Austria’s second city is known for its food scene, fairytale old town and its ever-evolving creative side. If you’re thinking of visiting, here’s how to spend the ultimate weekend in Graz.
One of the best parts of my job as a travel blogger is when I get the opportunity to return to a destination! We’re already well-acquainted, so I know I can wander at a relaxed pace and explore a few places I didn’t manage to squeeze in on my first trip.
This is exactly what I did on my recent trip to Graz. You may be surprised to hear that Graz is Austria’s second city by population. Salzburg and Innsbruck are perhaps a little better known, but Graz shouldn’t be overlooked!
Being a student city, it has a youthful feel, with quirky design, live music and all the cool cafes you could dream of! It’s the kind of place where you feel a bit younger just by visiting. Yet, the old town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting a plethora of building styles that showcase the changing art and architecture from the Middle Ages until the 18th century.
I visited during a summer heatwave. While a few of my wanders around the city were a little on the sweaty side, it was so wonderful to see the city come alive. Every restaurant had tables and chairs out in the squares and streets – a true al fresco experience.
It’s also a really easy place to travel to as a Brit. Pretty much everyone speaks really good English, so if your German isn’t up to scratch, you don’t need to worry! There’s free Wi-Fi available all over the city, and lots of places to refill water bottles too. I think little details like these take a lot of the stress away from foreign travel.
If this is your first trip to Graz I’d recommend reading the travel guide I produced on my first trip. It features 18 things to do in Graz, and while I’d still recommend all of them, in this guide I’m going to dive a little deeper!
This 3-day Graz itinerary has a little bit of everything. You’ll tick off the bucket list sights, hike a mountain and feast on lots of amazing food too. It’s time to start planning the perfect long weekend in Graz, Austria!
How to spend the ultimate weekend in Graz
Day 1 in Graz
Climb the Schlossberg
Whether this is your first trip to Graz or your 50th, you simply have to climb up to the Schlossberg. It’s a short but steep climb from the zigzag stairs at Schlossbergplatz. Once at the top you’ll have incredible views of the famous clock tower – the icon of Graz, as well as panoramic views of the city itself.
You get a great perspective of the shape of Graz from here too, with its little orange roofs and River Mur snaking through.
If you have time, I’d recommend popping into the Schlossberg Museum. This wasn’t here on my last visit, and is a great addition to the city. One of the best parts is the illuminated story of how the city developed over time.
Also at the top is Aiola Upstairs. This is a lovely spot for a bite to eat or a glass of Styrian wine. With temperatures so high during my trip, I was happy to sip on a refreshing Hugo spritz while gazing out at the spectacular city views.
Your options of descent from the Schlossberg are many and varied! You could choose to walk down again. Alternatively, you could use the lift, the funicular or even the Slide Graz. Yes, that’s right, there’s a slide! It’s the tallest underground slide in the world and is guaranteed to give you a good dose of adrenaline too!
I chose to walk up and take the funicular down. The Shlossbergbahn funicular dates back to 1894 and travels and a super steep gradient of 61%. It’s a really fun little ride and offers some impressive views too.
If you’re thinking of visiting several sights in Graz, I’d definitely recommend buying a Graz Card. It’s valid at locations such as the Schlossberg Museum, on the funicular and at the Kunsthaus, as well as on all public transport.
Visit the Kunsthaus Graz
With the fun nickname of the ‘friendly alien’ this modern art museum in Graz is a must-visit. The Kunsthaus opened in 2003 and changed the city forever. Graz became known for boundary-pushing art and design. Plus, the arrival of this new attraction encouraged more development on that side of the river.
A visit to the Kunsthaus is about more than just the art inside, it’s about stepping inside the alien! I saw a colourful and fun exhibition all about female Pop artists, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also loved seeing the top floor where you really get an idea of the internal structure of the alien-appearance.
There’s also a glass pod called ‘The Needle’ where you’ll definitely want to have your phone ready for a few pretty photos of the city.
Lunch at The Greenhouse
While I love getting to know a destination through its cuisine, I’m also a firm believer that it’s a balance! If I visited Austria and ate schnitzel or dumplings for every meal, I’d return a stone heavier.
I stumbled across The Greenhouse on my first morning and decided to visit for lunch. It’s set back from the main shopping streets and has a pretty outdoor dining area under the arches. The menu has a focus on salads, bagels and healthy bowls. It’s ideal if you fancy a light lunch in Graz.
I ordered the Saigon Bowl which included home-made spring rolls, grilled vegetables, pickled cucumber and soybean sprouts, all on a bed of brown rice. It was nourishing and tasty, giving me the fuel I needed for an afternoon of exploring.
Dinner at Dreizehn by Gauster
If you’re a foodie, listen up! The dinner I had at Dreizehn by Gauster was my favourite meal in Graz on this trip. This gourmet restaurant is located in the old town, with an al fresco seating area on the street.
