Graz, Austria is definitely a magical little city worthy of filling the pages of a fairytale storybook (or in this case a Travel Dudes blog post).
Graz is home to more than 250,000 people and is the capital of the ravishing region of Styria. The beautiful historical old town of Graz has a unique charm to it that many other cities don’t.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of the historical old town in Graz is small enough to explore in a day but filled with beautiful and architecturally incredible historical buildings. Graz is a small town with a big city feel.
Regardless of what season you plan on visiting Graz, you’re definitely in for a treat. During the warmer months, the city comes to life on the streets of Graz. Visitors and locals flood the streets singing, eating, drinking and shopping. During the colder months, you’ll have the opportunity to experience incredible winter activities, enjoy the beautiful aerial views from the castle of the snowy red roofs below and indulge in warm and delicious Styrian food specialties.
We recently experienced all there is to do in Graz during the Christmas season, and after an incredible week exploring, experiencing and indulging, I’ve eagerly put together the Ultimate Winter Weekend Guide to Graz for you!
Feel free to save, print and/or follow this guide on your own journey through Graz, or just take the bits of the adventure that make you smile.
First Things First: How to Get There
One of the best things about heading to Graz for a weekend getaway (or a week getaway), is that it’s extremely easy to get to Graz from any major airport hub around Europe. Once you arrive at Graz Airport, there are many quick transit options to get you into the city center.
- You can take the 630 or 631 bus lines which stop directly outside of the arrivals terminal. You can see what time the buses will be arriving on any one of the numerous TV screens around the terminal. These buses will take you to Jakominiplatz (downtown Graz) in 20 minutes. The bus ride costs 2,30 Euro (prices are always subject to change)
- You can take the S5 train to the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) which is just a short walk away from the city center. The train ride also costs 2,30 Euro (prices are always subject to change)
- If you’re stuck with a bunch of luggage or hoping to get into the city center as quick as possible, you can also choose to take a taxi. A taxi ride will likely cost you between 20 to 25 Euros (prices are always subject to change) and you should arrive within 10-15 minutes.
Friday: Get to Know Graz
The first day you arrive in Graz is always the best day to acquaint yourself with the city. You can get settled into your hotel (see below for my recommendation), grab a city map or open up an interactive map on your phone and prepare your route for the evening.
Don’t forget to dress warm. The city of Graz is beautiful in the winter, but it can also get pretty chilly with the snowfall. A light jacket, hat and mittens should do just fine.
Evening: Experience Traditional Styrian Cuisine
Once you’re dressed for the winter weather and ready to get out and explore, take a short stroll around the city center before dinner. The evening in the historical old town of Graz is magical. There are beautiful lights strung between buildings, talented street artists and musicians and many great places to stop in for a pre-dinner drink.
It’s your first night in Graz though, which means you’re going to need to get into the local spirit of eating Styrian cuisine. For an incredible (and affordable) experience, check out DER STEIRER.
DER STEIRER sits just across the Mur riverbanks (about a 5-minute walk from the center of the old town) and is a popular place for locals to enjoy a modern twist of their Styrian cuisine. In former days (1910) where DER STEIRER is currently located, there used to be a delicious wine bar run by Hans Weitzer. In honor of Mr.Weitzer, DER STEIRER still offers a huge selection of Austrian wines (and they even have a to-go section of souvenirs where you can customize your own paper gift bags).
Tip: Try the chicken, I promise you’ll love it!
Late Evening: Looking for Some Nightlife?
It will really depend on how long of a day you had and how eager you are to get out and experience the nightlife in Graz. However, if you have the energy, you should definitely go for a couple drinks before hitting the hay.
Here are a few recommendations in the old town:
- Postgarage: an artsy bar
- Flann o’Brian: a traditional Irish pub
- Immervoll: a sports bar
- PPC – Project Popculture: a nightclub
Looking for some inspiration on where to stay?
Just outside of the historical old town, along the riverside, you will find Hotel Wiesler (Griedkai 4-8, 2010 Graz), a beautiful and old hotel that has recently been renovated to showcase their historical charm with a modern twist. The Hotel Wiesler has been around since 1909, and famous stars like the Rolling Stones, David Hasselhoff and the one and only, Johnny Cash have stayed there.
