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Discover Austria: How to make the most of 24 hours in Graz

Although not as popular a tourist destination as Vienna or Salzburg, Austria’s second-largest city has a unique charm and plenty to offer to make a 24-hour stay in Graz worthwhile.

Discover Austria: How to make the most of 24 hours in Graz
The Styrian capital of Graz, in Austria (Photo by Yasen Iliev on Unsplash)

In southeast Austria near the Slovenian border, Graz is a former Slavic settlement dating back to the 12th century. Its rich historical and cultural heritage, mixed with its recent resurgence as a design city, makes for a compelling combination, reflected by the bold modern buildings that have cropped up to complement the more traditional Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

This unique blend of styles has earned Graz international recognition: its old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, and it has held a UNESCO City of Design Title since 2011. 

Graz is not just renowned for its architecture: the city is Austria’s officially designated culinary capital, partly because its position between the Styrian alps and the fertile Grazerfeld basin makes it an ideal setting for agricultural production.

If you are planning to visit Graz but only have a short window of time– perhaps an afternoon arrival and an afternoon departure the following day– read on to discover all you can see with The Local’s guide to 24 hours in Graz.  

READ ALSO: Vienna vs Graz: Which city is better for foreign residents?

The old town of Graz at sunset (Photo by Imran Hečimović on Unsplash)

Start in the old town

Graz’s historic old town, just east of the Mur River that cuts through the city, offers plenty to explore in the first few hours after your arrival. Start by getting an aerial view of the renowned district by climbing the Schlossberg, a nearby hill home to the remains of a medieval fortress that now serves as a public park. 

To get up and down, you can either take on the 260-step, zig-zagging staircase built into the hill face or enjoy a ride on the Schlossberg Funicular or the Schlossberg Lift

Aside from its stunning views of the Graz landscape, Schlossberg’s main attraction is the Uhrturm (clocktower), whose white facade, wooden balconies, and striking clock face endear it to locals and tourists alike. In fact, Graz residents valued the Uhrturm so much that they paid the French a sizable ransom not to destroy it during the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s. 

Once you’ve made your way back down, you can start exploring the old town proper, which has a variety of intriguing sites all within walking distance. For example, if you want to learn more about the region’s military history, you could check out the Styrian Armoury, which holds 32,000 artefacts used in war, making it one of the largest collections of arms in the world. 

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: How to make the most of 24 hours in Innsbruck

Meanwhile, the Graz Cathedral and the neighbouring Ferdinand Mausoleum provide excellent examples of the traditional architecture in the city. The cathedral was constructed in 1438 and features a Gothic exterior and Baroque interior. The mausoleum, considered among the most beautiful in Europe, was commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand II in the 17th century. Its design has an evident Italian influence, and you’ll also be able to appreciate the many religious sculptures and paintings inside. 

Conclude your sightseeing with a stroll through the Hauptplatz (main square) and up to Sporgasse, an ancient winding road known for its colourful, scenic storefronts. At the top, you can reward yourself with a pastry at the Höfbackerei, which features a stunning carved wood entryway to go along with delicious treats. 

A tower in Graz. Here are some of the important changes you should be aware of in Austria this month. Image: Pixabay

Graz’s clocktower. Image: Pixabay

Finish the day off at the Univiertel

Speaking of food, you’ll likely be hungry after a day of exploring. Thankfully, Graz’s old town has plenty to offer, including many vegan and vegetarian options. But if you want to venture further afield, consider visiting one of the many Bausatzlokale in Graz’s Univiertel, a bit further east. These restaurants let you choose the ingredients for your dish, whether a pizza or a baked potato. 

Given Graz has a student population of 60,000 or so, this area will be bustling in the evening, and you’ll find plenty of bars if you want to cap off your night with a drink.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

The Austrian city of Graz. Photo by Daniel J. Schwarz on Unsplash

(Photo by Daniel J. Schwarz on Unsplash)

Spend the next day across the river

On the following morning, check out the western side of the city. As you cross the river, make sure to stop at the Murinsel. An example of the city’s modern flair, this glass, a dome-like structure constructed in 2003, links two pedestrian bridges which span the river. Inside is a café where you can enjoy a coffee and a strudel as the river flows beneath you.

