Often criminally overlooked in favor of its flashier Austrian siblings of Vienna, Innsbruck, and Salzburg, Graz is finally emerging from the shadows as a worthy tourist destination. This fantastic city has a lot to offer with its fascinating architecture, burgeoning food scene, vibrant nightlife, cutting-edge design, attractive parks and gardens, offbeat galleries and museums. Graz is a city of experiences that rewards the curious traveler. Here’s our lowdown on the top things to do in Graz.
Please note: This article appears in paid collaboration with VisitGraz as part of the #GrazAmbassadors project. Of course, this does not affect our opinion. We report our honest experiences without obligations. The article also contains affiliate links. Learn more about them on our Disclosure page.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Visit Graz
Graz is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, renowned for its elegant Old Town. Located in the southeastern pocket of Austria close to the Hungarian and Slovenian borders, Graz is Austria’s second-largest city with about 330,000 inhabitants and over 630,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area respectively. So why does it stay below most people’s radars? Well, firstly no Mozart was born here and secondly no century-old, grand empire was governed from here.
Still, until the seventeenth century, Graz was a genuine rival to Vienna, as home to the Leopoldine line of the Habsburg family and an assemblage of aristocrats who swarmed around their court. This has given way to an impressive assemblage of Baroque architecture and Renaissance courtyards.
Although Graz lacks an Alpine hinterland, the city straddles the River Mur and is surrounded by rolling hills, which makes it undeniably attractive. Graz also stands out for its picturesque churches, historic sights, friendly locals and burgeoning craft beer scene.
One of the other reasons why Graz is so special is that with significantly fewer tourists to cater to, it has maintained its true Austrian character and will give you a real taste of what remains of this before-mentioned grand empire (I believe Austrians are engineered with a genetic minority complex to make them whine about the loss of the monarchy even a hundred years later.)
How to Get Around Graz
Many of the must-see attractions in Graz lie within the borders of the Old Town. Walking is the best way to discover its many hidden gems and appreciate the true charm of the city.
Some parts of Graz have a hilly terrain which can make walking strenuous, especially if you have weak knees or foot problems. Make sure to wear a comfortable pair of flat shoes rather than heels as they can get stuck in cobblestones in the pavement.
In order to save some time or save some energy, you can also get around Graz using the city’s efficient public transportation system. This will prove particularly useful in order to get to some of the further lying attractions. All the major attractions in Graz are easily accessible by public transport, and switching from one form of transport to another is very seamless.
Graz’s public transport is top-notch and consists of trams, regional trains, and buses. It is easy to track your progress as each stop is announced by a pre-recorded voice and all carriages display the route map, indicating the stops. A 24-hour ticket costs 5.50 EUR while a single ticket costs 2.50 EUR. Both the single ticket and the 24-hour tickets can be purchased onboard city buses from the driver, from ticket vending machines aboard the trams and at train stations, and from the Austrian Railways (ÖBB) ticket webshop or with the ÖBB ticket app. You can find more information about fares and tickets and how to plan your trip using public transport here.
A 72-hour ticket is also available and is a good option if you’re in the city for a couple of days. The 72-hour ticket costs 12.90 EUR and can be purchased from ticket vending machines aboard the trams and at train stations, certain hotels, the Graz tourism office and at the airport. Another advantage of buying the 72-hour ticket is that it entitles you also to reduced admission charges at selected attractions.
Should you be visiting Graz in the warmer months, getting around on a bicycle is a fun way to see the city. Cycle routes usually run on the pavement and are clearly marked with lines and arrows. Bikes can be hired from one of the several bike rental shops scattered over town, for example, the one at Graz Central Station (Graz Hauptbahnhof) is a good option.
Avoid using taxis in Graz unless it is absolutely necessary as you will be well covered by public transport. However, if you wish to travel by taxi you can get one from the taxi ranks outside the main railway station, large hotels, and busy squares. Otherwise, you can call the taxi office at +43 316 878.
Things to Do & See in Graz
There are heaps of great things to do in Graz and this lovely city is a thrilling and superb getaway for those on a short break. Whether your interests lie in architecture, museum hopping, eating, shopping or just chilling in the park, there’s something to do for everyone in Graz.
For your convenience, this post includes a free map of the top sights in Graz. You can find the addresses of the attractions by clicking on the icons in the map. Below we have compiled a list of the best things to see and do in Graz.
- Wander Around the Old Town
- Be Awed by the Beauty of the Main Square
- Admire the City Hall
- Graz Cathedral
- Explore the Lavish Eggenberg Palace
- Marvel at the Collection of the Styrian Armory
- Go Up the Schlossberg
- Admire the Clock Tower
- Pay Your Respects at the Mariatrost Basilica
- Take a Walk on the Island in the Mur
- Visit the Modern Art Museum
- Check Out the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II
- Relax in the City Park
- Visit the Farmers’ Markets and Try Some Local Specialties
- Survey the Natural History Museum
- Feast On Some Delectable Austrian & Styrian Cuisine
- Graz Parish Church
- See the Romantic Glockenspiel
- Graz Museum
- Enjoy Coffee in One of Graz’s Trendy Cafes
- Go Hiking To See The Gösting Castle
- Take a Stroll Along Herrengasse
- The Painted House
- Learn About Classic Art at the Old Gallery
- Attems Palace
- Graz Castle
- Franciscan Church & Monastery
- Museum of Perception
- Austrian Sculpture Park
- Eggenberg Palace Gardens
- Take a Tour of the Graz Opera House
- Gaze At the Architecture Along Sackstraße
- New Gallery
- Get An Adrenaline Rush on the Slide
- Church of Our Lady of Succor
- Folk Life Museum
- Hop Aboard the Fairytale Express
- Go On A Day Trip
1. Wander Around the Old Town
Graz’s extravagantly picturesque Old Town (Altstadt) conveys the atmosphere of the archetypal Austrian medieval city. Strolling amidst its cobblestone streets lined with gorgeous red-roofed old buildings and Baroque church spires is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Graz. The Old Town of Graz was deservedly added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1999.
