I loved my stay in beautiful Graz. It’s the second largest city in Austria, with a population that’s ten times that of another beautiful Austrian city, Feldkirch that my sis and I visited last October. It used to be a centre of commerce in the Middle Ages, with architecture still reminiscent of times past, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So here’s Graz through my eyes – a beautiful baker’s dozen that we saw in less than two days. Or you could just call it a plain ‘ole top 13 list of things to see in Graz, Austria, because we did see a lot more, but ask us what’s top on our list of must dos in Graz? This is it!
1. Rathaus or Town Hall
The Rathaus or Town Hall in the middle of the Hauptplatz is the centre of the town’s activities. The large square has people sitting around a fountain enjoying chats and smokes; some just spending time and some waiting for someone. There are stalls where we buy food and drinks, and there are stalls selling memoirs and trinkets. There are buskers playing instruments and there are children playing games.
People pass through on daily business while tourists take pics. All the while the Austrian flag waves gently in the breeze; so different from the hustle and bustle of Jakominiplatz.
2. LandhausHof of Landhaus Courtyard
In 1557, the Italian architect Domenico dell’Allio constructed the main wing of the Styrian parliament house in the the Renaissance Lombard style. Located on Herrengasse 16, the three storey Landhaus building has an impressive Hof or courtyard. It’s decorated with a Baroque furnishings, copper gargoyles and a bronze fountain. The courtyard is a wonder to look at, frequented by many tourists and many events are held here. We took pics of the walls, the courtyard, and the fountain. Even took a few of the statue that reminded us of Mister Tumnus, the faun from the Chronicles of Narnia. My favorite pic though, was of the fountain with shells. I couldn’t find out the name of the fountain.
3. Styrian Armoury
The biggest weapons collection in the world is in Graz, a short distance from the Rathaus and Hauptplatz at Herrengasse 16. The Styrian Armoury is locally called the Landeszeughaus, and stores over 32,000 weapons of warfare from as far back as the 15th century. Antonio Solar, the Tryrolean architect built the Armoury between 1642 and 1645. It’s open 6 days a week till around 4 pm and closed on Tuesdays. We made it there just half an hour before closing and had to rush through all three levels. We could hear the echoes of our footsteps. The collection is massive and we could have spent a lot longer just wondering what some of the stranger weapons were used for. They have guided tours on other days which would have been a great option if we had more time. And I really wanted to take pics to show you, but they don’t allow us to take pics inside. 🙁
We also purchased the 24-hour Joanneum ticket here than gave us entry to a number of attractions in Graz.
4. Walking through Old Town Graz
Walking down the street in Graz, you see a mix of old and new buildings, most of which are no taller than two stories. And walking around some parts of Graz you finally see what ‘no traffic’ means. Back home, even in zones where ‘vehicles are not allowed’ you’ll always find some sign of cars, bikes or ricks. But this, this was good and peaceful. The only thing going down the road was the tram, and of course people. I bet Graz will soon be on the list of top travel destinations to visit in 2019.
5. Bridges on the River Mur
There are so many bridges in Graz, and the all go over the river Mur. The Mur rises in the Austrian Alps in Hohe Tauern and flows through Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. We crossed one of the bridges a few times during our 2 days there. This one had a lot of lovelocks all along the length of the bridge. I loved this shot because we could see the next two bridges across the river as well.
There’s a local legend that the devil created the Schlossberg in a broken pact to make the Schöckl, the local moutain of Graz taller.
Now a public park, this Castle Hill, which is what Schlossberg translate to, has fortifications from as far back as the 10th century and a fortress from the 16th century built by Italian architects. Napolean’s army failed to conquer the castle, but a lot of it was destroyed in the 1809 Treaty of Schönbrunn after Napoleon’s victory over the Hasburgs. The people paid a ransom for the Uhrturm (Clock Tower) and the Glockenturm (Bell Tower) to be spared.
On the way up the 260 steps of the Schlossbergtreppe we passed a handful of tourists, some local school kids and a few joggers. An alternative to the stairs is the Schlossbergbahn, the lift that goes up the 60 degree gradient to the top. We walked though. It took some time going up, but we saw lovely flowers and plants along the way.
