Graz Introduction Walking Tour, Graz

Graz Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Graz

There were settlements in the Graz area as early as the end of the Copper Age. However, Graz, as Graz, did not truly emerge until the 12th century. The Babenberg dukes swapped hegemony over the area until Otakar III built the Hauptplatz, the main square of the city in 1160.

Otakar was one of the Babenberg dukes. Under Babenberg rule Graz developed into an important commercial center. By 1280 The Habsburg dynasty had established itself in Graz. In the 14th century the Habsburg royalty had settled comfortably in Schlossberg Castle. They ruled Styria, Graz's province, and parts of Italy and Slovenia. They had arrived.

Graz sits astride the Mur River in southeastern Austria. It is at the edge of the Alps, bound by mountains on three sides: north, east and west. Historically, Graz has been the tempting prize of invading armies. Hungarians in 1481, Ottomans off and on until 1699. Schlossberg Castle, however, was never taken by the Turks.

In the 1500s city designs were influenced by Italian architects of the Renaissance. The best-preserved medieval and renaissance architecture can be found in the Old Town. Here one can find a masala of different styles and eras, mostly Baroque and Renaissance.

The bronze Fountain of the Archduke Johann faces the enormous the Town Hall. Buildings around the square show medieval and gothic features. The Styrian Armory hold a massive collection of medieval arms and armor. The dancers of the Carillon tell the hours.

Saint Catherine's Church and Mausoleum, Graz Cathedral, Franciscan Church, the Church of the Holy Blood and Holy Trinity Church, among others, offer styles of architecture including Baroque, Gothic, Mannerist and distinctly Historic Old German. Avant Garde buildings and structures, like the Art House and Island in the Mur, complement the great show.

There is a story that the devil built Castle Hill, but Spor Street, the main shopping street, predates the devil and Graz itself. After explorations and adventures of the Old Town, go shopping on the Spor Street and then relax at one of the many shops and cafes. Enjoy an ice cream and watch the world go by.
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Graz Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Graz Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Graz (See other walking tours in Graz)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: ashley
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hauptplatz (Main Square)
  • Rathaus (Town Hall)
  • Landeszeughaus (Styrian Armory)
  • Glockenspiel (Carillon)
  • St. Catherine's Church and Mausoleum
  • Dom (Graz Cathedral)
  • Sporgasse (Spor Street)
  • Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church)
  • Kunsthaus (Art House)
  • Murinsel (Island in the Mur)
  • Uhrturm (Clock Tower)
  • Schlossberg (Castle Hill)
Hauptplatz (Main Square)

1) Hauptplatz (Main Square) (must see)

The Main Square of Graz has been a focal point and magnet for visitors and locals since 1160 when it was built by Duke Otakar III. The attractions and watering holes of Graz are easily accessible from the Main Square.

The Square is a trapezoid shaped market square surrounded by houses built in medieval and late Gothic styles. Some facades are Gothic, Baroque, and Biedermeier. Notable houses include: The White House (built in 1710); The Eagle Pharmacy (built in 1535); and the Citizens' Home to the Great Christoph (built in 17th century); numbers 3, 4, and 6, respectively.

The standout house is the Luegg House, with a grandiloquent stucco facade built in 15th century. The palace of the Sturgkh merchant family built 1532 is in various styles, including 20th century touches.

Since 1878 the Franz Ponninger fountain monument of Archduke Johann von Osterreich has dominated the square. The statue of the Archduke is flanked by four female figures. They represent the rivers Mur, Enns, Drava, and Sann. Fountain basins are on the corners. The base holds allegorical bronze reliefs.

Until the late 18th century the Square was also used for public punishments, including executions. Offenders could be pilloried before the town hall to amuse the innocent. Executions were big events. Commoners were done in the Square. Nobility were executed in the town hall, no tea with the Mayer.

Since 1965 the Square has been pedestrianized but some cycling is allowed. The Square is also served by prams (electric trolleys).
Rathaus (Town Hall)

2) Rathaus (Town Hall)

In 1550 the city administration of Graz moved themselves into a rather modest Town Hall, which was also used as a prison. In 1803 this building was exchanged for a newer, classical style model, sans prison. The Town Hall of today was designed by architects Wielemans and Reuter and built in 1893. The style is Historicist-Old German.

It was determined all the houses on the block set up for the new town hall would be demolished. Some owners resisted, however. Two houses stayed in place while the town hall grew around them. The stubborn narrow twosome can be found in the inner courtyard, jammed into the bulk of the enormous town hall.

The town hall was financed through a tax on wine. There are short corner towers on either side of the front of the four-level building. In the middle, the tall center tower has a dome and spire. Niches on the neoclassical facade hold statues of Austrians, emperors, and figures representing art, science, trade and industry.

