Graz, city (1991 pop. 237,810), capital of Styria prov., SE Austria, on the Mur River. The second largest city in Austria, it is an industrial, rail, and cultural center. Manufactures include iron and steel, precision and optical instruments, machinery, paper, textiles, and chemicals. Probably founded in the 12th cent., Graz is built around the Schlossberg, a mountain peak, on which are the ruins of a 15th-century fortress and the famous Uhrturm [clock tower]. The city has a 15th-century Gothic cathedral; several medieval churches (13th-15th cent.); and a twin-naved Gothic parish church that contains Tintoretto's Assumption of the Virgin. The Landhaus [provincial parliament] dates from the 16th cent. The Johanneum museum (founded 1811) is one of the finest provincial museums in Austria. The astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) taught at the state university in Graz (founded in the 16th cent.). The new university (built 1890-95) is noted for medical studies. Emperor Ferdinand II is buried in Graz.

Graz [graːts] (etymologically from Slovene: Gradec IPA: /gra.deʦ/, "little castle"), 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 (Steiermark [ˈʃtaɪ̯ɐmaʁk] in German).

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 centers 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.


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.


Due to its position south east of the Alps, Graz is shielded from the prevailing westerly winds that bring weather fronts in from the North Atlantic to north western and central Europe. Due to this factor the weather in Graz is Mediterranean influenced. Graz therefore has more hours of sunshine per year than Vienna or Salzburg and also less wind or rain. Graz lies in a basin that only opens to the south, causing the climate to be warmer than would be expected at that latitude. Plants are found in Graz that normally grow much further south. However, this milder, less windy climate is detrimental to the air quality in Graz as it makes the city prone to smog in winter. The exhaust fumes of the around 120,000 cars driven into Graz every weekday by people living in the surrounding areas, together with the car journeys made by the inhabitants of Graz itself, are the most significant source of air pollution.

Neighbouring municipalities

The following towns and villages border Graz:


Graz is divided into 17 districts. They are:

I. Innere Stadt (3,302)

II. St. Leonhard (12,377)

III. Geidorf (19,119)

IV. Lend (22,369)

V. Gries (22,658)

VI. Jakomini (25,808)

VII. Liebenau (11,556)

VIII. St. Peter (12,809)

IX. Waltendorf (10,782)

X. Ries (5,789)

XI. Mariatrost (7,403)

XII. Andritz (16,316)

XIII. Gösting (9,227)

XIV. Eggenberg (16,467)

XV. Wetzelsdorf (12,225)

XVI. Straßgang (12,212)

XVII. Puntigam (6,248)

Population development

Year Population
1900 168,808
1951 226,476
1961 237,080
1971 249,089
1981 243,166
1991 237,810
2001 226,244
2006 250,099

The more recent population figures do not give the whole picture as only people with principal residence status are counted and people with secondary residence status are not. Most of the people with secondary residence status in Graz are students. At the end of 2006 there were 37,624 people with secondary residence status in Graz.

Population (with principal residence status) in the agglomeration was approx. 320,000 at the end of 2006.


The oldest settlement on the ground of the modern city of Graz dates back to the Copper Age. However, there is no historical continuity of a settlement before the Middle Ages.

The name of the city, and some archaeological finds point to the erection of a small castle by South Slavic people (namely Slovenes), which in time became a heavily defended fortification. In Slovene, 'gradec' literally means "small castle". The German name 'Graz' was first used in 1128, and during this time dukes under Babenberg rule made the town into an important commercial center. Later Graz came under the rule of the Habsburgs, and in 1281 gained special privileges from King Rudolph I.

In the 14th century Graz became the city of residence of the Inner Austrian line of the Habsburgs. The royalty lived in the Schloßberg castle and from there ruled Styria, Carinthia, and parts of today's Italy and Slovenia (Carniola, Gorizia and Gradisca). In the 16th century, the city's design and planning were primarily controlled by Italian Renaissance architects and artists. One of the most famous buildings built in this style is the Landhaus. It was designed by Domenico dell'Allio, and was used by the local rulers as a governmental headquarters.

Graz was also a city that famous astronomer Johannes Kepler lived in for a short part of his life. There, he worked as a math teacher, but found time to study astronomy. He left Graz to go to Prague when Lutheran people were banned from the city.

Karl-Franzens Universität, also referred to as the University of Graz, is the city's oldest university, founded in 1585 by Archduke Charles II. For most of its existence it was controlled by the Catholic church, and was closed in 1782 by Joseph II in an attempt to gain state control over educational institutions. Joseph II transformed it into a lyceum where civil servants and medical personnel were trained. In 1827 it was re-instituted as a university by Emperor Franz I, thus gaining the name 'Karl-Franzens Universität,' meaning 'Charles-Francis University.' Over 30,000 students currently study at this university.

Nikola Tesla studied electrical engineering at the Polytechnic in Graz in 1875. Nobel Laureate Otto Loewi taught at the University of Graz from 1909 until 1938. Johannes Kepler was a professor of mathematics at the University of Graz. Erwin Schrödinger was briefly chancellor of the University of Graz in 1936.