While not vast, the menu here is varied and interesting, with a focus on sustainability and seasonality. The restaurant has a motto that without details “art is not art and taste is not taste.” So, what appeared over the two or so hours I was there? Some of the most eye-catching and spectacular dishes I’ve seen on my travels!
The trout ceviche was colourful and multi-layered, topped with tiny sweet tomatoes. The wild duck with gyozas, white carrots and wild herbs was absolutely delicious. It was perfectly pink in the middle with a crispy skin, and there was a sticky jus on the plate that made me want to lick it clean! Service was impeccable too.
If you feel the dinner prices here are a little beyond your budget, I’d recommend looking at the Mittagsmenu. For just 15 EUR you can enjoy a starter, main course, dessert and espresso at lunchtime! That’s absolutely remarkable value for food of this quality.
Day 2 in Graz
Climb Schöckl Mountain
One of my favourite things about Austria is that you’re never far from some truly amazing mountains. On your second day in Graz it’s time to head out of the city and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful views at Schöckl Mountain.
The base is around 30 minutes from Graz, and is accessible by the 250 bus which leaves from the city centre. There are two options once you get there: you can either hike up following the red and white marked trail, or catch the cable car to the top. The peak stands at a height of 1,445m, so you’ll need some level of fitness to make it up there on foot!
I decided to hike up, enjoying the forests and pretty views as I went. It was pretty steep in parts, and after tracking, I can see that the walk was 5km from the cable car station at the base (which stands at 780m) right up to the top. This walk took me around 1 hour 40 minutes. It was also around 30 degrees so I was dripping with sweat!
It was such a rewarding moment to reach the top of Schöckl and be faced with jaw-dropping panoramic views. Rolling hills, beautiful peaks, Alpine cows and wild flowers… it was stunning and 100% worth the sweatfest!
There are two restaurants at the top of Schöckl, so you could combine the hike with lunch or a beer. I opted for a refreshing glass of Almdudler (a popular Austrian herbal lemonade) before descending. I decided I’d had enough of a workout so I hopped on board a cable car and enjoyed the views.
If you’re feeling even more adventurous you could try hang gliding or paragliding here, or take a ride on the alpine coaster. It’s also worth noting that the cable car is accessible for wheelchairs and buggies, so Schöckl is a great day trip from Graz for young and old!
Have lunch at a traditional restaurant
After all of that hiking, no doubt you’ll be wanting to refuel! I’d suggest driving to Gasthaus Windischhansl, a traditional countryside restaurant in an idyllic location close to Schöckl.
I tucked a cheap and delicious lunch of backhendl (Austria’s answer to fried chicken) with parsley potatoes and vegetables, which turned out to be an absolute bargain! Under 20 EUR for a lunch for two people with an alcoholic drink each. I’d definitely recommend it!
Have a coffee in Murinsel
There’s another modern structure in Graz to rival the city’s ‘friendly alien’! Murinsel (literally translating as the island in the Mur) was created by artist Vito Acconci to celebrate Graz being named the European Capital of Culture in 2003.
This is a seriously cool structure – like something from the future! It looks like a giant shell, with two footbridges either side. Tucked inside you’ll find a chic café. I loved stopping here for coffee – it felt like a calm little sanctuary, hidden from the city! The interiors are as modern as the exterior too, with trendy blue banquette seating running around the edge of the room.
Climb Graz’s famous double spiral staircase
Did you know Graz is home to a unique staircase? Pop inside the open door of The Burg (home of the regional government) and you’ll be faced with two separating staircases which go in opposite directions.
They merge on each floor for a few steps and then veer away from each other. Many people see them as a symbol of eternity in the city, and they have the nickname ‘the stairs of reconciliation’, as even if two people separate in different directions, they meet again. How sweet is that?
Catch some live music at City Peach
If you’re not too exhausted from this morning’s hike, I’d recommend enjoying some live music in Graz. There’s a lot of options during the summer months. One of the coolest venues is City Peach, which is located right under Hauptbrücke – Graz’s main bridge.
The setting is lovely, right on the River Mur with the towers of the old town close by. If the weather is warm, it’ll make you feel like you’re at a really intimate and fun music festival!
Day 3 in Graz
Explore the Lend neighbourhood
As I’ve visited Graz before, I was keen to explore a few lesser-visited parts of the city. With a place as compact as Graz, you don’t need to travel far! Just strut over Murinsel to Lend and you’ll find simpler architecture, a range of eateries, lots of arty spots and a more carefree way of life.
I loved the streets leading to Lendplatz. Looking at the view here you might assume someone accidentally spilled a pot of yellow paint on the road! But no, these vibrant spots are one of Graz’s newest traffic calming measures… and yes it works!
Lendplatz is where you’ll find one of the city’s main farmers markets during the day. Along with small stalls toppling over with the weight of plants, fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables, Styrian pumpkin seed oil and homemade pastries, you’ll also find a few cafes and bars in the square. It’s a lovely place to relax and people watch during the day.
