Graz

Graz is the capital of Styria (Steiermark) and the second largest city of Austria with a population of just below 300,000 - about 40,000 of which are students of its six universities. It has been a vital urban centre for both Styria, Austria and Slovenia, and has produced a number of talents in many fields, ranging from the inventor Nikola Tesla to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Graz maintains a balance between its illustrious past and modern present and features spectacular architecture from all periods, while the warm and sunny climate influenced by the closeness to the Mediterranean makes it a very nice city to visit.

Understand

The landmark of Graz: The clock tower

The roots of Graz can be traced back to Roman times, when a small fort was built where the city centre is today; Slovenians later built a larger fortress in the same place. The name "Graz" is derived from the Slovenian word gradec, which means small castle. Graz was first mentioned with its German name in 1128 when the dukes of Babenberg turned the place into a commercial centre. During 15th century Graz became the capital of Inner Austria (referring to Styria, Carinthia and Carniola) under the Habsburgs.

Due to its importance as a strategic position, Graz was often assaulted by Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. The fortress located on the Schlossberg (the picture to the right shows the clock tower, which is located on top of the hill) never fell to the Turks (the only place in this region).

During WWII, Graz was part of Nazi Germany (along with rest of Austria). At the end of the war, Graz was surrendered to Soviet troops largely intact; the historic old town was not seriously hit during Allied bombing raids on the city. In 2003 Graz was the Cultural Capital of Europe.

Some 40,000 of the city's population is made up of students, as Graz is home to no less than six universities (four "standard" universities and two dedicated solely to applied sciences), and is associated with names as illustrious as Johannes Kepler, Erwin Schrödinger and Nikola Tesla. The first university was founded in 1585 (Karl-Franzens-Universität).

Graz is also known for the Magna Steyr (formerly called Steyr-Daimler-Puch) automobile and truck manufacturing plant located there. It is also the birthplace (in nearby Thal) of actor and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Its UPC-Arena was renamed in Schwarzenegger's honor in 1997, but was renamed again in 2005, following controversy over the governor's support of California's death penalty.

The City of Graz, Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg, is a world heritage site.

Get in

By plane

The single-runway Graz Airport is immediately south of the city

Graz airport (IATA: GRZ), (Flughafen Graz Thalerhof) is a relatively minor regional airport around 9 km south of the city centre. Scheduled flights operate to Graz from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich, connecting to intercontinental hubs of Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, AirBerlin and Etihad Airways, while in the summer there are charters to many holiday destinations around the Mediterranean.

From the airport you have several possibilities to reach the centre:

Other nearby airports are in Maribor, Klagenfurt, and a little farther away in Linz, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Vienna International Airport. Contrary to what one may think, there is no easy direct public transportation connection from Vienna's Schwechat Airport to Graz (one has to take a bus to the minor station of Wien-Meidling and the RailJet train to Graz), and flying directly to Graz may be a better option to avoid the hassle and conserve time.

The spectacular main hall of the Graz Hauptbahnhof

By train

The main station (Hauptbahnhof) is on the western edge of the city centre, at the end of the Annenstrasse. Graz has frequent connections to Vienna with direct trains every hour. Connections to Salzburg and most other Austrian Cities and Munich are also reasonably frequent. Night trains serve destinations as far as Zurich, and there are two direct day services each day to Zagreb. There are also less frequent services to Slovenia and Hungary. To reach the old town, take tram line 1, 3, 6 or 7, or simply walk down Annenstraße for about 20 minutes and cross the bridge. You can obtain a map from the Tourist Information in the Hauptbahnhof.

It is worth noting that the direct services from Vienna to Graz pass through the Semmering Railway, a rail line listed in the UNESCO World Heritage due to its unique construction involving 14 tunnels and 16 viaducts. Keep your eyes open! From Vienna to Graz, sit on the left; from Graz to Vienna, sit on the right.

