Who needs Vienna? Lovely Graz is the second biggest city in Austria and for me much cuter than its older sibling. It is easy to see why Graz Austria was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Add to that its 2011 nomination as a City of Design and you can see why it wasn’t difficult to build a lengthy list of things to do in Graz.
However, the highlights don’t stop in the lovely Graz old town. Within a 10-15 minute drive of Graz are several photo friendly and fantastic places to visit.
From the world‘s longest indoor slide to classic castles to rotating glass lifts to sculpture parks Graz and its surrounds will give you a holiday to remember.
Things to do in Graz – the Historic City Centre
Table of Contents
- Things to do in Graz – the Historic City Centre
- 1. The World’s Tallest Indoor Slide
- 2. Freiblick Tagescafe
- 3. Schlossberg
- 4. Kriegssteig
- 5. Schlossberg Tunnel System
- 6. Rathaus
- 7. Graz Schlossbergbahn
- 8. The Graz Courtyards
- 9. The Double Spiral Staircase
- Things to do Outside the Historic City Centre
- 10. Graz Farmer’s Markets
- 11. Kunsthaus Graz
- 12. Omas Teekanne
- 13. Murinsel
- 14. Graz Botanical Garden
- 15. Schloss Eggenberg Palace
- 16. Austrian Sculpture Park
- 17. Forstner Brewery
- 18. Beef Bar
- 19. Deutschfeistritz Scythe Forge Museum
- 20. Limestone Cave Lurgrotte Peggau
- 21. Open-Air Museum Stubing
- 22. Cistercian Monastery Rein Abbey
- 23. Rabenstein Fortress
- How to Get to Graz
- Where to Stay in Graz – 2 Great Boutique Hotels
- Who Paid for What in this Post
The city centre of lovely Graz Austria is filled with magnificent buildings, hidden alleys, elaborate facades, inner courtyards and so many wonderful places to sit outside and soak up “the best-preserved city centre of Central Europe” (thanks to UNESCO)
1. The World’s Tallest Indoor Slide
Measuring 175 metres, Graz is now home to the world’s tallest indoor slide. This new feature in Graz only opened in March 2019 so it is the newest of the places to visit in Graz.
As you would expect, it is extremely modern in design. It takes approx 40 seconds to make it down the fully enclosed slide at average speeds of 25-30 kms per hour.
I was not feeling particularly brave so decided not to try it. However, from those in our group who did take on The Slide Graz reviews were positive. And most importantly it is very photogenic. Access the Slide Graz from Schlossberg.
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2. Freiblick Tagescafe
Kastner Und Ohler is one of the most prestigious department stores in Graz and goes back to the 19th century. It is a beautiful store.
But the highlight is its rooftop cafe which has 360 panorama views of Graz Austria. The outdoor seating area is just lovely.
And the food at Freiblick Tagescafe was pretty good too.
Apparently, the devil created Schlossberg, a hill in the Graz city centre, as he was angry with the residents of Graz. Schlossberg or castle hill is perhaps the most iconic site in Graz. The 28-metre high clock tower sits on top of the 473-metre high hill.
There are four ways to get the top of Schlossberg Graz – the funicular (see below), glass lift, on foot or via Karmeliterplatz. Schlossberg is bustling with activities.
There are restaurants, bars, a stage, statues, a Chinese pavilion and normally a large number of the population of Graz.
There are multiple places on Schlossberg which offer amazing views over Graz. One of the best things to do in Graz at night is to come up to the Schlossberg for drinks and dinner.
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The 260 steps of Kriegssteig connect the clock tower to the historic old town of Graz. The stairs were constructed during WW1 by Austrian soldiers and Russian prisoners.
Once a year a race to the top of the stairs is held. The record so far is 1 minute 46 seconds – see if you can beat it.
5. Schlossberg Tunnel System
WW1 brought Graz their steps and WW2 brought them a 6000-metre tunnel. It was constructed to provide shelter for 40,000 people during the bombings of the war.
These tunnels are still partly in use today as a footpath to Schlossberg and for the fairytale grotto railway. The Schlossberg tunnel features interesting lighting displays which make for some nice photos.
Rathaus is the main square of Graz and was the city’s first market square. In the late 18th century the town hall was built on the Rathaus.
However, many residents refused to sell their homes to make room for it – so they built around them.
The square contains a statue of Archduke Johann, the most significant historical figure of Graz. And it is also home to some well known and well-respected food stalls these days.
