Innsbruck was one of the best travel detours we ever had. We were supposed to travel straight from Liechtenstein to Budapest, but with every intention of avoiding a fifteen hour train ride, we decided to stop in Innsbruck, Austria.
What was supposed to be an overnight experience evolved into a four day vacation.
Situated in the heart of the Alps, the Innsbruck region offers a wealth of contrasts in a very concentrated area.
We explored high alpine regions we never dreamed of seeing with panoramic views of the valley and by way of contrast, the hustle and bustle of the city kept us alert with its Olympic ski jump, historical palaces and busy shopping centers.
This alpine-urban combination is what kept us completely entranced with this stimulating destination.
Driven by culture, tradition, nature and innovation, Innsbruck offers such contrasts in perspectives that you can never get bored.
Here's how you can enjoy Austria's top ski resort in the summer..
Day one we headed off straight from the heart of the city into the great outdoors to take in one of nature’s most spectacular views. There are many ways to enjoy Innsbruck’s mountain ranges and with tons of hiking and biking trails up and down the mountain, it’s a trek you can make more than once. The exercise up can be gentle or intense depending on your preference but all activities provide an unforgettable encounter with the impressive mountains.
Hiking/Biking Up the Mountain
We hiked the peaks of the Nordkette Mountains and down one of the main hiking trails. There are tons of trails that meander through the Innsbruck region ranging from entry level green trails to a challenging distance hike. No matter which trail you decide to take, the physical challenge, refreshing mountain air and spectacular views will leave you constantly in awe.
If you into rock climbing, the mountains offer a wide range of options for climbers of all abilities from climbing in idyllic solitude or with views of the city, to bouldering rock formations deep in the mountain.
For passionate bicyclists, Innsbruck has a wide range of trails on both sides of the city. The Nordkette Mountains holds some of the toughest downhill routes in Europe.
For a challenge..Try the Nordkette Singletrail (one of the most difficult trails in all of Europe)
We saw many people biking both up and down the mountain. One of the more common things to do is to take the leisure route up the mountain and then bike through more back-country trails on the way down.
Though the long meandering path up may be wide and seem fairly easy, keep in mind its is a constant uphill challenge! You can also take your bicycle in the cable car up the mountain and enjoy the views before making your way down on your bike…without the physical strain (its probably what we would have done).
Taking the Cable Car Up
A cable car leaving from Hungerburg brought us up the mountain and in no time at all we were high above the city, looking down from the Nordkette mountains. If you are starting your voyage in Old Town then you can easily take this route:
-Start at Congress Stationàtake the Nordkettenbahnen funicular up to the Hungerburg-
-Take the cable car up to Seegrube -
-At the end of the Perspectives Trail continue the gondola lift up to the HafelekaràWalk on the Hafelekar summit-
We took a trail up to Hungerburg and then proceeded to take the cable car up the mountain for panoramic views of the city and the Nordkette peaks. Once we made it to Hafelekar and were standing at 2,334m on the “Top of Innsbruck” we had the city at our feet.
It is one of the most spectacular views that we have ever encountered. From the peak, people were jumping off and paragliding left and right. Some were heading off trail to explore more of the more undiscovered area of the Nordkette mountain range.
We hiked to Seegrube and stopped there for an hour to enjoy the view over a refreshing drink and hearty lunch. The Seegrube restaurant is well known among hikers and adventure seekers. The award winning restaurant is set both indoors and outdoors and will serve you Austria’s finest local cuisine. After enjoying Innsbruck’s highest sun terrace, we prepared for our long three hour hike down the mountain.
Innsbruck’s home mountain to the south of the city is a skiing and hiking paradise with 360 degree panoramic view over the city.
The view sweeps from the Wipptal valley over the Stubaital and Inntal valleys to the Nordkette mountains opposite.
The easy way up the summit is on the modern cable car. From there you can follow the Stone Pine Trail, a varied and popular hiking trail with the views over the city rooftops.
A skiing history has become famous on this mountain. The downhill runs in the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics and the legendary descent of Franz Klammer as well as the biggest team success in World Cup History have happened on this mountain.
The city of Innsbruck is home to many cherished treasures and full of narrow alleys leading from one architectural jewel to another. Walk along the rushing river and you can discover magnificent architecture, enjoy fine dining and shop! Along with its major sights, squares and museums, Innsbruck is also known for its smaller boutiques, shops, restaurants and bars.
Here are 10 major highlights of Innsbruck that you MUST see
1. Old Town’s Golden Roof and City Tower
This medieval town is home to the world famous Golden Roof, a glittering landmark with a 51 meter high tower with a viewing platform. No fewer than 2,657 gold plated copper tiles cover the Golden Roof. The best view of the Golden Roof and the rooftops of the Old Town can be enjoyed from the City Tower. What used to be a lookout and a prison, the striking tower is now open to visitors and invites them to climb 133 steps to the viewing platform.
