Latest Travel Update (May/2021): Graz and Styria region will be open for European tourists as of May 19th. So if you are planning to visit this incredible city and region, click here to read the official information about safety measures, who can travel to Graz, what is open, and how you can have fun.
Graz is like having good wine: it will wake up your senses and, right after the first sip, you will want more. It’s beautiful, fun, delicious, traditional and fresh, just like that Sauvignon Blanc you enjoy with friends on a summer afternoon. But what makes Graz so unique? Well, the list of what to do in Graz is big, and a trip there is not only about visiting places but also soaking up the city’s vibe. Graz is a city to be experienced, much rather than visited.
Located in Southeast Austria, Graz is the capital of the Styria region, aka the country’s green heart, and it’s also the second largest Austrian city. Graz has an important noble past, a noticeable Italian influence, and modern titles like the Cultural Capital of Europe, City of Design, and City of Culinary Delights. With all these references, you know you are stepping into a special place.
The question is: how many days in Graz? There are incredible things to do in Graz that will keep you busy for days and inspire you to go back in another season. We were there for 4 and a half days, and we’re able to see Graz and a bit of its surroundings. If you plan 3, 4 days, or a long weekend in Graz, you will be able to experience the best of it.
What I loved about Graz is the mix of old and modern, classy and edgy, local and international, art and nature. It doesn’t matter what your style of traveling is or what your choices of what to do in Graz are, the city will give you a unique experience, that’s for sure.
When arriving in Graz [we’re gonna talk about travel planning later] slow down your pace, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and be ready for a sensorial trip. When opening your eyes, you will see a beautiful city that will bring joy to your sight and inspire your curiosity.
What to see in Graz that will make fall in love with the city
Are you ready to see Graz? The city is so pretty and well preserved that it’s truly a feast for the eyes, and any itinerary must have these 4 things to see in Graz:
Admire Graz architecture
I know it sounds obvious to tell you that one of the best things to do in Graz is to actually see the city. But what happens in Graz is different: you can’t just walk around. You have to really stop, admire and release that “wow” you have been holding since you saw the first stunning building. Graz is so unique that since 1999 it has become a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site.
To really see Graz, you must stroll around the old town and the city center. It’s compact and super easy to explore on foot. You can grab a Graz map at your hotel or at the Tourist Information Center, but my suggestion is: walk, get lost, get found, get lost again… And so on, and on.
Start your sightseeing in Graz at Hauptplatz, the city main square. Depending on where you’ll be staying [more about Graz accommodation later on], you might need to cross the Mur River, which is already one of the top places to visit in Graz. At Hauptplatz, you can see the stunning Rathaus – the city town hall, and a fountain with the image of Erzherzog Johann – Archduke Johan of Austria. Keep his name in mind, we’ll talk about him again.
You can take any direction from Hauptplatz, but make sure you walk by Sporgasse and Herrengasse streets. I felt pain on my neck from looking up all the time, but that’s the price we need to pay to admire the facades that mix intricate details from Medieval to Renaissance times.
Other must visit places in Graz is the 15th-century Gothic Cathedral, that sits serenely beside the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II, another must visit and a masterpiece of Mannerism design, the transition period between Renaissance and Baroque. Then, walk 200 meters and be wowed by the modern and creative Argos building designed by Zaha Hadid.
If you think that only modern buildings can be innovative, then go to The Burg (the castle of Graz) and search for the double spiral staircase. The noble residence has changed during the centuries, and it has details expressing different periods of history, being the spiral staircase the most astonishing one. It’s hard to explain it, but think of two spiral staircases side by side connecting on each floor. I’m honestly still asking myself how they built it.
Discover Graz courtyards and secret gardens
Like the double spiral staircase, Graz has many other hidden gems, most of them come in the form of courtyards. You need to be really curious and sometimes even nosy to discover them. Stroll around the city, and stick your head into doors, walk into passages between buildings and shops. If you end up in someone’s garage, it’s okay, just smile and say you got lost.
The most famous courtyard in Graz is the Landhaus. The 16th-century building has a beautiful facade and an impressive courtyard. After crossing a passage, you will find a Renaissance style arcaded courtyard, three floors of arches that will make you travel in time. If you go there early in the morning, you will have the place only for yourself, a pure fairytale.