There is a lot to see in the Old Town and it’s a great place to get lost and wander around. Follow the cobbled lanes worn smooth by nearly a millennia of wagon wheels and shoe leather. Narrow alleys and well-preserved facades tell the story of the city dating back more than 900 years. Streets like Hofgasse, Sporgasse, and Sackstraße are loaded with examples of marvelous architecture. Keep your camera ready!
To experience the historic Old Town at its most magical, go early or late in the day and you can soak up the romance all by yourself on tranquil strolls when the morning light filters through the streets or along the moonlit cobbled lanes.
2. Be Awed by the Beauty of the Main Square
Graz’s main square (Hauptplatz) is undeniably one of its must-see attractions. The square, which lies in the heart of the city, began as the main market square in the mid 12th century—a tradition it still maintains to this day. Indeed, everything in Graz seems to revolve around this trapezoidal market square and it pulsates with the bustle of shoppers and commuters most hours of the day. The main square also serves as a venue for many prominent festivals and events.
The square is encircled by a spate of buildings, many with medieval to late Gothic structures and sporting eye-catching Biedermeier or Baroque facades, often with stucco decorations. Look out for the White House (Weißsche Haus) at number 3, the Eagle Pharmacy (Adler Pharmacy) at number 4, and the Bürgerhaus Zum großen Christoph at number 6. My favorite one though is the Luegg House (Haus am Luegg) at number 11 which stands out with its round arch arcades and richly ornamented 17th-century facade.
Dominating the center of the main square is the fountain of Archduke Johann, who was pivotal to much to the Graz’s development. The four female nymphs around it are allegorical representations of Styria’s four main rivers: the Mur, the Enns, the Drau, and the Sann– although the latter, rising in the south Styrian mountains, was lost to Austria in 1918, and now flows through Slovenia.
3. Admire the City Hall
Located on the southern end of the main square, the majestic Graz City Hall (Grazer Rathaus) is truly a sight to behold. The history of the building reflects how Graz has prospered over the centuries. This stunning Late Historicist-Old German-style edifice was completed in 1893, on the same location where two earlier city halls stood.
Designed by Viennese architects Wielemans and Reuter, the construction of Graz City Hall was financed with funds acquired through a wine tax. Look out for the various interesting statues on the building’s facade which represent notable Austrian figures and the Habsburg emperors. There are also four sculptures dedicated to art, science, commerce, and industry.
You can enter the City Hall to get a glimpse of the sumptuous interiors including stunning coffered ceilings, portraits of past Graz mayors, a painting depicting the city hall over time, and even a brass Styrian panther.
Graz City Hall is open daily and is free to enter.
During the heady days of the Habsburg Empire, Graz’s mild climate had made it a popular retirement choice for army officers and civil servants, and its reputation as a conservative town swarming with pensioners led it to even acquiring the moniker Pensionopolis (City of the Retired). Today, however, Graz is a lively student town being home to eight colleges and universities, with plenty of nocturnal activity to go around.
4. Graz Cathedral
The Graz Cathedral (Domkirche) is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Graz. The cathedral is a former castle church, built in the mid-15th century for Emperor Frederick III when Graz was an imperial city. Its west portal bears the Emperor’s coat of arms and his famous motto, AEIOU – which were variously interpreted, for example as “Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo” (The Entire World is Austria’s Empire).
The cathedral’s Gothic exterior is quite spartan, except for the ornate tower and golden spire. Step inside to marvel at the elaborate interior which deftly combines Baroque and Gothic elements. Look out for the Gothic Gottesplagenbild fresco which depicts life in the early 1480s when Graz was besieged by a string of horrific events (Turkish invasion, the Black Death and locusts).
Besides this, the ornate high altar, beautiful cathedral organ, and two Renaissance reliquary chests, each bearing ivory reliefs depicting allegories of Love, Death and Time are worth seeing.
The Graz Cathedral is open daily and it is free to enter.
5. Explore the Lavish Eggenberg Palace
The 17th-century Eggenberg Palace (Schloss Eggenberg) is one of my favorite places to see in Graz. This historic palace is not only one of the most impressive Baroque structures in Graz but the whole of Austria. It was built for one of the region’s most important families, the Eggenbergs, who became leading financiers in Graz before using their wealth to fund military careers.
The building sits in a large park. The four wings of the Baroque structure surround a large court with arched arcades and two smaller courts separated by the palace church. The arcaded courtyard is gorgeous, similar to the one of the Landhaus.
If you want, you can take a guided tour through the vast palace with its 365 windows, 31 rooms on each floor, 24 staterooms with 52 doors, and 4 corner towers, which serve as an allegory of universal order.
The tour of the 24 staterooms (Prunkräume) takes you through a series of bedrooms, reception rooms and themed rooms filled with immaculately preserved 17th and 18th-century furnishings, tapestries, and adornments.
