Graz resides in the southern Styria region close to the Slovenian border. It lies between hills that are alive with the sound of music and the palatial paradise that is Vienna. It’s the second biggest city in Austria, but Graz isn’t on everyone’s radar.
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.
Day One in Graz
Getting to Graz
Living in Bratislava, Slovakia makes travelling to Austria very easy. We could take a Flixbus but instead, we go for the OBB train. From Vienna, the trip is two and a half hours and from Salzburg around four hours. We book through the Omio app which keeps a schedule of our trains. We also print out our tickets as this is a requirement on Austrian trains, especially if you’re crossing the border like us.
We get there in the afternoon so we do 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 arrive at the main train station and walked the short distance to our Air BnB apartment. The apartment is lived in but the owner kindly vacates for our stay. It’s especially handy having our own kitchen which keeps some of the cost down too.
From here we took to the streets and we are gobsmacked with the colours and styles of buildings, the cobblestone streets and the countless cute corners. It honestly feels 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 take the scenic funicular to the top as we’re 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, there 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. The locals fought to keep it standing and it delivers breathtaking views across the city.
Duck’s Coffee Shop
Down on street-level we get our bearings and come across Duck’s Coffee Shop which is as adorable as the name suggests. It delivers tasty coffee, super friendly service and is 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 settles in we make 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 do stay for an Aperol Spritz though.
Day Two in Graz
Lunch at Der Steirer
Mostly known for its Styrian tapas, Der Steirer is an amazing find! A stylish restaurant with a deli, it’s irresistible. We have a roast lamb Sunday lunch with polenta, and two tapas options as starters (a small goulash and salmon/egg). Hearty portions are coupled with a beautiful range of local wines and beers making it the perfect lunch destination.
The service is genuine, and the food is flavoursome and inventive. Of course, we stay for dessert, which we could share but instead, we opt 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 have 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 are 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 enjoy it for what it is and it’s a unique way to spend an afternoon. It takes us three hours to get here, look around, spend some time outside and get back to Graz.
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 head 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 is 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 opt 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.
Day three in Graz
Our Air BnB is 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 its markets.
Specialities include a pumpkin seed oil, smoked sausage, fruits and veg and lots of other scrumptious wares.
Mon-Sat: 6 am to 1 pm
Today is the day of museums! We had made plans to visit Admont Abbey, another good day trip option but we decide 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. 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 hours (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 is that there is no English explanation, but perhaps there is a guide at the desk – we only have 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 2 pm – 6 pm
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 fairly late and we recommend coming up at sunset if you are here the right time of year for one before 8 pm.
Dinner at Home and Klanglicht
Today is a big day so we have a drink and go home to eat and drink the rest of our home-made Aperol Spritzers! Over the weekend is a special free light show all over the city, it includes sunken cathedrals and giant white rabbits.
Obviously, Klanglicht isn’t 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 find lots of cool hangout spots and it seems to have a healthy bar scene.
Leaving Day from Graz (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 go 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 enjoy exploring this alien-esque entity.
Tue-Sun, public holidays 10 am – 5 pm
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 naturally go for cocktails! It’s a Bloody Mary with brunch! Even writing about it is making us want to go back for more – there is so much choice!
We have 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 in Graz
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.
For further exploration of Austria, we have a guide to free things to do in Vienna and a Christmas market guide to Vienna. Or for more itineraries, we have a review of the 72-hour Bratislava Card, by locals!