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Austria Popular Destinations


Royal-imperial church architecture is crowning the historic city centre. The cathedral is definitely not to be missed on any sightseeing trip round Graz. Don’t be fooled by the relatively restrained exterior. The "Gottesplagenbild", an inspiring relic of splendid Gothic fresco painting, is still in excellent condition today. Inside the cathedral, a multitude of ecclesiastical along with general historical treasures is waiting to be discovered. 

Today's cathedral reminds of the days when Graz was an imperial city. Emperor Frederick III erected the church together with his new residence in Graz. In the course of history, the cathedral saw many changes. Construction work of the court and parish church in late-Gothic style was started in 1438, as Jesuit church it was refurbished in Baroque style in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Since 1786 it has been the cathedral, i.e. the bishop's and main church of the Catholics in Styria. The exterior of the cathedral looks very sober today. In the Gothic period, however, the façades were covered with paintings. One fresco has been preserved - the so-called Gottesplagenbild ("God's Plagues"). It refers to a year of horrors Graz suffered in 1480. The town was struck by three plagues which were considered to be God's punishment - locusts, war and the Black Death. The painting has to be seen as a plea to God for forgiveness and reconciliation. The painter Thomas von Villach arranged the Holy Trinity, saints and the hierarchy of angels as well as the three plagues like an impressive drama demonstrating God's wrath and the plea for mercy, all underlined by medieval "balloons".

The interior of the cathedral hormoniously combines Gothic architecture with Baroque furnishing. The frescos in the church date from the times of Emperor Frederick III. Among them: a fragment showing St. Christopher, clearly recognizable as Frederick wearing the Styrian ducal crown. The Jesuits, who owned the church for nearly 200 years, had it furnished in magnificent Baroque by the best local and foreign artists. The splendid high altar was designed by Georg Kraxner. But also the pulpit, the choir stalls and the pews are of impressive quality. Among the most precious objects in the cathedral are the two reliquaries to the left and the right of the chancel entrance. Originally the chests belonged to Paola Gonzaga. In 1477 she married Leonhard of Gorizia and brought along her bridal chests from her native Mantua to Leonhard's castle Bruck near Lienz in East Tyrol. Inlays in bone and ivory represent a poem by Petrarca - "I Trionfi". The artist Andrea Mantegna is assumed to have made them. The couple died without having children. The Jesuits in Graz finally inherited the chests and used them as reliquaries for bones of Christian martyrs. The organ of the cathedral was built in 1978. All the 5,354 pipes are played and the 73 stops are pulled out at services and organ concerts.

Graz, Austria

Burg & Double Spiral Staircase

Separation and reconciliation. Even official architecture can harbour surprises. The Burg in Graz, official headquarter of the regional government, is a real gem. Centuries of reconstruction have yielded interesting elements of the Gothic, Renaissance and Biedermeier eras. Particularly striking is the double spiral staircase, seeming almost like an optical illusion. This “staircase of reconciliation” consists of two opposing spiral stairs, which merge briefly on each floor, part and then rejoin.

AEIOU - these are the letters Emperor Frederick III had written on all the things he possessed and on all the buildings he had erected. Historians still puzzle over the meaning of this sequence of the vowels. Nevertheless, it facilitates architectural research work. So, the Burg in Graz is also inscribed "AEIOU" on several façades. In 1438 Frederick, then duke of Styria, decided to erect a new residence in Graz. At the same time he built the court church of St. Ägydius, today's cathedral, and even connected it to his - no longer existing - accommodation wing in the Burg.

Frederick's son, Emperor Maximilian I, continued construction work in the Burg. And he left to posterity one of the major Gothic staircases in Europe. A double-spiral staircase - two flights of staircases, running in opposite directions, join for some steps on each floor, separate again, join again... The architectural masterpiece of 1499 has often been interpreted as a symbol of eternity. Graz people call it the "stairs of reconciliation". If you go separate ways, you will reunite.

From 1564 onwards, Archduke Charles II resided in the Burg. And ruled over Inner Austria, an association of territories reaching as far as Istria, Trieste and Gorizia. By holding court in Graz, by patronising artists and by their building initiatives, Charles and his wife, Maria of Bavaria, helped Graz
to achieve its heyday. The Burg was extended. Apart from Karlstrakt (Charles Wing), also the Registraturtrakt (Records Wing) with its galleries and sgraffito scratchwork decorations was built. On
the greens in front of this building, since 1959 several busts have commemorated important Styrians.

Among them: the Baroque composer Johann Josef Fux, the architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, the inventors Viktor Kaplan (Kaplan water turbine) and August Musger (slow-motion camera), writers and scholars. The so-called "gallery of honour" could still be extended by many persons.

