Free things to do in Graz.

For travelers looking for a relaxing alternative to Vienna, Salzburg or Innsbruck, consider a trip to Graz, the second largest city in Austria. Off the beaten path, not only is Graz less crowded, but it also has an outstanding culinary scene and lots of cultural attractions. Blending old and new architectural styles, the City of Graz is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2003 Graz was named the European Capital of Culture and in 2011 the UNESCO City of Design. Here you can find innovative modern architecture and a medieval old town with baroque churches and hidden Italian Renaissance courtyards.

I recently visited Graz for the first time while attending the Propel Conference, a conference for travel bloggers. Although Austria wasn’t initially on my radar, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to visit Graz and Styria’s countryside.

Danielle Desir attending the Propel Conference in Graz. Propel is a conference for travel bloggers.
I was one of 20 traveler bloggers selected to attend the conference!

Overall I found Graz approachable, walkable (the city center is compact) and laid back. There are lots of green spaces and if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free things to do in Graz.

What to Do in Graz

Stairs of Reconciliation

One of the unique things you’ll find in Graz is the 15th-century double spiral staircase inside the Burg. Here two spiral staircases merge on each floor, part ways and merge again. Can you say optical illusion!

Double spiral staircase inside the Burg in Graz Austria.
Enjoy the climb to the top – hold onto the railings for balance.

Walk up Schlossberg

With good reason, Schlossberg or “Castle Hill” is one of the most popular attractions in Graz. Once a castle, this public park offers expansive views of Graz’s historic old town and the surrounding area.

There are several ways to get to the top of the hill. You can either walk up 260 steps (free), take the tram or elevator for a fee. If you dare, you can also take a gigantic slide back down. As the world’s tallest indoor slide, it takes approximately 40 seconds to get down.

If you decide to walk up, know that there are multiple paths that you can take. Turn right for the shorter, more scenic route with lots of steps or turn left to hike up the steep paved road.

During my trip I had the chance to take both routes and each offers a different perspective of the city. Along the way, sit on one of the benches and enjoy the view. Marvel at the 16th-century Bell Tower, the Chinese Pavilion and the iconic medieval Clock Tower which still works but is hard to read because the hour hand is bigger than the minute hand. You can also grab a drink or something to eat at the cafe and restaurant, and there’s even an outdoor theatre.

Helpful Tip: To avoid the crowds I recommend visiting early in the morning. When I started my climb during my morning run, there was no one around which meant that I had the gardens to myself. Locals love to train on these steps and I can see why. It’s a rigorous workout.

Other parks to visit in Graz include Stadtpark and Augarten.

Read More: Free Things to Do in Rome

Kriegssteig

Inside Schlossberg don’t miss Kriegssteig a tunnel which connects the historic old town with the Clock Tower. This tunnel has 260 steps and was built during WWI. In WWII it sheltered 40,000 people during the bombings. Every year there’s a foot race up the stairway and so far the best time to the top is 1 minute and 46 seconds.

Murinsel

Things to do in Graz, visit Murinsel a steel boat sitting on River Mur.
Stroll through or admire Murinsel from afar.

If you’re into modern architecture, I highly recommend visiting Murinsel. Murinsel is an artificial floating steel “island boat” that sits in the middle of the Mur River. 

Murinsel conveniently connects both sides of the city with two footbridges so stop by and have a look around. There’s a casual cafe-bar inside and an amphitheater for performances. Since it acts as a bridge that connects the two sides of the city, you’ll see lots of people passing through here.

Lastly, visit the Murinsel at night to see the blue lights!

Mariahilfkirche

Mariahilfkirche is a 16th-century Baroque Catholic Church with two towers. Although I didn’t get a chance to go inside, don’t miss the spacious inner courtyard on the side of the church. There’s also a colorful mural in the courtyard which I highly recommend checking out.

Street Art

Although I didn’t see a ton of street art in Graz, the ones I did spot were definitely noteworthy. While walking around, keep an eye out for interesting art pieces like this one.

Graz street art - free things to do in Graz.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to do in Graz. I hope you enjoyed these highlights!

In the comments below let me know what you’re most looking forward to doing in Graz.

Other Practical Information for Visiting Graz

  • Population: Graz has more than 300,000 inhabitants including 62,000 students from four universities.
  • Language: German
  • Currency: Euro 
  • Credit cards aren’t widely accepted so bring cash with you.
  • Visit the tourist information center at Herrengasse 16.
  • Ride the tram for free for a couple of stops in the central area between Jakominiplatz and Hauptplatz. Look for the Altstadtbim sticker which indicates which stops are free.
  • Austrians drive on right side of the road similar to the U.S. and Canada. Driving stick shift is common.
  • Graz is a bike-friendly city.
Danielle Desir at Propel Conference in 2019 in Graz, Austria.

What an honor to attend the inaugural Propel Conference in Graz, Austria! I learned so much and I’m excited to continuously improve my blog and podcast. By the way, here’s the Mayor of Graz, Siegfried Nagl, taking a selfie with us!

Thank you Graz Tourism and Propel Conference for introducing me to all that Graz has to offer financially savvy travelers.

4 replies
  1. Josy A says:

    I looove Austria, but to be honest, I am always most keen to get out to the mountains, so it’s cool to see what it’s like in the cities too. That Murinsel boat looks really fun to wander across, but mostly, I’d like to head up Castle Hill!

    Reply
  2. Mikkel says:

    Wonderful article! I love the curly red head in the street art. And that the conference brought you to a place not otherwise on your radar so much! Love when trips do that!

    Reply

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