More courtyards are waiting for you in Graz. Try to find Hof Des Deutschen Ritterordens – Courtyard Of The Teutonic Knights, the Generalihof courtyard, the Altstadpassage, and even a courtyard with no name – more tips about this one soon.
If you need a moment to relax and catch your breath, look for the Franziskanerkirche, or the Franciscan Church, in Graz old town. There is a door in the back of the church. Open it, walk inside, and turn right at the end of the corridor. You will find a peaceful and manicured garden, and then just sit and enjoy the silence. Don’t worry, although it is a hidden entrance, the garden is open to the public, and you can visit it any time during the day.
Enjoy the views at Schlossberg and the Clock Tower
While some of the best things to see in Graz are hidden, others can be seen from afar. This is the case of Schlossberg and the iconic Graz Clock Tower. Both located at the highest point of the old town, it feels like they are looking after the city. And one thing is for sure, the views from there are fantastic.
My suggestion is to admire them from afar and then go up to have a closer look at these beauties. Don’t worry, to get to Schlossberg and the Graz Clock Tower is easy, and you can choose among these 4 options: a stair with 260 steps and great views, an elevator inside the hill, a funicular, or a quick walk through the park at the back of the hill. There is one more option (and a fun one!) to come down, a 175m longer curvy slide inside the hill that brings you down in a blink of an eye.
The Schlossberg history dates back from the 10th century, from a castle to a fortification, then to ruins, and now to a beautiful park. The Clock Tower also has an interesting story that I just won’t tell you now, so you have one more reason to visit Graz. Make sure to walk through the tunnel underneath the Schlossberg hill, it’s a good shortcut to explore the city.
Visit Graz museums
Remember Archduke Johan of Austria we mention on our first tip of what to do in Graz? Here is the man behind the creation of Universalmuseum Joanneum, a complex of museums spread in 13 different locations in Graz and around. The idea is to bring art, culture, and science together, all that through a total of 4,9 million items gathered in various collections and museums.
It sounds like a lot of stuff to see and too many museums to visit, I know. So before I share our favorite museums in Graz, let me explain about the tickets, the Joanneum 24h or 48h. Both tickets give access to all the museums listed under the Universalmuseum Joanneum, your challenge is to choose the ones you want to see and plan your visit in one or two days.
The galleries and museums are the best attractions in Graz for a rainy day. And that’s what we did, during the summer storms we visited the Natural History Museum, the Neue Galerie Graz and the Styrian Armoury.
The Landeszeughaus, Styrian Armory Museum has an arsenal of armors and weapons from the 15th to the 18th century, and it’s one of the most significant collections in the world. Other museums in Graz are worth visiting, such as the Schloss Eggenberg, but some are not in the city center, so we skipped those. It’s always good to keep a few things unseen, so we have more reasons to go back.
What to do in Graz that will make you stop and listen
To give a break to your sight, let’s talk about Graz attractions that might sound good to you! Still on the museum topic, our next thing to do in Graz is experiencing the Kunsthaus.
Listen to Kunsthaus Graz
Ok, the Kunsthaus Graz is impressive for the eye, no doubt about it. The modern and daring building designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier sits in the middle of the city in a very contrasting but friendly way. Hence its nickname, the Friendly Alien. It’s the bubble shiny organic shape of the Kunsthaus that will catch your attention first, but it is the call of the museum that makes it even more unique.
Sharpen your senses for Kunsthaus call, from 8:50am to 9:50pm, 10 minutes before the time the Friendly Alien talks. The sound starts shy, and after a few minutes it gets louder and louder, and then it suddenly stops. It feels like the museum is calling, reminding you of its presence, and doing this is in a unique way. Usually, you only notice the sound when it’s about to stop.
More than listening to it, you must visit the museum. Kunsthaus was built in 2003, the year Graz was nominated as the European Capital of Culture. The building is an attraction itself, and the expositions are definitely worth visiting. On the top floor, where the nozzles, or let’s say the “windows” of the building, are located, there is one more surprise. While most of the nozzles face the same direction, only one of them points to a different side, connecting sounds of the modern and the old Graz. Try to find it!