One of the highlights here is the East Asian rooms that are decorated with East Asian handicrafts, Chinese porcelain, silk paintings. The eight-part Japanese screen from the early 17th century forms a unique and previously unknown view of the castle of Osaka.
Best of all is the exquisite Planetary Hall (Planetensaal), a splendid hall featuring gorgeous stuccowork and Baroque paintings that combine astrological symbolism and Eggenberg family mythology into a complex allegory. The paintings depict signs of the zodiac and a figure of the sun-god Helios symbolizing Emperor Leopold I. You can also take a quick peek at the palace’s ornate chapel which showcases a grand Byzantine icon and ceiling frescoes.
The guided tour of the staterooms takes place Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from April-October at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00. It costs 15 EUR. Unfortunately, photography is very rarely permitted.
Most of the museums in Graz fall under the umbrella of the Universalmuseum Joanneum. You can save a lot of money on individual entrance fees by purchasing a 24-hour ticket (15 EUR) or a 48-hour ticket (21 EUR), each available from the museum sites themselves.
6. Marvel at the Collection of the Styrian Armory
A visit to the Styrian Armory (Landeszeughaus) is one of the best things to do in Graz. With a collection of over 32,000 objects, the Graz armory today ranks as the world’s best-preserved collection of old arsenal. The museum itself is housed in a building with a lovely Italian Renaissance facade that is noted for its statues of war deities Mars and Minerva flank the entrance.
The armory was built between 1642 and 1645 to provide the local population with a readily available stock of weapons in case of a Turkish attack. Graz has a long history as a military center and for more than two centuries it was a bulwark against the Ottoman Turks protecting the threatened Austrian provinces of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola.
The vast collection is spread over four timber-beamed levels and includes a horde of heavy guns, edged weapons, flintlock pistols, rifles, harnesses, helmets and armor used by infantry and nobles. I particularly enjoyed the collection of 16th-century Hungarian sabers and the 17th-century muskets. If you have a passion for historical weaponry, you’ll have a blast at the Armory.
The Styrian Armory is open Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-17:00 (April-October). From November-March, entrance is only possible on guided tours. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR. Invest in the audio guide (2.50 EUR) as it will prove very handy when watching the exhibits.
7. Go Up the Schlossberg
One of the most popular sights in Graz, the Schlossberg is a 473-meter wooded hill that overlooks the Old Town. This formerly fortified hill is the site of the original fortress where Graz was founded. This fortress was key in the city’s defenses from the Middle Ages onwards and held out stoutly against Napoleon’s armies in 1809. Still, it was destroyed almost entirely in the end, with the exception of the clock tower and the bell tower.
There are a couple of ways to get to the top of Schlossberg. If you are willing to brave it, you can take 260 steps along the balustraded stone staircase zigzags to ascend the Schlossberg. Or, if you will, you can take the elevator which takes you up through the hill. Yes, through the hill. Your third alternative and my personal favorite is to take the funicular.
Once you have reached the top you are free to stroll around the lush patch of wooded parkland or simply take in the breathtaking panoramic view over the rooftops. Maybe get yourself a bottle of good Austrian wine and a chunk of cheese and have a picnic. You will enjoy yourself so much, you won’t even want to know how much time has passed.
8. Admire the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower (Uhrturm) is Graz’s defining landmark. It acquired its appearance in the mid-16th century when the original Gothic tower was redone in a more contemporary Renaissance style with three coats of arms adorning the walls. The Clock Tower is extraordinarily photogenic and at first glance will leave you perplexed and wonder whether the clock is out of order. Unusually, the clock’s big hand is the hour hand. This quirky anomaly is due to the fact that the minute hand was added quite a time after the hour hand of the clock.
Interestingly, the clock tower is one of the last two standing pieces of the original Schlossberg fortress, the demolition of which was ordered by Napoleon in 1809 after his army had defeated the Habsburgs. So cherished is the Clock Tower that townsfolk paid Napoleon a ransom of 2987 florins and 11 farthings to spare it during its 1809 invasion.
9. Pay Your Respects at the Mariatrost Basilica
For me, the Mariatrost Basilica (Basilika Mariatrost) is the most beautiful church in Graz and the one most worth visiting. Located in the district of Mariatrost along the periphery of the city, the church sits on top of Purberg Hill. Its elegant Baroque facade is enhanced by the delectable yellow-and-cream twin towers and the large dome in the middle.
Ascend the 216 steps to the basilica to admire its magnificent interior. The interior is dominated by sumptuous ceiling frescoes and altars. The vaults and the inside of the dome are decorated with trompe l’oeil frescoes depicting the life of the Virgin Mary and the four occidental Church Fathers.
Particularly impressive is the gilded high altar which features a late Gothic wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. Many miracles were attributed to this statue as far back as the 17th century. Each year, thousands of devout Austrians, Croats, Hungarians, and Slovenes converge on the basilica to see the statue.
10. Take a Walk on the Island in the Mur
The Island in the Mur (Murinsel), floating on the River Mur, is one of Graz’s most beloved landmarks. This island-cum-bridge, tethered by two footbridges, is a glass and steel creation that was erected in 2003 when Graz was named as the European Capital of Culture.
The Island in the Mur is the brainchild of American architect, Vito Acconci, who desired that the modern structure resemble a giant seashell. The result is a wonderfully fluid structure, with the main portion of the structure swerving and curving around the inner rim, giving rise to paths and tunnels.
Take a walk here to see the amphitheater and a children’s playground. Then sit at the cafe/bar, which is submerged under a water roof, to enjoy the surrounding views from a different perspective. Although the Island in the Mur looks impressive in the daytime, it’s really best to see it when the sun goes down. The entire steel shell is illuminated with deep blue lights that present a great photo-op.
