Visiting the Neighbors – Graz, Austria

A view towards the city's famous landmark clock tower from the main square.
A view towards the city’s famous landmark clock tower from the main square.

In the Capital of the Green Heart

From the top of Schlossberg Hill in the city centre to the River Mur valley winding through it, Graz can be explored on many levels. This is a city which is at once a UNESCO listed heritage site and a modern, cosmopolitan university town with a strong population of foreign students.

Austria’s second largest city is also the capital of the state of Styria, a well forested region of the country with much preserved natural space and well deserving of its nickname: “The Green Heart of Austria”. Styria takes over almost as soon as one leaves Graz city limits, so a bit of nature is nearby and easily accessible for anyone visiting Graz who wishes to get a break from the city.

Let’s take a look at just a bit of what Graz and the surrounding area have to offer:

The clock tower on Schlossberg Hill
The clock tower on Schlossberg Hill

From the Top

The primary feature of Graz is Schlossberg Hill, which is visible from all points in the centre. A long ago demolished castle once sat upon the hill, though today it makes an ideal vantage point to get an overview of the city and its environs. From Schlossberg, you can see where the city’s historic skyline is punctuated with examples of more modern architecture such as the Kunsthaus modern art gallery and the Murinsel structure which straddles the Mur river.

Such modern structures underline the position that the city holds with UNESCO, as it is through them that the organization has listed Graz as a “City of Design” on their Creative Cities list; a list which highlights cities which have achieved a degree of excellence in a branch of the arts. If you are a traveler who makes a point of working UNESCO listed sites onto your itinerary, Graz will give you much to take in between modern architecture and its status as a World Heritage Site since 1999.

The distinctive Kunsthaus modern art gallery seen from Schlossberg.
The distinctive Kunsthaus modern art gallery seen from Schlossberg.

Schlossberg Hill itself is very accessible. One can, of course, ascend and descend it on foot via a network of trails; however, there are also lifts and a funicular tram to take you up and down if you are less mobile or just wish to conserve your energy.

The hill has much relaxing and lovely parkland to enjoy, so it is much more than just a vantage point to take in the city. You could spend a good part of the day here just relaxing, picnicking or exploring. The park and gardens at the very top of the hill are particularly beautiful and worthy of an extended viewing; one should certainly not miss taking a closer look at the City’s signature clock tower while on Schlossberg.

A Bakery in the centre with a stunning woodwork facade.
A Bakery in the centre with a stunning woodwork facade.

Graz at Ground Level

The compact centre of Graz is very walkable in every sense and is full of little details for the sharp eyed pedestrian to discover. If you’re not so sharp eyed, a quick visit to the city’s very helpful tourist office will supply you with a small map of the centre to show you where to look.

The Mur river and the Murinsel.
The Mur river and the Murinsel.

Everyone knows that a lot of walking around results in a big appetite; thankfully, there is no shortage of restaurants, bakeries and other such places in the centre to fuel your engine for the next bit of exploring.

The Mur river runs through the centre and is very much worth a look, it is the largest river in the region and can be quite picturesque from some angles; there are a number of bridges spanning it to give you a variety of views.

Eggenberg Palace
Eggenberg Palace

A quick trip from the city’s historical centre on public transport will give you access to Eggenberg Palace and its gardens. Commissioned in the early 1600s, the current palace incorporates aspects of a medieval castle which once stood on the same ground and many aspects of its design are allusions to the theme of time.

In the well kept gardens of Eggenberg; one can enjoy a variety of plants and flowers, view many statues or simply enjoy the comings and goings of the many peacocks wandering the grounds.

The view from Schockl Mountain
The view from Schockl Mountian

Attractions Further Out

As mentioned before, Styria offers many natural attractions within easy reach of Graz. One example is Schockl Mountain, which is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and para-gliders. The top can be reached via cable lift from the nearby town of St. Radegund and there are a couple of restaurants at the top to take in a meal while you take in the views of the mountains and valleys around.

Visiting and Learning More

There is really so much more to Graz and the surrounding area than I’ve space for writing here. The following internet sites will show you all of what the city and Styria offer:

Official Graz Tourism site:

http://www.graztourismus.at/en

Official Styria Tourism site:

http://www.steiermark.com/en

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