Between hills that are alive with the sound of music and the palatial paradise that is Vienna, there’s Graz. It’s the second biggest city in Austria and it resides in the southern Styria region close to the Slovenian border.
Famed for its clocktower, Mediterranean climate and UNESCO world heritage status, it’s a wonder not many people make the effort to come here. This is a trip easily slotted in between Salzburg and Vienna and we’re going to show you how we spent three days (and a morning) exploring Graz!
This is all based on our own experiences and there are no affiliated links.
Getting to Graz
Living in Bratislava, Slovakia makes travelling to Austria very easy. We could have taken Flixbus but instead went for the OBB train. From Vienna the trip is two and a half hours and from Salzburg around four hours. We booked through the Omio app which kept a schedule of our trains and we also printed out our tickets as this is a requirement on Austrian trains, especially if you’re crossing the border like us.
We got in in the afternoon so we did the morning we effectively ‘lost’ on our leaving day to give us three full days.
Hoopla Tip: Bus lines 630 and 631 take you from Graz airport directly to the town centre of Graz (to the central hub on Jakominiplatz) where you can change to most urban transport lines.
We arrived into the main train station and walked the short distance to our Air BnB apartment, which was lived in but the owner kindly vacates for your stay. It was really handy having our own kitchen which kept some of the cost down too.
From here we took to the streets and we were gobsmacked with the colours and styles of buildings, the cobblestone streets and the countless cute corners. It honestly felt like being in Italy at times. Then in the middle of the old town is a hill with a clock tower perched on top. The famous Schlossberg mountain boasts a 28 metre tall Uhrtrum, the landmark of Graz.
You can climb the staircase to the top, get a lift or funicular. We took a funicular to the top as we were saving our legs for adventuring the next day. The best thing is though you can pay to take a slide back down (imagine a flume with no water). Why do no guides tell you this?!!
On top is a beautiful pagoda, plenty of pretty spots to sunbathe and picnic, gardens, and cafes. The clock tower is a fortified medieval tower which stands as one remaining part of a fortress that the locals fought to keep standing and it delivers breath-taking views across the city.
Duck’s Coffee Shop
Down on street level we got our bearings and came across Duck’s Coffee Shop which is as adorable as the name suggests with tasty coffee, super friendly service and reasonably priced. There’s also food available here alongside being a cool place to sit and do work if you need to catch up with emails.
Kastner & Oehler Rooftop Bar
As the evening settled in we made our way to the city’s oldest department store, Kastner & Oehler which has a rooftop bar serving food and drinks and more gorgeous city views. Especially perfect for lounging in the afternoon or sunset drinks.
The prices are a tad more expensive here, but you don’t have to stay. It’s fine to wander through the store and come here for a cheeky free view across the city and up to the clock tower. We did stay for an Aperol Spritz though..
Lunch at Der Steirer
Mostly known for its Styrian tapas, Der Steirer was such an amazing find! A stylish restaurant with a deli, it was irresistible. We had a roast lamb Sunday lunch with polenta, and two tapas options as starters (a small goulash and salmon/egg). Hearty portions coupled with a beautiful range of local wines and beers made for the perfect lunch destination.
The service was genuine, and the food was full of flavour and inventive. Of course we stayed for dessert, which we could have shared but instead opted to have a crème brulee and an apple strudel with coffee.
Hoopla Tip: A Sunday Roast is 17 euros each, and every week there is a new menu.
Tel.: +43 316 70 36 54
Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum – Thal
On the outskirts of Graz is a small village with a BIG name attached to it. That’s right, Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger grew up here and there’s a museum in the house he was born in. We had to investigate!
It’s two buses to get here but it’s not hard at all to navigate and it takes you through some of the most jaw-dropping picturesque Austrian countryside – totally worth it. You get dropped off at a restaurant by a lake in Thal where you can take a walk around part of the lake and up a small road to the museum itself.
It costs € 8,90 for a regular adult ticket and from the entrance it takes you from Arnie’s childhood bed, through his bodybuilding career, movie career and his time as a politician! There are some questionable models of him, but also some awesome memorabilia and it’s the only museum endorsed by the man himself. He’s given them some cool stuff, including a Conan sword and various movie props/clothes etc.
There is also a Transformers exhibition in the garden with huge robots in disguise, which are a marvel to look at. We enjoyed it for what it was and it’s a unique way to spend an afternoon. It took us three hours to get there, look around, spend some time outside and get back.
Hoopla Tip: Try weightlifting outside his house and please note things are mostly in German but there are English descriptions.
Ice cream at Eis Greissler
Back in town we headed to get some ice-cream. In this Mediterranean heat you’ll need to cool down! There are two shops sat opposite each other but go for the one with the big queue (Eis Greissler), because it’s the real deal. No additional additives here, it’s all natural and they use milk from cows on their own farm.
We chose to go for Butterkeks (buttery biscuit) as it was recommended as a local favourite and Reindling which is a local Easter cake which can be made with cinnamon or cocoa powder but it’s also a savoury bread too. This shop also has some great vegan options too!
A Romantic Night In With Arnie
As lame as we are on a Saturday night we opted to stay in and watch a marathon of Arnie movies and drink lots of homemade Aperol Spritz! What a perfect way to end our day of indulgence and inspired by a mutual love of cheesy action flicks.
Our Air BnB was situated close to Lend which is a gentrified area with lots of cafes, restaurants and bars and every morning except Sunday you’ll find a farmer’s market here too. Austria has a crazy number of farmers and this city with its Mediterranean climate is well-known for it’s markets.
Specialities include a pumpkin seed oil, smoked sausage, fruits and veg and lots of other scrumptious wares.
