This is our guide on the best things to do in Graz, a captivating Austrian city that its bigger sibling, Vienna, often overshadows.
Graz is not just Austria's second-largest city; it's a place steeped in history, full of a unique blend of architectural elegance and youthful energy. Graz has a rich tapestry of influences that go back to ancient settlements and the days of the Hapsburg empire.
From its buzzing university scene to the influential figures who have called this city home—think Nicolai Tesla and Arnold Schwarzenegger—Graz is more than just a pretty face. Let's look at the city that dances between old-world charm and modern sophistication, making it one of Austria's top tourist destinations.
Are you looking for the best views of Graz? Then, go to Schlossberg, a hill that towers over the city. The best way to get here is to take the Schlossbergbahn funicular, especially if you've got a city transport pass, as then it's free. Kids will love the ride to the top, making it a family-friendly attraction.
Once at the top, grab a snack or a drink at the Biergarten and take in the panoramic sights. If you visit in December, then you will be lucky enough to see the Christmas Market. It's a spacious area, so even when it's busy, it doesn't feel overcrowded.
Schlossberg is more than just an old clock tower and castle with a museum.
Altstadt, or Old Town, of Graz, is a cozy and bustling place that captures the soul of Austria's second city and should be on your list of things to do in Graz as it is easily walkable. All the main attractions, including the iconic clock tower and the art museum with its quirky architecture, are within easy reach. A great frugal tip is that if you hop on a tram, it's free within the old city – just look for stops marked with the BIM sign.
Despite being the center of city life, the Altstadt maintains a laid-back atmosphere. You'll often stumble upon small outdoor gatherings and impromptu events, making it the perfect spot to drop by anytime, planned or not. The area is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, with an atmosphere that's both artsy and youthful.
3. Schloss Eggenberg
If you're into castles and history, the Schloss Eggenberg should be on your list of interesting things to do in Graz. This World Heritage site will transport you back in time with its meticulously preserved staterooms that you can explore via a one-hour guided tour.
While photography isn't allowed on the tour, you won't miss it; the visual richness of the place will be imprinted in your memory. On the art front, the Alte Galerie within the castle is just as breathtaking, showcasing a well-curated selection of Renaissance art and sculptures alongside paintings from later periods.
The guided tours are excellent, with guides who are a treasure trove of fascinating historical details. Though the park surrounding the castle may not be the best, the cafe makes up for it, providing a delightful stop for some refreshments.
This UNESCO World Heritage-designated square is not only historically significant but also full of modern-day life. Trams connect you to the square, making it easily accessible for travelers.
Whether day or night, you'll find a lively atmosphere here with plenty of restaurants, pubs, and shops to explore. Do you love reading? Check out StadtLesen when it's in town, offering a unique opportunity to lounge in beanbags and read books right in the square. It's a fantastic way to soak up the local scene.
Another cool thing to see is the Adler Apotheke, which claims to be the oldest pharmacy in Europe still filling prescriptions. It has a lovely interior and offers a range of products, with staff always happy to help. Put Hauptplatz on your list of free things to do in Graz.
Get ready to step back in time at Landeszeughaus, a unique museum in the heart of Graz. As you walk in, it's like entering a different era—you half expect a knight to come walking out. This unique spot is home to a treasure trove of well-preserved weapons and armor dating from the 15th to the 18th century. With four floors to explore and around 32,000 items on display, it's considered the world's most extensive collection of its kind and is good if you are after things to do in Graz in winter!
You can also opt for a guided tour to get some profound insights into the historical significance of these items. The guides bring the past to life, highlighting the labor and craftsmanship that went into each piece of battle gear.
If you love wandering charming streets, Sporgasse should be one of the things to see in Graz. This cobblestone street is a joy to explore, filled with chic boutiques, cozy restaurants, and inviting cafes. The road itself links the city's main square to the scenic Karmeliterplatz, positioned at the top of a hill right before Schlossberg Park.
The street is fascinating, with historical buildings that are not just good to look at but also full of fascinating details. If you happen to visit during Christmas, it's even more special. The area gets bustling with folks soaking in the holiday spirit, but it's worth braving the crowd for the magical atmosphere.
Just a heads-up: the street can get really busy, so be ready for a lively experience and put this on your list of things to do at Christmas in Graz.
7. Basilika Mariatrost
For a spiritual and scenic escape from Graz's city center, visit Basilika Mariatrost. Although it's a bit outside the hustle and bustle, getting there is accessible with a quick tram ride on route #1. If you're a fan of trams, you can even pair your visit with a stop at the Graz Streetcar/Tram Museum.
The basilica itself is steeped in history and architectural beauty, and even if you're not religious, the trip is worth it for the panoramic views alone. The basilica is perched on a corner of Graz, and if you time it right with a sunset visit, the vistas are incredible.
Ready for a quirky, quick adventure, then head to Doppelwendeltreppe, or the Double Spiral Staircase. Located in a public building across from the main cathedral, this spot is one of the fun things to do in Graz that's free to visit. Perfect for early birds, the place seems open before 7:30 a.m., so you can swing by before everyone wakes up.