Graz, Austria

Landhaus Courtyard

What a perfect place for a party! The inevitable thought if you step into the Landhaushof in Graz. Taking in the Renaissance surroundings of this inviting location immediately conjures up colourful images of people enjoying festivities. Here in the summer, flowers decorate the magnificent arcades and, at Advent, the celebrated ice nativity scene finds a perfect setting. In between, concerts, theatre and indeed all manner of festivities take place in the splendid atmosphere of the Landhaus courtyard.

A touch of Northern Italy in Herrengasse, right in the centre of Graz? In fact, the Landhaus is reminiscent of some Venice palazzo. In 1557, the Italian architect Domenico dell’Allio started to construct a prestigious building for the Styrian estates. It still is the provincial parliament of Styria. Not only the main façade of the building is outstanding. People are especially amazed by the Renaissance-style arcaded courtyard.  
In the late 15th century the Styrian estates gave up holding their diets at different castles and monasteries, and decided to erect a Landhaus in the capital of Graz. The first little "office" was extended in the 16th century by "welschen" (Italian) master builders to form the largest building complex in the historic centre of Graz. The main wing in Herrengasse and the splendid courtyard were erected in 1557 by Domenico dell'Aglio. He had come to Graz from Northern Italy as a fortress architect also supervising the reconstruction of the fortress on Schlossberg.

People often just stand and gape after entering the spacious courtyard of Landhaus for the first time. Arcades on all three floors, copper gargoyles dating from the 16th century, the bronze fountain - a Mannerist masterpiece. Not only locals know that such an ambience makes feasts, concerts, film shows, the Christmas ice crib a tremendous experience. The interior of Landhaus is adorned by Baroque furnishings. Landstube (the session hall) is notable for its stucco ceiling by Johann Angelo Formentini with plastic figures and coats of arms, and by the porcelain stoves crowned by heraldic animals - the Austrian eagle, and the Styrian panther. In Rittersaal, the elaborate stucco ceiling shows the signs of the zodiac. Not forgetting Landhaus chapel, built in 1630/31. After the expulsion of the Protestant estates in 1629, its black and gold Jesuit-style altar, the altarpiece showing the Assumption of the Virgin, and the two statues of St. Catherine and St. Barbara symbolize the restoration of Catholicism in Landhaus.

Graz, Austria


A knight’s tale of passion? Certainly fitting for some of the warriors in shining armour. At the Landeszeughaus armoury of Graz, standing in rank and file are the armour and weapons of valiant warriors of the Middle Ages. The special historical setting and sheer number of collector’s items make a visit to the Graz armoury a treat not to be missed. Marvel at an unbelievable 32,000 exhibits arranged on four floors, where many a visitor, large or small, drifts into dreams of heroic sagas of times past. 

Due to its geographical position south of the Alps, and as the capital of Inner Austria, Graz developed as an important centre of defence against intruding peoples from the east. It was especially the advances of the Ottoman Turks, which from the end of the 15th century forced the Styrian estates to organize defence and to build up their weapons stockpiles. Both native gunsmiths and armourers, and masters from Nuremberg, Augsburg and Innsbruck were commissioned. Starting in 1642, Antonio Solar erected a "Zeughaus" (armoury) adjacent to the Landhaus for the increasing store of arms.
The narrow building is five storeys high and about 50m long. The façade is embellished by two impressively vulptuous Baroque statues by Giovanni Mamolo representing Mars (war god) and Minerva (goddess of war and the arts).
In the course of reforming military administration, Empress Maria Theresa intended to give up the armoury. But the Styrian estates succeeded in preventing the liquidation and in saving the armoury as a testimony for the braveness of the Styrians in fighting the "age-old enemy of Christendom". So today the only originally preserved armoury in the world contains about 32,000 exhibits. Historical arms and military equipment dating from the late 15th to the early 19th centuries. More than 3,300 armours and helmets, over 7,800 small arms, c. 5,400 staff weapons, 2,400 swords, sabres and the like - whatever was needed for warfare in former times, you will find it in the armoury. Besides the mass of weapons for simple soldiers, the gorgeous armours for the nobility and the entirely preserved horse armour from the early 16th century are especially impressive. The c. 50 heavy guns from the ground floor of the armoury, however, were removed when Napoleon's troops were approaching and later on sold to a bell-founder. Today the tourist information of Graz has found a new home on the ground floor of the armoury. 

Graz, Austria

Eggenberg Palace

The universe is in Graz! It’s no joke, but rather a wonderful example of harmonious architectural skill: Eggenberg Palace on the edge of the city centre. Set within a beautiful park is the main palace, which was laid out as an architectural allegory of the universe. The building represents a precisely calculated cosmos. It was commissioned by Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg from the year 1625 to embody his wish for a harmonious structure, reacting to the chaos of the 16th century.