On the west bank, just south of the Mur Insel, lies another curious structure that exemplifies the city’s new design identity: Kunsthaus Graz. Also built in 2003, the Kunsthaus’s description-defying design has seen it dubbed the ‘friendly alien.’ Inside, you’ll find an extensive collection of modern art.  

Finally, you can walk a few minutes north and wrap up your visit by grabbing a bite to eat at one of Graz’s famous farmers’ markets: Bauernmarkt am Lendplatz. Open every day except Sunday, here you can get a taste of the local Styrian produce Graz has to offer, like apples, pumpkins, and ham. 

Alternatively, you could walk south for a larger meal at Der Steirer, a well-known spot where you can get a traditional backhendl or choose from their myriad selection of Styrian tapas dishes. They also have a wine shop where you can taste the local varieties. 

With that, your action-packed 24-hour stay in Graz should be complete. Viel Spaß!

READ ALSO: What you need to know before travelling to Austria in spring 2023

Did we miss your favourite spot or do you have an insider tip you want to share? Leave us a comment below or email us at [email protected]

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For members


What international border towns can you travel to on Austria’s KlimaTicket?

For the equivalent of a maximum of €3 per day, paid a year in advance, you can travel on most trains and public transport throughout Austria. And there are a few border towns, just inside Austria’s neighbouring countries, that are also reachable using only your KlimaTicket - and definitely worth the visit.

What international border towns can you travel to on Austria’s KlimaTicket?

For a maximum cost of €1,095 per year for a ticket that covers nearly all public transport nationwide, Austria’s KlimaTicket could be just the travel accessory you need this summer.

If you’re not willing to shell out quite that much, your regional public transport company will also sell a version of the KlimaTicket that gets you access to most public transport in that region – for less than the cost of a nationwide Climate Ticket.

You can even combine your KlimaTicket with an international trip – and only pay extra for the leg of your journey that’s outside Austria.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s KlimaTicket work?

That said, there are plenty of border towns national rail operator ÖBB will head to. You’ll often have to change there to a train from the other country if you’re travelling further. But if you’re content to just stop and explore, you can head to several border towns – with just your KlimaTicket.

Here are a few of our choices:

Passau, Germany

Known as the “City of the Three Rivers,” the Bavarian city of Passau lies just inside Germany, right on its border with Austria. You can reach it by train in just under an hour from Linz.

Getting its nickname from its location right at the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz rivers – Passau is a picturesque small city of just over 50,000 people. As your ÖBB train pulls into Passau’s central station, you might already be able to get a glimpse of the three copper-green domes of the city’s landmark St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

Inside the cathedral, you’ll find a legendary organ with over 17,000 pipes.


Passau’s famous onion-domed cathedral. Photo: Pexels, Magda Ehlers.

The 13th-century Veste Oberhaus fortress overlooks the city, housing an observation tower for a great view and a city museum.

READ ALSO: What are your rights if your trips is delayed of cancelled in Austria?

Buchs, Switzerland

Getting to this alpine beauty in Switzerland’s St. Gallen canton will have you pass through a 25-kilometre-long stretch of picturesque Liechtenstein, characterised by its well-photographed mountaintop castle and stunning river valley – all in a slightly more than a two-hour train ride from Innsbruck.

Once you’re in Buchs, the Liechtenstein town of Schaan lies right across a bridge, just north of the micro-state’s capital of Vaduz. That makes Buchs a great jumping-off point for Liechtenstein. But it also has some appeal in its own right.


Liechtenstein’s famous mountaintop castle, easily accessible from nearby Buchs, Switzerland, using the ÖBB KlimaTicket. Photo: Pexels, Veronica Bertollo

You can sit around Werdenburg Lake to snap a few photos or simply enjoy the view of lakeside Werdenburg Castle, a Swiss cultural heritage site of national significance. The castle originally was the seat of power for the County of Werdenburg in the Holy Roman Empire.

