Graz is a city in the southeast of Austria, situated at the foot of Mount Schlossberg, washed by the clear waters of the Moore River and engaged to it with seven bridges. This administrative center of the historical land of Styria is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2003, it became the European Capital of Culture. Graz is the red tile on medieval houses' roofs and the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger first began training. A trip to this city will give you the most wonderful experiences, pleasing the eye and soul with a variety of unusual historical and contemporary attractions. Graz makes you fall in love at first sight with a relaxed combination of thousands of years of tradition and modern trends in avant-garde, surrealism, and post-modern architecture. Graz is a great excuse to travel!
Districts of Graz
The central I district — Innere Stadt, is saturated with sights. The most student center is District III Geidorf, where the traditional University of Charles and Franz is located. But it is impossible to describe it as calm and quiet at night. It is a district of students.
Not far from the central (about 15 minutes walk) is located another, only "slightly" student (a couple of dormitories), II district of St. Leonhard. Many cafes, restaurants, benches, and the Graz Opera House are located in this city sector.
The Mariatrost XI is further away from the center but is a green neighborhood with luxury cottages. The park areas attract lovers of quiet rest, there is a beautiful church, and it is a very picturesque place in general.
The concentration of historical, modern, and natural attractions in the city is so high that it is impossible to list them all. Nevertheless, the most important ones are Schlossberg Castle, the Museum of Modern Art "Kunsthaus," the City Hall, the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II, the Styrian Armoury, the St. Egidio Cathedral, the Basilica of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a monument of tolerance or the Lightsaber, the baroque Luegghäuser, the artificial MurInsel Island. The little-known ones include the headquarters of the Knights Order, the Tramway Museum, and others. We recommend getting some guidebooks and planning a route in advance, focusing on the main sights of Graz.
All locals are very friendly, which gave rise to the poetic name of Graz — the House of good friends. It is also worth noting that all Austrians are generally quite reserved, educated, and well-mannered, accustomed to controlling themselves. In Graz, you will never hear arguments, swearing, and sorting out relations in high tones. Only positive energy!
The first written information about Graz as a city dates back to the 13th century when the Babenberg dukes turned the center of Styria into a powerful commercial and administrative center of Austria. The border city managed to resist the attacks of the Ottoman Empire, protecting the rest of Europe from the invasion of the Turks. In 1483 under Ferdinand I, Duke of Habsburg, Graz became the capital of Greater Austria and saw an even greater influx of trade and culture. The rich nobility and the best architects, masters of speech and painting, the great scholars flocked here. By the way, the German mathematician-astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote his work "The Mystery of the Universe" here.
At the beginning of the 17th century, after the transition of power to Ferdinand II, Vienna was once again named the capital of Austria. But Graz was no longer considered a border city. The provinces of Carinthia, Styria, and Carniola belonged to the crown of the Habsburgs, and the empire's borders were expanding deeper into the Adriatic. During this Renaissance period, the Italian masters' style of architecture became very prominent in the city.
During the conquest of Europe by French troops, Graz was seized by blackmail because the capital of Austria, Vienna, was conquered by Napoleon. But the locals managed to defend (or rather, buy back) the most important architectural sites, preserving historically significant structures like the Landhaus Parliament House and the clock tower Uhrturm. Soon Bonaparte's troops left Graz, leaving behind poverty and ruins. But the city managed to revive and even develop actively.
A key event that defined the character of Graz in the following years was the opening of the first museum by Duke Johannes in the 19th century. Soon the number of universities and other educational institutions grew in the city. Even Erwin Schrödinger (Nobel Prize winner for physics) and Nikola Tesla (the famous electrical inventor) taught for a time at a university in Graz in the 20th century. And from about this period, the city became a major educational and cultural hotbed.
Today, more than 50,000 students (nearly a fifth of the entire population of Graz) study at one of the six Graz universities. Millions of tourists come here every year for a vivid experience.
The best time to visit Graz
The weather in the off-season is ideal for walking and sightseeing holidays. Winter is the best period for active skiing, of course. But the city authorities and the residents themselves do everything to ensure that tourists come to Graz in any season of the year. The city's eventful cultural life attracts visitors with its colorful billboards to enjoy interesting and informative recreational activities.