365 windows, 31 rooms on each floor, 24 state rooms with 52 doors and, in all, 60 windows, 4 corner towers - all allusions to time, to the seasons, to weeks, days, hours, minutes. This number symbolism based on the then new Gregorian calendar is the architectural programme of the palace. Also the paintings in the Planetensaal (Planet Hall), whose decoration was started in 1678, are characterized by astronomical symbolism. In the canvases on the ceiling, the painter, Hans Adam Weissenkircher allocated the seven celestial bodies known at his time to the days of the week, to Roman gods, to metals and to members of the Eggenberger family, among them after all a victorious general and an imperial envoy. On the walls the twelve signs of the zodiac complete the astronomical play on numbers. Only recent research has shown that Hans Ulrich incorporated the medieval castle of the Eggenberger family into the new palace. The intersection of any diagonals drawn through the building is the old Gothic chapel. In the mid-18th century, the heirs of the Eggenberger family, the Counts of Herberstein, turned the former theatre of the palace into a splendid Baroque church. Therefore, the old chapel was no longer used, and its original function fell into oblivion. The winged altar from 1470 was reduced to its 13 panels which were framed and sold to America in the early 20th century. Just a few years ago, the altar was rediscovered and returned to its original place.

Schloss Eggenberg is inseparably bound up with its park which has changed with the taste of the times. In the mid-19th century, it was converted into the landscape garden of the present. A special attraction are the majestically stalking peacocks. And a refashioned space of the park - the Planetengarten. Of course, it continues the iconography of the palace. Today Schloss Eggenberg is managed by the Joanneum, the Provincial Museum of Styria. Important collections invite to a visit: the Lapidarium with one of the largest collection of Roman stones in Austria, the prehistory and early history departments, the coin collection and, opening in summer 2005, the Alte Galerie - works of art from the Romanesque period to late Baroque.

Graz, Austria

Island In The Mur

Island or boat? It isn’t easy to tell with this extravagant steel construction by US-American artist Vito Acconci. The Island in the Mur, Graz was commissioned as part of the city’s role as Capital of Culture in 2003. What is clear is its function as a link between river and city, a wonderful place to drink coffee or enjoy a cocktail. With the river Mur swirling cheerfully by on both left and right sides, from the Murinsel you can appreciate a completely new perspective of the city of Graz. The island has brought the river Mur back to the people of Graz. Up to a few years ago, the river had been polluted by sewage water and industrial effluent. So the fact that the Mur had dug itself 12m deeper into its riverbed after its regulation in the 19th century hardly bothered people. Now the river connecting and dividing the city has a good quality of water again, has become inviting.

Graz-born Robert Punkenhofer inspired the New York artist Vito Acconci to design an accessible artificial island. The project was realized as a 47m-long reticular steel construction. The curved and twisted shape can be associated with a half-opened shell. In its open part, wave-like blue benches form an amphitheatre for events of all kinds. Under the domed glass roof cooled by water, a café in blue and white offers the opportunity to enjoy being close to Mur - a new feeling even for locals. Between the café and the amphitheatre a three-dimensional maze made of ropes, and a slide are promising an "island adventure" for children.
What is called an island, is a ship in fact. She is held by an anchor and is stabilized additionally by the two footbridges connecting her to the river banks. She has even got navigation lights. As a warning to other ships possibly straying into Mur. But as it is shining in bright blue at night, the Mur Island cannot and will not be overlooked anyway.

Graz, Austria

Kunsthaus Graz

Wonder, enthusiasm, incredulity. The spectacular architecture of Graz Kunsthaus leaves nobody cold. Whilst it’s not common for existing, traditional urban buildings to sit so perfectly next to breathtaking new architecture, with the setting of this museum of contemporary art in Graz it’s definitely the case. The Kunsthaus floats like a mysterious blue balloon between the roofs of the historic city centre. Named friendly alien by its creators, its fascinating magic draws visitors in.

Sometimes dreams come true. As the dream about a Kunsthaus in Graz. The site was a good choice. The right bank of the river Mur, so far a more or less neglected part of the city. The neighbourhood:
the Eisernes Haus (Iron House), a nearly forgotten, as hardly visible, formerly bold cast-iron construction built by Graz architect Josef Benedict Withalm in 1848. The British architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier won the Europe-wide competition to revitalize the Eisernes Haus and to extend it to a Kunsthaus (Art House). The biomorphic construction in shape and material consciously contrasts with the surrounding gabled houses and their red-tiled roofs, nevertheless, in great respect, snuggles up to older buildings.

1,066 acrylic glass elements form the skin of the friendly alien. At night it sends light signals or written messages from its "BIX façade" to the other side of the river. It sucks daylight from the north through its "nozzles" on top. The "needle" is a glazed viewing platform, stretching over Eisernes Haus and Kunsthaus on the eastern façade. Inside the Eisernes Haus there is the museum shop, the Kunsthaus administration and Camera Austria - an institution which in exhibitions and the eponymous magazine has devoted itself to photography. The transparent base of the Kunsthaus houses a restaurant and a media lounge. The travelator, a slanted moving belt, draws the visitors into the interior of the alien. Which on its two floors offers quite favourable conditions for different kinds of exhibitions. Even though the Kunsthaus allows itself the luxury of showing exclusively art of the past four decades.