Find a list with accommodations here.
Saturday: Explore the Christmas Markets
If you’re visiting Graz during the winter season, I would highly suggest planning your visit around the opening times of the Christmas markets. The experience is definitely worth it, and when you’re feeling a little bit chilly, there is always an opportunity to grab a quick glühwein (mulled wine) at one of the markets before heading onwards.
Saturday is all about the Christmas markets, which can conveniently all be reached by foot from one another (as you’ll see in the linked maps).
Morning: Skating at Karmeliterplatz
What would a holiday be if we didn’t include “sleeping in” in our agenda? The Christmas festivities don’t usually start until 10:00 AM anyway, so take the morning easy, warm up with a cup of peppermint tea and make sure you get a healthy breakfast in too (you’ll have quite the day ahead of you)!
When you’re ready, head on over to Karmeliterplatz, this is where you will find the ‘Grazer Winterwelt’ (Graz Winterworld). You’ll be able to rent a pair of skates and enjoy a morning on the ice so that you can warm up for a day full of Christmas celebration.
Are you ready for a full afternoon of Christmas markets? Once you’re tuckered out and done skating, head back down to the main square (Hauptplatz) to start off your Christmas market tour.
(It is about 7 minutes walking distance from Karmeliterplatz to Hauptplatz – check the map here)
Afternoon: Christmas Markets Galore!
It’s almost lunchtime which means you’re already in the perfect place. You can choose to grab a bite at a sit-down restaurant if you need to warm up your toes, or you can feast on some local Christmas favorites at the Christkindlmarkt on Hauptplatz.
Want some recommendations? Why not try one of my favorites:
- Raclette (roasted cheese on bread)
- Knödel (bread dumplings with gravy)
- Käsespätzle (cheesy noodles)
- Goulash Soup (hearty meat stew)
Christkindlmarkt on Hauptplatz
The Christkindlmarkt on Hauptplatz is the main Christmas market in the center of the historical old town. Here you will find a number of craft stalls, delicious (and affordable) food and an unlimited number of glühwein huts. This market is a favorite for students in the area because it’s central (right in front of the city hall) and it’s affordable. During the Christmas countdown, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy the huge Christmas tree, the giant advent calendar projected onto the facade of the city hall and the beautiful upside down Christmas trees hanging along the Herrengasse.
(From Christkindlmarkt you’re only a 3-minute walk – 220 meters – from the next Christmas market at Mehlplatz – check the map here)
Arts & Crafts at Mehlplatz
During the Christmas season, Mehlplatz is filled with live music (on Saturday’s) and incredible futuristic Christmas stalls selling one-of-a-kind goods from around Austria.
(From Mehlplatz you’re only a 1-minute walk – 27 meters – from the Advent Market at Glockenspielplatz – check the map here)
Advent Market at Glockenspielplatz
The Advent Market at Glockenspielplatz is definitely one of the smaller markets around Graz but holds quite a punch. This market focuses on Styrian-only crafts, drinks and snacks. If you happen to be making a visit at 11:00, 15:00 or 18:00, you might even get the chance to watch a young lad and a maiden (figurines) pop out of the clock tower windows and pirouette.
(From Glockenspielplatz you’re only a 5-minute walk – 450 meters – from the Advent Cheer at Eisernen Tor – check the map here)
Advent Cheer at Eisernen Tor
If you’ve been craving a warm glühwein, now is the time to splurge. Regardless of how much you plan on drinking, one thing is for sure… you’re giving to a good cause at Eisernen Tor! This old town traditional Christmas market is located in the Franciscan Quarter and each stall at this market donates the (net) money they make selling Christmas goodies.
(From Eisernen Tor you’re only a 4-minute walk – 400 meters – from Joanneumsviertel – check the map here)
Advent in the Joanneumsviertel with STIKH Handicraft Market
Joanneumsviertel is a bit off the beaten path when you consider that most of the other markets are within a couple hundred meters from the city hall. Funny enough, it’s still only about a 5-minute walk back into the center of the city. This market ranks amongst one of the local favorites, so you’ll find a lot of locals hiding out and drinking orange punch here.
Right next door (under the archway) you’ll find the STIKH Handicraft Market which offers beautiful and creative crafts from local artists and designers. This is a great place to buy one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts for the family.
