Graz is as renowned for its beautifully preserved Old Town as it is for its rich choice of cultural diversions and buzzing nightlife. This makes it a hotbed of tourist attractions and pulls in the majority of visitors to Styria. That being said, the area surrounding Graz has even more to offer in the way of unimaginably pristine nature, charming towns, historic castles, magnificent abbeys, scenic wine roads, thermal spas, and more. Here’s our lowdown on the best day trips from Graz.
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25 Best Day Trips from Graz
Some of our favorite day trips from Graz can be done easily with the aid of the efficient Austrian public transportation system. If you are planning on doing several (or even just one) during your stay in Graz, we recommend that you book your accommodation close to Graz Central Station. Hotel Daniel is an excellent mid-range hotel just outside the station.
However, due to the remote location of some of these places, they are better reached with the aid of a car. Public transport will still get you there but might take double or triple the time. For detailed transport connections, we suggest you check the Austrian journey planner website or download their app. In a nutshell, these are our 25 favorite day trips from Graz:
- Austrian Open-Air Museum
- Admont Abbey
- Piber Stud Farm
- Styrian Wine Roads
- Church of St. Barbara
- Lurgrotte Caves
- Riegersburg Castle
- Vorau Abbey
- Zotter Chocolate Factory
- Seckau Abbey
- St. Veit’s Church
- Bad Blumau
- Bruck an der Mur
- Rein Abbey
- Herberstein Castle
- Styrian Apple Road
- Stainz Castle
- Oberkapfenberg Castle
- Vinofaktur Genussregal
1. Austrian Open-Air Museum
One of the most popular day trips from Graz, the Austrian Open-Air Museum (Österreichische Freilichtmuseum) is an open-air museum situated in the small town of Stübing only 15 km north of Graz. Opened in 1962, the museum contains about 100 different buildings representing the various architectural styles and materials used throughout Austria over the last six centuries. This museum of vernacular architecture is one of the very best museums of its ilk in Europe.
The museum presents an excellent overview of the country’s rural heritage and features manor houses, thatched-roofed farmhouses, alpine houses, barns, granaries, and mills. The exhibits reveal startling regional differences in architecture, furnishings, original tools, workrooms, and document the everyday life of the houses’ former inhabitants.
The houses have been reconstructed on over 66 hectares of land surrounded by natural forests and gardens accompanied by livestock, giving the museum a more authentic feel. It is a perfect place for kids to roam for the day but equally interesting for adults.
It’s also nice that traditional crafts such as bread-making, lace-making, spinning, and weaving are demonstrated by volunteers over the weekends, weather permitting. I would also strongly recommend investing in the English-language guidebook sold at the entrance which will aid you through your visit.
The Austrian Open-Air Museum is open daily from 09:00-17:00 (April-October). The entrance costs 13 EUR.
If you’re spending considerable time in Styria and plan on visiting several attractions, it might be a good idea for you to purchase the “Steiermark Card”. This all access card accords you free admission/discounts to over 150 of Styria’s most prominent attractions. The Steiermark Card is valid from April-October and is an unbelievable bargain costing only 80 EUR.
2. Admont Abbey
Of all the beautiful abbeys in Styria, Admont Abbey (Stift Admont) is certainly the most rewarding one. It is located in the bucolic town of Admont which is surrounded by lush pasturelands and wooded hills.
Founded in the 11th century, Admont Abbey has gone through numerous reincarnations over the centuries. Remodeled in the Baroque style in the 17th century, it was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1865, and today you’re greeted by a rather austere-looking Neo-Gothic reconstruction. Fortunately, the lavish library was largely unscathed by the conflagration, and it’s this that most visitors come to see.
Built in 1773, the library is said to hold the world’s largest monastic library with 160,000 volumes. The library’s stupendous Rococo interior and ceiling frescoes show vast allegorical scenes. It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by the sequence of heavenly skyscapes filled with pinkish clouds, show figures representing the arts, the natural sciences, and theology.
Look out for the busts of famous intellectuals that hover above the ornate library shelves, ranging from Socrates to Dürer. Display cases along the hall’s 72 meters contain some of the library’s most prized possessions, including some exquisite medieval manuscripts.
Although the library is undoubtedly the highlight, the entrance ticket also accords access to parts of the abbey’s extensive and impressive art and natural history collections. The ecclesiastical artifacts are particularly impressive and include relics from the 14th century onwards. There are also some spectacular non-religious artifacts as well, most notably two globes belonging to Mercator.
The complex also includes a rather mediocre contemporary art collection. Skip this and focus on the natural history collection. The highlight here is the taxidermy collection, with rows upon rows of stuffed glassy-eyed mammals and beautifully preserved birds. There are also several rooms devoted to flying insects, butterflies, wax fruit, and reptiles.
The entrance to Admont Abbey and the museums costs 11.50 EUR. You can check the opening hours here.
3. Piber Stud Farm
The most well-known stud farm in Austria, the Piber Stud Farm (Bundesgestüt Piber) lies about 24 kilometers west of Graz in the small town of Piber. Lipizzaner horses are bred and trained here and when their early training is complete, the horses raised on this farm are sent to the famous Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) in Vienna.
Originally the stud farm was based in the small town of Lipica in Slovenia. After Slovenia was annexed after WWI the farm was shifted to a former castle in Piber. The location couldn’t be any more perfect as it is surrounded by verdant meadows and rolling green hills.
The Lipizzaner horses are a complex mixture of six different breeds. Although the horses are renowned for their pure white coats, they are born almost black, gradually becoming lighter between the ages of four and ten. The horses are renowned for their elegance, nobility, brilliance, balanced agility, and good character. Of the 40 to 50 foals born at the stud farm each year, only four to six from the herd are selected for training at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
After viewing a video providing a brief introduction to the history of the farm and the stud, you can linger in the stables, and observe the majestic horses grazing on the pastures above the village. You don’t have to be a hippophile to enjoy your visit here but horse lovers will definitely get their money’s worth.
