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15 Irresistible Reasons to Visit Graz (and One Not to)

This post is also available in: Čeština

Why visit Graz? As I wrote in my previous post, one day in Graz is hardly enough to enjoy Austria’s second largest city because it’s got so much character!

In this article, we’ll cover why you need to visit Graz at all. What’s so special about this city on the edge of the Austrian Alps? What happens there, and how does it remain off the beaten path despite being so awesome?

By reading these 15 reasons to visit Graz, you’ll get a clear idea of whether Graz might be your cup of tea too.

Let’s dive right in:

1. Arnold was born there

Let’s start with a peculiar reason to visit Graz – it’s the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger! He was born in the village of Thal, right on the outskirts of Graz. And guess what? Arnold is quite patriotic and often speaks fondly of his hometown.

My local friend Su mentioned that she was curious about Arnold’s recent Netflix documentary, especially what he’d say about Graz. Given some of the challenges he faced growing up, particularly with his father, there was a bit of worry that it might affect his views.

But no worries – Arnie had only good things to say about the area and the folks there.

Poster of young Arnold Schwarzenegger in Graz Museum
Young Arnie on a poster of Graz Museum

2. Authenticity, no crowds

Graz strikes the perfect balance between being an off-the-beaten-path destination and a sizable city. I simply don’t get why it isn’t more well-known. But either way, we early visitors have the upper hand before the tourist crowds catch on to what a gem Graz is and swarm it like wasps!

So, if you like visiting places that aren’t primarily catering to tourists but rather to locals, where you can blend in without missing out on any quality tourist infrastructure, then Graz is the ideal spot for you.

A tram is passing by through Graz' main square
Graz’ main square, the Hauptplatz.

3. So vibrant

If you visit Graz in the warm months, you’ll see people hanging out in large numbers, enjoying their drinks and meals from early afternoon well into the night. The vibrancy of Graz is just unparalleled.

On weekends, the city fills with markets and market-goers, making it lively everywhere. It’s a far cry from cities that offer jobs but no entertainment, where streets are mostly empty on weekends.

Here in Graz, the atmosphere is like nowhere else, making me want to join in and chill outside all the time, soaking in the cool vibe that Graz carries with pride.

People enjoying a concert - view from top
Graz locals know how to party, especially at the City Peach City Beach venue!
People enjoying sunshine during golden hour
People enjoying sunshine during golden hour

4. Hiking opps 

The outskirts of Graz were made for hiking. There are so many options for a proper nature adventure!

Schöckl Mountain is Graz’s main mountain and one locals flock to in high numbers every weekend. You can get to the top even on a cable car. You can expect all sorts of entertainment on the Schöckl Mountain incl. a summer tobogan. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from to grab a bite.

A hut on top of a mountain in Styrian Alps
This is how the top of Schöckl Mountain looks like (not my photo)

While I’ve only heard of the Schöckl Mountain, I chose a different nature escape. Taking a train from Graz, transferring once and arriving less than an hour later to the cute village Übelbach gives you a great starting point for hikes into this part of the Alps called Seetal Alps.

There are many hiking trails to enjoy, complete with endless green pastures roamed by curious cows, pretty forests, and numerous peaks.

People stay in local small huts for the whole extended summer season to keep an eye on their herd and to provide for hikers who come by thirsty or hungry.

In the area right above Übelbach there are four huts you can explore. There used to be three famous huts and the area between them was nicknamed the Bermuda triangle. :) It’s because the area is popular not just for hiking but also as a beautiful natural setting for bachelor or bachelorette parties. Austrians would go on these easy hikes, get a drink or two in each hut and sometimes someone would get lost. Thus the Bermuda triangle. I find it adorable and so typically Austrian that stag dos happen here in the mountains. :)

With my guide and another local friend Karoline, we took a local community transport service called Gust, which is easy to arrange, cheap, and works all around Graz. See more about Gust in English using Google Translate. You just need to call your “taxi” an hour in advance.

We took the car from Übelbach train station to the first hut – Plotscherbauer. Then we did a circular hike, passing by and stopping at the lovely little Gmoa Alm and the substantially larger Moderer Hut. Finally, we ended back at Plotscherbauer, where we had a full plate of local delicacies – cured meats and cheeses, all local farmers’ produce.

The whole hike took less than two hours and we even took our time photographing everything and learning about local way of life.

At the very least, you should try a popular local mildly alcoholic beverage – Tipperl. It consists of white wine, raspberry lemonade, and water.

If you’d rather hike with a local like I did, you can get in touch with Karoline through her website. She speaks English too.

5. It’s a foodie capital

Before visiting Graz, I had heard it was quite the foodie capital, so I came ready and excited for the gastronomic adventure! And Graz didn’t disappoint.

We tried all sorts of local Austrian dishes, including proper schnitzels and meals drizzled with locally popular pumpkin oil. We fell even more in love with the modern twist on traditional Austrian cuisine, which is typically quite heavy.

