The handsome second city of Austria has earned bragging rights over its compatriots in a number of different departments. Graz, for starters, was the first city in the country to be named a Cultural Capital of Europe; an honour it held wholly in 2003. The capital of the federal state of Styria was also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, beating out the Historic Centre of Vienna by two full years. Get the picture?
Yes, indeed, if you’re planning a trip to Austria in the near future, it behooves you to discover this tidy gem of a quarter million people. Graz is a fine compliment to the likes of Linz and Salzburg, to say nothing of Vienna, and captures much of the singular essence at the core of Austria’s appeal.
Though some might be tempted to give the historic heart of the city a cursory whirl before exploring the epic Schloss Eggenberg, don’t stop there. A latent, lively charisma lurks in places like the university quarters (Graz is home to some 50,000 students), compact nightlife district and busy arts and culture scene. The old town is duly chockablock with heritage eye candy like the Town Hall, Landeszeughaus, Opera House and Uhrturm clock tower but take time to explore greater Graz as well. The museums, castles, cathedrals and spas therein will reward your efforts.
Graz's Top 10
10. Murinsel is a strange, almost otherwordly, artificial island cum performance space built on the Mur River by New York installation artist Vito Hannibal Acconci for the Capital of Culture commemoration.
5. Opernhaus The sublime Opera House of Graz is second only in Austria to the Vienna State Opera.
9. Landeszeughaus is the largest armoury in the world and a foremost museum as well.
4. Mariatrost Basilica is a major pilgrimage site in Austria. The Baroque landmark graces Purberg hill northeast of Graz.
8. Piber Federal Stud in Köflach breeds the world famous Lipizzan horses, a significant component of Austria’s cultural heritage.
3. Kunsthaus Graz “Blob architecture” is what they call the impossible-to-ignore Graz Art Museum. The contemporary art facility is one of the most distinctive museums in Europe.
7. Herz-Jesu-Kirche is a grand church with the third-tallest spire in Austria.
2. Dom Graz Cathedral is a Gothic and Baroque masterpiece that dates back to the 15th century.
6. Riegersburg Castle, outside of Graz proper, is a medieval castle of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein.
1. Schloss Eggenberg That most epic Hapsburg haven, Eggenberg Castle, is the linchpin of Graz’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Hauptplatz (Main Square)/Rathaus (City Hall) – This large square has several impressive ancient Graz landmarks.
- Domkirche (Graz Cathedral) – This cathedral with a stunning interior is situated on the site of an age-old church.
- Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church) – Graz’s most historic church.
- Herz Jesu Kirche (Heart of Jesus Church) –Built in the 1880s and featuring neo-gothic architecture, this is the largest church in Graz.
- Schloss Eggenberg (Eggenberg Castle) – A magnificent landmark that was built in the 1620s.
Graz Art & Culture
- Kunsthaus Graz – One of the city’s main art galleries with many temporary exhibitions.
- Landeszeughaus (Museum of Armour) – This popular museum is home to more 30,000 pieces of weaponry.
- Stadtmuseum (City Museum) – This fascinating museum is found within the Palais Khuenberg and provides tourists with an insight into the Styria region.
- Museum of the Diocese Graz-Seckau (Diözesanmuseum) – Filled with numerous religious artifacts and countless historical treasures.
- Schloss und Schlüsselmuseum/Hanns Schell Collection (Key and Lock Museum) – Tourists can enjoy a collection of historical locks and keys.
- Herrengasse – A must-visit Graz shopping street.
- Kastner+Öhler – A large department store located near the main square.
- City Park – A shopping centre located in the southwestern area of Graz city centre.
- Shopping City Seiersberg – A huge shopping complex outside of the city limits.
- Murpark – A major shopping centre found in east Graz.
Gay & Lesbian Graz
- Aiola Island – A bar that serves cocktails in abundance.
- Stargayte – A gay and lesbian bar, lounge and dance club that is open until the early hours of the morning.
- Nachtschicht – A disco venue that plays great music.
- Café Niú – A café that turns into a cool music bar at night.
- Poco Loco – A cocktail bar that is a great place for dancing at night in Graz.
- Austrian Sculpture Park – An expansive space with intriguing modern sculptures and beautiful landscape.
