What to do in Graz, Austria?
Set off today to discover Graz, Austria ‘s second largest city , capital of the province of Styria and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To visit Graz is to discover a rather unique city, a mixture of typical Austrian architecture, with much more modern buildings. Elected European Capital of Culture in 2003, some facilities are still in place and give the city a certain originality.
In order to help you organize your stay, we have prepared a complete guide of things to do and see in Graz.
You will also find our advice on itineraries for visiting Graz in 1 day and our selection of the best accommodation to best prepare for your trip to Austria.
So what are the must-see places of interest in Graz? What to do and see?
Visit Graz: the must-sees
1. The Schlossberg
Nothing better to start your visit to Graz than to observe it from above! Direction the Schlossberg, a hill culminating at 123 meters and overlooking the city where you can enjoy a superb panorama.
To get there from Graz city center, you have the following options:
- On foot from Schlossbergplatz square, allow about 30 minutes to climb the 260 steps
- By elevator, which will take you inside the hill
- By funicular, starting from the Place de l’Empereur François-Joseph to the summit.
Schlossberg means “Castle Mountain”, because at the time, there was indeed a castle on the hill. Until the 19th century, the Schlossberg served as a military post and refuge for the inhabitants of Graz in the event of enemy attacks. Napoleonic troops never managed to take it.
However, following the Treaty of Schonberg, it was demanded that the fortifications be destroyed as a sign of peace. Today there is almost nothing left.
However, the inhabitants managed to preserve from destruction 2 buildings, which have become the symbols, and the main tourist attractions of Graz : the Clock Tower (Urhtum) and the Bell Tower (Glockenturm).
Each with its particularity: the Clock Tower had for a long time only one hand indicating the time, and the Bell Tower shelters a bell of 4.5 tons, the “Lisl”, the biggest bell of Graz.
Today, the Schlossberg has been converted into a very beautiful park where it is very pleasant to walk.
You will also find restaurants and souvenir shops. And above all it offers a breathtaking view of the roofs of Graz and the mountains in the background.
This is a must do to get your holiday in Austria off to a good start!
2. The Main Square
The Hauptplatz is the main square to see during your stay in Graz and the ideal starting point for doing some sightseeing.
All the main streets such as Herrengasse, Sackstrasse or Murgasse start from there and allow you to reach places of interest in Graz.
Designed in the Middle Ages to accommodate the market, it still remains the nerve center of the city today . In particular, you can admire the Rathaus (the town hall) and many historic buildings with superb colored and painted facades.
Not to be missed in Graz: the Luegg Haus, a 15th century building with beautiful arcades (which now houses a Swarovski boutique) and the Adler Apotheke, the oldest pharmacy in Graz.
In the heart of the old town of Graz, you will also find many bars and restaurants to have a drink on the terrace.
But if you want to have a quick lunch on Hauptplatz, I advise you to try one of the many food trucks serving delicious Austrian specialties! A trip to Austria would not be complete without a bit of gastronomy!
The square is lively all day and late into the evening. It often hosts cultural events and festivals. If you have chosen to visit Graz during the holidays, this is also where the Christmas market is located.
From Hauptplatz, then take Herrengasse, the most touristic street to go to in Graz.
It is the main shopping street of the city , so you will find the traditional fashion boutiques there to do some shopping. Jewelery, shoe and clothing stores, textiles or accessories, nothing is missing!
This street, a must in Graz, is also entirely pedestrian, you just have to be careful of the tram.
But Herrengasse is also very beautiful palaces and magnificent facades to admire.
The Landhaushof courtyard in particular, with its arcades and cobblestones, is considered a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.
At n°7, I also advise you to stop in front of the painted facade of the Gemaltes Haus, to admire the frescoes representing the gods of Greek mythology.
Take advantage of being on Herrengasse to go to the Graz Tourist Office located just next to the Landhaus, at number 16.
They have put together a very useful little leaflet with maps and 3 ideas for walks in Graz. You will also find in it historical information on the monuments to see. Very well done and complete.
4. The Landeszeughaus
Right next to the Landhaus is the Landeszeughaus, the must-visit museum on your trip to Graz.