Food at Glöckl Bräu Graz
Delicious food at Glöckl Bräu – and beer, of course!
View of a plate with a schnitzel covered in pumpkin seeds and potatoes with a green dressing
A proper Styrian schnitzel covered in pumpkin seeds and potatoes, yum!
Veronika enjoying her dinner at Dreizehn Restaurant Graz
Tired but absolutely loving my duck confit at Dreizehn Restaurant

I can highly recommend Gasthaus Lend-Platzl and Glöckl Bräu for excellent traditional (and modern) Austrian cuisine. For fine dining, head to Dreizehn by Gauster for dinner; we loved it there so much. For a quick, top-notch burger bite, check out Indie Burger – it’s a place we ate at repeatedly and even got some Indie burgers for our train ride back home. 

Kunsthaus Café is lovely for both coffee and meals as well.

6. Capital of culture

Graz is where art and culture marry and what a diverse and harmonious marriage it is! 

Graz’s cultural status was confirmed when the city received the award of European Capital of Culture in 2023. 

Many extraordinary structures were erected for the occasion – including two of Graz’s most famous sights. The Murinsel, an island on the river Mur, connects two banks of the river and doubles as a café and a venue. Although it was intended to be temporary, it remained because locals fell in love with it. Another noteworthy building is the unique-looking Art Museum, a.k.a. Kunsthaus, affectionately nicknamed the Friendly Alien. 

Graz' famous floating island on the River Mur
Isn’t this the prettiest river crossing?
View of the facade of Graz' famous Kunsthaus Museum
Getting close and personal with “The Friendly Alien”

Even though the European Capital of Culture title is commonly held by multiple cities in the same year, Graz had the honor of owning the title for the year, without having to share it with another city. 

7. Sustainability at core

Sustainability is a modern buzzword, isn’t it! But while many places struggle to work sustainable practices into everyday processes, Graz is one of the rare examples where things are decided and carried out with sustainability at the core.

I love how Graz Tourism helps travelers enjoy their trip to Graz in a sustainable way and provide a comprehensive guide to sustainable holidays in Graz.

It’s about supporting local small businesses, giving back to the community, and being mindful about our purchasing choices. 

When you plan your Graz trip, make sure to book directly with a local hotel (I can highly recommend Gasthof Lend-Platzl). 

If you ever feel lost, you can refer to Graz’ sustainable guide and the info center, which can be found at Herrengasse 16 in the city center.

Circles drawn on a road in Graz neighborhood
Lend neighborhood has style!
People hanging by an outdoor community store in Graz, Austria
This lovely community store in Lend sells anything and everything.

Also, the area around Lendplatz, all the way to the Kunsthaus, is full of community-centric stores and little businesses. 

This point ties into:

8. Pedestrian-friendly

Pedestrian-friendliness in Graz city center is one of a kind. Here, you can clearly feel the historical center belongs to people, not cars. 

I must admit, I originally planned to visit Graz by car, thinking it would be an easy drive from my hometown in the Czech Republic. But once I started looking up central parking spaces, I realized bringing the car made no sense. And I was so happy with that decision! 

During the four days we spent in Graz, we didn’t need the car at all. I even took a half-day trip to the Alps, easily done by train. Moreover, trains run to Graz from every possible direction, including Prague, Ljublljana, Zagreb, and Budapest.

Veronika posing in front of Graz' famous clock tower called Uhrturm
It’s so walkable everywhere in Graz!

9. Sightseeing

You’re coming to Graz for urban exploration, so no city would be complete without some good sightseeing opportunities. Graz certainly keeps the bar high. Its historical center was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.

The Schlossberg hill, standing proud in the middle of the town, is a must-visit, with its iconic clock tower and sweeping views. 

There are many incredible historical landmarks, such as the City Hall and the many amazing courtyards of merchant houses, showcasing a variety of architectural styles. 

Glockenspiel carillon is another fun landmark to check out. 

And, of course, the previously mentioned Friendly Alien Kunsthaus and the unique Murinsel island. 

Just a short tram ride away, you can marvel at the picture-perfect Eggenberg chateau, which is included in Graz’s UNESCO inscription.

And there’s more. These are just the most famous sights you absolutely cannot miss. I covered them more in my guide about visiting Graz in one day, which is, by the way, impossible!

10. Community first

Visiting places with a strong community-first focus is truly rewarding. As a visitor, you can become part of that community for a few days, making the experience much more fulfilling. I prefer such destinations over meticulously preserved historical centers that have seen locals pushed out and cater predominantly to tourists. 

I assume you’d be visiting Graz on the weekend, hopefully a long one at least. If so, you’re in for a treat! Many local events thappen on weekends – be it markets, festivals, or various forms of entertainment for the locals, which you’re welcome to join.

There are about 17 Farmers’ markets all over town, many held on weekends. At Lendplatz Square, you can find a farmers’ market with local produce every morning from Monday to Saturday.