Adolf Hitler was given a warm welcome when he visited in 1938, the year Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. The thriving Jewish community was destroyed by the Nazis and their grand synagogue was burnt. A small group of Graz Jews returned despite everything after the war. In 2000, on the anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht, Graz city council presented the Jewish community with a new synagogue as a gesture of reconciliation. Hitler promised the people of Graz 1,000 years of prosperity and an end to mass unemployment: only 7 years later the Graz resistance surrendered the city to Soviet troops sparing Graz any further destruction. By then about 16% of buildings had been destroyed by Allied bombing - luckily the Old Town was not seriously hit.

Graz lies in Styria, or Steiermark in German. Mark is an old German word indicating a large area of land used as a defensive border, in which the peasantry are taught how to organize and fight in the case of an invasion. With a strategic location at the head of the open and fertile Mur valley, Graz was often assaulted (unsuccessfully), e.g. by the Hungarians under Matthias Corvinus in 1481, and by the Ottoman Turks in 1529 and 1532. Apart from the Riegersburg, the Schloßberg was the only fortification in the region that never fell to the Ottoman Turks. Graz is home to the region's provincial armory, which is the world's largest historical collection of Baroque weaponry. It has been preserved since 1551, and displays over 30,000 items.

From the earlier part of the 15th century Graz was the residence of the younger branch of the Habsburgs, which succeeded to the imperial throne in 1619 in the person of Emperor Ferdinand II, who moved the capital to Vienna. New fortifications were constructed on the Schlossberg at the end of the 16th century. Napoleon's army occupied Graz in 1797. In 1809 the city had to withstand another assault by the French army. During the course of this attack, the commanding officer in the fortress was ordered to defend it with his men against Napoleon's army, which numbered about 900 and 3,000 respectively. He successfully defended the Schloßberg against 8 attacks, but they were forced to give up since the Grande Armee conquered Vienna and the Emperor ordered to surrender. Following the defeat of Austria by Napoleonic forces at the Battle of Wagram in 1809, the fortifications were demolished using explosives, as stipulated in the Peace of Schönbrunn of the same year. The belltower and the civic clock tower, often used as the symbol of Graz, were allowed to survive this fate after the people of Graz paid a ransom for their preservation.

Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria had 20,000 Protestant books burned in the square of what is now a mental hospital, and succeeded in returning Styria to the authority of the Holy See. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was born in Graz, in what is now the Stadtmuseum (city museum).

Main sights

In the last few years some groundbreakingly modern new public buildings have been erected in the city. The most famous of these include the Kunsthaus (house of modern art) designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, a museum constructed right next to the river Mur, and the "Murinsel" (island in the Mur), an island made of steel, situated in the river. It was designed by the American architect Vito Acconci and contains a café, an open-air theatre and a playground.

Old Town

The old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 due to the harmonious co-existence of typical buildings from different epochs and in different architectural styles. Being situated in a cultural borderland between Central Europe, Italy and the Balkan States, Graz absorbed various influences from the neighbouring regions and thus received its exceptional townscape. Today the old town consists of over 1000 buildings, their age ranging from Gothic to Contemporary. The most important sights in the old town are:

  • Schloßberg, hill dominating the old town (475 m high), site of demolished fortress, with views over Graz.
  • Uhrturm clocktower, symbol of Graz, on the top of Schloßberg.
  • Neue Gallerie . Museum of art.
  • Schloßbergbahn, a funicular railway up the Schloßberg.
  • The Landhaus, the building where the federal state parliament of Styria resides, a palace in Lombardic style. It belongs to the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Austria and was built by the Italian architect Domenico dell'Allio between 1557 and 1565.
  • The Landeszeughaus, armoury, the largest of its kind in the world ,
  • The Schauspielhaus is the principal theatre ,
  • Dom (cathedral), a rare monument of Gothic architecture. Once, there had been many frescos on the outer walls, today, there are only few remains, like the Landplagenbild ("picture of plagues") painted in 1485, presumably by Thomas von Villach. The three plagues it depicts are locusts, pestilence and the invasion of the Turks, all of them striking the town in 1480. It features the oldest painted view of Graz.
  • Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II next to the cathedral, the most important building of Mannerism in Graz. It includes both the grave, where Ferdinand II and his wife are buried, and a church dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria.
  • Rathaus (Town Hall).
  • Burg (castle complex), with Gothic double staircase, built between 1438 and 1453 by Emperor Frederick III because the old castle on the Schloßberg was too small and uncomfortable. The Burg remained the residence of the Inner Austrian Court until 1619. Today, it serves as residence of the government of Styria.
  • Gemaltes Haus ("painted house"), in Herrengasse 3. It is completely covered with frescos (painted in 1742 by Johann Mayer).
  • Kunsthaus (museum of modern art).
  • Murinsel, an artificial island in the Mur.
  • Buildings, courtyards (e. g. Early Renaissance courtyard of the Former House of Teutonic Knights in Sporgasse 22) and roofscape of the old town.