With more than 32,000 exhibits on 4 floors, the museum houses the largest collection of arms and armor in the world! Cannons, swords, armor, halberds, helmets, there is something for everyone.
I had already seen the armory of the Palace of the Grand Masters in Malta and the Royal Armory in Turin, but this one outclasses them all. The place is really impressive.
Among the many objects to see, do not miss a piece of great value, one of the 7 completely preserved horse armors still existing in the world.
Prices and schedules can be found on the museum’s official website (in English).
The Landeszeughaus is part of the Universal Museum Joanneum, comprising several museums in Graz.
You can therefore choose to buy a combined 24h or 48h ticket, giving you also access to the Kunsthaus and to Schloss Eggenberg (which I talk about below). This is the most economical option to visit these 3 places of interest in Graz during your tour in Austria.
5. St. Giles Cathedral in Graz
Continue your tour of Graz through the cathedral, which is located in the historic center.
Built in the 15th century, during the reign of Emperor Frederick III, it is one of the most important monuments to see in Graz, whether culturally or artistically and historically.
Gothic in style, the exterior of Saint-Gilles Cathedral may seem a bit austere. On the south side and to the left, however, you will find the famous fresco “The plagues”.
It represents the 3 plagues (the plague, the locusts and the Turks) which fell on Styria during the year 1480, a terrible year for the population.
The interior of the cathedral is particularly interesting to visit. You can admire some precious objects there , including 2 wooden chests adorned with ivory and containing relics of Christian martyrs.
Also worth seeing: the cathedral choir, its altarpiece and the organ made up of more than 5,350 pipes.
Leaving the cathedral, pass by the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II. Impressive from the outside and with a very beautiful interior decoration, it is the most imposing tomb of the Habsburg family and a monument not to be missed in Graz.
6. Murinsel / The Island on the Mur
I continue this tourist guide of Graz by the island on the Mur or Murinsel, which is part of the modern elements of Graz.
The island is actually a work of art dating back to Graz’s participation as European Capital of Culture in 2003.
The building, in the shape of a giant shell, was created by the New York artist Vito Acconci and serves to connect the 2 banks of the Mur (the Graz river).
The project was to be temporary and withdrawn at the end of the year, but the inhabitants, for whom this strange work had become a symbol of the city, wanted to keep it.
Inside this unusual emblem, you will find a café and an amphitheater. One of the curiosities where to go for a walk in Graz.
7. The Kunsthaus Graz
Another curiosity with futuristic architecture to visit in Graz, the Kunsthaus.
The Kunsthaus is the museum of contemporary art.
It is located on the other side of the Mur from the historic center, so you can go through the Murinsel to visit it.
It was also built in 2003 by 2 London architects who dubbed their work “Friendly Alien”.
And we must admit that the exterior structure of the museum is really bizarre: indefinable shape, blue color and a kind of tentacles on the roof! A perfect example of the atypical character of Graz, between modernity and tradition.
The Kunsthaus does not offer permanent exhibitions only temporary exhibitions lasting from 1 to 3 months, and of both national and international artists, so you will be surprised by visiting it!
Now you know where to go and what to do in Graz when it rains!
Climb to the top floor of the museum and step out onto the terrace for a panoramic view of the city.
8. Schloss Eggenberg
Last unmissable place of interest to see in Graz, Schloss Eggenberg.
Located a little away from the city, you can take tram line 1 to reach it.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the largest castle in Styria. It was built in 1625 by the imperial adviser of Ferdinand II, Hans Ulrich Von Eggenberg.
Unusual fact, the construction was organized around time and seasons : 4 towers for the 4 seasons, 365 windows for the days, 31 rooms on each floor, 24 ceremonial rooms etc.…
You can visit certain rooms inside the castle such as the Planets room and its wall painted with the 12 signs of the zodiac, the reception rooms and the Old Gallery. However, some of these rooms are only accessible by guided tour, which is a bit of a shame.
The castle also includes several museums including the archeology museum and the cabinet de la Monnaie where you can see several pieces dating from Antiquity to the 18th century.
