Ferdinand II and his family.
- The Murinsel (Island in the Mur), which is a floating platform on the Mur river that connects both sides of the city. It was designed by New York artist Vito Acconci and serves as a cultural venue and a cafe.
If you are interested in learning more about the history, culture, and nature of Styria, you should visit the Joanneumsviertel Museum complex. This museum consists of three sections:
- The Styrian State Museum of Cultural History, which displays artifacts and exhibits related to Styria's past and present.
- The Neue Galerie Graz, which showcases modern art from Austria and abroad.
- The Natural History Museum, which features collections of animals, plants, minerals, fossils, and meteorites.
The Joanneumsviertel Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is 13 euros for adults and 3 euros for students and seniors. You can also get a Universalmuseum Joanneum Pass for 18.5 euros that gives you access to all 19 museums in Styria for 12 months.
If you are traveling with kids or animal lovers, you might want to visit the Graz Zoo, which is located on the outskirts of the city. The zoo has more than 700 animals from different continents, such as lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, penguins, reptiles, and birds. The zoo also has a petting zoo where you can interact with farm animals like goats, sheep, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
Eggenberg Palace is a Baroque palace located on the western edge of Graz. It was built in the 17th century by Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, who was one of the most powerful nobles of the Habsburg Empire. The palace has 365 rooms, which symbolize the days of the year, and each room has a unique decoration and theme. Some of the highlights of the palace include the Planetary Room, which depicts the cosmos and the zodiac signs, and the Alchemy Room, which shows the search for the philosopher's stone.
You can visit Eggenberg Palace from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is 14 euros for adults and 9 euros for students and seniors. You can also buy a combined ticket with the Joanneumsviertel Museum for 18 euros.
Stadtpark is a green oasis in the heart of Graz that offers a peaceful retreat from the urban hustle and bustle. The park covers an area of 25 hectares and features various trees, flowers, ponds, and sculptures. One of the most notable sculptures is the statue of Johann Strauss II, the famous composer who visited Graz several times and composed the waltz "Voices of Spring" there.
In summer, Stadtpark hosts various events such as concerts, festivals, and markets. You can also rent a bike or a boat to explore the park at your leisure.
Mur River Promenade
The Mur River is one of the defining features of Graz, and its banks offer a scenic stroll or bike ride along the city's waterfront. The Mur River Promenade spans over 4 kilometers and connects several landmarks such as the Schlossberg Castle, the Kunsthaus Graz, and the Murinsel. Along the promenade, you can also find some cafes, restaurants, and bars that offer a great view of the river.
In summer, you can enjoy various activities on the Mur River such as rafting, kayaking, or paddleboarding. There are also several beaches and swimming pools where you can cool off during hot days.
Food and Wine Tasting
Graz is known for its culinary tradition and offers a wide range of dishes and drinks that reflect the local culture and ingredients. Some of the must-try foods in Graz include:
- Styrian pumpkin seed oil, which has a rich nutty flavor and is used as a salad dressing or a dip.
- Schilcher wine, which is a pink-colored wine made from the Blauer Wildbacher grape and pairs well with spicy food.
- Steirerkas cheese, which is a semi-hard cheese made from raw cow's milk and flavored with caraway seeds.
- Käferbohnen, which are large white beans that are boiled and served as a side dish or in soups and stews.
You can sample these foods and more at local markets, restaurants, and taverns that specialize in Styrian cuisine. Some popular places to visit are Der Steirer, Aiola upstairs, and Wistuba Gnadenreich.
Day Trips from Graz
If you have extra time to spare, you can explore the surroundings of Graz and discover some hidden gems that are worth a visit. Some of the day trips you can take from Graz include:
- The Riegersburg Castle, which is a medieval fortress located on a volcanic hill and houses a museum and a bird of prey show.
- The Zotter Chocolate Factory, which is an organic chocolate factory that offers guided tours and tastings of its creative flavors.
- The Lipizzaner Stud Farm Piber, which is a breeding center for the famous white horses that perform at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
- The Styrian Wine Road, which is a scenic route through the vineyards of Southern Styria and offers wine tastings and panoramic views of the landscape.
These are just some of the many things to do in Graz and its surroundings. Whether you are interested in history, art, nature, or food, Graz has something for everyone.