Though I’ve seen the beautiful city of Graz many, many times thanks to it being my birthplace and, at least to a certain extent, home, it never gets old. There’s a reason, after all, that the entire inner city was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. If that’s not enough to convince you to visit, maybe the fact that you’ll have a second UNESCO site in the same city – Schloss Eggenberg – will.
UNESCO and tourists alike put particular emphasis on the “Dächerlandschaft” of Graz’ old town – the “roof landscape”, a sea of red-tiled rooftops which is characteristic for the inner city.
A particularly popular vantage point from which to view the old town and its roofs is the Schlossberg – a hill located right in the center of the city. It was on this rock that the city had its start in the form of a little castle – “Gradec” in Slovenian, which eventually turned into what is now called “Graz”. Though the castle is now gone, it was not once captured by enemy forces, not even by Napoleon’s troops. This enraged him to such an extent that he ordered the castle be blown up following Austria’s defeat. This is the reason that Graz’ name-giving castle no longer exists. The citizens of Graz were however able to save the two clock towers – one of which, located 123 meters above the main square, remains the city’s main Landmark.
The clock tower was also in the past used as a sort of lookout post to scout for fires in the city. The guards watched from the wooden gangway around the outside of the tower, and would ring a bell – the Feuerglocke (“fire bell”) if they spotted anything. Fire could spread quickly between the tightly packed buildings, so people would be quick to form bucket chains from the river all the way to the burning house. In fact, narrow alleyways between the houses which served this purpose exist to this day and give the inner city of Graz a rather maze-like characteristic. Though the Schlossberg is no longer used to look out for fire, the views remain and are an excellent way to get a (free but stunning!) overview of the city.
Don’t just look at the old town from above, though, make sure to wander through its winding roads as well! The Herrengasse is the main road which leads through much of the old town, but venture off into the back alleys as well and you will find comfortable cafés and lots of trendy stores. Graz, after all, holds the title of UNESCO capital of design.
If you’re traveling through Austria, do consider stopping by in the country’s second largest city. Graz has a lot to offer and an extremely relaxed and welcoming atmosphere – it is a city which will not disappoint.