Updated: Mar 5, 2020
Graz is Austria’s second biggest city and is often overlooked by visitors who prefer to head to Vienna or Salzburg. This is a real shame as Graz has loads to offer and is the perfect size for exploring on foot.
A thoroughly modern city with a cool cosmopolitan vibe. It has modern cutting-edge designs, a vibrant arts scene, trendy shops, bars and restaurants. New and old complement each other well here and give it a Mediterranean atmosphere. It’s vibrant and bustling, part of which is due to the fact that it has a large student population. The city is home to four colleges and four universities.
Its historic centre (Altstadt) is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with narrow cobblestone streets, quaint squares and townhouses.
Our top tip for getting the best out of a visit to Graz is to do our Graz – The Staircase of Reconciliation Mini Adventure. It’s the perfect way to enjoy your time there – it’s fun and unique, you can do it in your own time and at your own pace, it takes you around all the main sights of the city centre. Leaving you with plenty of time to explore the great shops, galleries and museums afterwards.
So, what are the main highlights of Graz that just have to be discovered?
· The Island in the Mur (German: Murinsel), an artificial island in the Mur river.
· Town Hall (Rathaus).
· The Painted House (Gemaltes Haus) is completely covered with frescos (painted in 1742 by Johann Mayer).
· The Armoury (Landeszeughaus) is the largest of its kind in the world.
· The Landhaus is the seat of Styria's provincial parliament is a palace in Lombardic style. It is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Austria and was built by Italian architect Domenico dell'Allio between 1557 and 1565.
· The Cathedral (Dom) is a rare monument of Gothic architecture. At one time there were many frescos on its outer walls but today, only a few remain. Like the “Picture of Plagues” (Landplagenbild) which was painted in 1485. The show three plagues of locusts, pestilence and the invasion of the Turks, all of them striking the town in 1480. It shows the oldest painted view of Graz.
· The mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II next to the cathedral is the most important building of Mannerism in Graz. It includes both the grave where Ferdinand II and his wife are buried, and a church dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria.
· The Castle (Burg) which houses a feat of architectural genius – the Gothic double spiral staircase (and is the star in the story of our Graz Mini Adventure). Double spiral staircases are extremely rare and this one is an exceptional example and shows great skill in architecture and engineering. Locals call it the "stairs of reconciliation" as it takes you separate ways, but you will always reunite. It takes you two floors up to the top of the tower. Completed between 1494 and 1500 and built by an unknown architect, it was marvelled at by officials and civilians when it opened and still amazes people to this day! Emperor Frederick III. had the castle built because the old castle on the Schlossberg hill was uncomfortable and not big enough. The castle remained the home of the Inner
Austrian Court until 1619. Today, it serves as
residence for the Styrian government.
· The Museum of Contemporary Art Graz (Kunsthaus) was built in 2003 as part of the celebrations of the European Capital of Culture. The creators affectionately called it the "Friendly Alien" and its style of architecture is called blob architecture. Its skin is made of iridescent blue acrylic panels, and the "nozzles" on top suck daylight from the north. Apart from one which faces east and brings the Clock tower into the Kunsthaus, as an exhibit!
· The Castle hill funicular (Schlossbergbahn), a funicular railway on the Castle hill's slope.
· The Castle hill (Schlossberg), a hill dominating the historic centre (475 m (1,558.40 ft) high), site of a demolished fortress, with views over Graz.
· The Clock Tower (Uhrturm) is a symbol of Graz, at the top of the Castle hill
Plus, did you know that Graz is home to international stores such as Ikea and Primark, and that Arnold Schwarzenegger was born and grew up 2km from Graz in Thal bei Graz? There’s even a museum there with numerous exhibits that show his remarkable career.
So, are you ready for a real-life adventure in Graz, dubbed the ‘Capital of Delight’?