Graz, Austria

Clock Tower

But something isn’t quite right here. What is odd about the face of the clock tower of Graz? A faulty city emblem? No way! Anyone taking a longer look will spot it readily; here time has a different priority. Hours count for more than minutes, and justifiably so, because the area beneath the clock tower is magical and, if you turn round and let your gaze wander over the gardens and city, you will also know why. 

The fortified medieval tower got its present shape around 1560. And its characteristic wooden gallery as a fire station. Three bells are ringing from the Clock Tower. Three coats of arms decorate the walls. 
A tower on this spot of the hill was first mentioned in the 13th century. When the fortress was reconstructed in the middle of the 16th century, the tower was given its present shape. The hands on the huge clockfaces often confuse people. Is the clock out of order? No. The fact that originally there were only long hands for the hours which could be seen from the distance, and that those for the minutes were added only later caused the "swapping" of the hands. The clockworks, made by Michael Sylvester Funck in 1712, are still working but have been driven electronically since the middle of the 20th century. When there was fire in the city the fire bell informed the fire brigade about it.

The fire bell (1645) is one of three bells still hanging on the outside of the Clock Tower. The oldest bell of Graz (1385) strikes the hours. The "Armesünderglocke" or "poor wretches bell" (around 1450) was ringing during executions. In later years it reminded revellers of the curfew, which earned it the title "Lumpenglocke" (rogues bell). At three corners of the tower there are coats of arms, formerly decorating gates and walls of the Schlossberg fortress: the Styrian Panther with the crown of the Duchy of Styria on his head (around 1570), the single eagle as the coat of arms of the later Emperor Ferdinand I (1552), and the double eagle with the initial letters of Maria Theresa (2nd half of 18th century).

Graz, Austria

Domquartier Salzburg

15,000 magnificent square meters – 2,000 stunning exhibits – 1,300 moving years. The DomQuartier Salzburg is unique highlight in the heart of Salzburg. A single admission ticket lets you experience an extraordinary walking tour of the museum, closed to the public for 200 years. Starting in the Residence, you will walk through the Residence State Rooms, the Residence Gallery, the Cathedral Museum and St. Peter's Museum. The baroque Rossacher collection can also be admired at the North Oratory.
DomQuartier Salzburg offer fresh insight into the former center of archiepiscopal power. The history of political power, art history and architecture are presented in a unique juxtaposition. The new museum walk also offers new and impressive outlooks of the city of Salzburg and the local mountains.
Prince Archbishop Guidobald Graf von Thun (in office from 1654 to 1668) was one of the most important architects of baroque Salzburg. He built the Cathedral Arches, Residence and Cathedral Square as well as what is now the Long Gallery. This forms the basis of the new, one of a kind museum walk. In addition to the Salzburg Cathedral Quarters, many other baroque buildings can be found throughout the city, making it the most prominent baroque city north of the Alps.

Salzburg, Austria

Stiegl - World Of Brewing

No other place is more capable of acquainting guests with the world of this popular barley drink so tangibly, visibly and interactively than Stiegl Brauwelt within Salzburg’s oldest privately-owned brewery. Visitors can look forward to a unique 270° Stiegl brewery cinema experience, the famous beer tower and an opportunity to sample some great beer. The beer tower features all of Austria’s bottled beers and is just one of the highlights of a visit to the Stiegl Brauwelt. The beer discovery tour begins in the brewery shop. Then Stiegl’s 270° cinema shows the Stiegl blockbuster ‘The nature of beer’. A unique projection technique gives visitors the feeling of being part of the action, and not just mere spectators.
Visitors can then see the in-house brewing facilities and find out everything about the drink’s raw ingredients and also lots of fascinating facts about the world of beer. For example, did you know that until the 16th century beer brewing was almost exclusively women’s work? Or did you know it’s a time-honoured tradition for a couple of two-horse carts to deliver Stiegl beer to local pubs and restaurants around the town?
Once you have seen the master brewers in action there’s an opportunity to enjoy the products of their labours. Visitors can check out the sampling and beer maturation cellar, and seize the rare chance to taste the ingredients and sample partly matured beers. At last, it’s time to see the most popular subject for photos in the whole brewery – the beer tower! Finally, the tour ends in the Stiegl Museum, after which guests can also go to one of the many Brauwelt restaurants and buffets to enjoy some great down-to-earth culinary fayre. Good to know: Guests can register in advance and even brew their own personal blend of beer. More information is available at Stiegl Brauwelt.

Salzburg, Austria