11. Visit the Modern Art Museum
Arguably the city’s most controversial structure, the Graz Modern Art Museum (Kunsthaus Graz) is one of the best things to see in Graz. Unveiled in 2003 to mark Graz’s stint as the European Capital of Culture, the building contrasts sharply with the red terracotta-tiled roofs and Baroque architecture around it.
To say that the architecture of the Modern Art Museum is intriguing and unique is just putting it mildly. In my opinion, this ultramodern blob-like structure sort of resembles a giant android or an oversized bodily organ floating like a giant balloon that’s outgrown its hosts with 16 tubercles or light nozzles.
The building’s glistening dark blue acrylic panels are fitted with almost a thousand lights, which can be programmed to display text and simple pictures as well as illuminate the building at night. No wonder the Modern Art Museum is affectionately called the “Friendly Alien” and “Spacelab.”
The museum showcases a range of international exhibitions which change every three to four months. Its ever-changing program of contemporary art shows is as unusual and provocative as the building itself.
The Graz Modern Art Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-17:00. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR.
12. Check Out the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II
Make your way through the narrow alleyways up the hill towards the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II, a stunning piece of Mannerist-Baroque architecture that is one of the must-see sights in Graz. One of the city’s most remarkable buildings.
This dome-encrusted structure was completed in 1638 as a tomb for Emperor Ferdinand II and his family. Being a pious Catholic, the Emperor was notorious for the extremely harsh measures he took to introduce the Counter-Reformation in his territories, as well as for provoking the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, one of Europe’s bloodiest ever conflicts.
The mausoleum’s architecture is gorgeous and skilfully conflates a variety of styles, coming over as a cross between Classical temple and Baroque church. Prominent among the exuberant Baroque details on its cream-colored front facade are the statues which seem poised to topple from the pediment is a graceful figure of St. Catherine, resting against the wheel on which she was tortured.
The interior of the mausoleum is as impressive as its exterior and features fine stucco work and swirling frescoes on the ceiling. The mausoleum’s crypt contains the remains of Emperor Ferdinand II, his wife, and son. Interestingly, their graves are marked by simple stone plaques. There is a sarcophagus for the Emperor’s parents however and lovely side chapels.
The Mausoleum of Ferdinand II is open daily from 10:30-12:30; 13:30-16:00 (May-December). From January-April it is open on Tuesday & Friday from 10:30-12:30; 13:30-16:00. The entrance costs 6 EUR.
If you asked me what is the most beautiful Renaissance building in Graz, I would probably answer the Landhaus. The Landhaus was built in the 1550s to house the Styrian Diet which under Habsburg rule also encompassed parts of present-day Slovenia and Italy. These days, it is home to the provincial parliament.
When viewed from outside, the Landhaus seems like an unassuming building, with its loggia and vast arched windows, that have been done in the Venetian style. I absolutely adore the Italianate arcading of the inner courtyard which is one of the premier examples of Renaissance architecture in Austria. Three floors of balustraded galleries are linked by a raised walkway, and the fountain here is topped with a forged bronze cupola.
You can also take a tour of the interior of the Landhaus to see the Baroque assembly hall, which has beautifully carved doors crowned by allegorical scenes, and ceiling stucco work, depicting scenes from Styrian history. Also worth seeing is the Knight’s Hall, with its stucco ceiling featuring zodiac signs and the four elements.
The Landhaus is open Monday-Friday from 10:00-18:00.
14. Relax in the City Park
If you want to unwind and take a breather from all the sightseeing head to the marvelous City Park (Stadtpark). The park is a leafy barrier that divides the city center from the residential suburbs beyond.
Laid out on the site of the town fortifications after their demolition in 1784, it’s a popular area for a daytime stroll, and a smattering of cafes ensures it remains lively well into the evening. Scattered among the grassy lawns, you will find sculptures of people who have helped shape Graz’s history.
15. Visit the Farmers’ Markets and Try Some Local Specialties
Nothing beats a fresh piece of fruit, sausage, or cheese. And nothing beats locally and organically grown food that also supports local farmers instead of big industry. Come to the farmers’ market at either Kaiser-Josef-Platz or Lendplatz in the morning and enjoy a quick chat with one of the merchants while you buy your breakfast. This is also one of the best spots to purchase “Styrian Gold” – Pumpkin Seed Oil.
16. Survey the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum (Naturkundemuseum) is undoubtedly one of the best museums in Graz. Featuring a fascinating collection which embraces geology, zoology, and botany, this museum lends intriguing insights into the evolution of life, how the earth came into being, and the resulting diversity of nature.
Employing the latest in museum technology, the museum is not only worth visiting for its attractively mounted display of stuffed fauna but also seeks to educate and ask pressing questions on the multifacetedness of nature. I especially enjoyed the geology section, which showcases different stones and minerals from all over the globe and provides a fascinating insight into the geological and mineralogical history of Styria.
The Natural History Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00-17.00. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR.
17. Feast On Some Delectable Austrian & Styrian Cuisine
One of the best things to do in Graz is feasting on some hearty Austrian cuisine that is characterized by a distinctive Styrian touch. Austrian cuisine is remarkably multicultural, a direct legacy of the country’s imperial past, borrowing dishes from every corner of the old Habsburg Empire: goulash from Hungary, dumplings from Bohemia and even the Wiener Schnitzel from Lombardy.
