Culture comes in many forms. A place that combines most of these is Graz, the provincial capital of Styria (Steiermark). In 2003 the city was accorded the accolade, Cultural Capital of Europe. Since then, a slew of prestigious events crowding into the city's already busy cultural calendar. For details of these, visit the tourist office website graztourismus.at/en.
The designation, first granted in 1985 (to Athens), focuses on culture at a local, regional, national and international level. The international recognition this title confers has heralded a €57 million investment into the city's infrastructure and its events program.
Returning visitors to Graz have seen major changes over the past 10 years, not least in the rebuilt railway station and in the refurbished Hauptplatz. A floating amphitheater, café, and children's playground was opened on the River Mur. A futuristic new Kunsthaus was built, as were a children's museum and a house of literature. The Helmut List concert hall opened its doors the Stadthalle events center was finished in 2002.
These additions complement the numerous top-line attractions that the city already boasted. Most tourists were already aware of the gleaming metalware of the medieval Landeszeughaus, where fine workmanship and delicate engraved designs belie the brutal purpose of the 30,000 pieces of weaponry and armor that they grace. For a perfectly-composed vista, open one of the 4th-floor windows which face the Landhaus courtyard and the Schlossberg hill. The armory is bang in the center at Herrengasse 16, and is open daily except Monday.
West of the center, but easily reached by Tram No 1, is the astronomically-themed Schloss Eggenberg at Eggenbergen Allee 90 (closed Monday. It bursts with Baroque pomp in its state rooms, and also hosts a couple of reasonably diverting museum collections. Even if you don't go inside, you can enjoy roaming amongst the peasants in the palace's extensive park lands.
Less mainstream sights include the small but interesting Museum of Perception, where your five senses will be tested and tricked. It's at Friedrichgasse 41, and opens from 2pm-6.30pm Wednesday-Monday.
Culture, at a stretch, can even encompass the activities of local boy Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nowadays well-known as the former governor of California and a muscle-clad hero in Hollywood epics, Arnie started his career as just another bodybuilder. You can get an idea of how he acquired those famous muscles at Graz's football stadium, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadion. Within the building is a gym where Arnie once worked out. It's visited by numerous tourists, despite the fact that there's relatively little to see beyond a few pictures and bench presses. Find it south of the center at Stadionplatz 1; admission is free and its open 6am-10pm Monday to Friday, 10am-9pm weekends and holidays.