Graz is a lovely city, the remarkable Austrian elegance is very noticeable at every one of its streets, each of them is full of history and interesting places that for sure will make your visit very enjoyable. The city is not so big, so if you visit Austria, you can easily explore this place in just two days. Graz can also be a destination for a perfect weekend trip!
What is Graz famous for?
Apart from being the second-largest city in Austria, Graz was named as European Capital of Culture in 2003. This was a great moment for the city that got full of celebrations, prestige and even an artificial island in the Mur river!
In 2009 Graz was also named as Capital of design, you can watch it in every corner 😉 This city is one of the most well-preserved cities with historical value in Europe. A lot of the buildings from the last 400 years are still standing and in very good conditions, so you will feel submerged in a very magical atmosphere.
How to get to Graz?
Graz is easily reachable from Vienna, Ljubljana, and Linz. You have tree options:
If you have a driving license, you can drive to Graz. The highways in Austria are in very good condition, and it will be a pleasant journey for sure. If you drive during the winter, be sure to take the necessary precautions for your car and have a safe road 😊
Approximate times from the most common departure points:
o From Vienna: 2 hours.
o Coming from Ljubljana: 2 hours.
o From Linz: 2 hours 20 minutes.
The train system in Austria is managed by the ÖBB company. Even though traveling by train is very comfortable, the prices of train tickets can be very high sometimes. We recommend you get your tickets one month in advance, so you will be able to find a better price.
The approximate time by train from Vienna is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The bus is the cheapest option from Vienna. The main company that runs between the cities is Flixbus operated by Dr. Richard. You can take it next to Matzleindorfer Platz. Be aware of the buses that come through this avenue because a lot of local buses are stopping here.
The estimated time of the bus route is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Public transport in Graz
Graz has a public transport system conformed by buses and trams. The city is very small so you won’t need to go long distances with it. It’s very cheap, but you can buy a 24 hours ticket to make it worth more during your stay. All tickets can be bought in the trams.
A one-hour ticket costs 2.50 euros.
A 24 hours ticket costs 5.50 euros.
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What to do on a weekend in Graz?
Graz is the perfect place for making a weekend trip with your couple or with your friends. We chose this city as our first destination of the year because we wanted to explore more of Austria, that is the country where we live 😊
The city is full of museums, historical places, and it even offers the opportunity to hike to reach one of the most interesting landmarks! We spent two full days of the weekend in Graz, so if you are planning to make the same, here is a guideline of how to accommodate almost all the interesting places.
You can add or change them depending on your preferences of course. Here you can see a map with all the landmarks of the city:
The first day, we decided to explore all the free attractions and landmarks of Graz. They are pretty close to each other, so it’s very easy to walk between the places or take the tram for one or two stations.
The Town Hall
This square and the Town Hall are considered the center of the city. It’s a great place to start your tour of the city. The cupule with the clock and the towers is very representative of the city, and during Christmas, you can see a beautiful light arrangement that makes the place look magical.
In the center of the square is a fountain in honor of Erzherzog-Johann-Brunnen since 1878 who was considered in the past as the Styrian prince.
One of the reasons why Graz was chosen as Culture capital in 2003 is because of all the architectonical styles that the city safes inside. Graz was a lighthouse during the times of the Italian renaissance. The Landhaus courtyard is a very beautiful prove of it.
This building has a beautiful construction with arcs, galleries with flower ornaments and an amazing well that still preserve the original metal artwork. During the winter the municipality of Graz chooses this little square to show the famous Ice Christmas crib. If you visit Graz during other times of the year you will find here concerts, theatre plays, and much more cultural activities.
The church and the tower are a very important part of the city. This monastery was founded by the oldest religious order of the city in 1239. Even though the Franciscan is a self-called mendicant, the government of the city was the one who gave the order to build the elegant clock tower based on the building, that is something that you won’t find easily in other temples of this order!
You can enter the monastery if you want to, the interior is very elegant and it’s a good place to relax and find silence and tranquility.
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This was one of the most beautiful landmarks for Dante because it’s a beautiful and old mechanism! The Carrillon is located in the Glockenspielplatz square. You can reach it if you follow the Santa-Clara street until the end, located after the small streets of the center.
The Carrillon rings its bells at 11:00, 15:00 and at 18:00 every day. The bells ring approximately for 5 minutes playing popular songs. But the most beautiful is that on the top of the building, two doors will open and show two wood carved statues of a man and a woman wearing typical clothes. These statues will dance giving turns during the whole period, making an incredible spectacle.