By night though, things are quite different around here… with street food stalls, bars and a more energetic vibe! Even more exciting is Latin Live which takes place in the main square every Wednesday from 6pm from June until September. It reminded me of a music festival, with a really fun band, lots of people dancing salsa and bachata, while everyone around the edge sipped on cocktails and beers.
Sample some of Graz’s best ice cream
On my previous trip to Graz I fell in love with the tasty ice cream at Eis Greissler in the old town. It’s one of the top-rated places in the city, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. This time I was keen to check out the competition so I headed to Die Eisperle. This small store specialises in vegan ice cream. It has a queue to match Eis Greissler too!
When I visited there were a range of inventive flavours on offer including lavender fruit punch and poppy seed. I ordered a scoop of the ‘mango mojito’. Wow was it good! More like a refreshing sorbet than an ice cream, with equal hits of fruity mango, zingy lime and fragrant mint. I’d have trouble picking my favourite ice cream shop in Graz now!
Take a tour of Gries
Head in the opposite direction from Lend along the north bank of the river and you’ll be in the Gries neighbourhood. Just like Lend, this area has its own unique personality and isn’t such a well-trodden tourist area! It’s multi-cultural, with a number of quirky landmarks.
I’d recommend visiting a few spots in Gries, starting with St. Andrä Church. This is a revolutionary church as it doubles as a modern art gallery! In 1999, the local priest started introducing contemporary artworks and murals, to make the church more relevant to the diverse local community. It really is remarkable to see, with a column made from mirrored mosaics, rainbow-coloured stained-glass windows, graffiti-esque paint and more! Even the outside is stencilled with words in different colours.
Moments from here you’ll also find a little button hidden on a wall. Press it and you’ll hear the city’s heartbeat played through the speaker!
Gries is also home to a ‘microgallery’. Stroll down Reichengasse and you’ll see some colourful and thought-provoking murals on the walls. These are constantly being added to, so it might have changed since my visit.
Close to here is a memorial created by artist Catrin Bolt about David Herzog. He was a rabbi in this area and was taken away during the war. The artwork features text running along the pavements, following the route he once took. It recounts a section from his autobiography where he talked about the experience.
Shop at Graz’s cool independent spots
There’s a really vibrant and creative shopping scene in Graz. It’s a place where creativity seems to have thrived, meaning you won’t find streets and streets of famous stores. There are plenty of independent jewellers, fashion designers and creatives with their own shops.
Here are few that caught my eye:
Lederleitner – A lovely store selling pretty flowers, plants and more.
Studio. – A shop selling contemporary fashion for men and women.
Honigparadies – This shop has a focus on honey and natural products. You’ll find candles, essential oils and other items using honey, lavender and natural scents.
Delila – This womenswear store has lots of colourful designs and pretty print dresses.
White Bungalow – Following the trend for dried flowers, this is a great place to find dried flower bouquets, headbands, wedding attire and jewellery.
MUR – This homeware store specialises in funky lights, clocks, plant pots and kitsch accessories.
Barbara Edlinger – This is a jewellery and design showroom selling unique modern necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
For something really interesting, I’d recommend visiting Kay double U’s store on Griesgasse. Kay is a talented fashion designer and helps put together the annual Assembly 21 fashion festival in Graz each year. She sells some of her collection in this store, alongside collections from other designers.
Dinner at Landhauskeller
Landhauskeller is one of the best restaurants in Graz for dinner. The menu has a focus on seasonal Austrian ingredients, and very few items are sourced outside of the country. You’ll find plenty of classics on the menu, including an upmarket ‘Wiener Schnitzel’ and spinach dumplings.
This restaurant prides itself on its fine dining options too, with a tasty summer menu that included grilled arctic char, beef tartar and pork loin. I ordered the seared tuna which was beautifully presented, and was accompanied by a sweet potato cream and a drizzle of Asian sauce.
Also, if you’re looking for a dinner spot with a romantic feel, Landhauskeller is ideal. It’s tucked away inside the impressive archways (and a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance!) of the Landhaus. It’s absolutely spectacular in the evenings when lights illuminate the building’s features.
Where to stay in Graz
I’d recommend staying at Grand Hotel Wiesler, a stylish hotel overlooking the River Mur and Graz old town. My bedroom was minimalist in its décor, but Salon Marie, the hotel’s restaurant was quite the opposite.
With foliage cascading from the ceiling, and stylish design, it’s a beautiful place for one of the best buffet breakfasts you’ll find in Graz. Yep, it even has a chocolate fondue… which you may find tricky to resist!
As mentioned earlier, if you’re thinking of visiting several sights in Graz, I’d definitely recommend buying a Graz Card. It’s valid at locations such as the Schlossberg Museum, on the funicular and at the Kunsthaus, as well as on all public transport.
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out how to spend an incredible long weekend in Graz! If you want to read about some more amazing things to do on your first trip to the city, check out my Graz travel guide.