(From Joanneumsviertel you’re only a 7-minute walk – 550 meters – from Südtiroler Platz – check the map here)
Christmas Market at Südtiroler Platz
Just across the Mur River, hiding behind the eye-catching Kunsthaus, you’ll find the quaint little Christmas Market at Südtiroler Platz. It’s the perfect way to end your day exploring the Christmas markets of Graz as you’ll get away from the hustle and bustle of the city explorers and have some time to breathe and relax before you head to dinner.
Ready for some food? You’re only a 7-minute walk away from the best steaks in town! (Check the map here)
Evening: Get a Taste of a Delicious Regional Steak
During the winter months, it can get quite dark in the evenings. So, once you’ve had your fill of Christmas markets for the day, why not warm up with a delicious regional steak at El Gaucho Steakhouse?
Tip 1: This restaurant is a local favorite which means you can’t expect to get a seat upon arrival. If you’re really keen on checking out this restaurant, make sure you make a reservation ahead of time.
Tip 2: If you’ve somehow found the energy to head out for an evening of fun, make sure you take a look back at Marktplatz and enjoy the illumination of the huge Christmas tree!
Sunday: Explore the Culture and History of Graz
Saturday was great, but If you haven’t gotten your fill of Christmas Markets yet, there are still a number of others that you can check out including the Christmas markets at Färberplatz, Tummelplatz, Mariahilferplatz, Paradieshof, Franziskanerviertel and Kleine Neutorgasse.
Morning: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Graz Historical Old Town
There’s certainly no doubt that you’ve already become an expert at retelling the stories of the Christmas markets in Graz, but despite the fact that you’ve likely already ventured through the entire city on Saturday, have you taken any time to actually explore what makes the Graz historical old town so special?
Here’s your chance!
Start the morning off by wandering through the beautiful Renaissance courtyard in the city center behind the city hall. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the life-sized ice crib in the Landhaushof, the crib this year was carved by a Finnish ice artist, Kimmo Frosti.
From here, you’ll have the opportunity to visit a number of other beautiful sites around the old town including:
- The Landeszeughaus Armoury of Graz
- The Mausoleum
- The Cathedral Graz
- The Burg and Double Spiral Staircase
Afternoon: Explore the Outskirts of the Historical Old Town
You’ve probably been wondering what that strange bubble in the middle of the Mur River is. Now is your chance to cross the river and go explore this fascinating piece. The Murinsel in Graz may have been created to look like an island, but it was in fact constructed by an American artist, Vito Acconci, from the pieces of a ship.
The Murinsel was created as a project during the time Graz was named the Capital of Culture back in 2003. Today, the island links the two sides of the city and is home to a beautiful café and amphitheater.
If you continue on your way out of the old town, you’ll also find the architecturally wild building (that I think looks like a set of lungs or a bug) which is the city’s museum of contemporary art, known as the Kunsthaus. It is also a very neat building to check out at night, as the facade of the building lights up.
Depending on how much time you have left in Graz, you can make a quick visit to Schloss Eggenberg (the Eggenberg Palace) and then make your way back into the city centre to head up to the top of the Schlossberg for a spectacular view of the city. You have a few options when it comes to getting up to the top of the hill, you can take the elevator, hop on a funicular, or enjoy a leisurely climb. Once you’re up at the top, don’t forget to breathe and take in all of the spectacular views. From here, you’ll be able to explore the clock tower and the “Aufsteirern” Christmas Market. The Christmas market on top of Schlossberg has quite often been titled as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Austria, and for a good reason, it is stunning!
Evening: Embrace the City Views by Candle Light
Well, you’re already at the top of the city overlooking the beautiful lights and snow-covered roofs, why not stay a little while?
One of the most delicious restaurants in the city happens to be located on top of Schlossberg and is a fantastic place to eat in style while enjoying stunning views of the city from their floor-length glass windows.
At Restaurant Schlossberg, you can enjoy traditional and regional specialties that are so delicious, you’ll never be able to forget it.
Could there be a better way to end your winter weekend getaway in Graz?
Travel tip shared by Jenna for Travel Dudes.
The #VisitGraz trip was created and managed in association with the Graz Tourism Board. Travel Dudes maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.