Note: you can visit the Kunsthaus Graz with the Joanneum ticket.
Get to know the history and legends of Graz
Almost all beautiful buildings in Graz have a story to tell, and you must listen to them. To do so, join a walking tour and have a better understanding of Graz attractions and history. During the tour with our lovely guide Claudia, I figured out why Graz has a Mediterranean vibe and why there are so many Italian-looking buildings. Not only that, but the legends about the city and Schlossberg hill were very entertaining as well.
Graz is pleasant to the eyes, but it becomes even more enchanting when you hear all the stories and sounds of the city.
Listen to the Glockenspiel
You have 3 chances per day to listen to the Glockenspiel dance along with a sweet couple in traditional clothes spinning through the windows.
The carillon dates back to 1905, and despite some silent moments during history, it’s still in action. You can listen to it daily at 11am, 3 and 6pm. The 24 bells play different melodies; if you visit Graz during Christmas, you’ll listen to carols while drinking Gluhwein at bars under the clock.
Night out at Graz Opera House
Fancy watching a philharmonic concert? Maybe a musical theater or a ballet presentation? Before traveling to Graz check out the Graz Opera House agenda, you might find a nice event happening during your stay in the city. Apart from enjoying a great night out, you can see Graz Opera House magnificent interior: it’s not only stunning but also one of the largest opera houses in Austria.
Dance at Citybeach Graz
We visited Graz in summer, and one evening we ended up dancing on the beach. Drinks in hand, the sound of the water in the background, and music playing out and loud. Ok, we didn’t have any sand, and we couldn’t swim, but Citybeach Graz at the banks of Mur River is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Graz.
It’s very alternative, unpretentious and it has a young crowd, as a beach bar should be. The best part is the location, right under one of the Graz city center bridges, close to Kunsthaus and our hotel. It’s an excellent place to chill out, to get a taste of Graz nightlife and it is a great opportunity to get close to the Mur River. The river played a vital role in the history and development of the city; today, it is a place where arts, sports, culture and people get together.
Take a break from the beach and walk to Graz’s island. I know the city keeps surprising you, as well as it kept surprising me! In the middle of the river is Murinsel, the Mur Island, a striking metallic structure in the shape of seashell that floats gracefully in the middle of the river.
Designed by the artist Vitto Acconci, the island is an architectural wonder and another tourist attraction in Graz that you need to experience. There is a cafe on the island, grab a seat and enjoy a drink while listening to the sounds of the river.
But now let’s move to what to do in Graz that will ignite your sense of smell.
Smell the top things to do in Graz
Breath deeply at Graz’s green spaces
Styrian is Austria’s green heart. So, when in Graz, expect to see a lot of green around and in the city. There are a few places to visit in Graz that will satisfy your desire for fresh air and nature, and most of them are a walking distance close to the city center.
The first one is the banks of the Mur River, where you can walk or run on the path at the river level. If you prefer cycling, just follow the bike lanes that go along both sides of the river. A morning run by the river followed by a hotel breakfast is definitely one of the best ways to start your day in Graz.
The Stadtpark Graz, the city park, is right on the edge of the old town, easy to reach and lovely to explore. For an uphill walk and stunning views, just head to Schlossberg.
You can also find other parks, hiking and mountain biking trails near Graz. If you follow our adventures around the globe, you probably know that Rob and I are keen on outdoor sports. So, of course, one of our days in Graz just had to be dedicated to nature.
We went for a great hike in less than a one-hour drive from Graz. The Mühlbacherhütte-Pleschkogel trail offers stunning views, a beautiful monastery to visit, and a mountain hut serving home-cooked food and strudel. If this last sentence hits your heart right, read the article we wrote about hiking near Graz (click here).
Dreaming of a holiday in the Austrian Alps? Read our guides to Vorarlberg in Winter and Summer.
Smell the fresh fruits and flowers at Graz Farmer’s Market
Graz has many farmers’ markets, but if you have to choose one, go to the Kaiser-Josef Market near the Opera House. The market is open from Monday to Saturday mornings, but the real action is on Fridays and Saturdays.
What to expect? A bunch of beautiful apples and pumpkin seed oil – two specialties from Graz, and also honey, currants, bread, cheese, ham, and all the delicious food produced in Graz and around.
