Graz is a habitable, compact and friendly city. It is the capital of Styria and a very university city, with 59,7350 students in 2016.
Only 15% of the buildings in the city centre were demolished during the Second World War, which allows the city centre to be preserved almost intact, compared to other cities such as Bratislava or Krakow.
Graz is a city with a very powerful industry, especially in the branch as specific as microelectronics (the area has been named “Silicon Alps“).
If we take into account that Austria has about 8 million inhabitants, of which about 2 million live in Vienna and neighbourhoods. We still have 6 million inhabitants spread all over the country, from where the second city would be Graz with ~300,000 people. Let’s just say that the population in Austria is very spread across the country.
What I like most about Graz is that it is very good weather, to consider it a country in central Europe. Quite a few hours of sunshine and relatively close to the coast.
- What to see or do in Graz
- Eggenberg Castle
- The island in the river Mur: Murinsel
- Historical centre: Herrengasse and Sporgasse Streets
- Kunsthaus: Museum of Contemporary Art
- Arnold Schwanzeneger: The local hero
- The Kastner&Öhler Shopping Centre
- Double spiral staircase (Doppelwendeltreppe)
- Staftpfarrkirche The church of dictators
- The Zotter chocolate factory
- More about Graz
- Where to sleep in Graz?
What to see or do in Graz
The city of Graz, like Salzburg, stands around a small hill. On this hill, there was a fortress from time immemorial. But… until our friend Napoleon arrived and had the castle/fortress of Graz dynamited in 1809 to dismantle the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Today, only a few ruins (which cannot be visited) and the clock tower remain. This tower has become the symbol of the city, known as “Liesl”.
From the hill, you have unbeatable views of the whole city, dominated by red roofs.
You’ll also find a Chinese pavilion, which you’ll wonder… What’s that look like? It was built in 1890 to replace a terrace with vineyards. Also on the same site was the “chair of Bishop Nadasdy” who died there after 40 years locked up in the dungeons of the castle.
To climb the 473 meters of the mountain there are several options:
- by a stone staircase. About 260 and built during Nazi times by inmates.
- by elevator for the interior of the mountain (1,40€). It doesn’t take you to the top, but it does take you close.
- on a zipper train. All the way to the top restaurant.
The rack train leaves every 15 minutes and costs the same as normal public transport, so if you have the day pass you can ride for free!
The hill has many paths with countless benches and viewpoints, perfectly located. A very romantic area. It’s normal to see people reading or young couples sharing a glass of wine.
According to legend, if you give yourself the first kiss under the clock tower, you will have eternal love.
The mountain is hollow with about 6 kilometers of tunnels that were used during World War II as an anti-aircraft shelter. The hill can be crossed from Sclossbergplatz to Karmeliterplatz. Also inside there is a discotheque called “Dom am Berg” (which translated would be like cathedral in the mountain).
It’s one of my favorite places in Graz. The Eggenberg Palace has been a UNESCO heritage site since 2010 and the interior reminded me a lot of the Schonbrunnen Palace in Vienna.
It’s a palace of the sixteenth century, which belonged to a noble family, who did not live there often and also only used the ground floors. In this way, the second floor has remained almost intact, with all the original furniture.
Highlight the ballroom. The most beautiful thing about Graz, in my opinion, although that photo I took doesn’t do justice to what it really is…
The palace is only open for 6 months, during the summer season, as restoration work is carried out during the winter. This closure is also due to the preservation of its good state of conservation.
Considering that temperature changes affect the maintenance of the paints, the entry of people, would heat the rooms. Also because without heating it would be very cold.
The island in the river Mur: Murinsel
It is an artificial nest-shaped island built in steel. It was built for the culture festival in 2003 and was designed by New York artist Vito Acconci. It is currently a café with a small amphitheatre for performances and events. The island is connected by two oval-shaped bridges and very futuristic airs.
Historical centre: Herrengasse and Sporgasse Streets
This main street also connects the two most important and busy squares of Graz: Jakomini and Hauptplatz. In addition to shops, it has numerous remarkable buildings such as Landhaus, Luegghaus, Staftpfarrkirche or “the painted house”.
Herrengasse means “man’s street” and the Frauengasse, “women’s street”, which is a small parallel alley.
This whole area is pedestrian, although trams also pass by. Beware of them!
Kunsthaus: Museum of Contemporary Art
It’s a very rare submarine-shaped building embedded in a building. It may seem ugly and strambolic at first glance. It opened its doors in 2003 and has a biomorphic architecture (use of forms and structures similar to living organisms).
The interior contains a museum of contemporary art, which personally doesn’t move me very much. The ground floor can be entered for free.
