Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Graz
Graz, Austria's second largest town, is the economic and commercial focus of the whole region. It lies on the River Mur. Its tourist attractions include many historic old buildings; these and the old town with numerous Baroque facades are of great interest. Above the town is a prominent hill, the Schlossberg.
Excavation has shown that there were settlements here as early as 800 AD, but the town is first mentioned in the records in 1128. The name comes from the Slavonic "gradec" (small castle). Graz was of some consequence in trading under the Traungau family and later under the Babenbergs. In 1233 it passed into the hands of the Habsburgs, and in 1281 King Rudolf I granted the town special privileges. From 1379-1619 Graz was the residence of the Leopoldine branch of the Habsburgs. As a stronghold of the Habsburg empire against attack from the East the town was strongly fortified in the 15th-17th centuries and several times withstood sieges by the Turks. The architecture of the town was influenced by Italian models, among the fine buildings erected during this period being the sumptuous palace of Prince Hanns Ulrich von Eggenberg. In the 19th century Graz became an important cultural magnet. The Habsburg period came to an end in 1918. In 1938 the city reached its present extent with the incorporation of a number of adjoining communes. It suffered considerable damage during the Second World War but this was subsequently repaired.
The Old Town of Graz was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999 due to the blend of typical buildings from different time periods and architectural styles. In 2003, Graz held the title of European Capital of Culture. This designation is given out by the European Union to allow a city to highlight its cultural life for a one year period.