Schloss Eggenberg, Graz, Austria 1

Schloss Eggenberg, Graz, Austria 1

The Schloss Eggenberg (Eggenberg Palace) is a down-and-out joy to explore. It has meandering gardens, peacocks in heat, astrological wonders, archaeological bits and bobs, and one stupendous art museum – the Alte Galerie. Not bad for a suburban complex.

Early Days

The Schloss wasn’t always in suburbia, of course. When Balthasar Eggenberger, wily financier to Frederick III, bought the land in the 15th century, the west of Graz was still a green and pleasant land. On the back of his father’s wealth, Balthasar built a residence and a Gothic chapel. You can still view the chapel today.

Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg

God was all very well and good, but Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, Balthasar’s great-grandson had bigger dreams for his family seat. The Austrian equivalent of Cardinal Richelieu, Hans Ulrich was the righthand man of the Catholic crusader, Ferdinand II. As the Governor of Inner Austria, he wanted something suitably grandiose and he wanted it yesterday.

But that was just the start of Eggenberg demands. As a man-about-Europe, Hans Ulrich decided his home should form its own cosmological utopia. The rational world of astrological harmony (or something like that) would be reflected in every window pane and floor tile.

Enter Giovanni Pietro de Pomis. Using the El Escorial in Spain as a basis for the design, de Pomis began work on the “new” Schloss. The medieval bones were covered in the flesh of towers and arcades. De Pomis died in 1631, before the Schloss was complete, but his foremen helped finished it off.

Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg

Yet, despite de Pomis’s hard work, the Schloss still played second fiddle to the family’s city residence, the Stadtpalais. It wasn’t until 1685 that Hans Ulrich’s grandson, Johann Seyfried, gussied up the state rooms and filled the place with tapestries and furniture. And that was grand – until the male line of the Eggenbergs ran out. For some years, the Schloss was left in a state of neglect.

Maria Eleonora

Bring on the ladies. In the 18th century, the state rooms had another makeover, this time by Maria Eleonora, wife of Johann Leopold Count Herberstein and the last princess of Eggenberg. Herberstein was busy creating staircases at the Stadtpalais, so the aging Maria Eleonora – known to her peers as the Old Fairy – probably decided where to place the East Asian silks and shepherdesses.

The Eggenbergs continue to live in the Schloss up until 1939. In the months before World War Two, the palace became the possession of the state of Styria. After the Germans, Allies, and Russian troops had vanished from the corridors, it was restored and re-opened.

Visiting Tips

The Schloss is open Tuesday – Sunday (and public holidays), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April to October. Admission only as part of the guided tour.

The gardens are open all year-round (8 a.m. – 7 p.m. from April to October and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. form November to March). You will have to pay a nominal fee even if you only want to see the grounds.

You can reach Schloss Eggenberg via tram from the Hauptplatz or the Jakominiplatz. Take Tram Line 1 and get off at the Schloss Eggenberg stop (just after the sports complex). Signs for the Schloss lead you down a side street and into the entrance of the gardens.

The tram ride takes around 15 minutes and plonks you down in suburban Graz. On the day we visited, nuns from the Corpus Christi Procession were returning from the city with designer shopping bags in hand.