The Piber Stud Farm is open throughout the year. In summer, you have the option of exploring it yourself using the free multilingual audio guide while in winter you can only visit the farm as part of a guided tour. You can find more information about opening times and prices here.
4. Stryian Wine Roads
I love traveling to Southern Styria. The landscape is extremely scenic and much of the terrain is dominated by vineyards, with vines planted on steep, south-facing slopes. The Styrian Wine roads (Steirische Weinstrassen) are a series of idyllic serpentine roads linking together the main vine-growing villages of the region. Exceedingly romantic, the stunningly beautiful landscape alone is a good enough reason to go there, even if you aren’t a wine connoisseur. It has rightly been bestowed the moniker “Styrian Tuscany”.
Some of our favorite wine roads in Southern Styria are the Schilcherstrasse, which runs from Stainz southwards to Deutschlandsberg and onto Eibiswald close to the Slovene border; the Sausaler Weinstrasse, which spans across a small cluster of hilltop villages in the Sausal Gebirge to the west of Leibnitz; the Klöcher Weinstrasse, which starts from Bad Radkersburg and heads north towards Fehring; and finally the Südsteirische Weinstrasse, which begins in Ehrenhausen and zigzags its way west along the Austrian–Slovene border.
You’ll pass a number of attractions along the way. One of them is the village of Kitzeck which happens to boast the highest vineyards in Europe, growing on steep slopes, at an altitude of 564 meters. A ubiquitous sight along the Styrian wine roads is the Klapotetz (a high pole with vanes fluttering in the wind). This device serves as a scarecrow guarding the vineyards against birds.
One of the best things to see when taking a drive through the wine roads is the highly photogenic heart-shaped road. This picturesque strip is on a road named Špičnik and can be found just across the border in Slovenia. The best views of the heart-shaped road can be obtained from a restaurant called Turistična kmetija Dreisiebner. You can either dine at the restaurant or pay a fee of 2 EUR to access the viewing terrace which accords this postcard-perfect view. It’s truly a photographer’s delight and the ideal spot for a romantic selfie!
Although a few red wines are produced here, this is overwhelmingly white wine territory. South Styria produces some top-notch white wines which can be counted as among the best in the world. Some of the best-known varieties are the Welschriesling, Traminer, Gewürztraminer, and Schilcher.
You can sample some of these varieties in one of the numerous wine taverns (Buschenschank) along the way. These small family-run joints serve only cold dishes and homemade pastries along with appetizing local wines. The most popular Buschenschank dish is the “Brettljause”. It consists of tasty cold cuts (roast pork, ham, dry sausage, bacon, smoked sausage) and spreads (liver sausage, gram fat, frying fat, pumpkin seed spread) accompanied by horseradish and black bread served on a wooden board. Visiting these wine taverns is one of the most cherished Austrian traditions. Even though I’m not a wine connoisseur like Jacky, I really love the relaxed atmosphere of these wine taverns.
The Styrian Wine Roads are best visited in autumn (end of September until mid-October) when new wine is offered for tasting alongside the sweet young wine known as “Sturm”, which is basically semi-fermented freshly pressed grape juice. Wine festivals take place in Leutschach on the last weekend of September and in Gamlitz on the first weekend of October.
5. Church of St. Barbara
The Church of St. Barbara (Hundertwasserkirche), located in the small town of Bärnbach, is one of the true architectural wonders of Austria. Even though this church was erected in 1948 during the postwar period, it underwent a complete makeover in 1987 under the reigns of maverick architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. His work was characterized by asymmetry, undulating swirls, and labyrinthine spirals and his organic, vivid style.
Several of Hundertwasser’s playful, decorative trademarks are very visible, most notably the use of multicolored ceramic surfaces to jazz up the facade. Some people think that the church’s design is bizarre but we absolutely loved it. The exterior’s mystical imagery, glistening copper dome, and red-tiled roof covered in green circles are absolutely mesmerizing.
Also watch out for the twelve gates in the small park surrounding the church, each representing one of the world’s major religions. There are some quirky ones like the Urtor (“Ur-gate”), adorned with three round stones, inspired by the spiritual beliefs of prehistoric man, and an undecorated gate which stands for the faithless.
The interior of the church is surprisingly subdued in comparison. There are still a couple of things to look out for though, like the spiral stained-glass window which is a snail-shell swirl of color to the left as you enter. The larger-than-life altar cross bears a Baroque figure of Christ which is surrounded by a halo with 21 rays. Also interesting the glass altar, a gargantuan fish tank filled with twelve different layers of soil (taken from the Vatican and Bethlehem among other places) to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Church of St. Barbara is open from dawn-dusk. The entrance is free although you can leave a voluntary donation.
6. Lurgrotte Caves
The spectacular Lurgrotte Caves make for one of the most fascinating day trips from Graz. The caves are the largest stalactite cave in Austria and have rightly been hailed a natural wonder. Calcium mineral deposition over millions of years has yielded enchanting icy wonders along an underground stream.
This intriguing underground cave is known for its abundance of superb stalactites and stalagmites, giant rock domes, and subterranean gorges that have been entertaining visitors for over a century. The cave’s size, shape, naturally-arched roof, and smart LED lights combine with the waves to create eerie sounds that enhance its cathedral-like atmosphere. There seems to be some sort of functioning ecosystem in the cave as we saw a couple of bats during our visit.