7. Graz Schlossbergbahn
Graz has its own funicular railway that allows for easy access to the top area of Schlossberg. It has been running for 100 years and is a very quick and photogenic journey.
Schlossberg also has its own lift. And of course, it is glass. The lift is set in the very core of the hill and offers a view of the rock-lined elevator shaft or the mountain from the inside.
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8. The Graz Courtyards
Graz has many little courtyards tucked away behind its streets. One of the nicest things to do in Graz old town centre is to just wander and explore these courtyards.
Many Graz courtyards have lovely restaurants with outdoor seating and cute shops.
The most well-known of the courtyards of Graz is the Landhaus Courtyard. It is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance with round-arched windows. Concerts, theatre, exhibitions and lots of other activities are often held in this lovely courtyard.
Herzoghof is another lovely courtyard that also features the photogenic Painted House. And try to visit Generalihof and Hof Des Deutschen Ritterdordens Courtyards.
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9. The Double Spiral Staircase
Built in 1499, this double-spiral staircase or Doppelwendeltreppe is quite beautiful and extremely photogenic. Images of this spiral staircase are very popular and this is a great addition to your Graz what to see photo list.
Things to do Outside the Historic City Centre
10. Graz Farmer’s Markets
Graz actually has 14 different Farmer’s Markets. The majority of Graz farmer’s markets are held 2-3 times a week in the morning.
The main farmer’s markets are on Lendplatz and Kaiser Josef Platz square (both are open in the mornings Monday through Saturday). All of the Graz farmer’s markets are closed on Sundays.
11. Kunsthaus Graz
This unusual modern building was erected in 2003. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a stomach or an alien ship.
Apparently, its nickname is actually the friendly alien. Anyway, the Kunsthaus is a very unique and photogenic piece of architecture. Exhibitions are held in the building. There is a permanent stylish cafe and cool shop as well.
When it comes to what to do in Graz, don’t miss this extremely unusual building.
Top Tip – I caught my best photos of Kunsthaus Graz from the top of Schlossberg. This is where it is possible to see the detail of the ceiling.
Also, this is the best place to capture the mix of new and old that makes Graz with the friendly alien surrounded by the red roofs and clock towers of Graz.
12. Omas Teekanne
Omas Teekanne is an insanely cute tea house/cafe/shop/events space. The interiors are in super cute pastels with quirky designs.
Omas Teekanne has a shop area that houses the works of some lovely local artists as well as featuring cute interiors as they have. This space is often used for classes and workshops involving pottery, embroidery etc.
Next door to the shop is the Omas Teekanne cafe which is just as cute and home to some pretty amazing looking cakes. This is one of the nicest food places to visit in Graz Austria.
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Murinsel is a little island that is actually a ship. Built in 2003, Murinsel can be entered via footbridges from either side of the River Mur.
The floating shell was designed by new york artist Vito Acconic for Graz’s European Capital of Culture year.
It contains an amphitheater, coffee house, and stores. Don’t miss the mirrored toilets although be prepared to get dizzy. The island/ship of Murinsel rises and falls with the tides.
It is really quite unusual. When it comes to what to do in Graz Austria definitely add this to your list.
Top Tip – Murinsel is most photogenic at night when it is lit up with blue lights.
14. Graz Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden has a unique transparent acrylic shell that catches 98% of the sunlight. It was designed in 1995 and home to many different plants as well as a hothouse.
One of the most popular tours in Graz is a Vintage Photo Tour taken with a Polaroid camera. The tour lasts for 2.5 hours.
15. Schloss Eggenberg Palace
He began having the palace built in 1625 on the western edge of Graz. As Hans was from a more shall we say humble background but did very well financially the building of the palace was part of his quest for legitimacy in the eyes of society.
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The House of Eggenberg became extinct at the start of the 18th century. As a result, the palace interior was never re-designed so it is a virtually untouched model of the early Baroque period.
The main hall, in particular, is absolutely stunning. And don’t miss the many lovely peacocks wandering outside begging to have their photo taken.
16. Austrian Sculpture Park
The Austrian Sculpture Park was a highlight of my trip to Graz. Somewhat strangely it is located near the airport but this is only 7km from Graz so it is very easy to visit.
The park was originally designed by Swiss landscape architect Dieter Kienast for the international Garden Show held in 2000 and it covers seven hectares.
