For travellers venturing to Austria as part of a larger Central Europe itinerary, chances are that a visit to Graz doesn’t make the cut. While places like the capital of Vienna, Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg or over-visited Hallstatt get most of the attention, most tourists don’t make the detour to visit Graz.
This is undoubtedly a great shame as Graz provides visitors with an incredible mix of historical sites to visit, cultural centres to explore and a thriving modern cafe and restaurant scene. So much so that we were both lamenting that we only decided to spend one day in Graz.
If you’re debating ‘is Graz worth visiting?” I highly urge you to stop thinking about it and make the effort to visit Austria’s second-largest city. Even if you only have time to enjoy Graz in one day, you’ll still be able to experience a lot that the city has to offer.
How to Get To & Around Graz
The most common way for travellers to get to Graz is by taking the train or bus from Vienna. Transport is frequent throughout the day, taking about 2.5 to 3 hours. Other logical capital cities to visit Graz from would be Ljubljana and Zagreb. Austrian trains do get more expensive the closer you get to your travel date so it’s best to book in advance. Click here to browse train and bus schedules.
Once in Graz, you’ll find most of the attractions in the city to be walkable. However, you might want to take public transport from the train or bus stations or if you’re planning to go on a day trip to somewhere like Scholls Eggenberg. Tram & bus tickets in Graz and can be purchased from the ticket booths at the station.
You can also buy a 24-hour ticket. Keep in mind that some trams in the Old Town are free to take – these stops are clearly marked.
One Day in Graz Itinerary
If you only have one day to spend in Austria’s second city, here is how we recommend you spend your time when you visit Graz. The entire centre of Graz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are beautiful places to explore around every corner. You can book a walking tour if you want to explore with a guide.
Kaiser Josef Market
Start your day at the local farmer’s market, located just behind the Opera House. Open Monday to Saturday from 6 am until lunchtime, this is a great place to either pick up some snacks for your day exploring Graz or if you want to buy some souvenirs (some local Styrian pumpkin seed oil would be an excellent choice!) for friends and family back home.
The range of products here is quite large and is one of the best ways to get high-quality goods in Graz.
Grazer Burg / Double Spiral Staircase
From the Kaiser Josef Market, take a stroll through lush Stadtpark as you make your way to Grazer Burg – the castle of Graz.
The castle area is perhaps more famous for its Double Spiral Staircase which was built at the end of the 15th century. It’s a unique work of architecture where two staircases intertwine with each other as you climb to the top. The staircase is free to enter and makes for some great photo opportunities!
The castle complex is today still used as the site of the regional parliament.
Cathedral & Mausoleum
Just a short walk from the Burg are two most impressive sites that are worth visiting in Graz – the Cathedral and Mausoleum.
The Cathedral was built in the 15th century in a Gothic style and is free to enter with a number of interesting relics to see on the inside of the church. The Mausoleum next door was built a couple of centuries later and is the resting place of Emperor Ferdinand II.
Entry to the Mausoleum includes being able to climb the Bell Tower for views of the city centre.
A couple of hundred metres away from the Cathedral & Mausoleum, you’ll find the Glockenspiel. This is famous for the fact that three times a day, the windows open and a little show is put on, similar to what you find in many other Czech and other Central European cities.
My advice would be not to go out of the way to see it as it’s not really anything that spectacular but if you happen to be in the area at the right time then feel free to make your own judgements!
It would be remiss of me to have a one day in Graz itinerary that doesn’t include at least one-stop in one of the many cafes that line the streets of the city. There are so many places to choose from that you’ll likely need to spend a lot more than a day here to truly determine where the best coffee in the city is!
We popped into Cafe König which has a vintage interior that transports you back to another time as well as a small courtyard at the back for warmer days. In most cafes, you can order typical drinks such as espressos or cappuccinos or alternatively you can enjoy traditional favourites like a kleiner brauner or grosser brauner which is a single or double espresso with milk.
One of the best places to visit in Graz that is synonymous with the city is the Schlossberg area which is the hill that overlooks the city.
