There are tourist locations for ‘seeing’ and others for ‘doing’: Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, is both. Perfect for both summer and winter holidays, Innsbruck is a charming city of medieval origin nestled between Alpine peaks of extraordinary beauty: a successful marriage of urban and mountain ambience.
It is a city where you can enjoy romantic experiences such as shopping at the Christmas market, an afternoon at the thermal baths and a visit to the bell museum, or you can test your courage with continuous adrenalin rushes by throwing yourself down 70% steep ski slopes, reaching 100 kmh on an Olympic bobsleigh run or throwing yourself off a 192 metre high bridge (and these are just a few examples!).
In the evening, you can retreat to a typical restaurant to enjoy the specialities of Tyrolean cuisine, perhaps adding a classical or folk music concert to the evening programme, or regain your strength in the hotel and then let loose to the rhythms of dance and electronic music.
Situated at 574 metres above sea level, the old town of Innsbruck is pretty and full of cultural and historical attractions, framed by the beautiful Tyrolean Alps that seem to sprout from every corner: it is well worth a visit.
The symbol of Innsbruck is the Golden Roof Museum, a loggia that Emperor Maximilian I had built so that he could watch the tournaments taking place on the square below.
The 2,657 tiles that decorate the roof are not made of gold but of more humble copper, yet no one would dare argue with the name by which the building is known: the glitter of the sunlit roof could hardly be called anything other than ‘golden’, and it is no wonder that this is Innsbruck’s most famous image.
The museum housed inside the loggia will introduce you to the bizarre Emperor Maximilian I, customs of his time and the history of this magnificent building. During the visit you can imitate the nobleman Maximilian and admire the town square from above.
Another wonder of the Innsbruck of yesteryear is the Court Church, built in the 16th century to house the remains of Emperor Maximilian I, who died in 1519. It is the most monumental and somewhat useless imperial tomb in Europe: magnificent but empty (the emperor was buried in the Wiener Neustadt fortress).
It must be said that with so much pageantry before our eyes, the emperor is not missed 28 magnificent bronze statues, depicting ancestors and idols of Maximilian I, flank his tomb monument; the church holds other valuable art treasures including works by Albrecht Dürer, Alexander Colin and Peter Vischer the Elder.
An unmissable attraction for lovers of sport, contemporary architecture and panoramic views is the Bergisel ski jump, an iconic construction designed by award-winning Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid that looks almost like a huge glass and steel staircase stretching towards the sky – to call it a ‘sports facility’ would sound reductive.
The trampoline is still used today for professional training sessions and international level competitions: it is possible to watch training sessions from May to July, while the highlight is held in January.
At any time of the year, tourists can take a lift up to the viewing terrace at the top of the 50-metre-high tower to enjoy a magnificent view of the city of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains.
At the foot of the ski jump there is a small museum dedicated to the history of ski jumping and its legendary protagonists: admission to the museum is free with the ticket for the panoramic terrace.
Thanks to the Nordkettenbahn cable car, you can reach an altitude of 2000 metres from the city of Innsbruck in only 20 minutes. This futuristic cable car was designed by Zaha Hadid, the same mind behind the impressive ski jump, and takes you to the top of one of the jewels of the Alps, the Nordketten mountain range.
You can choose to stop at Seegrube or climb another 300 metres up to Hafelekar; once at the top you can enjoy the breathtaking spectacle of the Alps and then choose from various walks, some short and within everyone’s reach, others more difficult. On Fridays, the cable car also operates in the evenings.
Innsbruck can also boast its own imperial palace, built as a castle by Archduke Sigismund the Wealthy in the 15th century and extended by Emperor Maximilian I in the following century. However, it was Maria Theresa in the 18th century who transformed it into the elegant palace we can admire today.
After careful restoration, the palace has returned to its original splendour and can be admired in all its glory. The room that most amazes visitors is the sumptuous Riesensall or Hall of Giants, adorned with portraits and frescoes of Maria Theresa’s children.
Just outside Innsbruck, perched on a hill, is the elegant Renaissance castle of Schloss Ambras, now a museum housing three highly original collections of art, historical artefacts and oddities put together by Tyrolean nobles over the centuries, starting with Archduke Ferdinand II in the 16th century.