The Lurgrotte Caves can either be visited only on a guided tour from Semriach or Peggau. The ones in Peggau are easier to access with public transport. Lurgrotte Semriach is a little hidden in a forest and can only really be reached by car.
The guided tour lasts approximately an hour. Unfortunately, it is only offered in German but you can get a leaflet with a good description of the route in English. Guided tours of Lurgrotte Semriarch are offered daily at 11:00, 14:00, 15:30 (15.04.-31.10), and at 14:00 on Saturday and 11:00 on Sunday (01.11.-14.04). Guided tours of Lurgrotte Peggau take place every hour on the hour from 10:00-15:00 (15.04.-31.10) and only by appointment in the winter (01.11.-14.04). The guided tour costs 8 EUR.
The cave temperature is a cool 8-10°C and it is quite damp inside so a light sweater or jacket and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
The cute little town of Mariazell in Northern Styria would still be a worthy place to visit even without the religious associations that have made it into the most important pilgrimage place in Austria. Perched on a hillside and encircled by pine-covered mountains, Mariazell embodies the image of an archetypal alpine village. Naturally, it offers opportunities for hiking and winter sports.
Obviously, the main reason Mariazell ropes in scores of visitors every year is the Mariazell Basilica (Basilika von Mariazell), which looms large above everything else in Mariazell from its lofty position at the top of the town’s main square. The earliest records of the church date from 1243, but it is believed to have been established in 1157. Architecturally, it sports a single Gothic spire between Baroque domes that were added later.
The interior of the church has Gothic ribbing and features some exemplary Baroque stucco work. It is full of tombs and relics, including the macabre remains of 3rd-century saints Paulilus and Modestus on either side of the nave. The lavish high altar is absolutely resplendent and features a serpent crawling across a silver-plated globe, overlooked by a cherub-encircled Crucifixion.
The chief object of veneration by pilgrims to Mariazell is a 12th-century Romanesque statue of the Virgin and Child. The statue itself is ensconced within the sumptuous Chapel of Mercy (Gnadenkapelle). Various miracles have been attributed to the statue that has turned Mariazell into the main pilgrimage center for the Roman Catholic population in this region of Europe. The Virgin herself is presented as a doll-like figure dressed in swirling silver skirts.
The church’s treasury is home to a trove of houses a treasure trove of ecclesiastical silverware and liturgical vessels, including a wooden statuette of the Madonna and Child.
The Mariazell Basilica is open daily from 07:00-20:00. The entrance is free. It gets exceptionally crowded on the weekends throughout the summer, with special ceremonies taking place on August 15 (Assumption) and September 8 (Birth of the Virgin). The treasury is open Tue-Sat from 10:00-15:00 and Sun from 11:00-15:00 (May-October). The cost of admission to the treasury is 4 EUR.
One other reason why Mariazell is famous is that it’s one of the main centers of gingerbread production in Austria. You can gorge on a variety of delectable gingerbread confections all over town. Arguably the most famous gingerbread manufacturer in Mariazell is Pirker Lebkuchen.
You can visit the bakery to try some freshly-prepared, hand-made delicacies and to buy gingerbread souvenirs. In addition, you can even take a tour of their factory to find out all about the company’s history and see for yourself up close exactly how gingerbread is made.
8. Riegersburg Castle
One of the most popular day trips from Graz, the Riegersburg Castle (Schloss Riegersburg), arguably the best castle in Styria. The castle is truly a breathtaking sight, dominating a landscape of rolling cornfields and pasturelands from a steep crag of volcanic basalt some 200 meters above the valley Grazbach stream.
The original medieval fortress was built in 1122 to keep the Hungarians at bay. Its current appearance, including over 3 kilometers of walls with eleven bastions, seven gates, and two moats, dates from the 17th century when the Turks were a major threat. In 1822 the castle came under the possession of the Liechtenstein family, who still use parts of the castle as a residence.
The castle is home to a small collection of arms and war machines used to defend the fortress during a siege. The castle is also home to the Witches’ Museum whose 12 rooms contain an extensive section on witchcraft explaining the background to the witch-hunting hysteria which seized many men and women leading them to be tortured, burned at the stake and otherwise persecuted.
Also worth seeing are the castle’s state rooms. Watch out for the 15th-century Knights Hall, whose ceiling and portals showcase amazingly detailed wood paneling. We also loved the 17th-century White Dining Room whose curly wedding-cake-like stucco work and ceiling paintings make it an absolute delight to photograph.
The Riegersburg Castle is open daily from 09:00-18:00 (May-September) and 10:00-18:00 (April and October). The entrance to the castle, museums and the lift costs 19 EUR.
9. Vorau Abbey
The Vorau Abbey (Stift Vorau) is yet another one in Styria’s cavalcade of magnificent abbeys. Situated on a small hillock in the small town of Vorau, the Vorau Abbey began life as an Augustinian abbey in the mid-12th century. Having undergone a transformation into a fortress in the 15th century, the abbey’s present form is the result of alterations made throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
The main attraction at Vorau Abbey is, of course, its stupendous fresco- and stucco-adorned library. Dating back to 1731, this library is bursting with history and holds more than 17,000 books, the oldest of which is over 800 years old. Some 415 valuable manuscripts can also be found here, including the oldest annals of poetry in the German language – the Vorauer Handschrift and the Kaiserchronik (a poetic history of the Roman and German emperors).
The ceiling frescoes in the library represent the Gods, philosophy, and jurisprudence. There are also two attractive globes from the late 17th century. One shows the earth in the 17th century while the other one shows heaven and well-known star constellations. I rate the library right up there with Admont’s as the most attractive one in Styria.
