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A Short History of the City

Former times © Karl A. Kubinzky 
Former times © Karl A. Kubinzky

5000 years ago, the city of Graz was nothing but a steep, rocky hill by the river Mur. In the years since the Neolithic era, the hill has become today's "Schlossberg", and many events have formed the vibrant city that we know. The first significant date in Graz’s history is the year 1128, marking the first documented reference to the city. 250 years later, in 1379, Graz had grown enough to be designated capital of "Inner Austria", an area which comprised Styria and Carinthia, along with Carniola, Inner Istria and Trieste (now parts of present-day Slovenia, Croatia and Italy). As the capital of Inner Austria, Graz was residence to the Habsburg dynasty until 1619.

In the subsequent decades, Italian architects and craftsmen came and literally shaped the city with their building skills. Graz served as a mighty stronghold of the Holy Roman Empire against threats from the southeast. Then, during the Napoleonic Wars, the last walls of the castle fell without even being stormed. The citizens of Graz, however, paid the invaders to spare both the Glockenturm and the Uhrturm, the clock tower and bell tower that crown the Schlossberg. This "insurance" cost the citizens 2987 gulden and 11 kreutzer, around 87,000 euros in today's money. It seemed a fair price to have paid for two buildings which are now famous Graz landmarks.

Since then, the city has distinguished itself primarily in the fields of science, culture and technology. Today, Graz is the capital of the province of Styria. With about a quarter of a million inhabitants, Graz is Austria’s second largest city.

Graz as Melting Pot

The city lies at the crossroads of European culture. Romanic, Slavic, Hungarian and Alpine-Germanic influences have all mingled here and formed a uniquely distinctive character. Wandering through the old town, you can experience one of the largest historic architectural ensembles in the German-speaking world. Moreover, this varied cultural character can be seen in buildings ranging in style from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Historicism up to Art Nouveau. On December 1, 1999, this exceptional city centre, which until the present had only a few examples of modern architecture, became a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. The award was a great honour for Graz, but it also poses a great challenge and a mandate to continue efforts to further preserve the old town. Graz's multicultural tradition has characterized the city for decades, and continues to form the base of its cultural and political identity. To this day, Graz is a place of international encounter as well as intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

Looking to the Future

The Styrian capital is increasingly renowned for its exemplary efforts for sustainability. The Ökoprofit and Thermoprofit  partnerships, for example, successfully guide businesses to be more environmentally friendly, conserve energy and thereby also save money. These innovative projects have already been adopted by many other international cities.

Graz also continues to flourish culturally. 2003 was one of the most significant years in our history. The city was named "Cultural Capital of Europe" by the EU Ministries of Culture, and a colourful cultural program attracted visitors from all over the world. The city has sustained this success and is rapidly regaining a significant place on the global map so that, it is now mentioned on the same level as Vienna and Salzburg.

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