You can also buy flowers there, and you should enjoy breakfast, lunch and snacks at the restaurants on the square. The farmers’ markets are part of Graz food culture, and the local production is the pillar of the city’s renowned cuisine.
Follow the irresistible smell of wursts
You can’t say you’ve traveled to Graz if you haven’t tried a Styrian hotdog. So, back to the Hauptplatz, use your nose to find the delicious and traditional wursts. In the middle of the square, many stalls are selling from hotdogs to vegan food and sushi… But don’t get distracted: your goal is to follow the aroma of a good sausage. To make your life easier, especially if you are getting too hungry, I’m giving you only one tip: Standl5.
Stop at Standl5 and order a Styrian hotdog; I’m sure you will love it. If you are starving, get currywurst too, why not, right?! Don’t forget a beer, it’s your holiday and you deserve the full package.
From the smell to the taste of delicious food, are you ready to know what to do in Graz that will treat your taste buds to ecstasy?
What and where to eat in Graz – restaurants and food experiences
Let’s make one thing clear, extra kilos are considered souvenirs, ok?!
With that said, it’s time to talk about the gastronomic scene in Graz. The city owns the title of Capital of Delights, so there is no doubt you’ll taste delicious food there. The hot dog was just the appetizer; get ready for incredible meals, mouthwatering desserts, wines, and a couple of cakes & coffee in between.
In Graz, you will find restaurants serving traditional Styrian dishes, classics with a modern twist, and international cuisine. We ate to our heart’s content in Graz and here are our favorite places:
Der Steirer – Styrian tapas and a great vibe. It’s the perfect restaurant in Graz to set you in the mood for local dishes as you can order small bites full of Austrian flavors. We loved the backhendl and apfelstrudel.
Landhauskeller – Local ingredients and traditional recipes come together in dishes that look gorgeous and taste heavenly. Rob ordered the famous veal schnitzel, and he swears it was one of the best he has ever eaten.
Caylend – Fusion food served at the trendy Lend area. Be prepared for dishes that mix Caribbean food to Styrian ingredients and recipes, which results in a real explosion of flavors. My seared tuna served with wasabi sauce and fennel salad was divine. And I give extra points to the peanut butter semifreddo for dessert.
Frankowitsch – The perfect place to stop for a quick bite while exploring Graz attractions. These guys have more than 70 years of tradition in making delicious open sandwiches. The hard part is to choose the toppings, as they can come with ham, cheese, fish, and more. Leave some space for a sweet treat as the cakes are also yummy.
Aiola Upstairs – When visiting Graz Clock Tower, stop there for, I don’t know, a coffee, a cocktail, breakfast, or dinner. Just stop and treat your tastes for a bit. No doubt you will find one of the best views of the city and, in my opinion, the best rhubarb cake I’ve tried.
Freiblick Graz – One of the best cafes in Graz with a fantastic view. From there you can see the Clock Tower, Rathaus and all the typical Graz orange roofs. You’ll find delicious options for breakfast, snacks, and sweets. The apple cake and vegan carrot cake were to die for.
Torona – If your tummy is craving something Mediterranean, then give Torona restaurant a try. You will find traditional Spanish pinchos served in huge and delicious portions.
Kunsthauscafe – The perfect place to stop before or after visiting the Kunsthaus Graz Museum. The food is delicious; you can sit outdoors, in the restaurant garden, or by the street facing the river. Rob’s burger was yummy and thumbs-up for serving breakfast until mid-afternoon. It’s a good place for work as well, bring your laptop and get stuff done.
Tribeka – Minimalist cafe serving good coffee with lovely outside tables by the river: What else could you need?
These are just a few of the great cafes and best restaurants in Graz. Visit them all, and if you have time, venture yourself and discover other ones. Just make sure you try these traditional dishes and ingredients: Backhendl (finger-licking Austrian style fried chicken), pumpkin seed oil (goes well with everything), horseradish (goes perfectly with sausages and hotdogs), scarlet runner beans (delicious in salads), local cheeses and cold cuts, and, of course, the Styrian wine.
Wine Tasting in Graz
Since we moved to Europe, we have been doing a few wine tastings in Italy. So when I heard about the South Styrian Wine Road, my eyes shined with excitement.