You should also take a quick peek into the marvelously decorated abbey church. This wonderfully ornate church features a dizzying array of frescoes extolling the savior Christ. I was really taken by the beauty of the lavish high altar which shows the passage of the Virgin Mary into heaven. Don’t miss to see the sacristy whose walls are adorned with scenes from Christ’s struggles, including a painting of the Last Judgement.
The library and the sacristy of Vorau Abbey can only be seen on a guided tour while the church is open to all. The guided tour costs 8 EUR. You can find more information about opening hours and tour times here.
10. Zotter Chocolate Factory
If you have a sweet tooth, a visit to the Zotter Chocolate Factory (Zotter Schokoladen Manufaktur) in the village of Bergl is an absolute must. Zotter is one of the finest small-scale producers of chocolate and goodies in the country. What makes Zotter unique is that they make everything in-house, from the first step to the last, and are one of the very few bean-to-bar producers in Europe.
A visit to the Zotter Chocolate Factory is the closest thing to visiting Willy Wonka (without the Oompa Loompas of course). Tours commence with a short film about cocoa harvesting followed by the chocolate production process.
You then make your way to the installed elevated walkways to view every stage of the chocolate-making process: the roasting and crushing of the beans into nibs; the milling of the nibs into raw liquid cocoa mass; the conching (mixing and agitating the chocolate to distribute evenly the cocoa butter and refine the texture and flavor); and the molding of the bars. This was quite fascinating because being a chocolate lover, I had never seen this in person. If you’re lucky, you can even get to see Mr. Willy Wonka (aka Mr. Zotter) himself.
Along the way, you can indulge yourself at the numerous interactive tasting stations along the way (pull a lever and a spoonful of liquid chocolate is dispensed). You can also create their own individual chocolates from various ingredients, shapes, and fillings by picking your favorite flavors. The chocolates are gobsmackingly delicious and are sure to leave you bleary-eyed and sugar-clogged.
The tour ends with one last choco-parade where every conceivable type of Zotter chocolate rolls past on a conveyor belt. If you are patient and wait around long enough, you can even try some of their eccentric concoctions. Some of these are sesame nougat with lamb cracklins, hemp bonbon, bacon bits, Moroccan pink pepper berries, Earl Grey tea, and chili bird’s eye. You can also check out the gift shop where you can buy some of your favorites for friends and family (or yourself). There are over 400 different varieties to choose from!
After the tour, you can survey the organic farm where you’ll come across many animals (goats, cocks, cows, rabbits, fallow deer, ponies, sheep). The farm is home to a restaurant, playground, and even a chocolate graveyard. Any failed flavors of Zotter are laid to rest in this “Cemetery of Ideas” complete with headstones.
The Zotter Chocolate Factory is open from 09:00-20:00 (May-September) and 09:00-19:00 (April-October). It is closed on Sundays and most public holidays. The entrance costs 17.90 EUR. Part Willy Wonka and part educational experience, a visit here comes highly recommended. Jacky and I have visited the factory thrice and can’t wait to go again.
11. Seckau Abbey
The Benedictine Seckau Abbey (Stift Seckau) is one of the best abbeys to see in Styria. Set in the small town of Seckau in Western Styria, the abbey is in a mountainous region divided by jagged ranges and alpine streams. Originally Augustinian, the abbey served as the ecclesiastical capital of Styria and the seat of its bishops until 1782, when the episcopal seat was shifted to Graz. It was refounded by the Benedictines in 1883.
Once you enter the abbey gates, you are welcomed by an attractive arcaded Renaissance courtyard watched over by a fine twin-towered Romanesque Basilica. The interior of the abbey’s Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary has retained its original late-Gothic character. It is minimally decorated and the nave is lined with fat, bulging pillars. We were mesmerized by the wooden Crucifixion, made around 1140, which hangs above the main altar. The slender, graceful form of Jesus exudes a sense of spiritual calm.
The Mausoleum of Karl II lies to the left of the high altar. A relief of the emperor, clad in full armor, adorns the lid of the marble sarcophagus, surrounded by cherubs holding up heraldic symbols of the imperial house.
The basilica is home to several attractive chapels, out of which the Bishop’s Chapel and the Sacrament Chapel are the ones to look out for. The Bishop’s Chapel is decorated with portraits of Styria’s bishops from the earliest times and features a 15th-century altarpiece depicting the Coronation of the Virgin.
You can visit Seckau Abbey on a guided tour from Thursday-Sunday at 11:00 and 14:00 (May-June & September-October). In July and August, guided tours are offered daily at 11:00, 14:00, and 15:30. A guided tour costs 8 EUR. The entrance to the basilica is free. The basilica is open daily from 09:00-12:30; 13:30-17:00.
I have a soft spot for Frohnleiten, in large part due to my mother-in-law being based there. This pretty town is located along one of the more picturesque bends of the Mur River valley between the high mountains of the Gleinalpe. As a result of this, Frohnleiten is surrounded by a network of marked hiking trails and cycling paths making it a popular spot for adventure enthusiasts.
Founded in the late 13th century as a fortified town, Frohnleiten was once an important transshipment port on the Mur River. You can still see some parts of the fortification walls and a gate. The town’s spacious square is surrounded by a lovely architectural jumble of old buildings and townhouses.
One of the sights worth seeing in Frohnleiten is the city-parish church, located at the far end of the square. The interior of the church is worth seeing for its ceiling frescoes and Rococo figures in the altarpiece.
The other reason that has brought Frohnleiten prominence is its exquisite flower displays that can be seen throughout the town. One of the best places to see these flowers is at the lovely Volkshauspark just beside the riverbank. Popular among the locals as a place for a stroll or chitchat, you can seek out exotic species from around the world here.