Inside, the two-story session hall provides space for the city council. The chamber has a coffered ceiling and a gallery. Panelings, a chandelier and a wall clock are 19th century originals. On the left side of the main entrance is a 1971 painting of the Graz Town Hall evolving through time.

Up the staircase to the next level is the Wedding Hall. The Town Hall is a popular site for weddings. A webcam is used. Marriages can be witnessed around the world.
Landeszeughaus (Styrian Armory)

3) Landeszeughaus (Styrian Armory) (must see)

In the Inner City of Old Graz, just off the Main Square at number 16 Herrengasse, is the Styrian Armoury, the largest historical armory in the world. It was built by Tyrolean architect Antonio Solar in the years 1642-1645. The state of Styria was often at war with elements of the Ottoman Empire. An armory was needed to stockpile weapons.

The armory today has a collection on four floors of more than 32,000 historic pieces of armor and weaponry, including cannons, muskets, lances, halberds, partisans, swords, sabres, more than enough helmets and some strange-looking horse armor. The Styrian Armoury was a leading arms depot of the Hapbsburg empire.

By 1699 conflict with the Ottomans had ended with the Treaty of Karlowitz. Furthermore, the technology of battle had changed significantly. The amory ceased to be vital to the defense of Graz. In 1745 Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa was centralizing the defenses of Austria. She wanted to move the weaponry in Styrian Armoury to Vienna.

The Styrian estates petitioned to keep the weaponry of Styrian Armoury as a memorial to Styria's past. The petition was allowed. The weaponry of Graz was not used in earnest until the revolution of 1848. Some weapons were used but not perhaps so much armor.

In 1879 Dr Fritz Pichler and Franz, Count Meran arranged the exhibits according to the 17th century system. In 1892 the Styrian Armoury was absorbed into the Joanneum Universal Museum.
Glockenspiel (Carillon)

4) Glockenspiel (Carillon)

In Glockenspielplatz 4 one can find the Carillon. Come dance with me! And dance they do! Three times a day, at 11 am, 3pm, and 6 pm. A young maiden and a strapping boy emerge from their gable hideouts. Dressed in traditional costumes they dance to the melodies of the 24 bells of the carillon.

Wine and spirits dealer Gottfried Maurer bought a house in Fliegenplatz square in 1884. Herr Maurer traveled a lot for business, mostly to North Germany and Belgium. In his travels he had become fascinated by carillons. So he had a carillon installed in his new house in Graz. The bells tolled for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1905.

In 1929 Herr Maurer willed the glockenspiel to the city of Graz, provided that the mechanism be maintained in perpetuity. World War II silenced the bells for a while. They were melted down for armaments. Finally, in 1956, the music of the carillon was restored.

The carillon plays three times every day but the tunes are not always the same. Changing the positions of the 800 pins on the carillon barrel produces new melodies. One can have Alpine, Folk, yodeling, Christmas carols, modern airs but no Rap. The two tireless dancers never fail to appear, twirling, smiling and always in tempo.

As the music approaches its climax, a golden rooster appears above the dancers, crowing his approval. Herr Maurer wanted a rooster like the one he saw in Munich. He got it.
St. Catherine's Church and Mausoleum

5) St. Catherine's Church and Mausoleum

Emperor Ferdinand II was not a savory character to everyone. He was born in 1578 in Graz. He was educated by Jesuits. He became emperor of Austria and protector of the faith (Catholic). He was the scourge of Protestants. He instigated the bloody Thirty Years War. He achieved his goal. Austria became Catholic. In 1614 he chose his mausoleum.

He commissioned his favorite architect, Giovanni Pietro de Pomis to build both his mausoleum and Saint Catherine's Church. Giovanni died with the church and mausoleum half-finished. Ferdinand was laid to rest in the half-done church. In 1687, Ferdinand's grandson, Leopold, hired architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to finish the job.

The resting place of Ferdinand II is a combination of mausoleum and church. The mausoleum is under the cupola on the right side of the building. This is one of the most unusual buildings in Graz. It joins the Austrian Baroque Mannerist qualities with the dramatic appearance of Roman churches.

The size of the crypt is huge. The high altar was made in 1696 by J. B. Fischer von Erlach. The ceiling paintings are exceptionally fine. A convex mirror inside the crypt allows for a more extensive view of the ceiling paintings. The sarcophagus is underground. It is possible to climb the bell tower for a great panorama of Graz.
Dom (Graz Cathedral)

6) Dom (Graz Cathedral)

Graz Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, aka Saint Aegydius. The first church of Saint Giles had occupied the site since 1174. The Cathedral was designed in a late Gothic style and built in the 15th century under the auspices of Friedrich III. It was built outside the city walls as a fortified church.

