It’s been a long while to return to one of the less visited countries I’ve been to in Europe, although I can proudly say I’ve been to some of the greatest cities of course with Vienna and Salzburg, and smaller Bregenz, the westernmost city of Austria right by the Lake Constance. Not many places nevertheless, and still missing to reach Linz, Klagenfurt and Graz hopefully in the near future at other trips. For now, let’s concentrate in the capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck.
While it’s the 5th largest city in the country, majority of tourism are winter visitors coming to what’s known one of the best sky resorts in Europe, the largest in the Alps. Within a short distance to the city centre you have great sky stations and circuits of any kind. So while the winter months is peak season for Innsbruck, during the the summer months it was way more laid back and quiet. Both seasons offer a totally different view of the city and its surroundings. One the snowy postcard-perfect view of the Alps, the other the green and rocks of the mighty mountains.
A vibrant city full of history and culture, capital of Tyrol since 1429 which gained its further push and importance after emperor Maximilian I moved the imperial court to Innsbruck in the 1490s. Churches, palaces and grand buildings, gardens and statues were built and there standing today even considering some destruction after the WWII raids.
A day is good enough to enjoy pretty much every sight including the cable car to the mountain top. Being so easy to navigate, short distances overall in between the sights and not a big size, it is perfect for a day, or a weekend at most. Of course this is a different story if your intentions here are the snow sports, still, winter tourism do dedicate a day for the city too.
Finding a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner is straightforward. Not only most of them are great places so nothing to worry to fall into a “tourist trap”, they are also quite reasonable in price. If you like to save the time in figuring out where to go and what to get, easy, head to Stiftskeller Restaurant, located at Stiftgasse 1-7 in Burggraben Street in the old town. You have everything there in the menu, from a great Wiener Schnitzel, to all kinds of meats, great sausages, stews and of course, fantastic beers all at a perfect price.
For more information about Innsbruck check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Austria’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Innsbruck
- Old Town Located at the north of the city, with the river along its western boundary, and pretty much in a circular shape. Very small yet full of sights.
-Hofgarten Surrounding the northern boundary of the Old Town, bordering the Imperial Hofburg, Kongresshaus and the Tyrolean State Theatre. The biggest park within the city limits.
-Jain Jacob’s Cathedral In Baroque style, yet mostly taking its look from the restoration of 1724 after an earthquake damaged the structure.
-Imperial Hofburg One of the former Habsburg palaces, being the other two the Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palaces both in Vienna. It was built from 1460 under the reign of Archduke Sigismund. Enlarged and transformed over the centuries, the outside look of today is mostly the Baroque renovation made under the will of Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780).
-Hofkirche The Court Church, home to the most important tomb’s monument not just in the city, but said among the whole of Europe, that of Emperor Maximilian I. Impressive detail of sculptures adorning each side completes the art work. 5 Euros to enter. Located just south from the Hofburg.
-Tyrolean State Theatre Facing the Imperial Hofburg creating a nice open space and square. Dating from 1846, although the original first scenic house here dates back to 1629.
-Old University Just south of the Theatre, after the Hofkirche. It was a Jesuit college, where it stands the Jesuit Church attached to the complex of buildings.
-Herzog-Friedrich-Straße Acting like a central square in the Old Town, yet narrow. One of the main sights in the city completely surrounded by beautiful architecture.
-Goldenes Dachl The Golden Roof House as it translates is one of the most important sights in the city. Built in 1500 upon requests of Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza. Its beauty lies in the Gothic balcony with 2657 fire-gilded copper tiles. You will see it at the northern end of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße.
-Helblinghaus Opposite the Golden Roof, this is one of the finest rococo houses in the city.
-Old City Hall With the landmark tower Stadturm, also at the northern end of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße.
-Old Bridge Although not old anymore, this is the place where it stood the original bridge over the river Inn from here the city name derives.
- Innsbruck South Surrounding the southern boundary of the Old Town, it completes the remaining area of the city and its sights.
-Maria-Theresien Straße The major thoroughfare in Innsbruck, the actual continuation south from Herzog-Friedrich-Straße.
-Annasäule Saint Anna Column, or just City Column. Created in 1706 as a memorial of the retreat of the Bavarian troops in 1703 on Saint Anne’s Day, 26th July, as part of the War of the Spanish Succession. Right at the front of the New City Hall.
-New City Hall Located in a former hotel building, with a beautiful annex created in 2002 by French architect Dominique Perrault that you can get in as part of a gallery and shopping arcades.
-Triumphal Arch Continuing south along Maria Theresien. Built in 1765 to commemorate the marriage of archduke Leopold and the Spanish princess Maria Luisa.
- Outside of the city Although considered sights within the city limits, these are located outside of the main core and require some public transportation to reach.
-Ambras Castle One of the most celebrated sights, located at the south east of the city. Built in the 16th century atop the remains of a 10th century castle structure in renaissance style. It contains of the greatest collections of armoury in Europe, among other treasures such as the Spanish Hall, one of the best freestanding halls of the Renaissance. 10 Euros entrance.
-Hungerburgbahn The hybrid cable car and funicular system linking downtown with Hungerburg Hill where you can then connect with the cable car towards the much higher Nordkette mountain where some sky resorts are. The four stations were designed by Zaha Hadid, hence a sight on its own even if you do not ride it.
-Bergiselschanze South of the city, this spectacular sky jump tower was designed by architect Zaha Hadid in 2001. If you like to enter the grounds (when no events happening) costs 9 Euros. Although from different parts of the city you will get to see it.
Kranebitten International Airport is merely 4 kilometres west of the city centre, making it extremely easy accessible, fast and inexpensive via the F Line bus for 2.40 Euros per way. You can buy the tickets at the machine right by the bu stop, and so from the city centre the same way. No matter which bus line you take all do cost the same. Not many airlines offer direct routes here, although during the winter months are your best bet to find a connection. The “nearest” bigger airport is Munich, however considering you will then need to take a train to Innsbruck (quite expensive!), it would be wise to rather find an alternative as an interconnecting flight.
Coming overland is a good option, especially within Austria. The railway network is fantastic, yet not the fastest, although one of the most beautiful for the landscapes for sure. Also from neighbouring countries such as Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy the connections are great, either being railways or motorways. Long distance buses criss-cross Europe being Innsbruck a major pan-European transport hub.
Within the city, everything tourist-wise worthy is easily accessible on foot. Distances are small, streets really nice and beautiful and through the old town core, mostly pedestrian only. This is a city you do not just go from a sight to the other, but enjoy the way in between and majority of the buildings are sights on their own.
There are trams and buses covering every neighbourhood, and a fascinating hybrid cable car-funicular railway linking the downtown with Hungerburg Hill offering incredible views of the city and the surrounding Alps. The 4 stations were designed by genius architect Zaha Hadid. From Hungerburg you can take the cable car farther up to the sky resorts at the top of the Nordkette.
Since this was a day trip, there is little I can say about accommodation here in Innsbruck other than the usual, checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.