The castle also has a superb and large park (entrance fee, around €2). You can walk among the peacocks and even have a picnic in the area specially made available. There is also a cafe.
What to do around Graz?
After discovering the center of Graz, you can continue your stay in Austria by visiting the surroundings of Graz.
I have prepared for you my selection of the most beautiful places to see around Graz.
9. Rabenstein Castle
We start with Burg Rabenstein, a castle located 35 minutes by car north of Graz.
Built in the 12th century, the castle has been superbly renovated and perfectly combines the old and the modern with its rotating glass elevator allowing you to admire a 180° view of the surrounding forest.
The guided tour of the castle, which lasts approximately 1h30, allows you to discover the interior courtyard, the chapel and the ceremonial rooms. It is however mandatory to book on the official website.
10. The Austrian Sculpture Garden
The Sculpture Garden or Österreichischer Skulpturen Park is another place to visit near Graz. It is located 13 km from the historic center.
The park houses more than 70 giant sculptures spread over 7 hectares and created by Austrian but also international artists.
It is open every day from April to October and the visit is free. To see, if you are an art lover or want to take some original photos.
How many days to visit Graz?
1 day is enough to visit Graz.
Everything is easily done on foot, except for Schloss Eggenberg where it is best to take the tram.
The monuments to see are all concentrated in the historic center or nearby, so it’s very convenient.
1 Day in Graz
If you only have 1 day to spend in Graz between 2 stages of your tour in Austria, it will be more than enough to visit the old town.
Here is an example of a walk to visit Graz in one day :
- Ascent by funicular, elevator or on foot to the Schlossberg to admire the panorama
- Walk to discover the historic center of Graz: Hauptplatz and Herrengasse
- Visit to the Landeszeughaus
- Passage through the Saint-Gilles cathedral in Graz
- Lunch break
- Crossing the island on the Mur
- Discovery of the Kunsthaus and its unique architecture
- Late afternoon at Schloss Eggenberg.
Recommended Accommodation in Graz
Like all cities in Austria, Graz is no exception to the rule and accommodation is quite expensive.
So we can never repeat ourselves enough but book as soon as possible to avoid the best accommodations being taken!
Here is my selection of the best hotels to stay in Graz:
- Hotel Daniel Graz: Located 10 minutes walk from the historic center. Modern and pleasant double room from €77 per night, breakfast at €25. Most: the geographical location, the good breakfast, the friendliness of the staff.
- Hotel Mercure Graz City: Located 400 meters from the clock tower. Spacious and comfortable double room from €100 per night, breakfast at €18. Most: the comfort of the rooms, the location, the quality of the breakfast.
- Hotel Weitzer Graz: Located in the heart of the old town. Spacious and well-equipped double room from €120 per night, breakfast at €25. The pluses: close to all places of interest, the hearty breakfast, the impeccable service.
- Augarten Art Hotel : Located 1km from the historic center. Tram station nearby to reach the center. Elegant and designer double room from €180, breakfast at €15. The pluses: the decoration of the hotel with numerous works of art, the comfort of the rooms, the swimming pool, the kindness and the availability of the staff. Our favorite, ideal for an upscale stay in Graz.
Where to eat in Graz
- Area 5 : Located on Jakominiplatz. The restaurant has a large roof terrace for the panoramic view of Graz. The place is very nice. The dishes are simple but you can select the ingredients yourself for your pasta or salads, for example. The quality/price ratio is unbeatable. Ideal for the lunch break.
- El Gaucho : Located on Landhausgasse Street. Steak house offering a wide choice of very good meat. You can choose the weight and the different accompaniments. The quality is there. Red meat lovers will be satisfied.
- Der Steirer Graz : Located in Belgiergasse street. You can taste typical Austrian dishes in a neat and authentic decor. Varied menu, homemade dishes, wide choice of local wines and very good value for money! Reservation recommended.
Graz tourist map
To help you visualize the city a little better, I made you a tourist map of Graz, listing the places to visit that I talk about in this top 10 things to do in Graz. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button with a small arrow.
Are you planning to visit Graz during your holiday in Austria?