When people plan their trip to Austria, usually they think of Vienna or some amazing ski resort, but most of them forget to check out Graz. The second largest city in Austria is like the capital’s younger sister, a blend of old and new Austria with one of the best preserved old town centers in Europe and even four universities. Visit Graz and have a glimpse into the past while enjoying the creative and innovative cultural life!
Attractions: As we said, the Old Town is a must-see number one. The beautiful architecture of medieval and Italian Renaissance buildings is one of the reasons why this part of Graz is one of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage Sites. Discover secret courtyards and narrow alleys while exploring galleries, museums, restaurants, cafes and boutiques in this very lively heart of Graz. Also, don’t forget that the best way to get to know a city is always ‘from above’, so take a lift, tram or steps and climb your way up to the Schlossberg (Castle-mountain), where you’ll see the splendid Clock Tower and the landmark of the Green Heart of Austria’s capital dating back to the 13th century. You’ll have a chance to enjoy a wonderful 360 degree view of the city and medieval roofs of Old Town. Enjoy the sunset from the terrace of one of the restaurants while sipping a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc.
Next stop is discovering the history of Styria at the Armory. Due to its geographical position south of the Alps, Graz was an important centre of defence in the past, especially against the Ottoman Turks who, at the end of the 15th century, forced the Styrian rulers to build up weapons stockpiles. So, starting in 1642, Antonio Solar laid the foundations of a ‘Zeughaus’ (armory). The building has five storeys and is 50 m long, while the facade is decorated by two impressive Baroque statues representing Mars and Minerva (gods of war). Today is contains more than 32 000 exhibits dating from the late 15th to the early 19th centuries in their original state.
Another architectural wonder of Graz is the Eggenberg Palace, situated right at the edge of the city center. Originating from the 17th century, the palace intersects with the a 13th century medieval castle, all surrounded by picturesque gardens with peacocks around the structures. The palace’s layout is based on the Gregorian calendar, so there are exactly 365 windows, 31 rooms on each floor and 24 state rooms with 52 doors and 4 corner towers, all alluding to time, the seasons, weeks, days hours and minutes. Inside you’ll find many galleries to explore, including Lapidarium with one of the largest collections of Roman stones in Austria, a coin collection, and the Alte Galerie, which showcases artwork from the Romanesque to late Baroque period.
There are two more stops you can’t miss out on, Kaiser-Josef-Platz Market and Herz Jesu Kirche. The Kaiser-Josef-Platz Market is a daily Market located on Holzmarketplatz where you can buy or try organic, traditionally Styrian, food. Some of the musts are Kronprinz Rudolf, Schafnase, Ilzer Rose and wonderful unctuous pumpkin seed oil. Herz Jesu Kirche or Church of the Sacred Heart, on the other hand, is the largest of its kind in Graz and has the third-highest church tower in Austria (109.6m). Built in Neo-gothic style from 1881 to 1887, the church is equipped with breathtaking windows from the inside. Also, the admission to the church is completely free. Also, in case you’re passing by next to Glockenspielplatz, you might witness a lovely short play at the Glockenspiel. Once an advertisement for a brewery, today it is a clock with daily shows at 11:00, 15:00 and 18:00. At these hours, a dancing couple made of wood pirouette as the 24 bells chime, every time with a different melody, varying from Christmas carols to Alpine folk yodeling and contemporary stuff.
We can’t forget a part of Graz’ modern side, the Kunsthaus Museum, hovering over the Mur River and featuring exhibitions on contemporary and international art. Its fantastic biomorphic shape makes it one of the city’s symbols. Another place you can’t miss is Murinsel (Island in the Mur), commissioned right after Graz was declared European Capital of Culture in 2003. This impressive steel entity and artificial island designed by Vito Acconci is actually a ship in the water connected to the city by footbridges on both sides. The structure contains an amphitheater and a café, as well as an ‘island adventure’ where children can play. During the night, the island has a breathtaking blue glow.
Food: Graz is the ‘capital of delight’ when it comes to eating in Austria. It’s up to you how much money you want to spend on your meals, so we’ll give you top 5 fancy places and top 5 cheap eats in the city.
- Fancy: El Gaucho – the best meat delicacies in town, Eckstein – amazing desserts and local dishes, Schlossberg – try out the always fabulous ‘surprise menu’, Aiola Im Schloss – the best of Styrian culinary tradition, Steak Boutique – the name says it all
- Cheap eats: Burgerista Graz – the best burgers in Graz, Pierogi – specialties of Polish cuisine, Ferl’s Spezialitaten Weinstube – fantastic traditional dishes, Contra Punto – the place to go for amazing pizza, Dean&David – heaven for vegetarians and vegans
Accommodation: Staying in Graz can be quite expensive, but it depends on the season you’re going there. However, the prices for one night in a hostel go from €20 up. Check out the places like CenterCourt Hotel (€20), Mariahilf (€21), A&O Graz Hauptbahnhof (€21), Wasser Palast (€38), Gasthof Thalersee (€40) and Greenrooms (€45).