Mon – Sat: 6am to 1pm
Today was the day of museums! We had made plans to visit Admont Abbey, another good daytrip option but we decided to keep it local and visit Eggenberg. The palace interiors are Baroque and Rococo, and you can only see the 24 state rooms with a guided tour. The ticket is more than worth the 15€ price. It gives you a tour, access to the 4 museums on site and gives you free entry to Graz’s main contingent of museums and art galleries for 24 hours.
The crowning glory of the tour of Eggenberg is the Planetary Room which is adorned with paintings that represent the universe, star signs and a baroque interpretation of various mythological events and gods. You can’t take photos inside unfortunately, but it is outstanding. Every room had a different function and has some amazing art, especially the oriental rooms which have early representations of Osaka in Japan.
Outside roam the extensive gardens with the estate’s peacocks and peahens and find your way to the archaeology museum, a rose garden mound, planetary garden and a pagoda. You can visit the gardens and grounds for just 2€ per person if you don’t want a tour.
admission with guided tour only
2 April until 31 October 2019
Archaeology Museum and Coin Collection Museum:
2 April until 31. October 2019
Tue-Sun, public holidays 10am – 5pm
Park and Gardens:
April – October: daily, 8am-7pm
November – March: daily, 8am-5pm
1st January 2019: 10am-5pm
Hoopla Tip: The state rooms are closed in winter because it is so cold and there is zero electricity!
You can’t miss the dance of a somewhat drunken lad and a lovely lady! The city’s Glockenspiel is situated in the square of the same name. It plays three different melodies and watch them pirouette as they gleefully make eyes at each other. It happens three times a day (11.00, 15.00 & 18.00) on Glockenspielplatz.
At the Landeszeughaus armoury of Graz, you can see over 32,000 exhibits of armour and weaponry from the Middle Ages. Perfect for anybody into history, wars, swords and haunting ghost armies (see the picture below to see what we mean!).
On the bottom floor you will find the Graz Tourist Information Centre and the museum is spread across four floors. The building itself is wooden on the inside to stop that pesky rust getting to the exhibits.
April – Oct.: Tue – Sun 10.00 – 17.00
Hoopla Tip: Included in the price of the museums ticket for 24 hour (see above).
The Folk Life Museum
This place wins best touristy thing found on a whim. The Folk Life Museum documents Austrian life since 1913, modern history and old superstitions and traditions. It has a recreation of an old Austrian house that you can step inside, figures adorned with clothing throughout the ages and it showcases some very peculiar traditions still carried out today.
The only downside was there was no English explanation, but perhaps there is a guide at the desk – we only had an hour to explore. Don’t miss the beautiful Church of St Anthony which is accessed from within the museum.
03. April to 06. January 2020 Wed-Sun, public holidays 2pm – 6pm
Hoopla Tip: This was also included in the multi-museums ticket, so that made for us 5 museums in one day (including three at Schloss Eggenberg).
Castle Graz & Double Staircase
In the city centre you’ll find the Burg (castle) Graz and the famous double staircase! As the official home of the local government the castle itself isn’t very accessible. What we recommend is taking in the adjoining gardens, which are beautiful and then checking out the double staircase.
Built in 1499 this architectural gem has often been interpreted as a symbol of eternity. Graz people call it the “stairs of reconciliation”. If you go separate ways, you will reunite. It’s beautiful and unlike anything we’ve seen and of course, makes for some wonderful photos if photography is your game.
Daily 07.30 – 20.00
Hoopla Tip: It’s open fairy late and we recommend coming up at sunset if you are here the right time of year for one before 8pm.
Dinner at Home and Klanglicht
Today was a big day so we had a drink and went home to eat and drink the rest of our home-made Aperol Spritzers! Over the weekend was a special free light show all over the city, it included sunken cathedrals and giant white rabbits.
Obviously, Klanglicht won’t be on every weekend but we do recommend checking out what’s going on in and taking advantage of the beautiful local wines and beers. Even just walking around Lend we found lots of cool hangout spots and it seemed to have a healthy bar scene.
Leaving Day (Day 4)
Kunsthaus Graz Art Museum
In a hasty attempt to squeeze one more museum out of our 24-hour ticket we visited Kunsthaus modern/contemporary art museum in the morning before we went home. The building is otherwise known as the ‘The Friendly Alien’, a most peculiar and fascinating building.
Inside are rotating temporary exhibitions from local and prominent artists. Every floor has a unique design and there’s as much artistic merit in the architecture of the building as there is in what is on display. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this alien-esque entity.
Tue-Sun, public holidays 10am – 5pm
Hoopla Tip: Go right to the top for views across the River Mur and up to the Clock Tower.
Attached to the museum is the perfect brunch spot – Kunsthaus Cafe. Throughout the day are breakfast and lunch menus with a plethora of international dishes as well as continental delights. We of course went for cocktails, a Bloody Mary with brunch and even writing about it is making us want to go back for more – there was so much choice!
We had the Modern Art, which was essentially an English fry up with French Toast and continental accompaniments (bread, roll and croissant) and a KHC Quesadilla with cheddar cheese and baked beans. Sit outdoors during the day, and sip cocktails or beer through the night when it changes into a bar.
Other Points Of Interest
You will probably do a lot of walking and you should definitely stop by the river and take a look at this artificial floating island. It was installed to celebrate being named the City of Culture in 2003 and it’s stayed there ever since! Grab a drink here with beautiful river views.
Every official city of culture must have a healthy art scene and Graz doesn’t disappoint. Just take a walk around and look at murals along the river and throughout the modern side of the city.
We hope you found this city guide helpful and please come say hello to us on Instagram for daily quips and tips! x