Of course, everyone knows Wiener Schnitzel, which should classically be veal, breaded and fried. Another renowned meat specialty which is a particular favorite of mine is the national dish Tafelspitz, which consists of boiled beef, potatoes, and horseradish sauce.
The other classic Austrian dishes that are definitely worth sampling are Backhendl, chicken fried in breadcrumbs; Schweinsbraten, slices of roast pork; Zwiebelrostbraten, sautéed beef with lots of fried onions and sauce; and Leberknödelsuppe, a clear beef broth with liver dumplings.
Obviously, in a country with such a famous sweet tooth, there’s no shortage of rich and calorific desserts. Apart from the ubiquitous Apfelstrudel, Palatschinken, fluffy crêpes that may be filled with fruit or jam, are a regular feature. Look out, too, for Marillenknödel, sweet apricot dumplings, and the politically incorrect but scrumptious Mohr im Hemd – literally “Moor in a shirt” – hot chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Graz is also the ideal location to sample culinary specialties from the province of Styria. Styria is a province deeply steeped in tradition and its cuisine is one of its hallmarks. Styrian cuisine is characterized by liberal use of the delicious, intensely aromatic nutty, dark green Kürbiskernöl (pumpkin seed oil) which is as omnipresent as salt and pepper in kitchens throughout the region. Pumpkin seed oil forms the basis of many food dishes in Styria such as all kinds of salads, pumpkin seed bread, and creamy pumpkin soup.
Some other culinary Styrian favorites to look out for in Graz are Käferbohne (runner beans), Hoadensterz (buckwheat mush), Klachelsuppe (pork hock soup), and Wurzelfleisch (a kind of stew made with boiled pork, potatoes, and horseradish). All these will definitely get your taste buds going.
You might want to try Styrian wine, made from grapes that grow on steep, sunny slopes. Popular varieties such as Welschriesling, Traminer, and the Schilcher have attained widespread acclaim.
18. Graz Parish Church
The Graz Parish Church (Stadtpfarrkirche) is an elegant mix of Baroque and Neo-Gothic styles. The church’s attractive facade stands out due to its Baroque spire that is topped with a fine 18th-century bell tower.
The church’s interior is quite beautiful and features a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin, attributed to Tintoretto on the right-hand side of the nave.
However, the main attraction of the interior is the stained glass behind the altar. One panel (in the window to the left) clearly portrays Hitler and Mussolini watching over the flagellation of Christ.
19. See the Romantic Glockenspiel
The Glockenspiel is one of Graz’s most popular tourist attractions. It features a couple in traditional Styrian attire spin around to the tunes of three different melodies that keep changing regularly. Alpine folk music and yodeling songs blend with more contemporary melodies and even Christmas carols when the occasion calls for it. The show ends with the crowing of a golden rooster which flaps its wings at the end. This romantic and slightly kitsch display takes place three times a day (11:00, 15:00 & 18:00) up in the gable of the building in the eponymous square.
The Glockenspiel was commissioned by a brewer to advertise his beer and brewery. The motifs and reliefs of the Art Nouveau facades of the carillon house and the adjoining house were put up with the purpose of encouraging people to have a tipple. Fortunately, there are plenty of bars in the vicinity.
20. Graz Museum
For anyone interested in the history of Graz, the Graz Museum is a must-visit. The museum is ensconced in the former Palace Khuenberg.
It is definitely one of the better city museums you’ll see and nearly 1000 years of local history is well documented for visitors eager to learn more about Graz’s past. As you make your way around the exhibits, you will learn about important past industries, trade and crafts, testimonies of war and reconstruction.
It’s commendable that the museum doesn’t shy away from dealing with dark issues about Graz’s past such as antisemitism, misogyny, religious intolerance, and political and economic oppression. Overall, I found the Graz Museum well-curated and organized in an intuitive manner. I particularly enjoyed the comparative approach aimed at showing how and why Graz evolved in ways different from other Austrian cities like Linz, Salzburg, and Vienna.
The Graz Museum is open daily from 10:00-18:00 (until 20:00 on Wednesdays). The entrance costs 7 EUR.
21. Enjoy Coffee in One of Graz’s Trendy Cafes
Coffee has a very long tradition in Austria and cafes are regarded as important meeting places where you can linger at your table for several hours by ordering just one cup of coffee. While Graz may not possess grand old coffeehouses like in Vienna, it does have a bevy of hip cafes and bars that serve equally aromatic coffee and add a new dimension to the city’s coffee culture.
At most cafes today you will find lattes, cappuccinos, and even frappes. Nonetheless, if you can, you should try coffee the Austrian way. Two of the most popular options are Kleiner/Großer Brauner and Melange. A Brauner is basically black coffee with a little bit of milk (available as either a single or double). A popular variation of this is the Verlängerter which is a bit milder. A Melange consists of frothed milk and steamed milk. Often it is dusted with a bit of cocoa powder.
Some of my favorite cafes in Graz are Cafe Harrach, Cafe Schwalbennest, and Duck’s Coffee Shop.
22. Go Hiking To See The Gösting Castle
Graz has several good hiking options. One of these is the Gösting Castle (Burg Gösting). The Gösting Castle dates back to the medieval days when the hills around Graz were fortified with watchtowers and castles for defensive purposes. Having been built in the 11th century, the castle was gradually expanded and updated for several centuries, serving as an outpost to defend against marauding Turks and Hungarians.
