Walking Tour of Graz, Austria
Graz, Austria, is a pleasant mix of old and new. The major tourist attractions are centered in the Old Town, which lies along the eastern bank of the Mur River. The best way to see the sights is by walking.
My walk begins on the Hauptplatz, the vibrant main square of the Old Town. It is surrounded by elegant buildings, in a variety of architectural styles. The fountain at the center of the triangular square is dedicated to Archduke Johann, a prominent figure in the history of the town, and symbolizes the four main rivers of the region. Noteworthy buildings include the Rathaus (Town Hall), which sits at the southern end of the square, and the House of Luegg, with its interesting and ornate stucco façade, from the 17th century, at the northern end.
First, leave the square by walking north on Sackstrasse, toward Castle Hill, to take the funicular or the stairs up to the Schlossberg, site of the city’s castle, which was destroyed in 1809. All that remains of this complex include the famous and distinctive Bell Tower, with its bell known as “Liesl”, the Stallbastel, a former prison and storeroom, and the Clock Tower (Uhrturm), the symbol and most prominent landmark of the city. The entire site is worth exploring for the great views and also the peacefulness of the park which has replaced the castle.
After your visit, descend from the hill and spend some time in Schlossbergplatz, the square at the base of the castle. Then, retrace your steps on Sackgasse. Just before you reach Hauptplatz, turn right on Murgasse, which leads to the Mur River and the Kunsthaus Graz, an Art museum just across the bridge. This futuristic structure is also associated with Murinsel, a bubble-like structure on a floating platform in the river. Spend some time exploring both before proceeding with your walk.
When you are through here, return to Hauptplatz, via Murgasse, and turn right, walking south on the pedestrian-only Herrengasse which is lined with shops and restaurants and is the location of the tourist information office.
Shortly, you will reach the Landhaus, a former government building which was transformed, over the years, by several Italian architects into the sumptuous edifice that you see today. Most notable are the courtyard, the Baroque conference room, and the Knight’s Hall. It is an outstanding example of Italian Renaissance architecture. Next to the Landhaus is the Landeszeughaus (Armory), which claims to display the largest collection of weaponry in the world (over 30,000 pieces).
Now, continue south on Herrengasse, and then turn left into Tummelplatz, and then left again on Burgergasse, where you will find the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II (he’s not buried here). The structure harmoniously blends several architectural styles.
Just north of the Mausoleum is the Domkirche, Graz’s Cathedral, originally built in the 15th century but extensively modified in the intervening years. Also nearby is the lovely Stadtpark (City Park) with its splendid fountain.
Next, turn left on Hofgasse and check out the prominent Burg, immediately on the right. This huge castle was built by Maximilian I in the 15th century. It now houses government offices so is closed to the public, but make an effort to see the medieval staircase, if allowed.
As you leave the area, walk directly west to Sporgasse and follow this road back to Hauptplatz, where the walk began.