The Styrian Autumn art festival is a literary forum, a body art festival, and constantly renewing exhibitions at the Kunsthaus Museum of Contemporary Art. And then, there are screenings of alternative films in the so-called "program" cinemas KIZ Royal and the Film Center.
Other highlights include the Graz International Fair, the Figure Skating Championships, and much more. This shows that it will be fun and bright whenever you decide to visit Graz!
The city has an excellent transport system. In general, Graz is considered a streetcar city. Anyone can even travel for free with this mode of transport between the two stops on the main street. And in the summer season, children under the age of 15 can use any public transport system absolutely free of charge for any distance. The city's Tram Museum, in cooperation with the municipality, also offers free tours during this period.
It will be advantageous for visitors to the city who come to Graz for a couple of days to buy a special tourist ticket, the "Graz 72-hours Ticket". It will save money on travel within the city center and includes discounts on museum visits. However, remember that Graz is a small city, and you probably won't need any transportation here — you can always walk!
You can drink water in Graz from the tap. It comes from the Alpine mountains, and the modern water supply system is absolutely clean and suitable for drinking.
On Sundays, all grocery stores are closed. Of course, the market in the main station is always open, but to avoid waiting in line, try to make time to buy food on Saturday.
Things to do in Graz
- Start your first acquaintance with the city on the main square. Here, the timbre of the combination of different styles and eras is set, which continues to resound throughout Graz. The historic parliament building, the Renaissance Landhaus, the town hall, a typical example of German Classicist architecture, and the monument fountain to Archduke John of Austria in the Baroque style all blend together to create an unmistakable image of the city.
- Delight your ears with a bell ringing from the clock tower on the city's central square. Three times a day (at 11 AM, 3 PM, and 6 PM), rotating wooden figures of a girl and a boy in national costumes appear from special windows. For the past hundred years, this dance ritual has delighted the locals and visitors to the city.
- Come to admire the ultramodern design of the Kunsthaus Museum. The revolutionary design solution absolutely does not discord with the millennial image of the city, but just the opposite, serves as a harmonious and bright bridge between past and present with a projection into the unearthly future. It is not for nothing that the locals themselves lovingly call the structure "friendly alien," It has long been part of the city's life and, moreover, has managed to become a symbol of Graz.
- Step on the ground where it all began. You can get to the ruins of Graz's first castle on Mount Schlossberg by cable car, a special elevator, or simply on foot. The main thing is to see with your own eyes the surviving bastion and a 34-meter clock tower, Uhrturm (for its preservation, principled citizens of Graz paid a large sum of money to Napoleon). The Military Museum, a small restaurant, and several viewing platforms with a beautiful view over the entire city are also on the castle's territory.
- Admire the bravery of the knights and other courageous men at the Arsenal Museum of Arms, which has no analogs worldwide. The four-story Baroque Armory was built to store ammunition, armor, and weapons. Today, the Arsenal serves not only a historical and cognitive purpose but can also quite fulfill the role of an illustration in the book A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.
- Learn the truth of peacemaking, reflected in the construction of Eggenberg Palace, made in the traditions of Buddhism, with 365 windows. It is situated surrounded by a beautiful English park with 12 gates. The corners of the structure are topped by four towers symbolizing the sides of the world. Once, back in 1625, the castle was a representation of the achievements of science, and today it is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
- Enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the peculiarly Gothic St. Aegidius Cathedral and find your composure inside the temple, whose main altar is considered a masterpiece of the Austrian Baroque style.
- Have a cup of coffee on the artificial Murinsel Island. The bold construction of glass and iron on the water was planned as a temporary object but was much beloved by the locals. Now they call this bridge-island a symbol of peace and unity because it connects not just two shores but two parts of the city, different in their religious beliefs. In the evening and night, a special illumination makes the object even more magnificent.
- Soak up the beauty of diverse plants in the Botanical Garden. It is also called the Winter Palm Garden. A huge number of exotic species of flora is presented in its greenhouses, which means that the vegetation buzzes here even in the cold season and pleases visitors' eyes.
- Take a leisurely stroll along the Herrengasse or Sporgasse, making sure to check out all the courtyards that come your way. The bright and deep filling of such "backyards" is the main distinction of Graz. Also, buying various souvenirs in the local shops that meet on the way would be good.