Have you heard of Graz? This beautiful, walkable city is the second largest in Austria. There are so many reasons to visit Graz, an overlooked city in Austria with lots of things to do. Graz belongs on the tourist radar, and see why with these 7 best things to do in Graz, Austria.
Things to do in Graz, Austria
1. Schlossberg hill
2. Graz coffee culture
3. Eggenberg Palace
4. Outdoor cafes
5. The Opera House
7. The nearby wine region.
While there are many things to do in Graz, Austria, I’ve got 7 reasons to include this Austrian city on your next vacation.
1. Schlossberg hill
It is 260 seriously steep steps to the top of the Schlossberg hill, a UNESCO landmark. But it’s worth every step. On our way up, my husband, college-aged daughter and I enjoyed the view of the city’s red rooftops, the winding Mur River, and the mountains beyond.
Near the top of the Schlossberg hill is the city’s landmark, the medieval Clock Tower. Also, there is a performance space, many lookouts, and the ruins of its medieval fort. We rested with a drink at one of several hilltop outdoor cafés and again enjoyed the view.
In a lazier mood, my husband and I didn’t walk. Instead, we got dressed up, took the funicular to the top, and sampled a tasting menu at the elegant restaurant built into the side of the hill, the Starcke Haus.
2. Enjoy Coffee Culture
I loved the coffee culture in Graz. Baristas take care with each cup, always served with water on the side, and never to-go. Instead, Graz invites lingering in cafes. Austrian pastries have cream, chocolate, nuts – delicious.
3. Furnished 17th Century Eggenberg Palace
My husband and I took the excellent guided tour of the 24 sumptuously furnished rooms of Schloss Eggenberg, a Baroque and Rococo palace. Everything is decorated in bright colors: the walls, ceilings, and floors. It’s dizzying. The palace was built by a leader of the Hapsburg empire’s movement to suppress Protestants. Also, the palace has acres of gardens that are fun to explore, even if you don’t tour the palace.
Nightingales wander Schloss Eggenberg’s grounds. I learned nightingales don’t like photographers getting too close. This one showed his plumes and then charged at me, screeching. I was so startled I fell backwards on my butt, laughing.
4. Outdoor Cafes
Austrians love being outside. Me too. Graz is filled with walkers, bikers, and people eating outside. My family ate most lunches and dinners at sidewalk cafes nearby the main square of old city Graz, Hauptplatz, enjoying people watching.
In addition, in the outdoor rooftop café of the Kastner & Ohler department store, we sipped wine while enjoying a great view of the main square of the old city.
Also, Graz has many outdoor courtyard restaurants, tucked away from the noise of the street. For example, Laufke restaurant’s courtyard is a quiet green oasis in the middle of the city. Outside of the old city, the Hilmteichschlossl outdoor café is in back of a garden shop, fronting a pond that in winter is used for ice skating.
And here’s a Traveling Mom tip: Graz families spend Sundays together, and almost nothing is open, including restaurants.
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5. Opera House
The gorgeous Opera House in Graz is also a theater. Graz is a college town, and students can sit in orchestra seats for about $30. We didn’t take the tour of the Opera House. Instead, we went to a performance. It was West Side Story. And it was fun to see an Austrian take on 1950’s New York City.
Graz is filled with varied architecture. I love the beautiful 17th, 18th, and 19th century stone churches, houses, and other buildings that glow in the late afternoon sun. But I also loved the modern buildings in Graz. Like the glass café shaped like a shell that floats on the river.
7. Exploring the wine region outside Graz, Austria
The wine growing region of Austria near Graz is beautiful. The vineyards and cypress trees in the countryside near Graz reminded me of Tuscany. We spent a day exploring three different winemakers to taste their white wines or rose, a Baroque church, a Bishop’s palace, and wooded pathways. Luckily, local friends drove us. While the Tourist Office in Graz offered a very good walking tour of the city, I hope one day the Tourist Office also will offer a guided tour of nearby wine country.
Graz, Austria may be the most beautiful European city you’ve never heard of. And if you get to combine a visit, be sure to check out tips for visiting Vienna, Austria and Ljubljana, Slovenia. For more about a magical lakefront town near Salzburg, Austria, click here.