There are a few options to get up and down to and from Schlossberg. Apart from walking up the steep hill, you can take the lift or funicular up and down and you also have the option of taking a slide down!
Prices will vary depending on what option you choose with the lift being the cheapest (aside from walking). If you want to see all the sites, taking the funicular up and then taking the lift down is a good option as you’ll be able to walk downhill for the duration of the journey.
The highlight of Schlossberg is undoubtedly the famous Clock Tower though other attractions such as the Bell Tower, Bastion & simply enjoying the great views are also worth taking the time for! It’s one of the best things to do in Graz.
After visiting Schlossberg, it’s time to cross the Mur River but not before seeing a piece of unique modern architecture. The Murinsel which was built for Graz’s European Capital of Culture celebrations in 2003 sits in the middle of the Mur River and connects the two sides. There is a cafe that you can visit and it is also sometimes used for performances.
Lunch at Der Steirer
If you’re looking for an affordable and tasty lunch option when you visit Graz then look further than Der Steirer. It’s a modern Austrian restaurant that has a huge selection of wines but is perhaps most popular for its daily changing lunch menu.
Only available during the week, it allows you to choose between a couple of main dishes as well as a soup and dessert. A main dish by itself from the lunch menu only costs €12.50 and if you’re not satisfied with the options available, you can also order from their extensive main menu.
Explore Lend / Visit Kunsthaus
Der Steirer is located in the Lend district of Graz which is an interesting area to explore if you want to stretch your legs after lunch. There are a number of interesting boutique shops to explore in the area and it is considered to be the creative district of Graz.
In this district, you will also find Kunsthaus which is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Also built-in 2003, it’s another unique example of modern architecture in the city that is in a similar vein to the Murinsel.
The museum is open every day except Monday from 10 am to 5 pm and you can pre-book tickets here. However, if you plan to visit more than one museum during your visit to Graz then it’s worth purchasing Joanneum Museum ticket which gives you entry to most of the major museums in the city. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Graz.
Another one of the museums that is included on the Joanneum Museum ticket is the Styrian Armoury. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Graz with an impressive collection of armoury and weapons and one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The museum is also open daily except Monday. You can also pay extra for a guided tour or audio guide. The entrance of the museum is also home to the Tourist Information Centre so it’s a good spot to pick up any additional information you might need.
As a student city, Graz has plenty of affordable restaurants to choose from including a number of international options. Two good options are Mekong Restaurant for authentic Vietnamese food or Pizzaiolo for fantastic Naples style pizzas.
You can eat well at both of these restaurants for affordable prices.
Have more than one day in Graz?
While visiting Graz for one day will be sure to give you a good overview of the city, there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you have an extra day or two.
Firstly the Joanneum Museum Ticket includes entry to 18 museums with 8 of those being right in the centre of Graz including the History Museum and Centre of Natural History.
Another one of those 8 museums is the Scholls Eggenberg which is a 17th-century palace that is located a few kilometres away from the centre of Graz.
Finally, with such a large selection of cafes and restaurants to choose from, you can easily spend some time hopping between places enjoying the atmosphere and great food and drink.
Where to Stay in Graz
If you’re spending the night in Graz, there are plenty of options to choose from to suit all levels of budget.
B&B Hotel Graz-Hbf – A good budget hotel which is a great option is you’re trying to cut down costs or want to be close to the train station. There are a range of private rooms available including options for solo travellers and families. You can also include breakfast in the daily rate when booking. Click here to check their availability
Aiola Living Graz – This boutique hotel is a great option for couples looking for a stylish place to stay in the centre of town. Rooms contain all the expected modern amenities and there is a fitness centre on-site that guests have access to. Click here to check their availability
Schlossberghotel – Das Kunsthotel – If rather than a boutique hotel, you’d prefer to stay somewhere with a classical design then this hotel is for you. Decorated with classic antiques and artwork, this hotel is ideal for couples who also get access to a swimming pool, gym and on-site bar. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Graz!
While it might not be anywhere near as popular as other places in Austria, I would highly recommend making the effort to head to Graz on your next trip to Central Europe!
Are you planning a trip to Graz? Have you visited recently? Let us know in the comments below!