The Armour Collection will catapult you back to the Middle Ages while visiting the Art and Wonders section you will see unique pieces such as… a petrified shark, a chair for trapping drunken guests and other oddities. After so many oddities, the Portrait Collection will seem like something you’ve seen before, but pay attention to it because it includes paintings by the likes of Titian, van Dyck and Vélazquez.
The well-kept gardens of Schloss Ambras, rich in old plants, are a popular Sunday excursion destination for families in the area.
In Innsbruck you can find a large number of interesting museums. Here are the ones not to be missed:
For those who do not like to sit still, Innsbruck is the ideal destination: the possibilities for sports and activities in summer or winter are practically endless.
Skiing is certainly one of the most popular sports, and Innsbruck’s ski slopes are nothing short of legendary. You can enjoy classic downhill skiing as well as cross-country skiing and snowboarding, with hundreds of kilometres of slopes suitable for all levels.
Hiking enthusiasts can explore the beautiful mountains in the area with trekking; the more experienced can try their hand at challenging via ferratas and climbing.
Mountain biking tourism is also increasingly developing. There is a variety of mtb trails suitable for all levels, including the challenging Nordkette Singletrail downhill circuit that will test the most daring riders.
Other sports you can enjoy in Innsbruck are canyoning, rafting, paragliding and extreme sports. If you are a thrill-seeker, here are two experiences you absolutely must not miss.
The first is bungee jumping from the Europabrücke bridge: this is one of the scariest jumps you can do in Europe.
The other is to experience the thrill of boarding a bobsleigh in the company of a professional sportsman and whizzing along at 100 km/h on the Olympiabob-bahn, the Olympic bobsleigh track built for the 1976 Olympics: it is 800 metres long and has 10 dizzying curves.
Olympiaworld is the jewel in the crown of Innsbruck’s sports facilities: an ultra-modern complex spread over thousands of square metres where numerous sports can be practised in every season, with equipment suitable for all levels, from families to professional players.
Olympiaworld is also the venue for major events such as concerts and sports competitions.
The Innsbruck Christmas market certainly comes after those in Vienna and Salzburg, but it is still one of the most famous in Austria.
From mid-November until Epiphany, the Aldstadt, the historical heart of Innsbruck, is festively decorated and the Marktplatz hosts the traditional Christmas market, where you can buy lovely Christmas decorations, taste Tyrolean delicacies and warm yourself with mulled wine.
Beware of the Krampus
On December, the eve of St Nicholas, the traditional Krampus race takes place. Krampus are demon-goats equipped with chains and baskets who come out to hunt down naughty children and take them with them to hell. Children scream in terror, while adults have a great time watching these crazy masked men.
The Krampus is a typical Christmas figure in parts of northern Italy, Austria and Bavaria in southern Germany.
Innsbruck is a very lively city with a busy calendar of events reflecting the many souls of the Tyrolean capital.
Of course, there is no shortage of major sporting events, such as the fun-filled Tobogganing World Cup and the Four Ski Jump Tournament in which the world’s best ski jumpers compete, but Innsbruck’s calendar also includes cultural events such as classical and baroque music festivals or dance parties for the young.
With its particular characteristic of a medium-sized city surrounded by mountains, Innsbruck offers suitable accommodation for different types of holidaymakers: you can choose between hotels in the city and hotels in the mountains, from the most traditional to the most modern.
The range of accommodation in and around Innsbruck also includes holiday homes and flats, rooms in private homes, campsites and hostels. For something special treat yourself to one or more nights in a spa hotel, perhaps with a view of the mountains.
The city of Innsbruck has a modern international airport, but unfortunately does not offer many direct flights. The best connected cities are Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Eindhoven and of course Vienna.
By train you can arrive in Salzburg or Vienna and from there easily reach Innsbruck, which is well connected to all major Austrian cities. An inexpensive option, although a bit more inconvenient, are the buses of international low-cost companies.
What's the weather at Innsbruck? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Innsbruck for the next few days.