By car

The A9, runs north-south through Graz, mostly via the 6 mi Plabutsch tunnel. The A2, just south of the city, runs east-west. Vienna (Wien) is 127 mi up the A2 to the east. A just as fast but much more scenic alternative route to Vienna is via Bruck/Mur taking the S6. (Beware that there are lots of tunnels on the S6.) Some might also find the 5 mi (single carriageway) Gleinalm (Toll) tunnel on the A9, 15 miles to the north of Graz, unnerving. Toll charge: Gleinalm Tunnel: cars and motorhomes up to 3.5 t: €7.95 | with caravans/trailers: €9.95 | Motorhomes over 3.5 t: €11.50. It is possible to avoid the tunnel by travelling on the rather longer route via Bruck an der Mur.

By bus

Graz does not have a dedicated bus terminal. Private and public operators all operate from separate terminals:

For travels to Austrian or Slovenian destinations check out , they will find you routes with public buses, trains, and trams to your desired destination. (Although in Carinthia and Tyrol it is limited to trains.)

Get around

The old town of Graz is easily explored on foot and is reachable with a 20 min walk from the main train station. Stop at the Tourist Information at the train station, or any hotel lobby that you come across to pick up a brochure on attractions in Graz. This brochure also contains a map with most of the sights marked, as well as recommended self-guided walking routes through the town.

For other needs, public transportation options exist:

Tram

Graz has an excellent tram service running through the Jakominiplatz where the different routes meet and you can change trams and buy tickets at the tobacco kiosk (Tabak). Make sure you punch your ticket inside the tram (If you get caught without a valid/punched ticket you will have to pay a fine of €60). You can buy hourly, daily, 3 day tourist, 10 strip, weekly or monthly tickets (also available at a vending machine in the tram, but you need coins or a working European V cash card or credit card). They are valid on all modes of public transport throughout Zone 101 (Graz plus immediate surroundings including the airport!)

Bus

Graz also has an excellent city bus network taking in the parts of Graz not serviced by trams. Many buses go through Jakominiplatz, Hauptbahnhof and Geidorfplatz. The tickets are the same as for the tram. Be sure to get yourself a map (at Jakominiplatz) of the network if you plan to use it frequently. Also check out .

Ticket prices: Single ticket (available from the driver) € 2.10 (valid for one hour), day ticket (available from the driver), € 4.70 (valid for 24 h), weekly ticket € 12.70, available from the Office of Transportation at the Jakominiplatz and a 10-single-ride ticket (valid for 10 single rides) €19.20 available at most of the tobacco kiosk (Tabak).

Keep in mind that bus and tram services operate from 5AM to midnight during the week. Trams usually stop around 23:30 from Jakominiplatz in all directions. Nightbuses operate only on Fridays and Saturdays and before public holidays. They leave from Jakominiplatz in all directions at 00:30, 01:30 and 02:30.

Bike

Graz is a city of cyclists, featuring an excellent network of cyclepaths. Due to this using a bike to get around (at least the central areas of Graz) is one of the best choices. It also helps that it does not rain a lot in Graz. Bikes may be rented, although if you are staying a bit longer buying a used one (and maybe reselling it) from one of the many bike stores may be cheaper (get one of the great restored vintage bicycles from Rebikel, Keplerstraße 55). Bike theft is a common problem in Graz, so take care that your bike is properly locked (if possible against a bar) when you are not using it. Also, if you are inexperienced bicycling around trams, take extra caution (especially noting that getting your wheel stuck in a tram rail could knock you down, with trams potentially coming right behind and beside you!). Counter-flow cycling (cycling in the "wrong" direction of a one-way street) is allowed almost everywhere in Graz - watch out for "one-way street"-signs with a small additional "ausgenommen Radfahrer" ("except cyclists") sign.

An online map of Graz for cyclists is available here: . You can get a big map for cyclists from the Tourist info office (Herrengasse 16), at "Mobil Zentral" (Jakoministraße 1) or at the "Radstation" (Cycling station) next to the central railway station.

Rental bicycles are available for example at the "Radstation" (German only) next to the central railway station (leave the station through the main exit, turn right, walk approx. 200 m) or from one of the shops of "Bicycle" (German only).

Taxi

Taxis are available 24 h a day. You can hail one on the street, go to a taxi rank or simply order one by phone. The taxi ranks with the best chances of getting a taxi day or night are "Hauptplatz" (Right side of City Hall) or "Hauptbahnhof". There is a base rate of €3-4 for all rides. Avoid taxis in the early morning and early evening when traffic congestion can make a taxi ride very expensive. A ten-minute taxi ride usually costs about €10. Taxis can be booked at the same price as on the street by calling 0316-878, 0316-889, 0316-222, 0316-2801.

