Mariazell
Austria,  Destinations,  Europe

Visit Mariazell – A Place of Pilgrimage in Styria, Austria

Last Updated on August 3, 2021 by Lina

Actually, I prefer traveling abroad rather than exploring my own country. However, in the past few weeks, I decided to plan some day trips to places not far from my home. Due to my studies, I just didn’t have enough time to travel far away. One of the places I recently went to was a small city called Mariazell, which is a very important and popular pilgrimage place in Styria.

Since I was a child, I’ve been to Mariazell a few times but not in the last couple of years. Luckily, my sister and I had the brilliant idea to take a day trip there as it’s only a 50-minute drive away. It was so nice being there again after such a long time and the place really reminded me of my childhood. I almost forgot how lovely and fascinating this city really is!

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Facts About Mariazell

Mariazell is a small city with approximately 3700 people living there. It’s located in the eastern part of the federal state Styria and home to the Mariazell Basilica which is one of the most visited shrines in Europe. Thus it’s no wonder that thousands of people visit the city every year. Moreover, it’s one of the many catholic pilgrimage destinations in Europe.

City Center
City center

Exploring Mariazell on a Day

Mariazell isn’t that big so we combined our visit with an afternoon at Erlaufsee which is a lake not far from the city. We left at around 10 am and arrived at Mariazell less than an hour later. Luckily, there weren’t that many people so we found a free parking spot close to the center.

Unfortunately, you can’t park there for free so we had to buy a parking ticket. The fee was € 1.20 per hour so € 3.60 for us in total as we stayed there until 2 pm.

After we parked the car, we headed straight to the city center. On our way, we passed the Hotel Pirker Mariazellerhof – the city’s most famous hotel. The reason why it’s that well-known is very simple, however, it’s going to be a secret for now as I’m going to tell you a bit later!

Hotel Pirker Mariazellerhof
Hotel Pirker Mariazellerhof

As soon as we left the hotel behind, we took a left turn at the next corner and found ourselves at one of the city’s main roads. This road leads directly to the main square and offered us an awesome view of Mariazell Basilica.

View of Mariazell Basilica
Main road with view of Mariazell Basilica

Mariazell Basilica

The city’s church is probably the most iconic sight there. Not only because of its important status as a pilgrimage destination in Europe but the facade is a masterpiece on its own. The entire building was redesigned in Baroque style after the original one was destroyed by fire. What I particularly loved the most about it were the two red-pink towers on both sides.

Basilica with the two pink towers
Basilica with the two red-pink towers
Mariazell Basilica
Basilica from the side

Although it’s already super pretty from outside, as soon as you go inside the basilica you’ll be stunned by all the details! Unfortunately, it wasn’t allowed to take photos inside so I can’t show you. It basically means you need to go there and see it on your own! 😀

When my sister and I entered the church, there was still a mass going on. Thus we had to wait for a while before we were allowed to wander around. Honestly, I was really fascinated and amazed by the beautifully designed nave.

Back outside, I noticed the bright red door in the middle of the Mariazell Basilica. Since the original church was built in Gothic style, it’s the only remaining part designed in that particular style.

Gothic portal
Gothic portal

Candle Grotto

After we have seen enough from the front side of the basilica, we decided to continue our way to the backside of it. If my sister hadn’t been with me, I would’ve never gone there. Right behind the building is the so-called candle grotto which is basically a darkroom built in a wall.

The really special part about the room is a large number of candles that are placed there. That’s because the meaning of the candle grotto is to light candles for your deceased beloved ones. You can simply buy a candle right at the entrance for € 1 each.

Candle Grotto Mariazell
Candle grotto entrance

Souvenir Stands

The next activity we did in Mariazell was to have a look at all the different souvenir stands located next to the basilica. Most of them offered stuff you can find in every typical souvenir whereas others had some really interesting things. For example, a lot of them sold the typical Mariazell gastric liqueur – a fine liqueur with more than 33 herbs.

Moreover, since it’s a pilgrimage destination, the majority of souvenirs had something to do with religion as well.

Souvenir Stands
Souvenir Stands Mariazell
Souvenir stands

While we were strolling around between all those stands, there was one that caught my attention. The sign on it said Pirker Lebkuchen.

Wait, Pirker? Didn’t I mention that name before? Yes I did! The hotel we passed had the same name as the stand and now I can tell you the secret why it’s that famous.

Pirker is THE lebkuchen producer in Austria per se! For more than 170 years, the family has created world-renowned lebkuchen so no wonder I hurried over and asked them if they produce vegan products as well. Luckily, the friendly staff told me they do but only in stores. So guess where we went next … You’re right!

Vegan Lebkuchen I’m coming!

Pirker Lebkuchen Sign
Lebkuchen sign

Pirker Lebkuchen

I could smell the lovely taste of freshly-baked lebkuchen before I even entered the store. Then the first thing I saw was the “Herzerlwand” – a wall full of hearts made of lebkuchen. Each of those hearts had a short saying on them which is a very typical thing to get in Austria or Southern Germany. Usually, they say something like “I love you” or “All the best”.

Herzerlwand Pirker Lebkuchen
Herzerlwand

I wish some of them were vegan but unfortunately not. However, since the staff from the stand before told me they do have one vegan product I was super keen to find it! Surprise, surprise it didn’t take me very long to spot it as it had a notable tag on it.

Of course, I didn’t hesitate very long, went to the cash desk and bought it. Furthermore, the shop assistant told me they’re going to launch another vegan product in August.

I guess I need to go there one more time and try it as well!

Vegan lebkuchen in Mariazell
Vegan lebkuchen

Holding the snagged baked good in my hand, I couldn’t resist trying it. Inside the lebkuchen was hand-made orange jam and it tasted very delicious. Maybe a little bit too sugary for me but still super yummy!

Pirker lebkuchen store
Pirker lebkuchen store

Pharmacy “Zur Gnadenmutter”

Last but not least, we decided to visit a pharmacy & drugstore called “Zur Gnadenmutter”. Founded in 1718, the pharmacy is especially known for its very old tradition in the manufacture of its own products. Its most famous products are the Mariazell digestive drops what most people use to relieve stomach ache.

Seriously, I’ve never seen such a big pharmacy before. I felt like they had everything! Undoubtedly, you can find something to cure every little pain there.

In addition to medicine, you can also purchase many other things such as soaps, teas or cosmetic products. The list of stuff they offer was endless and honestly, their range flashed me so much!

The next time I suffer from any kind of pain, I know exactly where I need to go!

Pharmacy "Zur Gnadenmutter"
Front of the pharmacy

Even though we had only a three-hour stay in Mariazell, I enjoyed every single moment of it. It is just such a charming and fantastic place to be. There can be tons of people running around it still radiates pure calmness and that’s what I truly love about the city!

If you want to explore more of Austria, what about going to Burgenland – one of the most famous wine regions?

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Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources:

Flights: I prefer using CheapOair or Skyscanner to book flights. The destination everywhere feature is perfect for finding some cheap deals!

Accommodation: Booking.com is my favorite site to find some great hotel deals. I do love staying at a local place as well, thus I book an Airbnb every now and then.

Travel Insurance: There are many reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having one. I use the simple and flexible one from World Nomads to be protected against unforeseen events.

Tours: I love taking tours to explore destinations like a local. My favorite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Camera Gear: I use a Nikon D5300 camera with an 18-105 mm and a 10-20 mm wide-angle lens to take my photos.   

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