Two hours and one scenic train ride from Vienna you will find Graz. Austria’s second largest city is known for it’s fusion of modern, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, Red Bull World and a clock tower that, thanks to enterprising citizens who weren’t above resorting to bribery, survived the Napoleonic Wars. Filled with child-friendly museums, castles to see and hills to climb, Graz is an easy, child-friendly getaway from Vienna. Here are four places in Graz for kids.
FRida and freD: A children’s museum for the entire family
On the banks of the Muir river is FRida and freD – The Graz Children’s Museum. The museum is divided into two sections, a downstairs area for younger children and an upstairs floor for kids from age eight. As our daughter is three, we skipped the older kids’ section with it’s arcade style games and headed downstairs past a wall of brightly-coloured foam slides. But from what we could see, and occasionally hear, the older kids were having a ton of fun.
The smaller kids’ area is light-filled, spacious and inviting. The decorations are colourful and fun without being overwhelming. All activities are at a height made for little people. It truly is a space designed to cater for inquisitive youngsters. There is even a retro-themed couch area—a favourite with parents. (I spent part of our time at FRida and freD plotting how I could sneak the gorgeous couch onto the train to Vienna. Sadly, the couch was just a little bit too heavy and the attendants far too attentive for me to be able to sneak it by them).
When we visited, the exhibitions were about curiosity and invention. Older and younger kids could discover what it is like to create. In the younger kids’ section, children could design pin wheels, paint masterpieces using rolling pins and an array of household gadgets and sculpt artwork out of Play Dough. There were activities designed to promote spacial awareness and balance and a playground structure that let the kids climb through the rafters. Kids could even explore outer space. Outside there is a water-themed play area open in the warmer months. It is worth checking their website before you go, as FRida and freD also run workshops and performances. The museum is closed from 27 February to 31 March 2017.
Die Grazer Marchenbahn: A fairytale train in Graz for kids
Nestled beneath Schlossberg is Die Grazer Macrchenbahn. A family favourite, this fairytale train is firmly on our list of top attractions in Graz for kids. You enter through an archway carved into the hill. As you walk in you are transported to a wonderland of witches, fairies, princess and princesses. Die Grazer Marcherbahn is the world of the Brothers Grimm brought to life – and transformed into a 35 minute train journey.
The train ride takes you deep into the underground passageways that were used as air raid shelters during World War II. As you journey into the darkness, you pass through a witch’s lair, a giant’s cave and a miner’s cavern, eventually arriving at an Arabian city where you witness an electric thunderstorm.
The underground railway is dark. Lights flash, voices chant and props dance. My daughter was enthralled but other kids were scared. Die Garzer Marchenbahn is recommended for children who are four years or older and who are not afraid of the dark. It’s cold inside the tunnels, so in warmer months pack a sweater. Tickets can be ordered online or at the ticket booth.
Schlossberg: A train, a hill and moldering battlements
After you’ve finished exploring the underground tunnels of the Marchennbahn you may long for sunlight. Luckily, parkland to roam and the remnants of a castle to explore are literally right above your head. The paths of Schlossberg are hilly but wide. It’s easy to walk around with a stroller. After you’ve ambled and enjoyed the view of the sprawling city below, why not recharge at one of the cafes? You can reach the summit via a lift, a seemingly endless flight of stairs that rests on the side of the hill or on the outdoor train (yes, that’s right, Graz provides many opportunities for train lovers to indulge).
Schloss Eggenberg: Play in an enchanted woods
Austria is filled with places that look straight out of a period drama. As we walked the tree-lined avenue to Schloss Eggenberg I expected to see Westley and Buttercup ride across the parkland on their quest for true love. Nestled in the outer suburbs, the UNESCO World Heritage site is a remnant of a bygone era. As you roam across the acres of parkland and manicured gardens it is easy to lose your sense of time. Only occasional glimpses of apartments on the outskirts of the park remind you that you’re still in the 21st century.
The 17th century Romantic palace is on our list of things to do in Graz for kids for one amazing reason: the outdoor areas. The parkland and gardens offer hours of outdoor play. There is a children’s playground tucked away in a side corner. There are ponds with their ducks, woods to explore, a pavilion cafe and manicured gardens. Children can even watch peacocks strut through the rose gardens. Inside the palace you will find immaculately decorated state rooms—budding scientists may enjoy the room decorated with paintings of planets and stars. But for a toddler on the go the wide outdoor parkland was perfect. We visited in winter and can’t wait to see Schloss Eggenberg in the spring.
Details parents want to know
Transport: Graz has well-connected pram-friendly public transport. For up-to-date timetables and plans download the Qando Graz app.
How to get there: Graz is an easy train or bus ride from Vienna. For details download the OBB Scotty app.
Where to stay: Graz Tourismus has collated a list of child-friendly accommodation.
More ideas: See Graz Tourismus for further suggestions for a fun-filled family getaway to Graz.
Have you been to Graz?
What was your favourite child-friendly activity?
Disclaimer: This post does not contain sponsored content. All opinions are my own. Have fun exploring.