Thal is a small village just outside of Graz made famous for a couple of reasons. The first of those reasons is that Thal is the birthplace and hometown of the “Terminator” aka Arnold Schwarzenegger. Most people know that he was born in Austria but seldom do they know where he was born and grew up.
You can come to Thal and visit the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum, the only museum of its ilk in the world, and endorsed by the man himself. Located in the very house that he spent his formative years, the museum takes you on a journey covering Arnie’s life through a ton of photos, memorabilia, and multimedia installations.
The museum is pretty small and is spread over two levels of the house. Arnie lived on the top floor with his parents and brother from his birth in 1947 until 1966 when he left to pursue his dreams of winning the Mr. Universe competition. The tour of the museum starts with Arnie’s childhood room which shows his bed and desk and whose walls are plastered with photographs. Also on display in this room is his military uniform from back when he served in the army for a year.
Next up is the political career room which focuses on Arnie’s life as the Governator. Here, you can see his desk when he was the governor, along with a life-size statue and framed photos and memorabilia from his time in office.
This leads to the film career room which focuses on his exploits as an A-Lister in Hollywood. It is the coolest room in the museum, TV screens play clips from Arnie’s most popular films and is bursting with movie memorabilia and film props. I was really chuffed to see the Harley Davidson motorbike from the Terminator films and a sword from Conan the Barbarian.
The museum’s final two rooms focus on Arnie’s bodybuilding triumphs and the house kitchen complete with original furnishings. Trophies and photographs from his early days of bodybuilding can be found here, along with some of his first dumb-bells and work-out equipment.
Overall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum is quite interesting and I was glad to see it as it brought back great memories from my childhood. A must-visit for all Schwarzenegger fans! The museum is open daily from 10:00-18:00 (March-October) and 10:00-17:00 (November-February). The entrance costs 8.90 EUR.
The second reason to visit Thal is to see the Parish Church of St. Jacob (Pfarrkirche Thal bei Graz). The old church underwent a makeover with the addition of a new wing in the 1990s, and the result was quite unique, to say the least.
The exterior of the church is rather striking with the patinated copper sheets dominating the new building while the walls of the old building are painted turquoise and partly decorated with pebbles symbolizing Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The church design is completely unconventional and looks like something even Gaudi would’ve been proud of.
The interior of the church is even more fanciful and outlandish. The thick glass entrance doors have sheepskin horn handles and bear the symbols of Alpha and Omega. I read that the guy who designed the church was big on biblical scriptures and Judeo-Christian values. This is quite evident as the interior is painted in rainbow colors, totally reminiscent of the desert tent that the Israelites built when they moved out of ancient Egypt.
Judeo-Christian symbols and images are peppered throughout the interior. The floor tiles and stone pews studded with pebbles give the inside of the church a flamboyant & Gothic feel. The glittering altar is made out of glass crystals and shells, a recurring symbol also on the walls and on the back of the fan-shaped seats. After seeing so many opulent churches in Austria, it’s refreshing to see one as surreal as this one. Jacky and I absolutely loved it!
The Parish Church of St. Jacob is usually open daily from 09:00-dusk. Free entrance.
Thal is also popular among nature and sports enthusiasts as there are a couple of good hiking trails in the vicinity. It is home to the Thalersee, an artificial lake that offers numerous recreational activities such as boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter.
14. St. Veit’s Church
If you like seeing beautiful churches, the St. Veit’s Church in the town of Pöllau is one you don’t want to miss. It is located within the complex of the former Pöllau Abbey. Built in the early 18th century, the church is regarded as the high point of Styrian Baroque. The architecture of the church, particularly its imposing dome, was modeled on the St. Peter’s Basilica and it is affectionately known as the “Styrian St. Peter’s”.
The interior of the church is absolutely breathtaking. It seems like every conceivable bit of space along the 62-meter long nave is decorated with frescoes extolling the feats of angels and saints. The dome rises to a height of 42 meters and features trompe l’oeil frescoes celebrating the four Church fathers and the 12 apostles.
The gilded altarpiece shouldn’t be missed and features an exquisite painting depicting the martyrdom of St. Veit. Also worth noting is the humongous organ, the largest Baroque organ in Styria.
The St. Veit’s Church is open daily from 07:30-19:00 (April-October) and 07:30-17:00 (November-March). The entrance is free.
15. Bad Blumau
While Styria is famous for its gently rolling hills, vineyards, pumpkin fields, abbeys, and castles, it is also renowned for its excellent thermal spa resorts. The region of Eastern Styria, in particular, has long been famous for its crystal-clear mineral waters, and a detour at a spa resort will certainly be worth your while. Though there are some excellent spa resorts such as Heiltherme in Bad Waltersdorf and Parktherme in Bad Radkersburg, we recommend visiting Rogner Bad Blumau for an unforgettable experience.
Set amidst the fields and lush green meadows of the Styrian countryside, the resort was designed by the eccentric painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser’s buildings are distinguished by their highly experimental and Gaudi-like shapes that employ a variety of unusual materials, combining the artist’s vision of structures that blend with the natural environment.
The Rogner Bad Blumau spa is no different and is worth seeing as much for its architecture as for its relaxation opportunities. You’ll be greeted by an irregular jumble of rounded facades, two thousand erratically shaped windows, fantastical columns, golden domes, rooftop gardens, and rainbow-colored walls linked by winding, crazily paved pathways to the swimming and spa facilities.
The spa complex is huge and has 14 indoor and outdoor pools. The crystal-clear waters are all fed from two highly mineralized natural hot springs, whose water supports blood circulation and ameliorates ailments from arthritis to eczema.
Recharge your batteries in curative thermal water, take a refreshing sauna or jacuzzi, or pamper yourself to a wide range of individual health and wellness packages. You can sit under the stars or sip drinks in the warm pool. Whatever you choose, it will prove to be a magical experience!