Today there are more than 70 works of art across the sculpture park and there is an annual Artist in Residence programme. Some of the highlights of the park include: -Jeppe Hein’s sit down bench which triggers a water fountain in the middle of the lake (2002)
-Nancy Rubins’ sculpture Airplane Parts and Hills (2003) -Tobias Rehberger’s Anti-social daughter pink tree (2004) -Peter Weibel’s The Globe as a Suitcase (2004)
-Mario Terzic’s Ark made of living trees (1998/2010-2011) which will one day just be trees shaped as an arc.
And best of all Werner Reiterer’s gesture (2003/04) – a bright pink ball that inflates and deflates with a loud bang to play with our habits of perception (okay I read that last bit in the brochure).
Nothing like a picnic when visiting a sculpture park! Order your picnic ahead of time from the Ramada hotel at Graz Airport.
17. Forstner Brewery
Lovely Forstner Brewery is a microbrewery run by the leading female brewer in Austria. Beer was traditionally a female thing in Austria – apparently, a kettle was a part of all good dowries.
The women brewed the beer at home as they couldn’t drink the water and became rather good at it.
Elfriede Forstner now brews genuinely hand made and homemade beer once a week. The packaging is very attractive and in addition to good classic ales, she offers more innovative products like Brewsecco – a beer that has gone through the sparkling wine process.
Forstner Brewery has a picturesque outdoor seating area as well as a cozy indoor area. Forstner is open to the public on Thursday and Friday evenings from 5-11 pm.
It is only a 5km cycle down the cycle path to Graz so it is easy to get there and away in the summer.
18. Beef Bar
Where do I begin? I absolutely loved this place. The Beef Bar has an unplugged kitchen. This means it cooks based on a wood-burning table stove or one of several Big Green Egg barbeques.
Only fresh ingredients are used and the meat and fish come from local farms.
The Beef Bar is housed in a building that dates back to 1615. The original style of this building has been retained to produce the most wonderful homemade feeling.
Let’s get onto the food – Wow! The menu isn’t long at the Beef Bar but that is quite good news as you would not want to miss any of the things that I ate on my visit.
We started with sardines. Prior to my visit to the Beef Bar, I thought I didn’t like sardines. I now know otherwise.
Next up was delicious beef tartare and an amazing (and thankfully in smaller serves) cheeseburger. However, the main highlight of the Beef Bar is salted beef. 240 hours in Brine and 24 hours in the Big Green Egg. Plus some kind of secret recipe.
The flavour is just awesome. And they had great local wines. And beers. And the service was amazing and friendly and fun. And you just can’t miss visiting the Beef Bar when you come to Graz.
The Beef Bar is located in the town of Frohnleiten which is about 30 minutes drive from Graz.
The town of Frohnleiten itself is also quite lovely with lots of garden terraces and lovely houses along the River Mur.
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19. Deutschfeistritz Scythe Forge Museum
I wasn’t super excited to see a scythe museum on my itinerary for this trip. But gosh I was wrong.
Deutschfeistritz Scythe Forge Museum has six water wheels, glowing iron, hydraulically-driven hammers and men dressed in old-time outfits.
The tour of the Deutschfeistritz Scythe Forge Museum lasts for one hour and allows you to experience the industrial history of Austria and the Styria region. Once those water wheels get going it is impressive stuff.
20. Limestone Cave Lurgrotte Peggau
Limestone Cave Lurgrotte Peggau is the largest cave in Austria and is rather stunning. The cave is owned by a family rather than the government and began to make parts open to the public from 1912.
Start your trip with some local soup to warm you up and meet some of the friendly and amusing family who own the caves. Then it is a stroll down to the opening of the limestone caves.
Initially, the caves seemed like quite a few other limestone caves I have seen. Quite nice, stalactites and mites etc. But then, about 15 minutes into our walking, we arrived at the most stunning gallery or room called the Big Dome of The Bear Grotto (cave bear bones have been found here).
At 120m long, 80m wide and 40m tall this is one of Central Europe‘s largest underground rooms and it is awesome. At this point in the tour, our tour guide turned off the lights and put on classical music and a light show for a truly unforgettable sound and light experience.
Concerts are held at Lurgrotte Caves so do check if there are any while you are in Graz – it would be amazing to attend one.
The Lurgrotte can only be visited with a guide in a one-hour tour between the beginning of April and the end of October. They run on the hour from 10 am with the last tour at 3 pm.
Do check the weather as heavy rains can mean it is not possible to visit Lurgrotte Peggau.