Antique markets are plentiful too. For example, at Mariahilferplatz, they’re often held on weekends. And as the sign clearly states, it’s not a flea market, but one for antiquities and rare collectibles.

Bell peppers and other veggies at a farmers market in Graz
Everything is farm-fresh at the market at Lendplatz
Veronika waving to a reflection in the mirror at an antique market in Graz
Hello from an Antique market at Mariahilferplatz!
View of an antique market in Graz
The gems one can purchase (or just look at) at the Antique market at Mariahilferplatz

11. Unique layout around a hill

Graz’ layout is unique. Sure, there’s a river running through it, like in many cities. But Schlossberg Hill makes the whole city wrap around it, creating a unique disposition.

I hope by now you’ve already absorbed that Graz is a lot of fun, too. Well, one easy fun activity you can engage in while visiting Graz is to go down Schlossberg Hill on a slide! The Schlossbergrutsche offers a 30-second adrenalin-filled ride in a metal tube inside the hill. Highly recommended. :)

There are many ways to get to the top of Schlossberg Hill and back down, of course. Other than walking and climbing stairs, you can take a lift or use a funicular. Just don’t forget about the slide option for your way down!

Stairs leading to the top of Schlossberg Hill in Graz
You can climb these 260 steps to the get to the Clock tower on Schlossberg
View of Graz city center with clock tower
When standing at the Hauptplatz, you can still see Graz’ iconic clock tower.
A metal indoor slide in Graz Austria called Schlossbergrutsche
The most fun way down!

12. Accessible and Affordable

I’m mainly talking from a financial perspective. Austria isn’t cheap, but in many places, prices are inflated due to overtourism.

Graz isn’t a low-cost travel destination either, but its price levels are still lower than in Vienna. Plus, in Graz, you know your money supports the local economy, including many small businesses. The financial distribution just makes more sense this way.

From a logistical point of view, Graz is well connected by railway to many other European cities, including Vienna, of course, but also Prague, Budapest, Ljubljana, and Zagreb. 

Regarding accessibility for persons with disabilities, Graz does well. The infrastructure includes lifts, even to the top of Schlossberg Hill. So, I would consider it accessible in that regard too, although I’m not an expert in the field and can’t provide a comprehensive evaluation. For more information, check the Graz Tourism website.

13. Coffee culture

If you need your regular dose of caffeine, you won’t have to worry in Graz. The city is a haven for coffee enthusiasts. A variety of cafés await your visit. 

I was particularly fond of the café at the Kunsthaus and also loved many others that were modern and served fancy cappuccinos.

In or near the city center, you can find Paul & Bohne (just off Lendplatz), Ducks Coffee Shop with cute duck-themed decorations, the lab-like Blend Coffee Roasters, and a hidden gem called Kai 36 Cafe and Bar.

Expect super-high-quality coffee drinks from all of those cafés!

14. Seasonal events

Graz never seems to stop having fun. :) There are always events happening in the city. I had my eye on the Truffle Festival, which is typically held in October every year.

Instead, I visited at the beginning of September, and there were still plenty of things going on! For one, it was the season for young, partially-fermented wine, which you might remember from my article about Znojmo in the Czech Republic. In Austria, especially in Styria, they love this beverage too, but here it’s called Sturm. So if you visit during Sturm season, be sure to have a glass! White or red, it’s your choice.

During our visit, the weather was still beautiful and warm, and at the main square, the city library had set up a reading area with plenty of books, bean bags, and hammocks. You could just grab a book, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy a moment with a book right in the heart of Graz.

So, before visiting, check what events are going to be on in Graz. And even if you don’t find anything, don’t worry! There’s likely to be some local event happening, especially during the warmer months.

People reading in lounge chairs in the city center of Graz
A reading area right by the Graz City Hall, courtesy of the local public library.

15. Historical significance

I’m not an expert in history, so please excuse any imperfections in my description of historical events, but it’s important to know that Graz has played a significant role in Austria’s history.

Its geographical location near the Slovenian border made it a crucial crossroads and a melting pot of various influences and cultures.

Graz was also home to famous personalities. For example, Johannes Kepler lived in Graz before moving on to Prague, Nikola Tesla spent some time studying in Graz, and the German poet Friedrich Schiller lived in the city for a brief period. The Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was born in Graz, as was the composer Robert Stolz just two decades later.

The University of Graz, established in 1585, is among the oldest and largest in Austria, further cementing the city’s reputation as a hub for learning and research.

Okay, so now you see Graz sounds pretty amazing on paper. I hope you’ll go see for yourself and experience it! 

In a tongue-in-cheek way, there’s one reason NOT to visit Graz:

You might fall in love and be compelled to stay longer or plan another trip!


That’s what happened to me. :) I’ll give it a year or two and will happily head back. 

Veronika of Travel Geekery was able to explore Graz thanks to a cooperation with Graz Tourism Board. All views are her own and unbiased.

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