In 1723, the castle incurred a stroke of misfortune in the form of a lightning bolt igniting a gunpowder magazine, blowing the roof and several walls leaving only some charred remains. Today only the chapel, the keep, and the remnants of some of the walls are still standing.
Having climbed your way to the top of the castle which sits 200 meters above Graz, you’ll be rewarded with a scenic panoramic view of Graz and the Eastern Styrian hills. Free entrance.
23. Take a Stroll Along Herrengasse
Herrengasse is the principal commercial street in the Graz Old Town that runs from the main square to Jakominiplatz. This broad expanse cobbled boulevard is chock-full of resplendent examples of Baroque architecture making it a pleasure to stroll on. Cordoned off to vehicular traffic, Herrengasse is a great place to observe Graz’s sleek trams.
Shopping and dining options are aplenty on Herrengasse with a lot of boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants. People-watching is a favorite past-time of those sitting in roadside cafes, so make sure to join in and simply enjoy the atmosphere.
24. The Painted House
One of the most Instagram-worthy locations in Graz is the stunning Painted House (Herzogshof). This is one of my absolute favorite buildings in Graz due to its vividly painted facade. Although the house has been in existence since the mid-14th century, having been used as a ducal house, the famous frescoes only date to the mid-18th century.
The colorful frescoes depict the hierarchy of Greco-Roman gods. Gods depicted are Bacchus, the god of wine; Vulcan, the god of fire and metalworking; Vesta, goddess of the hearth, home, and family; Apollo, the god of healing, medicine and archery, and of music and poetry; Jupiter, king of the gods and of the sky and thunder; Pluto, god of the underworld; Mercury, god of merchants and travelers; Mars, god of war; Minerva, goddess of war and the Arts; and Aesculap, the god of medicine.
25. Learn About Classic Art at the Old Gallery
The Old Gallery (Alte Galerie) is the best place in Graz to check out classical artworks and features works by the old masters of European art from the Middle Ages through the 18th century.
The collection begins with a beautifully presented collection of Gothic painting and sculpture, much of it rescued from decay in the village churches of Styria and credited to anonymous artists known only by the name of the place where their work was found. Some of the best Gothic works to look out for are the St. Lambrecht Votive Altarpiece and the Admont Madonna.
There are some awesome 16th- and 17th-century Baroque and Renaissance works including a grippingly macabre Triumph of Death by Jan Brueghel the Elder and the knockabout village revelry of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s St. George’s Fair.
The Old Gallery also contains an extensive collection of hand drawings and print graphics from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Among these are extensive works by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer.
The Old Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-17:00 (April-October). From November-March, entrance is only possible on guided tours. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR.
26. Attems Palace
The Attems Palace (Palais Attems) is one of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture in Graz. It was constructed in the early 18th century for the affluent Attems family of Friuli.
The U-shaped, block-like palace has four floors and its Baroque facade is richly decorated with stucco work on the street side and in the courtyard. The palace’s main features are its monumental double staircase with frescoes and stucco ornaments that are decorated in gold, silver and copper layers. The stucco work contains representations from the Old Testament and ancient mythological motifs.
Worth seeing on the second floor of the palace is The “Monkey Hall” with its magnificent ceiling paintings and grotesque paintings with exotic figures and landscapes. The neighboring “Bird Hall” is rich in scenes from Greek mythology. The exquisite furnishing of the rooms, with ceiling stuccos and lovely fireplaces and tiled stoves, is regarded as a testament to the standard of living of the Austrian nobility during the Baroque era.
27. Graz Castle
The Graz Castle (Grazer Burg) is one of the most visible buildings in the city. The castle was once the residence of Emperor Frederick III, who briefly made Graz one of three imperial capitals in the mid-15th century. The castle today is home to the seat of the Styrian provincial government.
Only the courtyards are open to the public and there’s nothing specific to see except for the double spiral of a 15th-century Gothic staircase, found in the archway at the end of the first courtyard. The dizzying double spiral staircase (Doppelwendeltreppe) whose helix shape is a marvel of medieval stonework is one of my favorite places to see in Graz.
Two staircases merge at each floor, separate and then rejoin again giving the sensation of being in a real-life optical illusion. This optical illusion is regarded as a symbol of eternity and known to the people of Graz as the “stairs of reconciliation”, as whenever you part, you will always be reunited again.
28. Franciscan Church & Monastery
One of the oldest churches in Graz, the Franciscan Church and Monastery (Franziskaner Kirche und Kloster) dates back to the mid-13th century having been founded by the Franciscan Order. Having sustained significant damage in World War II, the interior of the church was redesigned, and the blend of the ribbed vault and modern stained-glass windows creates a very striking effect.
The best reason to visit the church though is to see the original Gothic cloisters with beautiful tombstones that are enclosed in the monastery garden.
29. Museum of Perception
If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Graz, the Museum of Perception (Museum der Wahrnehmung) is worth popping into for a brief visit. Housed in the Oktagon, a former bathhouse, the museum aims to demonstrate the fallibility of the human senses through a small selection of changing installations and visual tricks.
Examples of some contraptions here include a device that’s supposed to help the blind to “see” what’s happening in front of them and the “mixed-identity mirror”, in which the viewer’s features appear to blend with the face of the person sitting opposite. It is an amusing but ultimately rather fatuous museum.
The Museum of Perception is open from 13:00-17:30 (Wednesday-Monday). The entrance costs 3.50 EUR.