21. Open-Air Museum Stubing
Experience Austria in an earlier era with a visit to the Open-Air Museum Stubing. This is one of ten major European open-air museums.
Museum Stubing has 97 historical rural buildings that are ready to be photographed. And to learn about how people lived, worked and celebrated in a time gone by.
This is the largest and only national open-air museum in Austria and it was awarded the UNESCO ICOM seal of quality for museums in 2002.
22. Cistercian Monastery Rein Abbey
I often comment that I have seen more than enough churches to last me a lifetime. And I often get things wrong.
I appreciate this is called a Monastery rather than a church but wow wow wow! Founded in 1129, Monastery Rein Abbey is the oldest Cistercian monastery in the world.
Cistercian Monastery Rein Abbey is stunning from the outside with its magnificent courtyard entrance. however, it is the Basilica that really got my camera going.
The decadent art nouveau style interiors are absolutely jaw-dropping. The Rein Abbey library was another highlight of the visit. The library contains over 100,000 books including what is believed to be the 9th printed copy of the original German bible.
The library itself is stunning. Rein Abbey must be one of the most beautiful things to do in Austria as well as around Graz.
Guided tours of the Cistercian Monastery Rein Abbey are available all year for groups of 15 or more. There are tours for individuals each day at 1030 and 1330 which don’t require registration.
Travel Tip – try to make sure that Father August Janisch leads your tour – he is fabulous.
23. Rabenstein Fortress
Dating back to the 12th century, Burg Rabenstein is perched on a rocky spur above the Mur river. The castle is a mixture of the old and new.
The old castle walls of Rabenstein merge into modern design. There is a fantastic glass lift that actually rotates 180 degrees whilst it moves – That was a first for me.
The mix of the amazing location and the modern and the old make for a stunning photo opportunity.
The castle also runs a range of events and exhibitions. The castle is open Wed-Sun from 10 am to 6 pm.
How to Get to Graz
The old town is very much walkable. Most of the sites outside the old town can be accessed by public transport or a taxi if required.
Where to Stay in Graz – 2 Great Boutique Hotels
I stayed at not one but two lovely boutique hotels in Graz. First up was the Grand Hotel Wiesler. The design in this Graz hotel is modern minimalist with creature comforts thrown in.
There are 102 rooms which are divided into seven different categories. I stayed in a comfort independent room.
It was wonderfully roomy with floorboards and shabby chic unfinished walls all in light shades for a feeling of air and space.
The room had everything I needed. A nice large bed, a shower which is kind of in the middle of the room – a bit different – a nice big bureau and sink for toothbrushing and makeup applying. Flat-screen tv and minibar of course.
The highlight for me was the brilliant buffet breakfast. There was a mega coffee machine – it did need staff to provide some assistance but it generated a good coffee.
The buffet had fantastic yogurts and cereals and loads of local delicacies including the famous pumpkin seed spread of the area.
Alas, I didn’t get a chance to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant but I heard the food was fantastic.
The location of the hotel couldn’t be better. It is just across from the River Mur and less than a five-minute walk from the old town.
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Top Tip – Literally next door to the Grand Hotel Wiesler is Tribeka. This was definitely the best flat white I had during my stay in Austria. I highly recommend it – but remember to bring your purse as they only accept cash.
Lend Hotel is less than a 10-minute walk from Grand Hotel Wiesler and also has a great location close to the Mur river at the Schlossberg end. It is also next to the main Graz Farmers Market.
It is a very contemporary hotel with loads of modern art and open spaces.
The main lobby area at The Lend Hotel Graz is wonderfully large. It incorporates the restaurant/kitchen plus lots of couches and tables. I worked from here one afternoon of my stay and it was lovely.
Even nicer is the amazing roof terrace with 360-degree views over Graz. There is also a gym on the terrace.
The rooms are modern and minimalist and very comfortable. Wooden parquet floorboards, king-sized beds, flat screen tv and even Malin and Goetz toiletries.
I had a standard room and it was a very good size. The Lend hotel also offers medium rooms as well as large rooms with balconies.
Breakfast is served every morning and many ingredients are sourced from the local farmers market.
Who Paid for What in this Post
My entire trip to Graz and around was funded by the Graz Tourism Board and Propel – thank you very much. As always, despite this support, the opinions above are all my own.
Also, if you click through on the links in this post and make purchases it is highly likely that I will receive a small commission. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
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