Graz, designated a UNESCO City of Design, is one of the best kept secrets in Austria! If you are planning a visit to Vienna, you need to tag this onto your Austrian itinerary.
Austria, the country of beautiful mountains, castles, rivers, and a bunch of really interesting cities to visit. Just recently we visited the UNESCO World Heritage City of Design, Graz. We knew we were in for a treat with the architecture, but we had no idea how much there was to see and do in Graz. You’d think we’d be ready for Austria to surprise us since we’ve loved all the places we’ve been like Linz and Salzburg.
Locals Know What To Do in Graz
The best way to see any city is to go with a local, and that is just what we did in Graz. We signed up for a photo walk with local photographer, Christian Iberer, and we were happy we did. Not only did we see the best Graz attractions, but he showed us many hidden secrets and great vantage points for taking amazing photos of the city.
Getting Around Graz
Luckily, most of Graz’s sights are within an easy walking distance and can be completed in a day or two with no problem. Public transport in Graz is plentiful and easy to use. Plus it’s one of the cheapest day tickets in Europe. No matter where you want to go there is a tram or bus stop nearby.
Choose a pin for your travel board and keep planning those trips to Graz!
Power Tip: Buy a day ticket for all the public transportation for Graz. At only 4 Euros it’s a bargain!
Things to Do in Graz, Austria
We started out at a café in a shopping mall, called the Steirerhof. Our guide said we would want to see the view before we headed out into town and he was right. We met at Area 5 first thing in the morning. Overlooking the city center, this rooftop café not only offers a stunning view of the city from a birds-eye view, but it also serves a pretty decent cafe latte macchiato in the morning and becomes a hopping night spot after dark.
Graz Old Town
After our coffee and some fabulous photos of city views, we headed straight to the Old Town where we walked the streets gawking at the beautiful buildings. There truly is a mix of facades, mostly from the Baroque period, but all stunning. Here we went in and around a few key buildings like the Landhaus, which is well known for its courtyard. And in the back of the Landhaus is a special double spiral staircase.
If you have time, you will want to see the Rathaus in the central square and take some time to visit the Styrian Armory which is a unique museum that houses world’s largest collection of medieval of weapons and the suits of armor.
This art museum not only has fantastic exhibits, the whole building is a work of art. Architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook were commissioned to design this special building for Graz’s selection as the 2003 European Capital of Culture.
Inside is an incredible café where we were told we could find the best breakfast in Graz, and we have to agree. We highly recommend it, but be aware if you don’t have a reservation, get there before opening time. It’s very popular!
Address: Lendkai 1, 8020 Graz, Austria
Art Museum Opening Times: 10-5:00 PM Tuesdays through Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Café Opening Times: 9-11:00 PM Monday-Thursday, 9-1:00 AM Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday 9-8:00 PM.
An American architect, Vito Acconci, designed this artificial island in the middle of the River Mur. Metal walkways take you to the round building where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack from the café. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. We sat outdoors, but the interior is a gorgeous blue. According to the people we were with, locals don’t frequent the café. They only go when they are showing the town to people. I wouldn’t let that stop you, though. I loved it.
Address: Lendkai 19, 8020 Graz, Austria
Opening Times: 10-6:00 PM Daily
Churches and Cathedrals
Two of the central churches in the city are the Franciscan Church of Graz and the Graz Cathedral. Both are worthy of a stop to see the architecture, altars, and stained glass windows. We walked all the way through and around the Franciscan Church which has a beautiful inner courtyard, which was so quiet even though it was smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum
The childhood home of this famous actor, bodybuilder and politician. The museum is small, but if you are a fan it’s well worth a stop.
Address: Linakstraße 9, 8051 Thal, Austria
Opening Times: 10 – 5:00 PM, closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II
An imposing building, we spent some time capturing its majesty below the picture-perfect skies.
Address: Burggasse 3, 8010 Graz, Austria
Opening Times: 10:30-12:30 and 1:30-4:30 Daily
There are many ways to climb this iconic mountain in the middle of Graz. We walked up a nice path and came down the steps, but you can take the Schlossberglift, or just walk through the mountain in a tunnel. For me, it’s probably one of the best things to do in Graz. At the top, not only is there a stunning clocktower and steller views, but there is a world-class cafe that will fortify you with strength for the hike down.
A specialty for kids, there is a fairytale train, or Marchenbahn that will take them on a storybook adventure around the mountain as well.
We couldn’t get over how green Graz was. We wandered through a couple of parks, and the weather was just perfect. People were everywhere walking their dogs, riding skateboards, chatting with old friends on benches. Two of the ones we visited are the Stadtpark and the Stadtischer Augarten, or the river walk.
Practical Information for Graz
How far is Graz from Vienna?
Everyone flies into Vienna, and you can certainly try to do Graz in a day trip, but it might make more sense to at least spend one night in this amazing city. It’s a pretty straight drive south for a little over 2 hours. Basically you just get on the E59 and go. However, as we’ve previously told you, the Austrian countryside is gorgeous, so getting off the autobahn and taking a secondary road will take longer, but I guarantee it will be prettier.
Another way to go is to take the train from Vienna to Graz. It takes between 2.5 and 3 hours, and it is extremely easy and comfortable.
Lastly, there is the bus, which will take a minimum of 3 hours, but it’s cheaper of course.
Parking in Graz is expensive and difficult to find. There is some street parking around the edges of the old town and this could work for a short stay of two or three hours, but for longer stays you’ll need a parking garage in Graz. One of the more centrally located is Tiefgarage Pfauengarten, sandwiched in between the Schlossberg and the city park. Over 800 parking spots, in a clean, well lit and secure underground parking, but you’ll pay for the location (about 3 euro per hour or up to 30 euros per day).
Karmeliterpl. 4d, 8010 Graz
Our Recommendations – Graz Hotels
Schlossberghotel-das Kunsthotel is at the upper end of our usual budget but still affordable and great value and comfort for the money. It is located in the old town, right on the river, across from the Murinsel and in the shadow of the Glockenturm (clock tower).
Another of the great, old town hotels in Graz is the Hotel zum Dom – Palais Inzaghi. This beautiful Baroque hotel was once the city palace. Now it is another affordable four star option right in the middle of things.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks–and let’s face it who isn’t?–you can opt for the Ibis Budget Graz City and stay for half the cost of the average Graz hotel still enjoy a clean, comfortable room, near the action, and with a decent breakfast to boot.
Our Recommendations – Graz Restaurants
The current, don’t miss restaurant in Graz center is Landhauskeller serving the best modern Styrian and Austrian dishes. Everything on the menu is amazing, but the spinach dumplings are the best in town! Reservations recommended.
Schmiedgasse 9, 8010 Graz
+43 316 830276
Traditional, but anything but old fashioned, the Hertzl Weinstube serves up local Styrian dishes using fresh regional products. You’ll also find an excellent selection of local, Styrian and Austrian wines. Reservations recommended.
Prokopigasse 12, 8010 Graz
+43 316 824300
If you’ve got a hankering for something a little more simple, head over to Burgereck for a local, fresh ground beef burger, chicken wings, or langos. Their burgers really can’t be beat.
Burgereck am Jacko
Marktstand Nr. 12, Jakominiplatz, 8010 Graz
+43 660 8380503
There are several other restaurants tucked away on the Mehlplat and Glockenspielplatz. If you can’t get a reservation a one of the recommend locales, you’ll likely find an open table there (Il Centro for Italian is always good).
Have you been to Graz? Do you have any tips? Did we miss any of your favorite sights?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
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