In the low silver there is a very original shop, 100% recommended!, with very curious items such as “lifestyle” or design not very well known.
The façade is illuminated at night with LEDs creating a pretty good light show.
Arnold Schwanzeneger: The local hero
If you’ve read or searched for information about Graz, you’ve probably come across this name. The famous American Terminator and ex-governor of California, is really Austrian, and properly from a neighborhood (Thal) just outside of Graz (10km).
In Thal bei Graz there is even a museum dedicated to Arnold. As it couldn’t be otherwise it’s about his life mainly, but unless you’re an Arnold enthusiast, I don’t recommend it to you.
In the little village “Thal bei Graz” there is a quite peculiar church, the “Pfarrkirche” (St. Jakob). The benches are made of concrete, as with stones inlaid with mosaics. Everything is very colourful, as if it were decorated by Dalí or some strange and even drugged artist. The exterior is made of faded iron or bronze with very straight and pointed shapes. More info at wikipedia (German). 360º view.
The Kastner&Öhler Shopping Centre
This is not just any shopping centre, its architecture mixes traditional and modern elements. Climb the escalators to see the inside of the building and reach the terrace bar on its 6th floor where you will have a privileged view of the roofs of Graz with the clock tower in the background.
You don’t need to consume in the bar to go up and watch the sights! It is very close to Hauptplazt.
Double spiral staircase (Doppelwendeltreppe)
With a height of 3 floors, these spiral staircases dating from 1499 will surprise you. The staircase is made of stone, with a double spiral that separates and joins several times, which will make you think that how is possible. They’re pretty curious.
They are located at Hofgasse 15, entering the Graz Burg Castle, passing the large courtyard. Entrance is free and when you get there you can see why there are usually people by the door. This castle is today the regional parliament of Styria.
Staftpfarrkirche The church of dictators
Would you expect to see Adolf Hitler next to Mussolini in the window of a church watching from the crowd the coronation of Jesus Christ?
Yes, in Graz it is possible, in the church of Staftpfarrkirche. It’s strange, but quite curious. Only a few visitors are really going to see this stained glass window and not all the inhabitants of Graz know about it. It was designed in 1950, during the golden age of the Dictatorships.
Entering the church (as long as they are not officiating Mass), at the high altar on the right, above.
Translating into English would mean “city park”. This centrally located park is where people who live in Graz usually go, mainly when the weather is good, for a walk, picnic or a few beers.
The Zotter chocolate factory
This famous factory is located in Bergl, about 55 kilometres from Graz. It is one of the most recognized brands in the region and the chocolate is great (and expensive!).
In addition to seeing and learning the whole process of making chocolate, you can try the hundreds of varieties they have. this great if you want to make a day trip also visiting the castle of Riegersburg.
More about Graz
The emergency siren
As a curiosity to say that in Graz, and in many places in Austria, still works the system that alarms to alert the population. In this way, the government could alert the population quickly in the event of a civil or military emergency.
As a matter of fact, there are currently 8203 sirens installed in Austria.
This siren can be heard from all over the city and on Saturdays at 12 noon there is a test! The alarm will sound for 15 seconds to test that it works.
If the siren sounds for other hours or other days for 3 minutes => urgent danger, turn on the radio or tv and run! if it sounds for 1 minute the danger is less urgent, but get ready to run!
Note, now as Austria is a modern country, they have created the app that goes next to the siren and informs you of what is going on or the web: Katwarn.at
The Museums of Graz
If you plan to visit several museums in Graz you can think about buying with 24 or 48 hour tikets. You can visit the museums of the group “Universalmuseum Joanneum”. Allows you to enter them for 13€ 24 hours and 19€ for 48 hours (students under 27 years 4.5€ and 7€)
A total of 12 in Graz:
- Styrian Armoury
- Kunsthaus Graz
- Schloss Eggenberg (State Rooms and Gardens, Alte Galerie, Archaeology Museum, Coin Cabinett)
- Joanneumsviertel (Neue Galerie Graz, Bruseum, Natural History Museum)
- Centre of Natural History
- Folk Life Museum
- Institute of Art in Public Space
Aufsteirern: The Austrian Oktoberfest
In September the popular festivals of Aufsteirern, for those who are not very placed in the German culture is an Oktoberfest style. In Graz it is celebrated in the street, where the famous Lederhose and Drindl are dressed, traditional folk music is played and, naturally, a lot of beer is drunk in big jugs.
Beers from Graz or surroundings
The three local beers that are produced in or around Graz are:
- Putingamer. Visit to the factory on the first Wednesday of each month.
- Gösser. 50 km from Graz.
- Murauer. Visit the factory (from 5 people).