Outside the Old Town

  • Schloß Eggenberg a Baroque palace on the western edge of Graz with State rooms and museum , ,
  • Basilika Mariatrost a late Baroque church, on the eastern edge of Graz , ,
  • The Herz Jesu Kirche is the largest church in Graz with the 3rd highest spire in Austria, built in Gothic Revival style
  • Calvary Hill in the Gösting area of Graz with a 17th century calvary and church.
  • The LKH-Universitätsklinikum, is the biggest hospital of Graz, it is the largest Art Nouveau building complex in Austria. It was built between 1904 and 1912. It is run by the state.
  • Best viewpoints for vistas of the city are Ruine Gösting, hilltop castle ruins on northwestern edge of city, and Plabutsch/Fürstenstand, behind Schloss Eggenberg with a hilltop restaurant and viewing tower.
  • The site of the former brewery Graz Reininghaus is currently the biggest privately financed city development project in Austria.

Within the greater Graz area

  • Österreichisches Freilichtmuseum Stübing, an open-air museum containing old farmhouses/farm buildings from all over Austria reassembled in historic setting.
  • Lurgrotte, the most extensive cave system in Austria.
  • Lipizzanergestüt Piber, Lipizzaner stud where the famous white horses are bred.
  • The Steirische Weinstrasse is a wine growing region south of Graz, also known as the "Styrian Tuscany".
  • Thermenregion, spa region east of Graz.
  • Riegersburg, a mighty fortress that was never taken. It was a bastion against historical Turkish invasions ,


During 2003 Graz held the title of "European Capital of Culture".


The most important museums in Graz are:

  • Alte Galerie paintings and sculptures from the Romanesque to the end of the Baroque period, coin museum and regular exhibitions.
  • Neue Galerie visual arts from the 19th and 20th century.
  • Natural History Museum exhibition of botany, mineralogy and zoology.
  • Stadtmuseum Graz city museum.
  • Grazer Kunsthaus museum of contemporary art.
  • Camera Austria museum of contemporary photography.
  • Landeszeughaus medieval armory comprising of 32,000 pieces of armour and weaponry, largest of its kind in the world.
  • Volkskundemuseum museum of folklore.
  • Diözesanmuseum museum of the Roman Catholic church.
  • Künstlerhaus museum of contemporary visual arts.
  • Literaturhaus museum of contemporary German literature.
  • Museum der Wahrnehmung museum of the senses, samadhi bath.
  • Kindermuseum Frida&Fred museum for children.
  • Tramwaymuseum 40 historic trams, the oldest dating from 1873.
  • Kriminalmuseum museum of criminology.
  • Luftfahrtmuseum (Graz airport) aviation museum.
  • Hanns Schell Collection key and lock museum, largest of its kind in the world.


  • Highest Buildings

There are currently 228 buildings in Graz that are classified as highrise buildings. In Graz a building is classified as being highrise if the floor of at least one room is 22 metres above ground level. Buildings that are classified as highrise have to adhere to much more stringent fire safety regulations because the ladders of the majority of fire appliances used by Graz Fire Brigade cannot reach higher than 22 metres.

Name or Address Completion Usage Height / Storeys
1. Herz-Jesu-Kirche 1887 church 109 metres
2. Elisabeth Hochhaus 1964 residential 75 metres / 25 storeys
3. Kärntnerstrasse 212, Liebenauer Hauptstrasse 1968 & 1955 residential 69 metres / 21 storeys
4. Franziskanerkirche 1240 church 69 metres
5. Hafnerriegel 1960 residential 61 metres / 19 storeys
6. St. Peter Pfarrweg, Kindermanngasse, Hanuschgasse 1970s residential 55 metres / 17 storeys
7. Vinzenz Muchitschstrasse, Ungergasse, Kärntnerstrasse 216, Eggenbergergürtel 1970s residential 52 metres / 16 storeys

In Graz there are a some new high rise buildings in the pipeline, the only one that currently (July 2007) is looking certain to be build is a 15 storey officeblock opposite the "Stadthalle" on the southern edge of the city centre. The construction of this officeblock is to commence in June 2008.


An extensive public transportation network makes Graz an easy city to navigate without a car. The city has a comprehensive bus network, complementing a tram network consisting of six lines, two of which run from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) to the old town before branching out. Furthermore, there are seven night-time bus routes, although these operate only at weekends and on evenings preceding public holidays.

From the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), regional trains link to most of Styria. Direct trains also run to most major cities nearby including Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Maribor and Ljubljana in Slovenia, Zagreb in Croatia, Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary and Zurich in Switzerland. Trains for Vienna leave every hour.

Graz Airport is about 10 kilometres south of the city centre and has a railway station within walking distance (east of the airport).

Sister cities

Other forms of cooperation and city friendship similar to the twin city programmes:

Famous people


External links

Official websites


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