We went for a day trip from Graz to the South Styrian region, and in less than 40 minutes by car, we were surrounded by rolling hills covered in vineyards. The scenery is stunning; grapes as far as the eyes can see, cute little villages and castles that look like they came out of a fairytale book.
We had zero knowledge about Styrian wine before traveling to Graz, but that wasn’t a problem. During the trip, we learned about the grape varieties and the local production. We visited two winemakers and, of course, tasted amazing wine. Write down these names: Weingut Michi Lorenz and Schloss Gamlitz, because you must include a stop there when doing your wine tour in South Styria.
Our first stop was at Weingut Michi Lorenz. The couple that runs the winery welcomed us with a glass of delightful Sauvignon Blanc followed by food, talks, and more wine. Arrive there with an empty stomach to have a proper Buschenschank experience, plates of cold cuts, cheeses, salads, scarlet runner beans seasoned with pumpkin seed oil, bread, and more.
Sit, relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the scenery. If the sun is shining, grab a table outside, right by the vineyards. Before leaving, don’t forget to enjoy a glass of their Muskateller and say hello to Shiva, their gorgeous dog.
The next stop was at Schloss Gamlitz, a 17th-century castle with a baroque facade and a Mediterranean courtyard. Our visit was a mix of history and wine tasting. We walked by the cellar, then to a little museum, and ended our tour with a few glasses of wine by the garden. The castle is beautiful and a famous venue for weddings and celebrations. But you don’t need to get hitched to enjoy the property, rooms are available for those who want to stay longer.
Make sure to indulge your taste buds with a sip of Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon (local name for Chardonnay), and Pinot Blanc (our favorite).
Still on the Styrian Wine Road, book a table at one of the restaurants scattered through the vineyards and you will taste delicious food and wine. Discover a bit more about Styrian gastronomy and be delighted by the local hospitality. We had a lovely dinner at Winzerhaus Kogelberg, a wine house from 1645, and I have to tell you that the location is divine and the dishes fit for the Gods.
A big thanks to Manuela from the blog Testesser for taking us on this incredible day trip from Graz. We were traveling slowly, enjoying every second of our trip, and sipping every glass of white wines as it was our last, pure joy. After all that eating and drinking, we were ready to bed.
A few more things to do in Graz
I told you that Graz would ignite your five senses. We already covered sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Now it’s time to touch, feel Graz with your hands and skin, and our first suggestion is the coziness and comfort of a good night of sleep.
Where to stay in Graz for a memorable trip
Let’s be honest, after a long day of sightseeing in Graz and around, nothing better than a warm bath, a gigantic bed with soft sheets and fluffy pillows. If you agree with me, then your room must be at the Das Weitzer Hotel, as the property offers a great mix of comfort, location and service.
The hotel is located by the Mur River, a few steps from the Kunsthaus Graz Museum and the old town. From there we walked the whole city, it was so convenient and easy. We stayed at the Classic Rubin Suite, which has the hotel’s signature design, a mix of classic and modern. The room was spacious, bright, with a bathtub and views of the river and the Clock Tower. What else could we need?! Oh well, we need a delicious breakfast, a late night bar, and maybe a gym or sauna. Well, all checked! At the hotel Weitzer Graz you can have it all for a fair price.
Apart from a comfy accommodation in Graz and energizing breakfast, the hotel also has a flower shop, a cafe next door, and the delicious Der Steirer restaurant around the corner. For those who want to discover things to do near Graz, the hotel has bicycles for rent.
Still looking for the perfect place to stay in Graz? No worries, there are many hotels in Graz, click here for luxury options or here for budget-friendly stays. Search for the best hotels in Graz on Booking.com or Agoda, they have a good selection of hotels, and you can compare reviews and prices.
Did you know you can rent a house, a room, or an apartment in Graz via Airbnb? Curious? Sign up here and get a discount on your first booking!
If you are planning to travel to Graz for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon race, don’t forget to read our guide to the best hotels in Graz for the Ironman competition (click here).
Feel the Austrian tradition on your skin
After experiencing the history, culture and gastronomy of Graz, you are ready to become “local”, don’t you think? For the complete transformation, head to a shop that sells traditional clothes and choose a beautiful Dirndl or Lederhosen for you.
