|Graz developed at the spot where the river Mur
(see also Murradweg) flows into a wide plain, after flowing down from a
hilly, narrow region.
The city's past and present development was significantly influenced by the area's existing geological and geographical features. The River Mur, which flows from north to south cuts the city in half, hilly regions flank the north, the east and the west of the city and the Schlossberg mountain in the city centre is only a short distance away from the river.
The streets that surround the city centre stretch out in all directions and are connected by small alleys, between which buildings fill up the web-like structure. Seventeen district surround the city in circular formand their contemporary social fabric reflects not only when they were built, but also the circumstances of their growth, as well as their economic importance.
The architecture of the 'Altstadt', or Old Town, consists largely of huge rows of houses, many of which date back to medieval times and many of them are grouped around several smaller squares and alleys (Kälbernes Viertel). The Schlossberg, the City Park and the river Mur separate it from the rest of the city and moreover, UNESCO recently named this part of Graz a venue of 'World Cultural Heritage'.
Apart from its historical and cultural significance, Old Town is also where many of the town's social life is played out. There are numerous restaurants such as the Restaurant Maroni) and cultural events such as the Steirischer Herbst. The city also gets very busy on Carnival Tuesday (Faschingsdienstag) and during the City Fair. On warm summer evening, it can be difficult to find your way through the masses of people, all of whom are looking for a free table at a café or a bar like the Mohrenwirt.
In the north, east and south of the city centre, you will find the St. Leonhard, Jakomini and Geidorf (Geidorf-Kunstkino) districts, which changed from being suburban to upper-middle class residential areas in the 19th century. As is to be expected, these districts are full of historical houses and other architecturally interesting buildings, such as the Herz-Jesu Church and the Technical University Karl-Franzens-University. Geidorf is also home to parks such as the Augarten, where you can find the MuWa, which is the 'Museum of Perception'.
The eastern part of Geidorf is also home to some impressive turn-of-the-century villas. Despite its potential for a residential feel, the areas atmosphere of this district, just like that St. Leonhard and Jakomini, is dominated by the university. Considering that there are nearly 40.000 students and numerous staff, this is not really surprising though!
The western bank of the River Mur, which is opposite the Old Town, is divided between the Gries and Lend districts, the latter of which is known for its (Farmer's Market). They complete the inner ring of districts that surround the Old Town and architecturally speaking, this part of Graz is full of baroque buildings, such as the Minoriten Monastery.
In the 19th century, Gries and Lend were centres of trade and much of the traffic that passed through the city stopped here. Today, they are known for their multicultural population: many different nationalities have found a home here, there are lots of different shops and nightlife at venues such as the Bang!, continues to thrive.
A further eleven districts surround the neighbourhoods that surround the Old Town. Most of them were once small villages, which were incorporated into Graz in 1938. Although areas such as St. Peter or Gösting (Ruine Gösting) still have a very intimate feel, the majority of these districts are actually modern residential features. Those in the south have managed to cover a vast area, but some, like Andritz, Puntigam and Liebegau (where the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadion is), are Graz's most important centres of industry and business.
Graz's outer districts, which have lots of forests and meadows, have a slightly rural feel. The locals tend to take advantage of the fact that you can get to places such as the 'Buschenschank' in a relatively short time, either by bicycle or by public transport. In addition, hilly areas such as Rosenhain, Leechwald and Ruckelberg in the east of the city, provide further oppurtunities of being at one with nature.