Much of Graz's Old Town has been well preserved, and many visitors take tours through this section of town. Major sights include Hauptplatz (Main Square), in the heart of the city, surrounded by ancient houses with characteristic brown-tile roofs and narrow gables. The most notable house is the House of Luegg at the corner of Sporgasse, known for its arcades and facade dating from the 17th century.
A few steps down Herrengasse, the wide shopping and business street, is the Landhaus, seat of the provincial government, a 1565 Renaissance masterpiece. An especially prominent window above the main gate intensifies the gate's effect, and the arched Renaissance fountainhead was poured in bronze. The south side of the courtyard ends in an arcade that runs the length of the court.
Paulustor (Paul's Gate), set between the remnants of Graz's rampart, dates from the time Italian architects fortified the city. The side of the gate facing the city is plain, but the other side is decorated with the large coats-of-arms of Archduke Ferdinand and his first wife, Anne of Bavaria.
To escape from the monumental historic core of Graz for a few hours, visit the little-known neighborhood of Gries, lying across the River Mur from the old town. This is where a vast army of immigrants have settled, forming Graz's multi-ethnic sector. The center of Gries is the aptly named Griesplatz, where vendors sell mainly handicrafts from such countries as South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and China. There's also a large settlement of Turks and Lebanese who live here. You can sit in a cafe that evokes Beirut, listening to Middle Eastern music pour out.
An Open-Air Museum
Österreichisches Freilichtmuseum (tel. 03124/53700), about 16km (10 miles) north of Graz in Stübing, is set in a wooded valley branching off the Mur Valley. Here you'll find buildings, some of which are 400 years old, from all the Austrian provinces. The 85 authentic structures include a Rauchstubenhaus (smokeroom house) from East Styria, a Rauchhaus (smokehouse) from Land Salzburg, and circular, triangular, and rectangular houses. All the houses are maintained by the Styrian provincial and Austrian national governments.
Architectural enthusiasts will find that this museum has an intriguing display of the regional variations of building traditions. Because of the park's sprawling size (around 40 hectares/100 acres), the buildings -- mostly farmhouses, barns, and farm-related storage or food-processing sheds -- are set within the rural habitats that originally produced them. Despite its location in the verdant heart of Styria, the curators have tried to showcase buildings that derived throughout the country -- from Vorarlberg in the west to Burgenland, a marshy low-lying province similar to the plains of neighboring Hungary.
The museum is open from early April to late October Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5pm. Admission is 8€ ($13) for adults and 4.50€ ($7.20) for children. You can take a train from Graz toward Bruck an der Mur and get off at the station marked STÜBING, a local (not express) stop. After that, it's a 40-minute walk, or you can take a taxi. About 10 buses head to Stübing each day from Graz's Lendplatz (on the western bank of the Mur River, a 5-min. walk west of Old Town); the trip takes 35 minutes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.