30. Austrian Sculpture Park
One of the best sculpture parks in Europe, the Austrian Sculpture Park (Österreichischer Skulpturen Park) is a must-see when visiting Graz. Designed by renowned Swiss architect Dieter Kienast, the park is located in a seven-hectare park on the outskirts of Graz. Home to more than 70 sculptures by Austrian and international artists such as Fritz Wotruba, Franz West and Yoko Ono, the picturesque and thought-provoking art combines beautifully with the natural landscape.
It’s a beautiful place to wander and appreciate displays that bridges the gap between art and nature, organic forms and manmade objects. Some of the memorable sculptures are a giant pink ball, the handle of a suitcase, a concrete boat, airplane parts, dancing trees, and a fat house and car, all of which are a photographer’s delight.
The Austrian Sculpture Park is open Monday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-20:00 (April-October). Free entrance.
31. Eggenberg Palace Gardens
The Eggenberg Palace Gardens is one of the best places to enjoy a quiet stroll in Graz. Having originally been laid out in the mid-17th century in Baroque fashion, the sprawling gardens were laid out in the highly fashionable English style in the early 19th century.
The pretty park is a wonderful place for active exploration or sunny relaxation. As well as grassy meadows ideal for picnics and sunbathing, there are paths for ambling and jogging, an elegant rose garden, a water pond, Roman stone reliefs, plus a planetary garden based on the same Renaissance theme of planets you find inside the Eggenberg Palace.
One of the star attractions of the park are the squawking Indian blue peacocks, which roam about freely in the gardens.
The Eggenberg Palace Gardens are open daily from 08:00-19:00 (April-October) and 08:00-17:00 (November-March). The entrance costs 2 EUR.
32. Take a Tour of the Graz Opera House
Though Vienna’s reputation for opera is renowned, the rest of the country’s operatic contribution is also noteworthy and Graz is no exception. One of the most visible and frequently showcased buildings, Graz’s Neo-Baroque Opera House (Opernhaus Graz) is the second-largest opera house in Austria. It is especially worth seeing for its strikingly beautiful interior.
The interior of the Graz Opera House is one of the most magnificent I’ve seen and features a light-flooded entrance hall with the central main staircase and two separate side entrances. The Baroque, festive character of the interior of the building is enhanced by the opulent decoration of the monumental grand staircase, with white marble, gold ornaments and sculptural bronze candelabras on the balustrades.
The white, gold and velvet red horseshoe-shaped auditorium is absolutely gorgeous and the Baroque and Rococo decorations continue here. Marvel at the gold-plated stucco embellishments on the walls and ceilings and the three-part ceiling painting which features scenes from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell and Goethe’s Faust.
You can see the interior of the Graz Opera House by treating yourself to a performance or on a guided tour (7 EUR). Check the website for more details.
33. Gaze At the Architecture Along Sackstraße
Sackstraße is one of Graz’s most attractive streets, leading out of the northern end of the main square, where former grand townhouses of the nobility preside over the bustle of shoppers and rumble of trams. It is also the city’s oldest street dating back to the 12th century and is home to the oldest documented structure in Graz (Reinerhof).
Several beautiful historic buildings can be found on Sackstraße such as the Herberstein Palace (Palais Herberstein), Kellersberg Palace (Palais Kellersberg), Attems Palace (Palais Attems), Widow’s Palace (Witwenpalais), and the Khuenberg Palace (Palais Khuenberg), famous for being the birthplace of ill-starred Archduke Franz-Ferdinand.
34. New Gallery
If you’re into modern and contemporary art, the New Gallery (Neue Galerie) is the best place to visit in Graz. The museum is home to a notable collection of more than 60,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and media-artworks dating from the 19th century to the present day.
Here you’ll come across several top-notch works by Johann Nepomuk Schödlberger, Egon Schiele, Marcel Duchamp, Victor Vasarely, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, John Baldessari, and Damien Hirst. The museum also includes a special section dedicated to Styrian contemporary artist Günter Brus, the Bruseum.
The New Gallery is located in the sleek new Joanneum Quarter building (Joanneumsviertel), which deserves to be seen for its cutting-edge architecture. The sleek building is characterized by a series of iconic round openings, providing light and view to the rooms below ground, making it a treat to photograph.
The New Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-17:00. The entrance costs 9.50 EUR.
35. Get An Adrenaline Rush on the Slide
A must for all thrill-seekers, the Slide (Schlossbergrutsche) inside the Schlossberg hill is one of the newest attractions in Graz. At a height of 64 meters, the slide is the tallest underground slide in the world. It coils its way down the hill to a length of 175 meters and thrusts people down at a speed of 30 km/hr.
All in all, the ride takes about 40 seconds and takes you through all kinds of twists and turns. There is a portion at the end where the slide almost becomes vertical giving a real feeling of weightlessness. It is an exhilarating experience, wouldn’t recommend it for claustrophobics though.
The Slide is open daily from 10:00-19:00. You pay 1.7 EUR for the lift to get to the top and 5 EUR to slide down.
36. Church of Our Lady of Succor
The Church of Our Lady of Succor (Mariahilfer Kirche) is one of the most beautiful churches in Graz. The church was built for Franciscan Minorites who had begun settling in Graz in the 13th century.
Architecturally gorgeous, each of the stupendous twin towers of its facade bears an elegantly tapering onion dome crowned by a glistening golden sunburst. Watch out for the striking pediment which is crowned by a dramatic sculptural ensemble, in which the Archangel Michael hurls a snarling demon towards the street.
The interior of the church features a tasteful Baroque interior and the celebrated altarpiece depicting St. Elizabeth interceding with the Virgin Mary, yet another example of Italian style in Graz. This painting has made the Church of Our Lady of Succor a very popular pilgrimage site.