2. Cathedral of St James
This magnificent baroque cathedral has two distinctive church towers and is the largest and most extensive carillon in Austria..with 48 bells! Which, by the way, you will most likely hear every morning...
3. Imperial Palace & Imperial Gardens
One of the most important cultural buildings in Austria, the Imperial Palace boasts the splendor of the bygone days and the gardens serve as a green oasis on the heart of the city. Two important women are associated with the Imperial Palace; Maria Theresa and Empress Elisabeth. Next to the palace are the Imperial Gardens which have been remodeled several times over the course of 600 years.
4. Court Church & Regional Heritage Museum
The church houses the empty tomb of Emperor Maximilian I, the largest European imperial monument of all times, and the museum has the most important cultural heritage collection covering the history of Tyrol. During his lifetime, Emperor Maximilian I, concerned about how he would be remembered, commissioned the casting of larger-than-life statues to decorate his tomb.
This magnificent shopping avenue with sumptuous Baroque buildings is perfect for strolling, eating, and of course..shopping. At the end of the street you will spot the Triumphal Arch which was ordered by Empress Maria Theresa to mark the wedding of her son Archduke Leopold. Whether you are shopping for small knick knacks and souvenirs or searching for exclusive items in sport and fashion wear, Innsbruck has plenty of special things to offer. We spent a few hours ourselves in snow shops to browse the new winter gear for our next skiing trip!
6. Ambras Castle
This magnificent Renaissance castle also happens to be the world’s oldest museum. The Ambras Castle is also surrounded by a garden worth walking around. On display, are more than 200 art pieces by well known artists such as Lucas Cranach, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthonis van Dyck and Diego Velásquez. The Spanish Hall is one of the most beautiful freestanding halls 43 metres in length and has a remarkable partially gilded ceiling.
7. Tirol Panorama
Located on a mountain steeped in history, this modern museum is an integral part of the whole Bergisel experience. The circular hiking trail is about 2.2km long , starts at the museum and goes right around the Bergisel. It has everychanging views of the city and offers wonderful scenery leading to the Zaha Hadid’s ski jump.
The museum houses the Giant Panoramic Painting which shows the Tyrolean freedom struggle of 1809. The Bergisel hill itself was actually the scene of a legendary battle in which Tyrolean freedom fighters defeated a Bavarian army under French command. It offers fantastic panoramic views of the city and the Nordkette Mountains.
8. Bergisel Jump
The ski jump at Bergisel is one of the stations of the Four Hills Tournament. The ski jump houses a restaurant and viewing platform. We got to the top using the inclined lift and in just two minutes we were 250 metres above Innsbruck. We were lucky to see an Austrian practice his jumping skills and use the ski jump…twice!
9. Swarovski Crystal Worlds
This sparking world is full of crystal in every color, shape and size. To mark their 100th anniversary, Swarovski commissioned a multimedia artist to create the internationally famous Crystal Worlds. The world is guarded by a water-spouting giant that leads to 16 chambers of sparking crystals. One of its outdoor highlights include a crystal cloud composed of 800,000 hand crafted crystals against black mirrored waters.
As we learned through experience, Innsbruck is worth much longer than a quick visit. If you have seen everything there is to offer in Innsbruck, it stands as a great starting point and base for excursions deeper into Austria.
Here is a list of top places to visit around Innsbruck. Just a thirty minute drive away, many of these hot spots can be turned into a fun day trip.
Perfect for summer, Area 47 has plenty of outdoor activities for everyone. Whether you want to raft on the River Inn or take an exciting cave tour in the Ötztal valley, you will always be entertained at Europe’s largest outdoor water park.
This is the most modern and architecturally impressive spa resort in the Alps! Lying in the heart of the Ötztal valley, the wellness paradise provides views of the impressive 3000m peaks.
The largest glacier ski area in Austria, the Stubai Glacier gets snow from October to June and is accessible 30 meters deep for the most beautiful panoramic view from the summout platform Top of Tyrol at 3,210 meters.
This impressive castle is nestled in the Inn Valley and was originally a fortress against Bavaria.
Three years after filming the “Spectre” in Solden, a cinema adventure world was created in James Bond’s honor on the Gaislachkogel at 3,040 meters. Right next door is the ice Q film location and the restaurant with a stylish gourmet cuisine.
Tyrol’s largest lake has stunning turquoise water and nestles in the breathtaking mountain landscape of the Karwendel and Rofan mountains. You can take a cruise across the lake with the Achensee Shipping Company to get a full experience of this magnificent lake.