Car

If you can avoid it, just avoid it. Graz has areas with an inscrutable one-way system which makes it easy to get lost. Parking space in central areas are rare and subject to a fee from Monday to Friday (9.00am to 8.00pm, in front of Hauptbahnhof to 9PM) and on Saturday from 9AM to 1PM. Tickets can be bought from ticket machines placed in every street. A ticket for half an hour costs €0.60 ("blue zones", "green zones" are a bit cheaper). The maximum parking duration in blue zones is three hours and in green zones one day. Be aware that there are a lot of 'ticket-police' around so don't even try to park without a valid ticket (Fine € 25). There are a number of underground car parks in the city centre for example under the Karmeliterplatz which is called Pfauengarten Parkgarage which is open 24h a day. A ticket for one hour costs €2, a 24h ticket costs €12, other are as much as €4 per hour.

See

Churches

Museums

The Kunsthaus Graz at night
The Murinsel

Do

Buy

Be sure to buy a bottle of "Kernöl" (pumpkin seed oil). This oil is typical for Styria and has a very unique and wonderful taste. Ideally buy it at a (farmer) market (like Kaiser-Josef-Platz, Lendplatz,...). But you can also buy good quality oil at the normal supermarkets.

There are many possibilities to go shopping in Graz. Good places to shop are:

Bigger shopping complexes located outside the city center are:

Eat

All restaurants have cheap lunch deals ("Mittagsmenü") (12-3PM) or a dish of the day ("Tagesempfehlung") that are usually very good, fresh and have the best value.

Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Drink

Due to its importance as a university city, Graz has a vibrant night life. Bars are concentrated around the old town as well as the Karl-Franzens-University to the west of the old town. The old town has a mixed audience while the bars around university are mostly attended by students. In the old town you'll also find a few Irish pubs. Whereas the most Irish of them is O'Carolan's right next to the main square (Hauptplatz) others include Flann O'Briens and Molly Malone's. The Office is a very laidback and unique new addition to the Irish/British pub scene in Graz. The Office features regular live music and jam sessions, as well as the odd bit of Karaoke, and darts (steel - you know, the real ones from England) every Sunday.

Cafés

Graz has a lot of cafés all around the town, very concentrated in the city center and university district and you get tasty coffee almost everywhere. Prices are the same in most cafes, they just get slightly more expensive in Herrengasse or on Schlossberg. The most common coffee beverages are a "Verlängerter" (a small Americano with milk; 2,20-€2,40), a "Cappuccino" (2,40-€2,60), a Café Latte (coffee with lots of steamed milk; 2,60-€2,90). It is common that you get a glass of tap water to your coffee, if not don't hesitate to ask for it.

Jazz Clubs

Cocktail bars

Clubs

Clubs usually open around 10PM and get crowded by midnight. All have entry fees (mostly 4-€12) depending on the event. Sometimes it is cheaper or even free before 10.30 or 11PM. A beer will usually cost you between 3-€4. Most places are open till 5AM.

You'll have plenty of opportunities to drink beer (Bier) or wine (Wein) but perhaps the best one would be sitting, on a sunny day, in one of the many open-air bars.

The local beer brands are Murauer (is considered as the best), Gösser, Puntigamer and Reininghaus. The latter 2 are brewed in Graz itself. But you'll also find lots of possibilities to drink other Austrian (Stiegl, Ottakringer, Schladminger) and international beers.

If you visit Graz in winter try a Bockbier. But beware they are a lot stronger (6-8%) than the usual Austrian beers.

Styrian wine is one of best wines in the world. Especially the white wine. Try a glass of Welschriesling if you get the chance.

Sleep

Budget

All budget choices are quite far out of the city center.

Mid Range

Splurge


Connect

As stated above, many pubs offer free WLAN access if you bring your own computer with you. An up to date list of pubs with free WLAN access can be found at wlangraz.

Go next

Routes through Graz

Villach Klagenfurt  W  NE  Hartberg Wiener Neustadt
Becomes Liezen  N  S  → becomes A1 Maribor


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, November 19, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.