This isn't just any staircase; it's a pair of spiral staircases that twist and turn, separating and rejoining as you ascend. A fun idea is to go up one staircase while your friend or loved one takes the other; if you time it right, you will meet each other every time the staircase meets.
9. Kunsthaus Graz
If you like modern art and unique architecture, then Kunsthaus Graz should be on your list of best things to do in Graz. Often considered the icon of Graz, this art museum is as visually stunning on the outside as the exhibitions are on the inside. Right next to the iconic Clock Tower, the Kunsthaus has an intriguing design perfect for housing modern art.
Hop on a tram, and you'll find it's just a quick ride away from the city center. The visit is well worth it, offering exhibitions like “Faking the Real,” among others. Don't miss the last floor; it's a sensory experience where you can relax on pillows and dive into a world of shapes and sounds.
The Kunsthaus also has a lovely garden with peacocks and ducks and an on-site café where you can sit back and soak in the artistic atmosphere.
10. Universalmuseum Joanneum
If you are looking for a perfect day out with the family in Graz, then visit the Universalmuseum Joanneum. This museum is like a fun playground for both kids and adults. Imagine hand-crafting, exploring a hospital setup, or even building your own car. The activities here are so diverse that you'll wish you had more than just one day to take it all in.
There is also more – The Natural Museum, another part of Joanneum, is full of Earth's history. You can access it with a special ticket from the Neue Galerie (New Gallery). Even though it's not that modern, it's full of awesome stuff like ancient rocks, plants, and animals.
One thing to note is that the info boards are only in German, but don't let that stop you; the exhibitions are so good they speak for themselves. While there are lots of other museums in Graz, this is one of our favorites.
11. Murradweg Bike Tour
If you are after a different way to explore Graz and even a little beyond, then hop on a bike and check out Murradweg.
This bike path is lovely, winding through beautiful farmland and cute little villages. It's easy enough for anyone to enjoy, so you don't have to be a Tour de France champ to have a good time. Don't worry if you get a bit lost, as friendly locals and maps will help you stay on course. Heads up: detailed info online is in German, but it's quite easy to follow.
If biking isn't for you, then Murradweg is also an excellent place for a walk.
We recommend renting a bike between March and October and starting in Graz. Head towards Leibnitz, and you'll soon find yourself in the heart of the Austrian countryside. It's incredibly gorgeous in the spring and fall.
12. Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Graz is not just a green paradise; it's also free to visit, so it has made it onto our list of things to do in Graz. Yep, you heard that right—zero euros to wander through some fantastic plant displays. You'll find the garden conveniently located near the tram line, so it's easy to get to.
Inside, you'll find two floors of wonderfully arranged plant compositions. If you're into photography, especially macro shots, this place is a dream come true.
Look for info cards and QR codes near some of the plants. You can easily spend a couple of hours here, and there's even a cute shop and seating areas where you can relax.
13. Graz Opera
This place is not just about stunning architecture that fits perfectly with this city; it's also a place for rising talent. Some of the world's top performers started right here in Graz.
Step inside, and the elegant interiors will wow you, decked out in red velvet and gold. Trust us, it's as good as it looks in the pictures.
The acoustics are superb, making every note sound great. If you're more into Broadway than Beethoven, you're in luck, as the Graz Opera has a broad repertoire that even includes some of your Broadway favorites.
If you want to take a breather during intermission, step out onto the terrace for fresh air and the best views of Graz.
At number 14 is another one of the free things to do in Graz. Just a 20-minute walk from the town center or a quick bus ride, you'll find yourself surrounded by a natural paradise. With a scenic pond at its heart and a lush forest of towering trees, this is the perfect place for a leisurely walk or a peaceful picnic.
There are plenty of benches and even some hammocks where you can sit back, relax, and just enjoy being outdoors. If you didn't pack a picnic, don't worry, as there's a café called Purberg on-site. While it's not the cheapest, it's a convenient option for some food and drink.
15. Eat at El Gaucho Im Landhaus
If you're in Graz and love steak, look no further than El Gaucho Im Landhaus.
Situated in the city's heart, this steakhouse has amazing reviews. As soon as you walk in, you'll be wowed by the atmosphere – cozy yet classy, just like a steak place should be. The seating is comfy, and the interior design sets the mood for a fantastic meal.
Quality is the game's name here, and they do it very well, and that's why it's one of the best restaurants in Graz.
16. Adventure Park Graz
If you're scratching your head about things to do in Graz with kids, how about an action-packed day at Adventure Park Graz? Located just outside the city center, this outdoor park is a fantastic escape for families looking to spice up their trip.
From rope climbing and log sawing to crossing wobbly rope bridges and tackling high ropes, Adventure Park Graz offers an array of activities to keep everyone entertained.
While we've covered some of the best things to do in Graz, there's still so much more to explore. Consider timing your visit to coincide with the Christmas markets, when the city transforms into a winter wonderland, adding a whole new layer of magic to your Graz experience.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.