Nestled in the southern part of Austria, around an hour’s drive from the Slovenian border, Graz is a beautiful city and the second largest behind Vienna. Settlements have been present in Graz since the early ages and it has been part of the Hapsburg empire and closely linked with Slovenia.
The city has a rich educational history with a prevalent university population and has also been residence too many well-known figures including Nicolai Tesla, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Erwin Schrodinger. With a city centre full of old architecture influenced by renaissance artist, Graz has a certain style and elegance and together with its great list of things to do, make a perfect tourist location in Austria.
Lets explore the best things to do in Graz:
One of Graz’s most recognisable features and standing proudly in the centre of the city, the Schlossberg is a tree-covered hill that once served as a fortress and has now been converted into a public park.
The history of the Schlossberg goes back to the 10th century and has been a main point of fortification and defence for the city.
All that remains now is the iconic clock tower which is one of the major attractions of Graz.
The Schlossberg has a beautiful park and an ornate set of stairs that criss-cross up the side of the hill and is the perfect place to see views of the city.
2. Schlossberg Clock Tower
Standing on the fabled Schlossberg Hill and being easily visible from many places in Graz, the Clock Tower has stood stoically for hundreds of years and has become a symbol of Graz and its history.
The tower has a striking design with its bright white walls, large overhanging wooden balcony section and tiled pointed roof which date back to the 15th century.
The clock mechanism is now electronic and due to later additions, the minute and hour hands are actually reversed which can be quite confusing.
This structure is a marvel and a must see in Graz, and it is also pleasant to hear the bells ringing that have previously rung to alert people of fire or even when an execution was being held!
3. Eggenberg Palace
Standing as a symbol of the once mighty and influential region of Styria, Eggenberg Palace holds a major historical and cultural place in the city of Graz and in Austria.
Tucked away in the western part of Graz in the Eggenberg district, the palace is surrounded by gorgeous parkland and gardens and served as a statement of the power and wealth of the Styrian rulers.
Among things to see are the highly decorated state rooms with the fascinating planetary room full of frescos, the Planetary Garden and the Pavilion.
Eggenberg Palace is a must see to understand about the history of Styria and this region of Austria.
4. The Styrian Armoury
If you are at all interested in historical arms and tools of war, the Styrian Armoury will be a delight – It contains the largest collection of arms and armour in the world with over 30,000 items.
Historically, the region of Styria was one of the main areas of conflict against the Ottoman empire therefore a state armoury was constructed in order to arm the people.
The weapons and armour that have survived are now showcased in the original building and create a splendid collection.
The armoury is mind-boggling; it is full of racks of weaponry such as spears and pikes, and shelves full of rifles and pistols, there is also stacks of full suits of armour and artillery pieces like cannons and mortars.
Even people who are not big on military memorabilia will be able to appreciate the sheet scale of this fantastic collection.
This remarkable piece of Neogothic architecture sticks out like a sore thumb (In a good way though!). Located a little to the east of Graz city centre this relatively new church is very accessible and should be high up on your list of things to see.
Constructed in the 1800’s, the beautiful exterior of the church is a throwback to gothic designs from earlier centuries and has a contrasting orange & white colour scheme.
The bell tower is the third tallest in Austria and is topped with a pointed green roof.
Inside of this magnificent building the interior is lavishly decorated and one of the most prominent features is a wonderful circular stained glass window that sits above the organ pipes and let’s light fall through on the congregation seats below.
6. Mariatrost Basilica
Situated in Mariatrost which is a district approximately 20 minutes outside of Graz city centre, the Basilica is a domineering building which has fame throughout the region of Styria as a holy pilgrimage site.
Leading up to the Basilica is a set of 200 steps that are framed by intermittent statues of angels and historical figures.
The outside of the building has a baroque design with two large symmetrical towers and a pale yellow façade while the impressive shrine to the Virgin Mary is one of the main points of interest inside together with several detailed frescos and pulpit.
There is also several restaurants and the tramway museum nearby so making the short trip is definitely worth it.
7. Kunsthaus Graz
This museum stands out starkly against the oranges of the tiled roof buildings that surrounded in and characterise most of Graz’s old town.