Admission to the complex is available for half and full days or you can choose to stay overnight at the complex. Check the website for details.
16. Bruck an der Mur
The unassuming and laid-back nature of the town of Bruck an der Mur belies its importance as a major industrial center and rail junction in Northern Styria. Founded in the 9th century, Bruck’s fortunes prospered during the 14th and 15th centuries due to its position at the confluence of the Mur and Mürz rivers and its role in the salt and ironwork trade.
Almost all the major attractions in Bruck lie in or around its main square, the Koloman-Wallisch-Platz, which is lined by an attractive ensemble of ocher-hued townhouses. There are some notable buildings to look out for here like the Gothic Town Hall with its classicist facade and triangular gables, the arcaded Fabriziushaus, and the Renaissance Flössmeisterhaus.
One of the symbols of the city, an iron well, also stands in the main square and is distinguished by its intricate 17th-century wrought-iron canopy. If you gaze into the distance, you can also see another Bruck landmark, the Clock Tower, among the scant remains of Landskron fortress.
Top billing in the center of Bruck goes to the gorgeous Kornmesserhaus. Built in the early 16th century for an affluent ironmonger Pankraz Kornmess, it is one of the most impressive Gothic buildings in Austria. Strongly influenced by Venetian palaces of the time, the Kornmesserhaus has open arcades on the ground floor and a richly decorated first-floor loggia.
Bruck’s other prominent attraction is the St. Rupert’s Church (Ruprechtskirche), a petite Romanesque church lying in the town cemetery. The church’s claim to fame is the splendid High Renaissance Last Judgement fresco occupying the arch above the high altar.
The painting is a vivid portrayal of white-robed pious folk trooping off to be met by a key-brandishing St. Peter at the Gates of Paradise. Over to the right, sinners are bound together by a bloody rope and led away by demons.
The town of Murau in Western Styria is probably the most visually attractive of all the regional towns I’ve seen in Styria. Nestled on a particularly scenic stretch of the Mur Valley (Murtal), the town is defined by its photogenic ensemble of pastel-colored houses perched alongside the clear, gushing waters of the Mur River. Although it is off the tourist trail due to its relative isolation, Murau has a couple of noteworthy attractions that make the town worth visiting.
Murau’s compact center is based around the triangular Schillerplatz, surrounded by the elegant Renaissance townhouses of late-medieval merchants, a testament to the town’s industrial past as a crossroads of trading routes. Take the pathway from the western end of the square up to the Church of St. Matthew (Stadtpfarrkirche St Matthäus). Consecrated in the 13th century in Gothic style, the church was later altered in the Baroque style and now showcases both these styles.
The interior of the church is decorated with some beautiful historical frescoes, most notable of which are the Entombment of Christ and Annunciation and Christ’s ascent to heaven from Mount Tabor. I was really captivated by the one which depicts Eve standing beside the tree of life with two mice nibbling at the tree’s roots, while a figure of death with an ax approaches in the background.
Besides this, a series of panels depicts different branches of the Liechtenstein family, and the choir with its ribbed vault and beautiful keystones are particularly worth seeing. Don’t miss the Gothic Crucifixion group in the Baroque high altar and statues of the eleven apostles on the pillars.
Sitting directly on the hill above the church is the Murau Castle (Schloss Murau). Originally built as a fortress by the Liechtenstein family, who once ruled the region, the castle was converted into a princely Renaissance residence by Georg Ludwig zur Schwarzenberg in the 1630s. The castle has a fine arcaded courtyard and its grand state rooms, which offer a vivid insight into life behind the castle gates, can only be seen on a guided tour.
Murau is also home to the Murau Brewery, one of the most popular beer producers in Styria. You can take a two hour guided tour of the brewery to learn about the fundamentals of the beer-making process. Murau is also an excellent base for hiking and cycling in the warmer months due to its close proximity to forested hills and attractive alpine meadows.
The second-largest city in Styria, Leoben makes for a short day trip from Graz. Leoben has long forged a reputation for being an important industrial and academic center in the region. Leoben’s claim to fame is highlighted by the fact that the peace treaty between the Holy Roman Empire and the First French Republic was signed here in 1797 by Napoleon and Emperor Franz II.
Most of the main attractions in Leoben lie around the center, particularly around the main square (Hauptplatz). This long, rectangular square, which dates back to the 13th century is lined with many elegant 17th-century facades, indicative of the town’s early wealth derived from the local iron deposits.
The most eye-catching of all the buildings here is the gorgeous Hacklhaus, a stately Baroque-style glittering red edifice, whose stucco adornments include four female figures as allegories of the seasons. Also worth noting are the beautiful Pest Column (Pestsäule), the Miner’s Fountain, and the lovely Old Town Hall, whose facade shows an ostrich eating horseshoes.
Two of the most venerable attractions in Leoben are the Parish Church St. Xaver (Pfarrkirche St. Xaver) and the Parish Church Leoben-Göss (Pfarrkirche Leoben-Göss). Built in the 17th century by the Jesuits, the Church of St. Xaver is worth seeing for its interior ensemble. An impressive series of black-framed Baroque altars, each enshrouded in gilded tendrils and leaves, and a Romanesque crucifix on the south wall are the main highlights.
The Romanesque Church of Leoben-Göss is ensconced among the outbuildings of Styria’s first Benedictine Abbey, built around 1000. The interior of the church is worth seeing for its nave, a throwback to Styria’s late-Gothic architecture, and the beautiful 14th-century frescoes in the presbytery.