Alpine restaurants and guesthouses also help you take advantage of the great mountain hiking in the area. If you want to travel further into Switzerland, the train will have you in central Zurich in less than two hours.

Lindau and Reutin, Germany

These two border towns just a short trip from Bregenz are famous gateways to the Bodensee, or Lake Constance, the huge lake with shores in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Lindau in particular is famously situated on an island, connected to the mainland by both a rail bridge and a car causeway.

Lindau’s island castle is a major draw, as is its harbour containing Bavaria’s only lighthouse. So too is its unrivalled view of the Bodensee, which you can see clearly from almost every angle of the island’s shoreline. Boat companies also operate in Lindau to give you tours of the Bodensee from the water.


Lindau’s picturesque harbour on Lake Constance. Photo: Pexels, Masood Aslami

On land, you can also check out Lindau’s two medieval cathedrals – St. Stephan’s and St. Peter’s – both originally built in 1180 and 1000 AD, respectively. Its historical town hall contains a book archive with many tomes dating back to the 15th century. You can also stroll on Maximilianstrasse to get some shopping in or a bite to eat.

READ ALSO: How to save money while travelling around Austria

San Candido (South Tyrol), Italy

Italy’s South Tyrol region may feel very Austrian at first. That’s because around 62 percent of the entire population there speaks German as a first language, complete with a more or less Austro-Bavarian dialect.

In fact, out of about 116 villages, towns, and cities in South Tyrol – over 100 have a German-speaking majority, with the capital of Bolzano being one of only a very few majority Italian-speaking places in the province. If you’ve picked up some German during your time in Austria, you’ll probably get around here just fine with that.

South Tyrol

The largely German-speaking South Tyrol region, just across the border from Austria, lies almost entirely in the Italian Alps. Photo: Pexels, Ledana Mance

South Tyrol offers the majestic Alps, with eight mountain ranges that feature peaks of over 3,000 metres in height. You’ll have to go well into the mountains to see most of South Tyrol’s nearly 200 lakes, as most of them are higher up in the peaks.

The good news is that you can use ÖBB, and therefore just your KlimaTicket, to reach San Candido in South Tyrol in just under three hours from Innsbruck. Nestled at the base of gorgeous mountains, there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to give you a comfortable base from which to explore this unique part of Italy, including the nearby famous Dolomite Mountains.

READ ALSO: The ten best destinations by direct night train from Austria

Sopron, Hungary

If you’re looking for an easy visit to wine country, Hungary’s Sopron offers it in a simple ÖBB train trip that’ll run you just over an hour from Vienna or just under three hours from Graz.

Sopron is notable as a Hungarian wine region as its wineries can produce both red and white wines, with Pinot Noir from the area being particularly favoured among wine enthusiasts.


The border town of Sopron in western Hungary lies within a renowned wine region. But the town itself has plenty of history on offer. Photo: Pexels, Istvan Balogh

While beautiful vineyards dot the surrounding area, the town itself has plenty to offer – particularly to history buffs. Originally settled around the 2nd century, you can still find old walls and other evidence dating back to the Roman Empire.

The town square is notable for its 60-metre Firewatch Tower, which you can climb in 116 steps. At the bottom of the tower, you’ll find “Fidelity Gate” – erected in 1922 to commemorate Sopron’s loyalty to Hungary, when the townsfolk rejected Austrian citizenship in a referendum, leaving Sopron as part of Hungary.

READ ALSO: Five of the best weekend getaways from Vienna

Can I travel through Germany between Kufstein and Salzburg on the KlimaTicket?


Certain routes will see ÖBB trains travel through enclaves of another country in order to get between two Austrian destinations.

The most notable of these is the so-called Deutsches Eck, or “German Corner,” an enclave of Germany separating Salzburg and Kufstein. The fastest way to get between the two cities is to travel through Deutsches Eck, something ÖBB trains do regularly.

If you travel through Deutsches Eck, you can do so just on your KlimaTicket, provided that your starting and ending destination is within Austria.

This doesn’t mean, however, that these services don’t occasionally see problems, as recent train strikes in Germany leave ÖBB with no choice but to suspend services travelling through Deutsches Eck, and offer alternative shuttles.