With a bizarre blue shell-like roof canopy, the Kunsthaus is affectionately known as the friendly alien and you can easily see why when you see this intriguing structure up close.
Not only does the Kunsthaus boast a wonderful design, its modern art collection is fantastic and features displays from the 1960’s onwards.
8. Mausoleum of Ferdinand II
Supposedly one of the most beautiful Mausoleums of its kind in Europe, there are not many that can match the size and scale of Ferdinand II’s Mausoleum.
Ferdinand served as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1619 to 1637 and was greatly involved in the destructive thirty years war.
His Mausoleum lies as a testament to his power and features extremely decadent and marvellous architecture and designs.
Included inside are sculptures of Jesus, paintings depicting scenes from the bible and of Ferdinand himself, plus the sarcophagus of the Emperors parents.
The Mausoleum is an amazing structure and a great place to see for both religious and historical buffs alike.
9. Rathaus and square
Right in the centre of Graz old town, the Rathaus has served as the town hall for hundreds of years and has undergone several changes in design, from renaissance to the current neoclassical building that stands today.
The impressive town hall has a beautiful façade reminiscent of the Budapest parliament building with similar white columns and crenulations and topped with an ornate dome.
The building takes front seat at one end of the “main square” in Graz – This square features a large fountain dedicated to Archduke Johann who was a prominent figure in the development of Styria.
The buildings surrounding the square all have a certain charm, while market stalls fill the bottom end with traders selling their goods.
10. Graz Botanical Gardens
This haven of greenery and natural wonder displays the typical style and distinctive architecture of Graz and has several “Armadillo” shaped greenhouses that combine together to form this unusual shape.
Inside these magical greenhouses are plants, exotic flora, cacti and other natural elements that are separated into four different climate zones.
Scientists and tourists alike have studied the lovely array of plants here and as there is no entry fee, it makes an ideal destination if you are on a tight budget.
11. The Murinsel
In 2003 Graz was designated the European Capital of Culture, and as part of this honour, the Murinsel was designed and constructed.
The river Mur river runs centrally through Graz and to celebrate this the Murinsel was conjured up – suspended over the river by two bridge walkways, this marvellous glass panelled dome gives the impression of floating on the water.
Inside is a café and seating area to enjoy views of the river, there is also a children’s play area.
12. Landhaus Courtyard
It is quite unusual to find such a building in European countries such as Austria but the Landhaus defies convention and has a distinctive renaissance style that would not look out of place on the Italian coast.
Once a stately home, the building now holds the Styrian parliament but can still be accessed by the public.
The exterior of this building has a fantastic design, but what really sets it apart is the arched courtyard inside.
Full of arches and small details, the courtyard is reminiscent of a roman temple or villa and is wonderful to look at complete with its tiled roof and clock tower.
13. Graz Cathedral
This Gothic Cathedral has a simple design and is quite understated but still is an important sight in Graz.
Constructed by Emperor Fredrick III in 1438 it stands near the Mausoleum of his predecessor and is in close proximity to the Styrian Armoury and Main Square.
The interior is a combination of gothic architecture coupled with later baroque furnishings and has some great relics and paintings on display.
With high vaulted arches, and dashes of gold and marble, the Cathedral is another stand out religious building of Graz.
14. Franciscan Church
One of the taller landmarks in Graz, the Franciscan Church or Monastery has a large tower that dominates the surrounding buildings and was originally constructed as a defensive tower that overlooked the city walls.
The church has a modern refurbished interior that contrasts to the old exterior and the surrounding area is extremely popular with many bars, cafes and eateries.
This centrally located building is worth a visit and could easily be walked too whilst in the old town area.
15. Adventure Park Graz
Looking for something different from the standard tourist sights? The Graz Adventure Park is a great way to take a break from sight-seeing and escape the confines of the city (Not that Graz isn’t an amazing place to visit!). Situated on the outskirts of the city, the park is easy to reach and will provide your whole family with hours of fun.
Some of the features include rope climbing, log sawing, rope bridges, walking trails, high ropes and basically anything you could think of outdoors! Tickets are available for day visitors also so anyone can make the most of this fun filled place.