Construction of the Cathedral probably began in 1438. In the sacristy and the choir are dated plaques with the Latin letters AEIOU, there are various interpretations. Some say it means "Austria is destined to rule the world" (Austriae est imperare orbi universo). Friedrich really liked this one. It can be found everywhere.

The exterior has a walled choir with buttresses. The frescoes on the facades have been whitewashed, except for the plagues of God, by Thomas von Villach. Chapels on the outer walls, two ridge turrets, one large roof turret, sheet metal doors, walled-up tombstones and a sculpture of Saint Aegydius complete the picture.

The Graz Cathedral is a "hall church" inside, with added side chapels and a baroque organ gallery. The nave is really three naves separated by formidable-looking pillars. The baroque high altar replaced the Renaissance high altar in 1733. The longish choir is behind a tall triumphal arch. Two reliquaries on marble plinths flank the triumphal arch.
Sporgasse (Spor Street)

7) Sporgasse (Spor Street) (must see)

Spor Street is older than Graz. It began its career as a street for commerce in Roman times. It was originally a trade route called the Strata Hungarica. It extended from the Murtal to the Roman provincial capital. The name Spor refers to the word "spur." Spur makers and armorers lived here in the 14th century.

The street today is mainly a pedestrianized shopping street lined with historical buildings. On the edge of the Main Square is the 15th and 16th century stuccoed, baroque Luegg-haus. Opposite is the Art Nouveau House with a 16th century core and a flowery Art Nouveau facade (built in 1900).

Nearby the Art Nouveau House is the Baroque and Rococo facade of the "Inn To the Roman Emperor." It was built in the 15th century and rebuilt in 1755. The Staircase church is the oldest parish church in Graz, first noted in a document in 1343. The House of the Teutonic Knights, built in the 15th century, has an inner courtyard with pillar arcades.

The Palace Saurai is at the upper end of the street. It is from 1566. There is a statue of a sword-wielding Turk in front. The "Golden Pate Inn" with a round bay window and arched stone gates dates from the 17th century. Queen Elizabeth II had dinner there in 1967.

Today, ancient Spor Street lives up to its history as a street for commerce. It is a busy no-cars shopping zone with stores offering exotically flavored ice creams, sneakers, shoes, watches and jewelry, baked goods and Italian fashions. And the list goes on.
Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church)

8) Franziskanerkirche (Franciscan Church)

The Franciscan Church of Graz has been Franciscan since 1239. The church has a high tower over the chancel. The chancel tower is square in the lower part with four narrow, arched windows. The upper part of the tower is hexagonal, with two windows and two clocks. The whole is topped with an onion dome and spire.

The 14th century chancel sharply contrasts with the low, broader nave. The chancel tower was badly damaged by a bomb in World War II. It was restored with a modern interior. The church is awash with light from stained glass windows and the chancel harbors a gray crucifix of cast iron that seems to float in the air.

The high tower is rare among Franciscan churches and monasteries. The church was built close to the walls of the city. It was considered strategically located and the fortified tower was ordered by civil authorities in the 17th century.

Adjunct to the church Mariae Himmelfahrt is the Franciscan monastery and cloisters. The cloisters offer serenity in the bustle of the city. The monks meet on the first floor oratory for canonical hours. Vespers are open to everyone.

Epitaphs lining the walls of the cloister mention the names, occupations and vital data of the burghers and nobility who are buried there.
Kunsthaus (Art House)

9) Kunsthaus (Art House) (must see)

An alien biomorphic vessel from outer space has attached itself to the facade and cast iron structures of the old Iron House department store. It is the Art House. Its glistening blue bubble belly shimmers above the ground floor. It fuses softly with the other buildings. It is friendly and welcoming. Visitors enter it from all sides.

THE BIX-media facade (the outer skin) interacts with the surrounding neighborhood. The Art House is described as a multi-disciplinary venue for exhibitions, projects and the performing arts. It provides a spatial palette of experiences.

Visitors penetrate the bubble riding on the "travelator", a 296 foot moving walkway. It slides through the area for children and arrives at the first exhibition level. Another travelator takes riders to the upper level exhibition deck. The shell of the deck is 31 feet high.

The cones and nozzles of the biomorphic skin provide adjustable daylight within and views of the embracing cityscape. Visitors may exit the great bubble and enter the needle. The needle is a cantilevered glass observatory offering incomparable views of Graz. It has comfy seats for readings, plays, events and private meetings.

