Wondering how to spend one day in Graz? We have the itinerary for you! And perhaps we can even convince you to embrace slow travel in Austria and stay for night after night...Here are your options: your Graz travel guide.
How to Spend One Day in Graz
Graz may be Austria's second city but, for some reason, she's often considered an afterthought. Never mind the UNESCO World Heritage Site City Centre, the Design accolades and the reputation as the culinary capital of Austria.
No, for some reason, people tend to find themselves with only one day in Graz - if they're lucky.
Well, you are lucky in that not only is it one of my favourite cities in Europe (and I don't say that lightly) but it's also extremely compact.
24 Hours in Graz
With only 24 hours in Graz, you can see a lot. But you can also slow down and savour a lot, too.
I've written these "one day in Graz itineraries" to allow you to create your own patchwork quilt of a time in the city. If you really only have one day, just pick the one that suits you best.
If, happy days, you have longer, then string them together. We're all about slow travel and finding unusual things to do. So, go, slow down, explore - and enjoy!
Disclosure: I travelled to Graz as a guest of the tourist board as part of a project on slow travel with Captivate. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Also, if you book or buy through any of the links on this page, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Again, I only recommend products I would actually use and buy.
Why visit Graz?
Do you enjoy visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites and being surprised by design? Do you like hearty schnitzel, the green gold of pumpkin oil, Italian style buildings and a remarkable joie de vivre?
Graz has all this and more. It's a living, breathing city, not a postcard perfect tourist museum like Dubrovnik or Bruges. But it's also smaller than, say, London or Paris and you can really slow down and enjoy the pace of life here.
Highlights of Graz include the Schlossberg and its Clock Tower, the futuristic Murinsel glass island in the river and the knobbly, bobbly Kunsthaus art museum known as the "friendly alien."
And we're only just getting started. I've visited Graz time and again because I was simply bowled over by the beauty and innovation of the place on that first visit. And given the chance to go back again tomorrow? I'd jump at it without hesitation.
Where is Graz?
You'll find Graz in the eastern part of Austria, around 3 hours southwest of Vienna and pretty close to the border with Slovenia.
Graz is the city is surrounded by the magnificent Styrian mountains and some of the highest vineyards in Europe.
When is the best time to visit Graz?
Honestly, there's never a bad time to visit Graz. Winter sees Christmas lights and markets mingle amid the cold, while summer time is surprisingly hot. If you are the sightseeing type then aim for the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn because it gets hot climbing the city's central peak in August.
And if you're wondering how to fit this one day in Graz itinerary into a longer trip, then read more about summer in Austria here.
Travel Info for One Day in Graz
First of all, let's talk about the basics.
How to travel to Graz
While Graz does have its own airport, you won't find many direct flights to the UK or US. It's usual to connect in Germany - search for the best flights for your situation on a comparison website like Skyscanner here.
Another option is to fly into Ljubljana in Slovenia (airport code LJU) and transfer north from there.
Graz is also well connected by rail and so another easy route is to fly into Vienna and to take the train from there.
How to get around Graz
The old historic town centre is easily walkable - and in fact that's the best way to see it. Wear comfortable shoes, though, since you'll find many cobbled streets and the climb to the Clock Tower is steep.
If you're travelling further than, that then hop on Graz's easy-to-use public transport system. A mix of trams and buses, with the help of Google Maps, you can easily navigate your way around. Not sure how to manage without running up horrible data roaming charges? Check out this article on how to get online in Europe here to help.
Where to stay in Graz
You'll find so many accommodation options in Graz that it's easy to become inundated! I would recommend these hotels for their overall ethos and handy locations:
Where and what to Eat in Graz
Graz is Austria's culinary capital and the surrounding Styrian countryside is responsible for producing great wine, pumpkin seeds and oil and more apples than you'll know what to do with.
In fact, the food scene is so good that I have an entire article on the best restaurants in Graz over here for you. And a one day in Graz itinerary that's solely based on exploring and understanding Graz's food scene.
One Day in Graz: The Traditional Itinerary
- Morning - Climb the Schlossberg, see the Clock Tower and enjoy the park near the double spiral staircase or stairs of reconciliation.
- Lunch - the central and tasty Altsteirische Schmankerlstube, serving traditional schnitzel with a pumpkin seed coating.
- Afternoon - The Joanneum Universal Museum Armoury museum and Graz City Museum
- Dinner - head back up the Schlossberg and dine at Aiola Upstairs, taking in the soul soothing views of the city.
Famous landmarks in Graz
The traditional one day in Graz itinerary travels back to the Empire of the Habsburgs and the power that oozed, schmoozed and floozed to Graz from Vienna.
The key landmark of the city is the Clock Tower, built in 1712 and marking time ever since. It's a steep but doable hike up the Schlossberg (central castle mountain) to see the Clock Tower and the skyline of Graz - but it's worth it. From there, you can either walk back down or brave the longest underground slide in the world and hurtle back down in darkness.
Dear readers, I tried the slide and the result was a 60 second video of darkness and screaming and a sore elbow for my troubles. The Slide runs for 170 metres and whooshes you along at speeds of 30km/h. It is not for the faint of heart.
Making the most of Graz
The UNESCO town centre of Graz is magnificent, with architectural treasures on every street corner and more parading down the main walkway as well.
And to really make the most of this traditional one day itinerary, and to get a taste of the secret sauce of the city, I'd highly recommend booking a tour with local guide David: +43 650 647 4844 [email protected]
One Day in Graz: The Design Itinerary
- Morning - The Kunsthaus and design shops of Gries with a local tour.