Behind the abbey lies the brewery responsible for Styria’s most ubiquitous ale, Gösser. The chance to look around the display of brewing techniques through the ages at the Gösser Braumuseum is limited to weekends and public holidays (April-October). If you can’t make it to the museum, you can sample local brews and have a bite to eat at Brauhaus Göss, opposite the abbey.
The last notable attraction in Leoben is the Art Museum (Kunsthalle Leoben) a state-of-the-art exhibition space that plays host to a different ethnography- or art-related show every year. It’s a decent museum featuring a local history display in the upstairs part of the building, inventively arranged backward to start with the post-industrial present before finishing up with Neolithic pots. You can watch newsreel footage of the local iron-and-steel industry and admire the burghers’ costumes on display.
The old mining town of Eisenerz is one of the important stops along the Styrian Iron Road (Steirische Eisenstrasse). First mined by the Celts, iron ore from Eisenerz fed the arms industry that propelled the Habsburgs southwards and eastwards against the advancing Ottoman Turks.
The town lies conveniently nestled at the foot of the exceptional Erzberg (Iron Ore Mountain). This unusual mountain is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in Austria. I can’t think of another landscape scarred by industry which is as strikingly attractive. Completely denuded and carved into a ziggurat shape by ages of open-cast mining, Erzberg’s color shifts from ocher to red to purple as the sunlight flits across its slopes. This provides a stunning contrast with the lush green forests and gray crags of the surrounding peaks.
Erzberg continued to provide Austria’s iron and steel industry until the 1980s. A limited amount of open-cast mining on the Erzberg still goes on, although it’s now more famous as a tourist-friendly show-mine than a place of hard graft. To see this majestic beauty up close, you can join an overground tour organized by Abenteuer Erzberg, which includes a ride on an enormous dump truck known as a “hauly” and witnessing a live blasting. Alternatively, you can opt for an underground tour of the show mine which transports you to the fascinating underground world of miners through a maze of galleries. Tours are in German, with English-language notes available. Check the website for more details.
Eisenerz is home to a picturesque Old Town that is well worth seeing. It is dominated by an attractive main square, Bergmannsplatz, grouped around the 16th-century Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) which is tastefully decorated with abstract sgraffito motifs.
Also worth seeing is the marvelous Church of St. Oswald (Pfarrkirche St. Oswald), fortified in the 16th century against the advancing Ottoman Turks (though The Turks never got this far). The church itself dates from the 13th century but gained its current late-Gothic appearance from an extensive face-lift in the late 15th century. The church is full of reminders of Eisenerz’s mining history: the relief of Adam and Eve above the door as you enter shows Adam dressed in medieval mining gear, while inside a wooden sculpture of a miner high up in the roof strikes a bell on the hour.
The area surrounding Eisenerz is full of hiking trails and is perfectly suited for those with a love of the outdoors. One of the most popular spots here is the small Leopoldsteiner Lake (Leopoldsteinersee). The lake is known for its emerald green crystal clear water and its exceedingly beautiful setting amidst verdant forests and granite mountains. It is a popular bathing and boating place in the summer months when you can hire boats. It is also popular in the winter when it freezes and serves as an ice-skating rink and curling playground.
20. Rein Abbey
Situated only 15 km north of Graz, the beautiful Rein Abbey is one of the most prominent abbeys in Styria. Founded in 1129, the abbey is the oldest surviving Cistercian abbey in the world.
Although much of the complex is Romanesque & Gothic in design, the collegiate church, which is also the main attraction of the abbey, is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. While the church’s yellow and cream-colored stucco facade is impressive, it is the church’s breathtaking interior that steals all the limelight.
The nave of the church is most spectacular and is dominated by four curving vaults depicting religious scenes watched over by cherubs. The nave is held aloft by chunky wall pillars, which are adorned with reddish-marbled entablature pieces. The stucco work inside the church is amazing and the galleries feature an ornate gilded balustrade grille.
The gilded altarpiece is another highlight of the interior and features an exquisite painting depicting the birth of Christ and the adoration by the shepherds. The high altarpiece is an exquisite representation of The Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
Besides the church, the Abbey library is worth seeing. In addition to 400 medieval manuscripts and incunabula, its magnificently frescoed interior is home to around 100,000 objects such as books, magazines, single sheets, and music.
Finally, don’t miss out on the marvelous Abbot Gallery in the southern cloister wing. This long gallery is laden with life-size portraits of the Abbots of Rein Abbey, most of which were painted by the same person.
Rein Abbey can only be visited on a guided tour. Guided tours are held daily at 10:30 and 13:30. Tours are usually held in German, though the guides will switch to English to answer your questions. A guided tour costs 9 EUR.
21. Herberstein Castle
As far as fairytale-like locations for castles go, Herberstein Castle (Schloss Herberstein) is as romantic as it gets. This fortified medieval castle sits on a rock deep in the Feistritz ravine in eastern Styria making it difficult to spot and access. It has remained in the hands of the same family since 1290.
The oldest parts of Herberstein Castle date from the end of the 13th century. The castle underwent numerous additions over the years and you can experience the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque on your visit here. The castle was transformed into a residential building and in the 17th century, a magnificent banqueting hall with ornate stucco work was added to serve as a place for festivities. The castle’s most magnificent part is the Florence Courtyard, a lovely arcaded enclosure more reminiscent of Renaissance Italian palaces than of Northern European fortresses.
Part of the castle is still open to visitors and you can see many items relating to the Herberstein family, and an exhibition that gives a unique insight into aristocratic life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The castle gardens are a delight to wander around and feature attractive herbs, fruit trees, terrace-shaped beds, water cascades, and hundreds of rose bushes. The garden, which dates back to the 16th century is split into four sections according to human traits and which are each differentiated by color.
The castle grounds are also home to the Herberstein Zoo, a very popular attraction with kids. It is home to more than 130 exotic animal species from all over the world.