37. Folk Life Museum
The Folk Life Museum (Volkskundemuseum) is home to an absorbing collection of traditional costumes and reconstructed house interiors. Through a display of everyday things, visitors will get an authentic taste of Styrian life and culture spanning over two millennia.
One of the other highlights of the museum is the Baroque sculpture of the bearded woman St. Kümmernis (Wilgefortis). According to lore, the young woman in question prayed for facial hair in an attempt to parry the advances of a husband forced upon her by her heathen father. Crucified by way of punishment, she went on to become a vital symbol of piety during the Catholic upsurge of the Counter-Reformation.
The Folk Life Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays from 10:00-17:00. The entrance costs 7 EUR.
38. Hop Aboard the Fairytale Express
The Graz Fairytale Express (Die Grazer Märchenbahn) which runs through the Schlossberg is the longest miniature grotto railway in Europe. It is located in a tunnel which during World War II, was used as a bomb shelter for the citizens of Graz.
The ride is an interactive one and centers around fairy-tale scenes. The collage of light and darkness coupled with the engrossing comments and fairy tale quotes make for an enchanting experience.
The ride takes about 35 minutes and it is advisable to wear suitable attire since the temperature inside the tunnel is 8–12 °C all year round. The only downside is that the narration is only in German.
The Graz Fairytale Express is open Monday–Sunday from 10:30–17:30. The price of admission for adults is 8.50 EUR and for children is 6.50 EUR.
39. Go On A Day Trip
Once you are done sightseeing in Graz, our final recommendation would be to take a day trip from Graz. Styria is an unbelievably beautiful region that is dominated by forests, imposing mountain ranges, meadows and vineyards containing a rich architectural and cultural heritage. Impressive medieval fortresses, imposing fortified abbeys, scenic wine roads, numerous romantic, medieval-looking towns, and invigorating thermal spas are all in the vicinity of Graz.
You can embark on a day trip to the fascinating Austrian Open-Air Museum (Österreichische Freilichtmuseum), the mesmerizing Admont Abbey, the famous Piber Stud farm, the intriguing Lurgrotte Caves, and much more. For a full overview of our favorite day trips from Graz, check out this post.
Where to Stay in Graz
The best place to stay in Graz would be in the Old Town or in the vicinity. Virtually all of Graz’s main attractions can be found here, so this area is a perfect base for sightseeing.
Hostel: a&o Graz Hauptbahnhof, an excellent choice if you’re on the lookout for a frugal, no-frills option in central Graz. Located just 100 meters from Graz Central Station, there are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.
Budget: B&B Hotel Graz-Hbf, a popular choice for budget-minded travelers looking for someplace close to the city center. The hostel is only a 10 minutes’ walk from the Old Town and Graz Central Station is only three minutes on foot.
Mid-range: Lendhotel, an excellent mid-range choice that is one of the trendiest hotels in Graz and comes with chic, contemporary furnishings. Rooms are tastefully decorated and the breakfast is excellent. You can admire the original art dotted throughout the communal areas. The location is pretty good, the Main Square and the Schlossberg are a 10 minutes’ walk away.
Luxury: Palais Hotel Erzherzog Johann, arguably the best hotel in Graz, this opulent and grand hotel is steeped in history and rich in antiques. Set in a classical building overlooking the Main Square, the hotel’s rooms boast an elegant interior that blends old-world charm with contemporary design and modern comforts.
Best Time To Visit Graz?
Graz is a year-round destination and when you travel depends on what you want to see and experience there. Late spring, the summer through to early autumn or more precisely the period from May to September is undoubtedly the best time to visit Graz. The days are long, and the copious amounts of sunshine draw Austrians to parks and roadside cafés. Certainly, temperatures are at their highest in the summer, with the occasional heatwave pushing readings well above 30°C.
Another advantage of visiting Graz in the summer is that many attractions, especially those with outdoor features, operate longer opening hours.
Spring can be a good time to visit, as the days tend to warm quickly, with consistently pleasant, mild weather for most of May. This is also the blossom season when the fruit trees that line so Graz streets are in full flower.
Autumn is also recommended, with clear and settled weather often lasting for days on end in September and October. With much of the country heavily forested, this is also a great time to appreciate the changing colors of the foliage. Some prominent festivals take place in autumn, most notable of which is the Steirische Herbst, or Styrian Autumn, a festival of avant-garde music, theater, art and film, which takes place every October.
Winter in Graz is also an interesting period to visit. Winter temperatures often hover around the freezing point, but it is seldom severely cold. It doesn’t snow too often in Graz, but when it does the city (Old Town in particular) takes on an unbelievably gorgeous appearance.
Is Graz Safe?
Yes. Overall, the security risk to travelers in Graz is very low. Violent crime in Graz is extremely rare and the most serious threat for tourists is always pretty theft. Although you are unlikely to get mugged, popular events and major tourist sights attract bag-snatchers and pickpockets. Use common-sense and precautions with valuables, particularly at night, and you will be fine.
How Does Tipping in Austria Work?
As far as tipping in Austria is concerned, there are no standard rates. Tipping is less frequent than in most Anglo-Saxon countries. Service and tax are generally included on restaurant bills, but it is customary to leave a tip of about 10 percent of the bill rounding up to the next euro or round number is often acceptable.
Now, what do you think? Have you been to Graz before or is it on your bucket list? How does it compare to the rest of Austria? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!