- Lunch - Murinsel Cafe
- Afternoon - Visit the district of Lend, the stairs of reconciliation, the Duck Cafe and take a local tour through the main part of the city to spot design features that others miss.
- Dinner - Gerüchteküche - the designer vegetarian restaurant
Graz is a fully fledged UNESCO City of Design and it's easy to see the creativity just bursting through its cobbled streets and waterways.
The biggest and most obvious sign of this is the Murinsel, the stunning chrome and glass island in the river. The next biggest sign is the "Friendly Alien." This modern art museum of Kunsthaus can be seen from the traditional landmark, the Clocktower, and even down at ground level, it is designed so as to reflect the medieval buildings nearby.
In short, the idea is not to replace the old but to move along with it, reflecting one in the other and celebrating both.
On a smaller but no less important scale, you can find design in the (many) design shops and boutiques that fill the former stables of the Lend and Gries districts. Think upcycled bags, coats, art and even quirky barbers.
The restaurants and cafes, too, take new takes on old concepts. Look out for repurposed vintage plates and "lucky dip" design bags. You can find even more details on that in this article on slow travel in Austria.
Once again, I'd highly recommend booking a tour with local guide David: +43 650 647 4844 [email protected]
The Murinsel: New York's Biggest Mistake
The Murinsel in Graz has a curious backstory: it was originally intended to sit in the Hudson River, right in the Big Apple.
When New York rejected the idea, the Murinsel came to Graz instead - and flourished. Originally meant to be a temporary structure to celebrate Graz's year as European Capital of Culture in 2003, residents fell in love with the design and campaigned for it to stay.
Now, 450 tonnes of metal and glass float on the Mur River, the bridges flexing with the tide and the inner and outer shells of the Murinsel merging one into the other.
A cafe and performance area sit inside, with blue wave sofas and other design inspiration taken from the river.
There's also a great design or souvenir shop that's definitely worth a look. And finally? Make sure you see the Murinsel lit up at night.
Lady liberty doesn't know what she's missing.
One Day in Graz: The Foodie itinerary
- Morning - tour the Josef-Platz and Lendplatz markets and then take a food tour through Lend & Gries.
- Lunch - head for the Gut Schlossberg for a wide range of local food.
- Afternoon - take a cooking class or walk off your meals in the Stadtpark.
- Dinner - Dine at Der Steirer for Styrian Tapas.
Austria's Culinary Capital
The city of Graz is known as Austria's culinary capital, meaning that one day in Graz may not be enough to sample al the foodie goodies going on.
However, you can cover a lot of ground by planning your time properly and visiting restaurants which allow you to taste a lot of different things in a short time.
Graz has several colourful, fresh markets and a few restaurants and shops that focus on Styrian specialties.
Top tip: plan your visit to be in town for the Long Table of Graz. It's a dinner of local produce held beneath the stars in the UNESCO World Heritage city centre and it's absolutely mesmerising.
One Day in Graz: The Kids itinerary
- Morning - Head to the FRida & freD Children's Museum for young children to let off steam and learn.
- Lunch - Take the funicular to the top of the Schlossberg and dine at Aiola Upstairs. It's right next to a park if little legs get bored.
- Afternoon - Take the slide down the mountain with older children. Visit the knights in shining armour at the Joanneum Universal Museum, home to the largest collection of historic armour in the world. And then head to the Botanical Gardens for some more outdoor fun.
- Dinner - Dine at Der Steirer for Styrian Tapas so that everyone can taste different flavours yet still have some staples for any fussy eaters.
Family travel in Austria
I love to travel as a family and we have visited Austria several times with baby Lab - including spending more than one day in Graz. Austria is an easy country to travel through as a family: healthcare systems are practically flawless, people are polite and welcoming and, perhaps mysteriously, you won't find many narrow, steep cobbled streets to struggle through.
In addition to that, Graz is a gift of a city to visit with very young children as the place is compact with lots of open spaces and visual extravaganzas. Kids will love the standard sights, like the Friendly Alien and Murinsel, but if you want to find something more targeted at children then use the one day in Graz with children itinerary above.
One Day in Graz: The Countryside Itinerary
- Morning - visit Piber and the Lipizzan stables and take a horse ride
- Lunch - find a gorgeous Styrian Buschenschank and dine in the mountains
- Afternoon - visit St Barbara's church in Bärnbach and take a trip to a dairy or beekeeper to try local produce.
- Dinner - find another gorgeous Buschenschank! Hike through vineyards first to earn your dinner.
The surrounding countryside of Styria offers so much to see and do that you could easily spend a week here. But if you only have one day in Graz and have already seen much of the city, then this one day itinerary will give you a different perspective.
The Lipizzaner horses from the famous riding school in Vienna are born, bred and retire to the stables in Piber. Somehow iridescent in appearance, these beautiful white and grey horses will dazzle even the non-horsy. And you can travel back in time with a horse and carriage ride through the surrounding green fields and Austrian mountains.
Local produce is also a big thing in Styria, so drop in to local producers and celebrate their work by dining at a Buschenschank. These institutions are a kind of cross between a traditional pub and and organic farm. An old law dating back to 1784 from Emperor Josef II means that they can only sell food made locally. As a result, quality is high. And that's not the only thing.
Styria has Europe's highest vineyards, making it a great place to drink wine, of course, but also to hike through gorgeous scenery.
More on Travel in Austria
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