Travel Guide: Innsbruck, Austria

by E.A. (Eleanor Anne) Colquitt

Skiing and sledging may spring easily to mind when thinking of this Alpine city, but Innsbruck offers more than the usual snow sports with its rich history and, of course, spectacular scenery.

Accommodation and sports in Innsbruck

Having twice hosted the Winter Olympic Games, it’s no wonder that Innsbruck is a popular place to visit. You can choose between nine ski resorts, from the professional atmosphere of Axamer Lizum, to the beginner-friendly Muttereralm. Snow sports not your thing? The Lanser See doubles as an ice rink in winter and a swimming pool in summer. There are also several hiking trails in the area.

The city, too, has many opportunities to stay active. The Kletterzentrum, for example, has an impressive climbing wall and offers an €11.50 day ticket for students. Places to stay range from modern tower blocks to traditional Tyrolean guesthouses. Like music history? You can stay in the Weisses Kreuz, a hotel in the Altstadt once visted by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Transport in Innsbruck

Innsbruck is an easy place to get around. Being a small city, many attractions are in walking distance, but the public transport system is also a great option. You can use your tickets for both the buses (marked with letters) and the trams (marked with numbers), and single journeys cost €2.40 each.

There are also 8-journey tickets (€14.60), which are valid until all eight journeys are made, however long that takes. There’s no specific expiry date. Sightseer? Buy a 24-hour, hop-on, hop-off bus ticket with the same name. It’s normally €17, but free if you have an Innsbruck Card (see below), and takes you around the city’s most famous areas.

Innsbruck’s ins and outs

As a university city, most attractions have student concession prices, but you can also buy the Innsbruck Card. It lasts 24, 48 or 72 hours, depending on your needs, and offers discounts on a wide range of popular activities. Perfect for a weekend break.

A good place to start exploring is the Altstadt, where you can find the Golden Roof. Innsbruck’s most famous symbol, it’s a late-medieval balcony with a gilded copper roof, used by Emperor Maximilian I to watch events in the square below. Like many buildings in the Altstadt, it’s decorated with beautiful frescoes, and, while you’re there, check out the Golden Roof museum.

The city houses many museums. If history’s your thing, the Imperial Palace is a great option. There, you can walk around apartments belonging to past Austrian royalty, and the Giant’s Hall houses many splendid portraits of the Habsburg family, including Marie Antoinette. Scientifically minded? Audioversum is an exciting interactive experience dedicated to sound and hearing.

You don’t have to go far from the city to appreciate the spectacular views. There are various cable cars on the mountain ranges to the north and south, and you can even see parts of Italy from the top of the Bergisel ski jump. Then there’s the Alpenzoo. One of the highest zoos in Europe, it cares for solely Alpine creatures, from brown bears to freshwater fish. And Swarovski Crystal Worlds (half museum, half work of art), was opened to celebrate 100 years of the Austrian jewel business and showcases many sparkling displays. Shiny…

Food and drink in Innsbruck

Innsbruck is proud to be capital of the state of Tyrol, and sampling the local dishes is easy. One good option is the restaurant at the Weisses Rössl hotel. Like many restaurants in the area, it serves traditional Tyrolean cuisine, from knödel (thick, bread-based dumplings) to gröstl (a bacon, onion and potato fry-up). It’s delicious, hearty, and fills you up in no time. For a taste of the general country, Strudel-Cafe Kröll is dedicated to Austrian strudel, sweet and savoury. And Vapiano’s – next to the Triumphal Arch – serves excellent, freshly-made Italian food.

The city is generally quieter during the night, but that doesn’t mean it loses its healthy, vibrant atmosphere. There are the usual tourist spots (two Irish pubs and a large casino in the city centre), but the bars Treibhaus and the Bäckerei often host events like open mic nights and independent art exhibitions. Whether you’re looking for a lively evening of apres-ski, or a quieter, hipster-esque experience, Innsbruck has something for everyone.

Further afield

With its city-centre train station, Innsbruck is also the perfect place to set out from on day trips. Austria has many areas that are well worth visiting, from the cities of Salzburg and Vienna to smaller Alpine towns like Hall im Tirol, and Alpbach. All, like Innsbruck, are rich in history, activity and scenery. The surrounding European countries are also easy to explore: Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy are all 3.5 hours away (on average), depending on where you want to go.

Innsbruck, then, is an ideal city break: active and cultured, urban yet surrounded by nature. You can visit on its own, or as part of a journey across Europe. All in all, the city is beautiful, varied, and somewhere you can definitely keep going back to.

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