With a beautifully preserved historic centre, wandering around Graz is a bit like stepping back in time – but it’s not just a rich heritage that can be enjoyed here.
Austria’s ‘second city’ after the capital of Vienna, Graz has been planted firmly on the map over the past couple of decades having earned the coveted titles of European Capital of Culture and City of Design on separate occasions. Packed full of grand institutions and enticing nooks and crannies, it’s a wonderful place to simply amble around at your leisure. Or if you’re the type that likes to plan your travel adventures, here are 12 of the most unique things to see and do in Graz.
Ascend a medieval fortress by elevator
For sky-high views of the city, head to the Schlossberg – a tree-clad hill 423 metres
above sea level. Once upon a time, it was Graz’s medieval fortress, but the castle was demolished by Napoleonic forces in the early 19th-century. You could hike to the top, but why pass up the opportunity to travel by glass elevator? The 170-metre slide shoots up the centre of the rock, taking approximately 40 seconds. Once you’re at the top, you can enjoy sweeping views of the River Mur and out to the Slovenian Alps. Don’t miss the clock tower, which is also a traditional spot for local teenagers to savour their first kiss.
Am Schlossberg, 8010
Marvel at a museum dubbed the ‘Friendly Alien’
Built to mark Graz becoming the European City of Culture in 2003, Kunsthaus
Graz has become one of the city’s most important architectural landmarks. Love it or
hate it, the provocative-looking building is certainly memorable. Designed by Colin
Fournier, it’s an example of ‘blob architecture’, with a skin made from iridescent blue
acrylic panels that double up as photovoltaic, converting light to energy. It’s fondly
referred to by locals as the ‘Friendly Alien’. Inside, the vast space mainly features artworks from the 1960s onwards. Exhibitions tend to focus on current social issues, with an aim to promote discussions around art, design and architecture.
Lendkai 1, 8020 / Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Attend a festival that combines serious and fun
Every year the Schlossberg hosts the five-night Elevate Festival, aiming to shine a light on the most pressing issues of our time, profiling innovative projects, initiatives and
groundbreaking solutions at the same time. It’s not all serious though, with top class concerts, live performances, workshops and installations from local and international artists. As an added bonus, the festival is completely free to enter, too.
Venues across Graz / 4-8 August 2021
Visit a historic palace
The most significant palace complex in the Austrian province of Styria, Eggenberg Palace was conceived and built by Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, who commissioned Palladio student Pietro de Pomis to design the sprawling complex. It’s more than just a good- looking palace too, the constructions and interiors follow a complex mathematical and allegorical model to reflect a precisely calculated cosmos. The palace hosts a permanent collection from the Universalmuseum Joanneum, as well as rotating exhibitions. The magnificent landscaped gardens are stalked by a beautiful muster of peacocks too.
Eggenberger Allee 90 / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon
Take a wander around the beautiful old town district
One of the best-preserved towns in central Europe, Graz Old Town was awarded
UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999. The ‘Hauptplaz’, or Main Square, is one-of-a-kind, combining medieval building facades with striking modern architecture. The Old
Town consists of over 1,000 buildings in a variety of different styles, including Gothic
and Renaissance structures. The best way to explore is by getting lost down its
maze of narrow alleyways and diving into restaurants, cafes and boutiques along the
way. Two of the most significant landmarks are the Graz Cathedral, a rococo
masterpiece, and the Landhaus, home of the provincial parliament since the 16th
Immerse yourself in the world of Arnie
Graz is famous for more than medieval ruins and design-forward architecture. It’s the
birthplace of one of the world’s most famous celebrities, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fans can now visit the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum, located at his former childhood home in Thal, around 15 minutes by car from the city centre. Schwarzenegger lived in the house, which was originally built in 1806, between 1947 and 1966. The museum features a preserved kitchen and bathroom, with the rest of the rooms devoted to telling the story of his remarkable career through artefacts and archive footage. There’s also the ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger Wanderwg’, a hike around the property and lake.
Linakstraße 9, 8051, Thal
Hop aboard a fairytale train
If you’re travelling with little ones, they’ll love the Graz Fairytale Train. The beloved
attraction first opened its doors in 1968, as a way to make use of a 6.3 km (3.9
miles) disused air raid tunnel system from World War II. Since then, it’s expanded to
incorporate a range of different fairytales. The train winds its way along a two-
kilometre (1.2 miles) route through the ‘Meadow of Flowers, ‘Enchanted Forest’,
interactive ‘Ice World’ and the spooky ‘Old Witches Land’.
Schloßbergpl. 1, 8010
Explore a unique floating island
If you’ve had your fill of medieval sights, Murinsel is the perfect tonic. It’s a floating
island located in the middle of the Mur River. The 47-metre structure is shaped like a giant seashell, with two footbridges connecting it to the banks on either side. Inside, there’s an amphitheatre, cafe and playground. It’s particularly pretty at night when the surrounding lights illuminate the structure. Now an iconic Graz landmark, the installation was designed by New York City artist Vito Acconcion to mark Graz becoming the 2003 European Capital of Culture.
Mariahilferpl. 5, 8020 / Tues-Sat 11am-6pm Sun 11am-5.30pm Closed Mon
Pick up some great produce at a local farmers’ market
Nothing says ‘charming county town’ like an authentic farmers market. Graz can
claim a few excellent markets, but Kaiser-Josef-Platz Market is the largest. Trestle
tables literally buckle under the weight of home-pickled onions, pulses, scarlet runner
beans and brassicas. As well as fruit and veg, you’ll find homemade bread, pastries
and traditional marzipan cakes. It’s the best place to pick up the town’s signature
pumpkin-seed oil too. A good stop for refreshments or an early lunch to break up a
day of sightseeing.
Kaiser-Josef-Platz 8010 / Mon-Sat 6am-1pm Closed Sun
Discover how Graz celebrates Christmas
Austria is well-known for its spectacular Christmas markets and Graz is no
exception. On this private two-hour tour, you’ll get to explore the Advent Market,
which is all twinkling lights, Christmas trees and gleaming ice cribs. A local
professional guide will talk you through typical Austrian Christmas traditions, while
you stroll around colourful stalls selling trinkets, local specialities and seasonal
products. Don’t miss the local festive drink, "Feuerzangenbowle", a delicious mix of wine and rum which is set on fire before you imbibe it.