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European Capital of Culture

  • General Information

    Other Name: Small Castle, District: Graz, State: Styria, Austria
    Area: 0 -
    Languages Spoken: German
    Long Distance Code: +43 316
    Importance: In 1999, it was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites. Graz was sole Cultural Capital of Europe for 2003.
    Best Time to Visit: January to March and April
    International Access: Connected to all the major cities of Austria.
  • Description

    Graz,with a population of around 290,000 as of 2008 (of which 252,852 have principal residence status), is the second-largest city in Austria after Vienna and the capital of the federal state of Styria.Graz has a long tradition as a student city: its six universities have over 44,000 students. Graz''s "Old Town" is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe. In 1999, it was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites. Graz was sole Cultural Capital of Europe for 2003.
  • Location

    The city is situated on the Mur river, in the south east of Austria. It is approximately 200 km southwest of Vienna or 2.5 hours by train / 2 hours by car. The nearest larger urban center is Maribor in Slovenia which is about 50 km away. Graz is the capital and largest city in Styria, a green and heavily forested area.
  • Climate

    Continental Temperate Climate
A half-hour drive from Graz will bring you to the Benedictine Seckau Monastery, located amongst overwhelmingly beautiful scenery. Driving up from Aichfeld, you will see the mighty twin towers of the abbey, founded in 1142. Originally Romanesque in style, it is a renaissance building today. Pride of the church is an altar room with a crucifixion scene dating back to the 12th-13th century. The modern Bockl Chapel is also remarkable. Once you are tired from looking around the monastery, pop into the Hofwirt, an excellent restaurant serving hearty traditional dishes.
This is a small (24x100m) but beautiful pond at the foot of Leech Forest, which marks the starting point for a fitness trail running through it. Rowing boats are for rent here, and there is an Italian restaurant in the park. The surrounding park also holds ample facilities for children. In winter, the pond is turned into a skating rink with an ''Ice disco'' daily until 9p. Admission for adults costs EUR2.50, and for children EUR1.80.
Today a large number of market stands characterize the setting of Graz''s Hauptplatz (main square). Apart from debates about whether or not the stalls should be there, the centre of Graz is rather peaceful today. Buildings and commercial activity dominated the square as early as the 13th century. In the 14th century, torture instruments and executions livened it up; open-air beheadings were a daily spectacle.
The so-called Calf''s Quarter, Kalbernes Viertel, lies between the Hauptplatz and the Mur. This part of downtown Graz is characterzed by narrow alleys and small squares. The unusual name is derived from the scores of butchers who have been trading there since the 16th century. The buildings have changed little from times-gone-by and are well preserved. Apart from the many little shops, there are also quite a few cafes and restaurants in the Calf''s Quarter; don''t miss the opportunity to dine there at one of the many terraced tables.
Leech Forest is one of Graz''s favorite spots to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. There are plenty of trails for walking - some are tarmac but most require walking shoes. You may even find this the ideal place for jogging. For nature lovers, there is a trail with signs giving information on the trees, plantlife, insects and birds that call Graz their home. For more information contact the Steiermarkische Natur und Bergwacht, Gaswerkstrasse 15 on +43 316 57 1334.
The Landhaus and its impressive courtyard is a jewel of Renaissance architecture constructed in installments. The history of this building began in 1494; additional buildings were bought in 1519, and the Knights'' Hall was constructed between 1527 and 1531. The particular style dates back to the period 1557-1564, when the main facade was constructed in Palazzo-style by Domenico d''Allio and was strongly influenced by the Venetian tradition. This gave the building and courtyard its breathtaking appearance. A few more recent alterations were conducted in 1890. Today, the Landhaushof is a popular venue for events and performances, theatrical or otherwise.
Just south of Graz Cathedral is the Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II who started building it from 1614 within his residence. The Mausoleum is amongst the most important buildings in Graz. It''s a monument to the successful Counter-Reformation and is composed of two parts - to the north, there is St Catherine''s Church; while its southern part shelters the graves of Kaiser Ferdinand, his wife Maria Anna, his mother Maria, and of one of his sons. A section called ''Herzgruftl'' holds the hearts of some members of the Habsburg family.
Coming from the Hauptplatz, it takes just a few minutes to get to Mariahilferplatz, crossing the River Mur by way of a pedestrian bridge. There you will find the Minoriten Church with its adjoining monastery. Building of the church began in 1607 under the Italian master builders Giovanni Pietro de Pomis and Pietro Valnegre. This compound is among the most important baroque structures that Graz has to offer. The monastery is grouped around two quadrangles that are open to the public. The first quadrangle takes you to the exhibition rooms of the Diocese Museum. The former summer dining hall is now being used as a concert hall. It can be accessed via the second quadrangle and is referred to as the "Minoritensaal."
Surrounded by the Augarten and located on the bank of the River Mur, this remarkable octagonal building offers interesting architecture. Originally, this building was home to public baths; today, it hosts the Museum of Perception. The permanent show is about the fallibility of all human perception. In the cellar, you find an Indian ''Shamadi'' bath; reserve in advance if you are interested in trying it out. The museum is close to the city center and is easily accessible on foot.