In this guide we take a walk through the old town and visit some of the main sights of Graz, the capital of the Austrian state of Styria.
After a comfortable journey on the Nightjet sleeper train, I found myself on a Sunday morning at the rather empty railway station of Graz.
As it was only 7am and my connecting train to Slovenia would not depart until 10.39am, I had a good three-and-a-half hours to walk around Graz, a city which I never managed to visit before.
Sure, for a historic city such as Graz – the state capital of Styria – it’s certainly not enough time for a proper visit.
However, even a morning in town is better than nothing and if my first impressions were good I could always come back another time and stay around longer.
Having around 330,000 inhabitants, Graz is Austria’s second-largest city.
Although Graz certainly has a sizeable old town and packs in quite some sights, everything is very much walkable if you just remain in the city centre.
From the main railway station it takes around 30 minutes on foot or a few stops by tram to reach the city centre.
On the Sunday morning when I was visiting, there was hardly anyone around on the streets so I had more or less the entire city to myself.
The banks of the River Mur
The River Mur streams right through the city centre of Graz and a couple of important sights are located on the riverbanks.
From the banks of the river you have a great view over the Schloßberg (Castle Hill) on which a hilltop fort and clock tower is located.
On the west bank of the river you can find the Kunsthaus (Art House), a modern art museum with a rather unusual architectural design.
Old town of Graz
The most appealing part of Graz is the Altstadt (German for ‘old town’, referring to the historical city centre).
The old town centre of Graz is one of the best preserved in all of central Europe and has even been placed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List.
The heart of the old town is the Hauptplatz (German for main square) on which you can find the ornate City Hall and a fountain with statue of Archduke John of Austria.
It makes for a beautiful area to walk around as there are lots of picturesque streets and alleys in the vicinity.
Old town churches
There are two important churches in the old town of Graz which are well worth a look.
The most important one is the Saint Giles Church. Built in Gothic style in the 15th Century, this Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Styria (Diocese of Graz-Seckau).
Right next to the Gothic Cathedral stands the baroque Katharinenkirche (Saint Catherine’s Church), which makes for an interesting contrast.
In a dedicated part of the Saint Catherine’s Church you can find the Mausoleum of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, who was born in the city of Graz.
Up on the hill
As I still had plenty of time and energy left, I decided to climb up the Castle Hill towards the Clock Tower.
On my way up I passed along the Freiheitsplatz (Freedom Square) with its statue of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and the Karmeliterplatz (Carmelite Square) with its Trinity Column.
If you are not in the mood to climb up, there is also a funicular (Schlossbergbahn) as well as an elevator (Schlossberg lift) built into the rock which can take you to the top of Castle Hill.
Halfway up Castle Hill you can find what is arguably the most famous landmark of Graz: The city’s iconic Clock Tower (Uhrturm).
From the Clock Tower and the surrounding casemates you have some sweeping views over the old town of Graz at the foot of the hill as well as the city suburbs further beyond.
Back down again
Although it was tempting to climb further up on Castle Hill and visit some more sights, I slowly had to turn back again to the railway station of Graz as I didn’t want to risk missing my train.
I took the stairs down the hill towards the Schlossbergplatz (Castle Hill Square), another small but picturesque square in the old town of Graz.
On my way back towards the train station there were however some other iconic sights of Graz which I passed by.
One of the most striking one is the Murinsel (‘Mur Island’), a floating glass structure in the middle of the River Mur which is connected to the banks by a pedestrian bridge.
The walk back to the main railway station of Graz Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) went faster than I thought.
Still having some time to spare before the departure of my train into neighbouring Slovenia, I spent some time drinking coffee and watching some interesting train departures from the modern station.
These included the ‘Transalpin’ EuroCity train which links Graz with Zurich, as well as a Railjet operated by the Czech Railways which links Graz with Vienna and Prague.
However, my upcoming train would certainly be as interesting as these two!
Although I only had a couple of hours in Graz, I still managed to see quite some sights in and around the old town.
Graz certainly seemed like a well-kept, interesting city with enough sights and museums to keep you occupied for a day or two.
The highlight on my walk was the famous Clock Tower and the sweeping views over Graz on this lovely sunny morning.
If I have the chance, I would certainly love to come back to Graz and see more of the Austrian state of Styria.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Across Europe by Train: Interrail in the Age of Corona‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Warsaw (Embraer ERJ-175)
2. Walking Through an Empty Warsaw in Corona Lockdown
3. Review: Four Points by Sheraton Warsaw Mokotow
4. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Warsaw to Zurich (Boeing 737 MAX)
5. A Stopover Walk Through the Old Town of Zurich
6. Review: Railjet Train Zurich to Feldkirch
7. An Evening in Friendly Little Feldkirch
8. Review: Nightjet Train Feldkirch to Graz
9. A Short Walk Along the Sights of Graz (current chapter)
10. Review: Emona EuroCity Train Vienna – Ljubljana – Trieste
11. Zidani Most: Europe’s Most Picturesque Train Station
12. Review: Ljubljana to Zagreb by EuroCity Train EC 1211 ‘Sava’
13. Flying With Trade Air on a Let L-410 Turbolet Across Croatia
14. Review: Palace Derossi, Trogir, Croatia
15. A Visit to the Tranquil Island City of Trogir, Croatia
16. Cycling on Ciovo: A Trogir Day Trip by Bike
17. Split: Croatia’s Bustling Seaside City Full of History
18. Review: Croatian Railways ICN Train Split to Zagreb
19. Review: Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb, Croatia
20. Zagreb: A Guide to Croatia’s Underrated Capital City
21. Review: EuroCity Train “Croatia” Zagreb to Vienna
22. Review: Dacia Night Train Vienna to Bucharest