The Art House doesn't have art collections or exhibits of its own. It is part of the Universalmuseum Joanneum. It does, on a regular basis, offer art from the museum.
Murinsel (Island in the Mur)

10) Murinsel (Island in the Mur) (must see)

New York artist Vito Acconci, creator of Murinsel, describes it as, "A bowl that morphs into a dome that morphs into a bowl." "Murinsel" means "Island in the Mur." It is an other-worldly steel and glass dome/bowl attached to the river banks by footbridges. It was built when Graz became the 2003 European Capital of Culture.

Vito's goal was to design an accessible floating island. It is more of a ship than an island. It is firmly anchored to the riverbed and moored to each bank of the river by footbridges. The form is twisted and curved. It looks like a partially opened sea shell.

As visitors emerge from the footbridges they reach an open amphitheater, Sky blue benches rise up the sides of the amphitheater. They are curved in flowing layers, mimicking the river below. Under the glass dome walkways and tunnels swirl around the inner shell, connecting to the footbridges.

There is a blue and white cafe awaiting visitors. But first, the is a three dimensional maze featuring an array of ropes and a slide. What is an island without ropes and a slide?

The insel reconnects the river to the city. It is an island of "riparian delights" glowing blue in the night.
Uhrturm (Clock Tower)

11) Uhrturm (Clock Tower) (must see)

The tower housing the Graz clock dates from the 13th century. It is first mentioned as a fortification in 1265. The clock itself was installed in 1569. A wooden battlement and walk encircle the tower. Fire watchmen used the battlement to keep a watchful eye on the city.

In 1712 a second dial was added on the north side of the tower and new clockwork developed by Michael Sylvester Funck. The hour hand was larger than the minute hand so the hours could be more easily read from far off.

During the War of the Fifth Coalition in 1809, the Tower fell into the hands of Napoleon. The fortifications were to be demolished by the Armistice of Znaim. However, the citizens of Graz were able to pay a ransom for the tower and clock.

The Clock Tower underwent a thorough restoration between 2008 and 2011. The battlements were renewed, and the clock dials and hands repaired. Three bells are kept in the tower. The hourly bell installed in 1382 is the oldest bell in Graz. The fire bell installed in 1645 tolled out the locations of fires. The poor sinners' bell installed in 1450 was rung for executions or curfew.

Below the tower is a stone dog. In 1481 a barking dog saved Kunigunde, daughter of Emperor Friedrich III, from dishonor by mercenaries of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. The brave watch dog is memorialized as a stone watch dog.
Schlossberg (Castle Hill)

12) Schlossberg (Castle Hill) (must see)

A legend says the Devil made Castle Hill. He promised to make a high hill in exchange for one soul. He flew over the town carrying a huge rock. But it was Easter Sunday. He had no power to take a soul. Enraged, he threw the rock down. It was smashed. The biggest piece became Castle Hill.

In the center of the city of Graz, the Castle Hill towers to 1,554 feet above sea level. The hill is forested and topped by a fortress. Today it is a public park with awesome views of things below. It is often the venue for entertainments, cafes and restaurants. Management is provided by Holding Graz, the city utility company.

As early as the 10th century there are mentions of the fortifications of Castle Hill. In the 15th century a 1,300 foot long fortification was built by architects from Italy. A cable lift was used to raise stones to the top of the hill. The castle was demolished in 1809 by order of Napoleon.

Ludwig von Welden turned the ruins of the castle in a park in 1839. The park holds the clock tower and two bastions from the old castle. A funicular railway has its terminus next to a hilltop restaurant with spectacular views. On the west side of the tower are two small cafes. One of the bastions has a open-air stage for performances.

The summit and tower can also be reached by elevator or by hiking up steep stairs one one side of the mountain or by a winding path on the other side.

Each year the Elevate Festival of music, art and politics takes place in various places around the Castle Hill. A tunnel through the Castle Hill connects to the elevator. A second tunnel runs parallel to the elevator tunnel. It connects Castle Hill to Karmeiter Square. In this tunnel is the fairytale Express, a train ride for children.

On the mountaintop is the Casemate Stage. This is a free venue for concerts. It has a retractable roof and a capacity for 1,310 happy fans.

Walking Tours in Graz, Austria

Create Your Own Walk in Graz

Create Your Own Walk in Graz

Creating your own self-guided walk in Graz is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Graz's Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Graz's Historical Buildings Walking Tour

One of the most impressive things about Graz is its architecture. Indeed, the atmospheric Medieval center of the city, the largest in Europe, abounds in architectural marvels – opulent historic buildings evoking the grandeur and glory of Austria’s Imperial past.

Influenced by the centuries-long presence of the Habsburgs and the cultural and artistic role played by the country's...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles