City break in Graz is never really a bad idea, as this second largest Austrian city is always full of vibrant vibes, no matter the time of the year.
Many people decide for a city break in Graz due to its Christmas market, but visiting it during the summer, Graz will show you a completely different image of this medieval city.
Best tourist attractions in Graz for a city break
The main city square (Hauptplatz)
The main city square is surrounded by amazing and luxurious old buildings and has been a great meeting point for young and old, locals and tourists. It is a great starting point to explore Graz tourist attractions too. The big square is full of lights and stands during the Graz Christmas market, but when you are able to see it empty, you realize what a vast area this really is. Our favorite view to the city hall is just behind the fountain, for which the square is richer ever since the end of 19th century.
The fact that the old city center offers so many diverse architecture styles (gothic, renaissance, baroque) in a relatively small area, brought Graz to UNESCO World Heritage list. The old city center is known as the best preserved city center in Europe.
Spending the city break in Graz will easily show you, how rich the city really is with all its history and rich architecture. That is also why Graz was announced as the European capital of culture in 2003. Tis was also the year that the city got two new tourist attractions and architectural symbols – The Graz Art Museum (Kunsthaus) in which different art exhibition take place and where also a restaurant can be found and the beautifully done island on the Mura River, which symbolize a floating shell in the river.
Being keen on architecture on or, if you are doing a city break in Graz, climbing up the amazing double staircase is one of the must things to do. They are unique in every way and are a true stonemasonry masterpiece. It is also a great place for a photo. You will find the stairs at Hoffgasse 15.
There is no city break without a visit to the farmer’s market and Graz has a very neat one. Actually you will find several markets in Graz, but the largest one, which is open in the mornings from Monday to Saturday is at the Kaiser-Josef-Platz, just behind the Opera House. A word of advice – if you are looking for a vibrant place to spend an evening and where the locals hang-out, visit the place again, as the few cafes are open in the evenings to and makes it a really nice spot for a glass of wine.
A very well kept secret in Graz, which not even all the locals know about is a secret garden in the heart of the city. It lies in the middle of Franciscan monastery and is a perfect get-away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I promised to the locals I will not give away its secret, so instead of putting out the information of the entrance, I am challenging you to find it by yourself.
Castle hill (Schlossberg)
In the middle of Graz is a hill which is on every tourist’s radar – the Castle Hill. With its 473 meters of altitude it is a popular place also for recreation among locals. But the reason why most visitors decide to find themselves up there is the true symbol of Graz – the Clock Tower. The Castle Hill got his very first castle more than 1000 years ago and from then, the city got its name. Graz came from the Slavic word gradec, meaning a small castle. If you ask me, the Castle Hill is the place to enjoy the best views over the city, so no surprise this is also the place for the first kiss for many locals.
You can reach the Castle Hill on three different ways – by an elevator, funicular or on foot from Karmeliterplatz or hiking up the amazing staircase, carved by hand.
Most people visit the Castle Hill just because of the 28 meters high Clock Tower, but if you are in Graz for a city break, make sure to see the other attractions too:
The cellar of the bell tower was once known for its cruel prison, but the bell tower is now impressive for its 5 tons heavy bell, which was re-melded from 101 Turks cannonballs. That is also why the bell still hits 101 times three times per day (7am, noon and 7pm).
Kazemate were once a warehouse, which was also used as sleeping area for prisoners. Nowadays are used as a unique stage for concerts and operas, what makes the whole show even more spectacular.
Ruins of the old fort
The castle which once stood on top of the hill was extended in 1544. It was known as magnificent renaissance fort. In fact, it is now signed in a Guinness World record book, as the strongest fort in the world.
One of the new tourist attractions in Graz and with that one of the experiences you have to do, is taking the ride on 64 meters long slide from the Castle Hill. You can reach up to 25 km/h and is known as the longest underground slide in the world.
Tunnels under the Castle Hill
Right next to the staircase, leading up to the Castle Hill, you will find the amazing tunnels. During the 2nd WW the 6,3 kilometers of tunnels were carved from the hill, to be used as bomb shelters for 40.000 people.
Fairy tale train (Grazer Märchenbahn)
Part of the tunnels are now renovated and used for some events and even for a fairy tale train, which will put a shine on kids for sure.
Frida and Fred Museum
This kid’s museum, which we have visited during our stay for the Christmas market in Graz, is amazing and one of the best things for kids in Graz for sure. Kids can learn more about money and can even turn themselves in artists. So much fun.
Recreational center Augartenbucht
A completely new tourist attraction in Graz is the recreational center Augartenbucht. We have not visited it, but according to the locals, it is a very nice green spot along the Mura River, where you can relax, surrounded with nature, have a coffee or rent a SUP.
Left and right side of the Mura River bank
The old city center is divided on two parts by the Mura River. Best known tourist attractions in Graz can be found on the left side of the river bank, underneath the Castle Hill, but you should also find the time to wander around the area on the opposite side of the river, during your Graz city break. That area is a bit more alternative, popular among hipsters, relaxed and also cheaper.
Everyone interested in history and have a sweet tooth, make sure to walk on the Hofgasse, as you will find the oldest and still functional bakery in Graz there. It has been operated ever since 1569 and it still offers products from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Make sure to try the Sissibusserl and Kaiserzwieback. The bakery is also know for special products for everyone with celiac disease.
Sculpture Park (Skulpturen Park)
On the outskirt of Graz (direction to Slovenia) lies little know park with sculptures. It expands over seven hectares and you can find more than 60 sculptures from international artists.
Picnic basket with local products
You can diversify your city break in Graz with ordering a picnic basket with local products from the tourist office in the city. You can take it to different parts to enjoy in it. We took ours to the Sculpture Park.
The Herberstein Zoo in not really in the city, but if you will have your city break in Graz long enough and are traveling there with kids, it is a nice day trip to the countryside. A walk among animals, stopping at the playgrounds and see the Herberstein castle is a nice trip from Graz.
Quick travel tips from Graz city break
Free drinking water
What I really like in Graz is the fact that you can access the drinking water for free. Find the »Refill Graz« sticker on the front door of cafes and restaurants and you can refill your bottle with water for free there.
Where to eat in Graz?
Many people do the city break in Graz just because of shopping and culinary. You can find some very nice restaurants in the city, with different kind of price range. We once stopped for lunch at the pizzeria Piazziolo at the Karmeliterplatz, where we ate a good Naples pizza. We also had a dinner in a wonderful restaurant Landhauskeller, which is a bit more expensive, but the location, food and service is definitely worth the extra cost. We ate well in a restaurant Der Steiner too, which combines tradition with modernity.
Best ice-cream in Graz
Who does not like ice-cream, right? If you are looking for the best one, stop at the Eis Greisslerei on Spargasse, which is currently the most popular one) or you can decide for a vegan one – it is said the best one is Eisperle on Kaiserfeldgasse.
Good coffee in Graz
Let’s be honest, Austria is not known for the best coffee, but we managed to find one in Graz. We really enjoyed a family run coffee shop Tribeka on Kaiserfeldgasse, which is also a very popular place for locals.
How to explore Graz?
If you ask me, the best way to explore Graz, at least it sold city center, is on foot. The city center is just perfect enough to walk around it, looking at the sights, sitting in cafes and enjoy the city vibes.
Where to sleep in Graz?
We have been doing a city break in Graz twice already – we first visited the city for its Christmas market and the second time was exploring the city in the summer. We stayed in two different hotels and we can recommend both of them.
Hotel Gollner is a family run hotel with a great location and just steps away from the farmers market, the Opera house and the city park. You can also reach all the main tourist attractions in Graz on foot from the hotel. The rooms are spacious and modern – ours even had a small kitchenette. We had buffet breakfast in the room rate. The hotel has its own parking, but it is for an extra fee. You can check more about the hotel (photos and reviews) here.
Hotel Weitzer can be found just along the right river bank and is located right at the beginning of the old city center – very close to the Graz Art Museum. The rooms are big and there is also buffet breakfast available. If you will be visiting Graz Christmas market, two locations, out of 14, are almost right in front of the hotel.
All the history, architecture and tourist attractions are perfect for two or three days long city break in Graz. Enjoy, relax and admire everything that this beautiful Austrian city has to offer.