Cathedral & Mausoleum
Constructed between 1438 and 1464 by the orders of Emperor Friedrich III, the cathedral of Graz looks over the city in a high point. The resonance of the building is Magnifique, and interior art is incredible. When we visited the cathedral, the organist was practicing and playing the organ, so we had the chance to enjoy this little concert for free 😊
In 1480 three biblical plagues hurt the city: The war (In the shape of the Turkish army that invaded the region) The locust and the black death. Here you will find a very famous painting that illustrates the infamous three plagues that decimated the Styria region during the year 1480.
The Mausoleum entrance is next to the Cathedral, it was constructed by order of the emperor Ferdinand II when he was still the king of the Innerösterreich kingdom. Giovanni Pietro de Pomis was called to decorate and work over this magnificent building. The tomb is located under the Mausoleum, but you can take a pic from above through the horizontal wooden fence between the two levels of the building.
Double Spiral Staircase
Probably one of the most famous landmarks of Graz, the double Spiral Staircase is free open to the public the whole year. You can escalate it and follow the curious shape that makes two individual spiral staircases to collide and fusion in three different levels.
The stair was constructed in 1499 and it’s one of the last constructions made by the stonecutters of the Gothic period. The building where the stair is located is today the government building of the Styria region.
After a day of visiting the free attractions, we decided to dedicate the second day to the ones where we should pay an entrance fee.
Another of the reasons was because the tour of the Armory was settled in English for Sunday, so we decided to take this one.
Even though the Armory is located in the Landhaus courtyard, we didn’t visit it the last day because no tours were available. The Armory can be visited just with a tour that you can book in the tourist information office (We marked it on the map with a big I!). Guided tours in English are at 12:30 and they have a price of 9.50 euros.
The office is also the entrance to the armory. Apart from that you can get here guided tours in English and german, buy souvenirs and get information pamphlets for your visit.
The Armory of Graz is the biggest collection of antique guns, armors, and weapons of the world. It has more than 30,000 objects! Here you will see rifles, helmets, horse riders’ armors, pistols, swords, axes, shields, and even a full horse armor! Remember to not touch anything because these objects are very valuable and old.
Island in the Mur
As part of the celebrations of the city after it became the Capital of Culture, the city inaugurated this artificial island in the middle of the Mur river. It was designed by the New York artist Vito Acconci. It looks like a giant shell that emerges from the bottom of the river. It’s a great place to take make a pause and take a coffee during your exploring.
Schlossberg means “Castle on the mountain” in German. A very correct name considering that the castle is located at the tallest point in the city, better said, on the top of the mountain.
The entrance to the castle is free because it’s a long open structure. However, some of the attractions and landmarks inside may have an entrance fee or sell some products, for example, the bar and the open theater. These places host events and parties during the summer, but they don’t have so much activity during the winter.
You can reach the castle by three ways: you can climb the stairs that go inside the mountain, or follow the path that surrounds the mountain, both ways are free and both entrances are next to each other. The third option is an elevator located inside the mountain. This elevator has a price of 1.70 euros one way and it’s open from 08:00 to 00:30 every day.
Attractions at Schlossberg and surroundings
We found a lot of landmarks and attractions at the entrance of the mountain.
Fairy tale train
If you travel with kids, you may want to visit with them the “Fairytale train” The entrance is located at the same place where the lift is. It has a price of 8.50 euros for adults and 6.50 euros for kids, and it opens from 09:00 to 17:00 every day except for the first Monday of each month.
This nice ride lasts 30 minutes, and it goes through the little caves under the mountain. The ride goes through fantasy passages full of stories that will make the babies very happy!
Once you reach the top of the mountain, the Clocktower will be the first construction that you will see. It’s the most characteristic monument of the city. The clock has been working since the year 1712 and it has never stopped to give the time!
This tower has three bells and also three coats of arms that cover the sides of the tower.
If you feel adventurous, you can take the giant slide down the mountain instead of the elevator or the stairs! You need to buy the ticket in advance when you buy your ticket for the elevator and it has a price of 6.50 euros.
The slide goes down from the top to the bottom of the mountain. We didn’t try this time because we were in a rush to go back to catch our bus, but the next time we will for sure! 😊
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If you have a bit more time
We haven’t visited the next locations because we decided to spend more time in the castle and the surroundings. But if you want to spend some time here, you can easily include them in the route.
It was constructed also in 2003. The architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier designed this incredible building. It’s one of the most impressive buildings in the city, it illustrates the combination between the classic and the modern architecture next to the river.
If you visit the surroundings during the night, you can see a great illumination on the walls of the museum. It can be visited during the whole week but on Mondays from 10:00 to 17:00 and the admission fee is 9.50 euros
The Opera of Graz has one of the most elegant halls in the whole Austria. It’s a little bit far from the center but you can reach it easily with the tram 1 or 7.
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If you have the chance to visit this beautiful city, give it a try! And fell in love with this nice Austrian city 🙂