Sometimes referred to as ‘Vienna’s cooler sister’, Graz is Austria’s second-largest city, and may appear provincial at first, but look closer and you’ll discover a wealth of culture, history and culinary gems. Beyond the well-trodden tourist track around the Schlossberg Palace, there are a few lesser-known haunts that you should consider exploring. Here’s our pick of the best.
This festival, taking place annually in the autumn, showcases new and upcoming artists. The programme always includes a huge range of exhibitions and performances and is sure to include some faces to watch out for. The last festival saw the involvement of around 1,000 artists and participants.
The west bank of the Mur
The Kunsthaus, locally and affectionately known as the ‘friendly alien’ due to its striking exterior appearance, is widely considered to have contributed massively to the regeneration of the city. The district surrounding the streets of Lendplatz and Mariahilferstraße has, in recent years, been revived and is now thriving with coffee shops, restaurants and interesting independent design stores.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum
Graz is the birthplace of the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor and is a veritable shrine for Arnie’s fans. This museum, dedicated to the actor’s life and located in his childhood home, houses a slightly surreal collection of Schwarzenegger’s possessions and various Arnie-related memorabilia.
If looking for an atmospheric winter activity in Graz, look no further. The torch procession that takes place on Schlossberg is sure to inspire some festive cheer. The meeting point is at Karmeliterplatz at 5pm.
Austrian Sculpture Park
Venture out the city to this gloriously otherworldly garden. Wandering through this exceedingly unusual park just outside Graz, you will find twisted metal and surrealist shapes of lurid colour emerging from the ordinary lush landscape. Marrying nature and art harmoniously, the Austrian Sculpture Park makes for a wonderfully dreamlike day out, and will introduce you to the work of some of Austria’s most prominent modern artists, including Fritz Wotruba and Franz West, Erwin Wurm, Heimo Zobernig and Michael Kienze.
Museum of Perception
This intriguingly named museum is committed to spreading the word about how we connect using our senses, and is a truly unparalleled choice if you are looking for something out of the ordinary. Located in the setting of a former bathhouse, the museum takes you on a uniquely interactive journey, with the option of taking a dip in the Samadhi-Bad – an immersive experience that allows you to float, weightless, in total darkness.
Surf on the Mur
The river that cuts through Graz, the Mur, is one of the most popular for one of Austria’s more unusual sports: river surfing. A river may not seem like an ideal for catching waves, but the Radetzky Wave, underneath the Radetzky bridge in Graz, is often cited as the best river surfing spot on the entire river.
Graz has a thriving cultural scene, with festivals taking place throughout the year that cater to nearly every taste in film, music and art. Diagnole is Graz’s largest festival for Austrian filmmakers, showing a range of genres: short, avant-garde and animated films and music videos, as well as documentaries and movies. Spring Festival is a five-day event geared towards pop culture in Graz, and sees countless bands and DJs descend on the city.