Check the castle website for more information about opening times and prices.
22. Styrian Apple Road
The scenic Styrian Apple Road (Steirische Apfelstrasse) is one of my favorite places to see in Styria. This idyllic stretch of land winds for approximately 25 km from Prebuch bei Gleisdorf to Apfeldorf Puch and Oberfeistritz bei Anger in the midst of the East Styrian hills. The Styrian Apple Road came into existence in the mid-1980s when local farmers in the region came up with the idea of bringing the area of local fruit growing closer to the visitors and to promote tourism.
As you make your way along the Styrian Apple Road, you encounter swathes of apple orchards and will meet a variety of fruit cultivars who, along with apples also grow cherries, pears, plums, and offer all sorts of delicacies made from the fruits. This includes a wide variety of juices, must, jams, nectars, fruit liqueurs, and, above all, an assortment of fine brandies. There are a good number of wine taverns and good culinary establishments where you can sample must roast, apple dumplings, and apple ice cream.
I recommend visiting the “Haus des Apfels”, a fruit museum home to a permanent collection of intriguing facts about apples in myth, religion, art, harvesting, and fruit growing through the ages. In the open-air area, you can visit a press house and sample apple varieties and homemade brandies.
23. Stainz Castle
The Baroque-style Stainz Castle (Schloss Stainz) is one of the most popular sights in southern Styria. The castle is actually a former monastery dating back to 1229 and is now home to two stellar museums – the Hunting Museum and the Agricultural Museum (Jagdmuseum und Landwirtschaftsmuseum).
Both museums are interesting in their own right and are totally worth their price of admission. The Hunting Museum is the largest of its kind in Austria and showcases hunting culture in all its facets. It provides an extensive synopsis in terms of the cultural history of hunting and focuses on the interaction of man and nature. Jacky and I were both enthralled by the museum’s magnificent collection of historical weapons, works of art, technical equipment, and interactive installations. It was also interesting to learn more about wild animals and their habitats.
The Agriculture Museum is dedicated to Styrian agriculture and forestry. Its collection spans a wide range from rural life in the pre-industrial era to today’s agricultural challenges. The museum does a terrific job of documenting agricultural machinery and equipment.
Besides the two museums, it is also worth paying a quick visit to the castle church whose Baroque interior is laden with beautiful frescoes and ornate stucco decorations.
While it is free to walk around the castle courtyard and visit the church, the Hunting Museum and the Agriculture Museum are open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00-17:00 (April-November). The entrance to the museums costs 9.50 EUR.
24. Oberkapfenberg Castle
Oberkapfenberg Castle (Burg Oberkapfenberg) is the main sightseeing landmark in the otherwise forgettable industrial town of Kapfenberg in Northern Styria. The medieval castle is perfectly situated on a hilltop overlooking the whole town.
The present castle dates back to the mid-13th century when it was built by the Counts of Stubenberg. It got a Renaissance facelift in the mid-16th century but fell into ruins in the mid-18th century when the Stubenberg’s moved into the new Wieden Castle. They did, however, rebuild the castle in the mid-20th century. Today, the castle functions as a cultural and culinary experience.
You can take a tour of the castle and see parts of the castle like the Knight’s Hall, the Loreto chapel, and the only surviving alchemist furnace in Europe. The alchemy exhibition is kind of eerie and sheds some light on the secrets of gold production. The castle also hosts a popular falconry exhibition which allows you to get up close with birds of prey.
Finally, you can treat yourself to fine views of Kapfenberg and the surroundings from the castle’s high vantage point.
The Oberkapfenberg Castle is open daily from 10:00-17:00. The entrance to the castle costs 8 EUR. The falconry show takes place from Wednesday-Sunday at 11:00 and 15:00 (April-October). It costs 8 EUR. The combined ticket for the castle and the falconry costs 14 EUR.
About 2.5 km further up the mountain from the castle is a fabulous Austrian restaurant called Preiselbauer. Housed in a huge old rustic Austrian chalet, the restaurant also has a big enclosure consisting of goats, horses, wild deer, so you can enjoy the scenic views and watch the animals play while you dine. The menu is comprehensive and meat-heavy with a focus on peasant dishes and game specialties. Treat yourself to a wide variety of traditional Austrian dishes, Styrian delicacies and fresh, homemade pastries.
25. Vinofaktur Genussregal
In the small town Vogau in South Styria, lies Vinofaktur Genussregal, Styria’s largest wine shop which offers more than 2,500 different regional wines and delicacies from South Styria. What makes a visit to Vinofaktur essential is its unique architecture and its exhibition area which not only celebrates the culinary achievements of the region but also gives you a chance to experience them.
What makes the shop’s architecture intriguing is the numerous shipping containers stacked on top of the store like a shelf. The inscriptions and paintings of the containers refer to regional Styrian products.
The interactive exhibition is thoroughly enjoyable and explains how high-quality raw products are processed into unique foods, using special production processes. The presence of 40 tasting stations gives you the unique opportunity to sample products from various manufacturers such as pumpkin seed oil, nibble kernels in many flavors, numerous oils, different vinegar flavors, honey, jam, volcano ham, chutneys, different kinds of pumpkin, pesto, chocolate, etc. Along the way, you get to sample some Styrian white wine as well!
The tour ends with the possibility to purchase some wine and culinary products. It’s a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs. Vinofaktur is open daily from 10:00-18:00 and a tour of the exhibition costs 7 EUR. If you enjoy modern art or are an epicurean like us and appreciate fine wine and food, a visit to Vinofaktur Genussregal is a must.
Now, what do you think? What are your favorite day trips from Graz? Any place we missed on this list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!