Swapped hands. That’s what this clock has. Some don’t even notice it, while some go up and wonder why the time is all wrong.
We wondered too. Why was it showing 8.25 pm when it was just 5.40 pm?
Then we read the history. The hands were originally long to show the hours from a distance. The minute hands were added later and somehow swapped with the hour hands.
There are three bells in the clock tower that date back to the 16th century. The flowers surrounding the clock tower are so vibrant and pretty, it looks like we’ve walked into a fairytale.
A short distance from the Uhrturm is the Türkenbrunnen, a well built by Domenico dell ‘Allio between 1554 to 1558. Dell ‘Allio was a Master Architect who trained in Northern Italy and was responsible for the fortification of Graz, Vienna, Klagenfurt and other neighbouring fortresses.
He was commissioned with the building of a cistern to bring ground water up from the river Mur to the Schlossberg. Result? The Turkenbrunnen, a 94 feet deep shaft with a 15 feet deep cistern to provide water to the Castle. The Turkenbrunnen was named after the Turkish prisoners built it.
I tried peeking in, but naturally there was no end in sight.
9. Kunsthaus Graz – The Friendly Alien
The Friendly Alien, as it’s called by creator Colin Fourrier, or Grazer Kunsthaus was built using ‘blob architecture’ and is different form modern ‘White Cube’ architecture. The Kunsthaus Graz was built in 2003 as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations. It has no permanent exhibit, but showcases a variety of contemporary art.
It was a toss between this shot of the Friendly Alien and another panoramic shot of the city with the flags waving. but the Alien won. 😉
10. Brettlejause at Buschenschank Schaar
Grammelschmalz and Brettlejause with friends at Buschenschank Schaar in Graz, Austria. If you’re wondering what Brettljause and Grammelschmalz is, click on the link above to reach that post. 😉 Although the Buschenschank is located a bit outside the city, it’s well worth the journey. We enjoyed a fine evening with friends we met while couchsurfing. These two are an amazing couple, and we learnt a lot about each other while there, from food and wine to bicycles and travelling.
If you plan on going a bit further South to explore the South Austrian wine region, my friend Lori has an amazing post on the Südsteiermark for you.
11. Schloss Eggenburg
This was the second place that we visited that was outside the city. We took a bus from Jakominiplatz and got there in about 30 minutes. The Schloss at the end of the long driveway reminded me of the old TV series Dynasty. The beautiful park gardens have peacocks roaming freely in them. They aren’t shy of humans either.
The Schloss built in 1625 by the Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg represents the universe and time.
It has, and I quote from the Tourism Graz website:
“365 windows, 31 rooms on each floor, 24 state rooms with 52 doors and, in all, 60 windows, 4 corner towers – all allusions to time, to the seasons, to weeks, days, hours, minutes.”
The guided tours are only at specific times, so if you miss them, you can always spend time in the museum and the many beautiful gardens – Rose Mound, Planetengarten, Peacock gardens and more.
12. Archaeology Museum
I liked the Archäologiemuseum on the grounds of Schloss Eggenburg more than the Museum im Palais. The difference was basic, the Museum im Palais was beautiful and grand, but the Archäologiemuseum was full of older artefacts. There were busts and gravestones from Rome, Egypt, and the ancient East. There were weapons and coins, sculptures and statues, and a lot more.
I also loved creepers growing outside on the walls. 😉
13. Landscape Garden
My favorite bit was the Landscape Garden in the Eggenburg Park. It was commissioned by Count Herberstein in 1820 when he asked his 2 head gardeners to design a landscape garden that represented a perfect romantic painting. They designed a park with long winding pathways and beautiful plants. The pond and the groves of trees make for picturesque settings. Here’s my sister gazing at the tiny fish in the pond.
We visited other attractions in Graz too; but these are the ones that stood out for me. So here they are – my top 13 things to do in Graz, Austria.
Are they the same as yours?