We went to Weintracht Shop, after the wine tasting at Gamlitz Castle, and we had a blast. The shop is enormous, and you can lose yourself in the middle of so many beautiful Dirndl dresses. But don’t think that this experience is only about shopping, each Dirndl (for the girls) and Lederhosen (for the guys) have an explanation, a handmade detail, a unique fabric, and all pieces are produced in Austria. These are the real deal, authentic and traditional costumes. When you get dressed, you feel like a proper Austrian citizen. Look at me, I can say I was born in Graz, can’t I?!
Bring a touch of Graz home
This suggestion of what to do in Graz goes to all people who love a good shopping spree. Graz surprised me with the number of shops selling handmade products, local designs, and cute jewelry. The city is packed with shops, but two addresses are a must visit in Graz.
Your first stop should be at the Lend area, more precisely Mariahilfer Street. There you will find vintage shops, secondhand and charity shops, and local brands whose work is focused on recycling, promoting social equality, and opportunities for young people.
A good example is tag.werk shop. When you buy one of their exclusive recycled bags, you are helping socially disadvantaged young people to learn skills, earn money, and have a better future. You do your good deed and take home a cool bag from the City of Design.
Remember when I told you to look for the courtyard that has no name? Well, if you found it, you also found another great spot for shopping in Graz. If not, here is my tip: search for Fachl Shop and, once you see it, you will also find the cute courtyard. Fachl has a super cool concept; the shop rents boxes or spaces to local producers, so they focus on creating exceptional products while the shop takes care of the marketing and selling part.
At Fachl, you will find the must-buy pumpkin seed oil (we regretted buying the small bottle, should have got the 1 liter one), home decor, wooden handicrafts, jewelry, sausages, chocolates, designed mugs and more.
Our travel guide to Graz is almost ending. We checked the boxes of suggestions of what to do in Graz, but I still need to share a few travel information so you can start planning your holiday to Graz now.
How to travel to Graz, Austria
Getting to Graz is easy, especially if you are traveling from a country in Europe. You can travel to Graz by air or by land. Graz International Airport is connected to many destinations in Europe and outside Europe with connecting flights. Another option would be to fly to Vienna and then get a train or bus to Graz.
Depending on where you are coming from, you can get to Graz by train or buses. We traveled from Turin, Italy to Graz with a combination of high-speed trains plus buses. You can search for the best routes and connections using the website OMIO.
On our way back, we flew from Vienna to Milan, and it was super easy to get the train from Graz Hauptbahnhof to Vienna Hauptbahnhof, and from there another train to the airport.
How to get around Graz, Austria
From Graz Airport, Graz Hauptbahnhof (train station), or Graz Busbahnhof (bus station), you can get to the city center or to your hotel by taxi or public transportation. The city has a good network of trams and buses, so if you don’t want to walk, you can definitely use them.
You can buy the hourly ticket from the tram stops, bus drivers, and “Tabak/Trafik” shops. For an extended stay in Graz, have a look at Graz 72 hour ticket, which covers all means of transportation, including the lift and funicular to Schlossberg. You can purchase the Graz 72 hour ticket at the Tourist Information Center at Herrengasse Street. A heads-up: you can ride the trams in the city center for three stops without a ticket, but for more than three stops you must have the ticket in advance.
Graz is a walkable city, almost flat and super pleasant to explore on foot. But if you wanna get to know all the places at a faster pace, renting a bike is a good option. Graz is packed with bikes, and you will see bike lanes everywhere, on two wheels you will probably have the feeling of being a local rather than a tourist.
It’s possible to explore Graz’s surroundings by bike, especially by the Mur River, but to go to South Styria or venture yourself on hiking trails, you will probably need a car. You can compare the best car rental rates here. Have a look and book the one that suits you best.
Don’t forget to buy your Travel Insurance!
That’s all! I hope our post about what to do in Graz have woken up your senses and the desire to visit this incredible city. I tried to pack in this Graz Travel Guide as much information as possible, but if you have any other doubts, questions or suggestions, drop a comment below. Happy travels and enjoy Graz!
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PS: This trip was organized in partnership with Graz Tourismus but as usual you get our true impressions and opinions.