Where to Eat
- Bausatzlokale (Do it yourself): A group of bars (9 in Graz) where they serve the same or very similar food. They are very student and the food is cheap and half good (no Michelin stars!).
There are different dishes, each with a different colored paper: Pizza, hamburgers, salads, montaditos, scrambled eggs, potato gratin, Pfandel or crepes. To add the ingredients they have some colored papers with what they have and you make your combinations. They say they have more than 4 million variations (theoretically!).
- Der Steier: “Styrischen Tapas” is a pretty expensive bar where people go who don’t mind paying a little more (~30 -50 years). Very modern decoration, but with style.
- Buschenschank: Traditional house of food of own elaboration. They are usually in the villages and it is typical the sausage, cheeses, wines, etc. All this accompanied by a bread of artisan elaboration.
Bars: for a few beers or something else
- Musikhaus: My favorite. A rock bar, in a basement with no windows and no cover. It opens late and fills up when the other bars close around 2 or 3 am. Murauer beer at 3.5€.
- Area 5: In Jakommini square, very central and cool. He’s in the attic of a building. It has good views of the square, especially when it is not cold that you can be on the small terraces. You can also eat with the Bausazt (do it yourself).
- Die Scherbe: It has two floors, the top is very formal, illuminated and even romantic. In the basement it has a vaulted shape, quite dark and rock music, which contrasts sharply with the top. You can eat a few things and they make very good brunch on Sundays.
- Brot&Spiel: It is divided into two parts. One more type bar with Mexican food, Schnitzel or Hamburgers and another very big part to play billiards. They will have about 16 tables in total that are rented by the hour (I think about 9€ per hour). Beers 3.60€.
- Irish pubs, Flann O’Brien and O’Carolan’s. They’re very close to each other. O’Brien is very big and O’Carolan’s is quite small. They both serve Guinness and other typical Irish things. There is a lot of atmosphere, although they are more expensive than other bars in Graz. Guinness 5,10€.
- Nachtzugexpress: Very narrow rock pub where there are usually a lot of people. Free entrance.
- Postgarage: It is a discotheque with current electronic music. In the upper part they also have a part of music from the 80s and 90s. You have to pay an entrance fee of 6 or 8€.
- Thalia and Mauser Falle: Two dance clubs, side by side, very close to Jakommini. Entrance fee around 8€. Thalia has more Latin music and Mauser Falle has an electronic room and another more Austrian-commercial music.
Where to sleep in Graz?
Graz has two main parts to stay in, in the center or near the train station:
Near the train station
- A&O HauptbahnhofA&O Bahnhof: One of the cheapest and closest to the train station. You will be able to find from shared rooms to double rooms.
- Hotel JUFA: One of my favorites. It has a very sporty, family and youthful air. The building also contains an immense climbing wall, as well as several children’s playrooms and a couple of cafeterias. It has double or family rooms. The location is not ideal, but it is close to the train station and you can park easily in the vicinity or parking.
- Hotel Daniel: Directly in the square of the train station. It has a suite on the roof that has me in love, it’s called “Loft Cube” and I hope one day to fulfill it. It is a single glass cubicle located on the upper terrace with terrace.
In the historic centre of Graz:
- Hotel Wiesler: Very well known and in a historic building. It combines the modern with the traditional. Ideal for visiting the centre.
- Gasthof Zur Steirerstub’n : If you are looking for something typical Austrian, stylish, clean, in the center and very good care this is your hotel. Also in the restaurant, which I have tried once, you can eat typical foods of the area.
Public transport in Graz
The tram and bus system is quite good, and in the city centre it is free to take the tram. It is only free between the centre stops, 5 or 6, but if you walk around the centre it is sometimes good. It is known as AltStadtBim the stops are Jakominiplatzt, Hauptplatzt and one more stop in each direction.
To visit Graz, you don’t really need to take the tram, as almost everything is in the center and walking is the easiest. However, the timetables can be seen in the OEBB application (appStore or PlayStore) or on the official website.
The price is €2.30 for a journey (1 hour validity), €5.10 for 24 hours, €12.10 for 3 days or €14.30 for a week.
This card is designed for visitors to the city, costs 12.10 € and in addition to all transport in the city (zone 101), you offer discounts in some museums and tourist sites. More information on the official website. Personally I don’t think the discounts are worth it!
Graz on bike
Those of us who live in Graz, it’s normal to ride a bicycle.
You can rent one next to the train station (exiting on the right).
Graz has a good location to travel and continue your journey. It is geographically located between the countries of the East, Central Europe and the Balkans.
The tourist information centre is located at Herrengasse 16 and also at the train station they have a small office with brochures and maps.