Graz is the second largest city in Austria; a perfect balance of rich historical architecture and modern city life. In order to fully understand how this great city has developed over time one must look into the history books of the Bavarians, Slavs, and Romans. With its abundant historical features and geographical size, coming up with a “to see” list it would be an overwhelming task, especially if you’re only in Graz for one night. If you are travelling in the peak summer months I would recommend spending the early part of the morning in Gösting, the thirteen district of Graz. While there you can climb to the top of the mountain to see the Gösting Castle Ruins. The Gösting district is a short 25 minutes bus ride from Jakominiplatz in Graz – you can use your bus pass to make your way over. You’ll be happy to learn that there is no entrance fee.
The bus stops at the bottom of the mountain. The walk is paved for most of the way, it only takes about 30 minutes but it is very steep and some may want to rest along the way. It’s quite the climb in the summer heat but once you get up there you will see why the view is worth the climb. You do not want to miss the gorgeous panoramic view of the Graz basin and the eastern Styrian hill country from the roof top of the castle tower. There is a little family run restaurant/snack bar up top where you can get an inexpensive lunch and drink to quench the thirst. Before you leave explore the castle grounds and ask to go inside; the relics and ancient chapel cannot be missed.
After spending adequate time at the Gösting castle ruins, head back down and take the bus over to Graz Tourist information centre (Graz Tourist Information, Herrengasse 16) and book a walking tour of the old town with a guide. The classic walking tour starts daily at 2:30PM and lasts for 1.5 hour. At only €9.50 per adult it’s absolutely worth every penny. You can also explore the historic centre at your own pace with an audio guide.
If you are an avid photographer or architecture buff you can spend an entire afternoon exploring and photographing colourful, stylish exteriors and magnificent buildings from various eras. Do not miss climbing up to the Uhrturm (clock tower). It’s accessible either by lift, rail or steps. Once you get to the top you can enjoy the lovely view while having a meal or a coffee in one of the restaurants. There are great views to be seen over the centre of Graz.
After spending the latter part of your day in the historic centre cross the river Mur over the bridge nearest the Kunsthaus and you’ll notice a sea of padlocks of all shapes, colours, and sizes hanging from the chain links of the bridge. Apparently this is the trend in Europe when it comes to couples declaring their eternal love and devotion. This fancy takes after the movie, “Tengo Ganas De Ti” (I Want you) filmed in 2012. I have yet to watch this movie but the synopsis describes two teen lovers who engrave their names to a padlock and then attach it to a lamppost on the Ponte Milvio in Rome, than throw the key into the River Tiber.
Even official architecture can harbour surprises. The Burg in Graz, official headquarter of the regional government, is a real gem. Centuries of reconstruction have yielded interesting elements of the Gothic, Renaissance and Biedermeier eras. Particularly striking is the double spiral staircase, seeming almost like an optical illusion. This “staircase of reconciliation” consists of two opposing spiral stairs, which merge briefly on each floor, part and then rejoin.
Graz is often overlooked due to the fact that most people visit Austria to see Vienna, or Salzburg. However, if you are travelling by train, I strongly recommend that you stay here at least one night (two nights would be better). In retrospect, I should have stayed two nights to explore other fabulous sights like the Schlossberg castle, or visit the Military museum. It is the ideal Austrian city for venturing out on day trips into the picturesque countryside here during the warmer season. There is an abundance of attractions and events to experience while you are there.
— Thank you to Graz Tourism for their complimentary walking tour of the historic district and museum pass.
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