- Stadtpark – Numerous monuments can be found in this tranquil Graz park.
- Botanical Garden of Graz – Tourists can find three glass houses with fascinating architecture.
- Österreichisches Freilichtmuseum Stübing – An open-air museum that features old farmhouses from across Austria.
- Lurgrotte – Austria’s most extensive network of caves.
- Go jogging on the Leechwald.
- Enjoy a stroll in the Buchkogel Woods.
- Have fun rollerblading at Volksgarten Park.
- Watch ice-skating competitions at the Liebenauer Eishalle ice rink.
- Check out SK Sturm Graz football at the UPC Arena.
Spring Festival, in late May, shakes the city’s student populace out of late semester doldrums with live bands and DJs on Mariahilferstrasse.
Steirischer Herbst is a vital contemporary art fair that occurs every June.
Jazzsommer Graz takes place from July to August on the busy Mariahilfer Platz, with free outdoor concerts for all.
La Strada celebrates street entertainment and buskers in July.
Eggenberger Schlosskonzerte is a series of annual classical concerts at Eggenberg Castle that draws some serious talent to the city every August.
Aufsteirern is a major folk festival in Styria that takes over the old town in September.
When To Go
Most happily, the continental climate of Graz is subject to a balmy Mediterranean effect. The result is above average annual sunshine for Austria and, indeed, much more than Vienna. The one trade-off, unfortunately, is a bit more smog as a result of the comparatively mild winters.
Temperatures in summer range from 55°F (13°C) to 77°F (25°C), with about 5 in (127 mm) of rain in the months of June, July and August. Overall, Graz receives somewhere in the vicinity of 34 in (874 mm) of precipitation per annum.
Winters are more temperate in the city than anywhere else in Austria. Conditions generally remain between 23°F (-5°C) and 38°F (3°C).
Graz Airport is a ten minute drive from the city and serves the likes of Berlin, Munich, Antalya and London-Stanstead.
By car, Graz is two hours from Vienna, two hours from Zagreb, four hours from Munich, four hours from Venice, four hours from Budapest and seven hours from Zurich.
The city is well-connected by rail from a number of cities, namely Vienna and Munich.
Graz is progressively pro-cyclist and pedestrian and runs a terrific public tram and bus network. A car is not much use in the old town.
All of Austria’s formidable charisma coalesces sublimely in Graz. A UNESCO World Heritage city since 1999, the home of spectacular Schloss Eggenberg, or Eggenberg Castle, is the picturesque capital of the federal state of Styria. Located southeast of the Alps, Graz has a notably mild climate and enviably lush environment of dense forests and Mur river valley scenery. Throw in a marvelous Old Town and the handsome city dutifully lures scores of domestic and international visitors throughout the year.
The Old Town of Graz was fortunate to come out of the Second World War in one piece. While Allied bombs did cause significant damage in the city, the bulk of what now spans a vital UNESCO World Heritage Site in Austria was benevolently spared the worst of it. As such, gems like the Alte Galerie, Dom, Kunsthaus and Mariatrost Basilica form the bedrock of a nonpareil architectural landscape. Graz, where the likes of Otto Loewi, Johannes Keppler and Nikola Tesla spent formative years, is a prominent university city in Austria. Indeed, over 40,000 students attend up to six distinct academic institutions here and as a result, influence the lively countenance of the city. The linchpin landmark in the 2003 European Capital of Culture is without question, the Gothic and Baroque magnum opus that is Eggenberg Castle. The complex merits a full day of your time.
Attractions & Activities
- Alte Galerie
- Schloss Eggenberg
- Graz Dom
- Mariatrost Basilica
- Jazz Sommer Graz
- Museum der Wahrnehmung
- Hanns Schell Collection
- Graz City Park
Restaurants & Nightlife
- Altsteirische Schmankerlstubn
- Gamlitzer Weinstube
- Pension Gasthof Zur Steirerstubn
- Braun de Praun
- Zu Den 3 Goldenen Kugeln
- The Office Pub
- Three Monkeys
- Stockwerk Jazz
- Molly Malone Irish Pub
Graz has a continental climate, with four distinct seasons.
- Winter (December to February) -4-4°C
- Spring (March to May) 0-19°C
- Summer (June to September) 12-25°C
- Fall (October to November) 1-13°C
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