Tyrol (or Tirol) is as pure Alpine as Austria gets, with mountains that make you want to yodel out loud and patchwork pastures chiming with cowbells. Nowhere else in the country is the downhill skiing as exhilarating, the après-ski as pumping, the wooden chalets as chocolate box, the food as hearty.
Tyrol’s capital is a sight to behold. Jagged rock spires are so close that within 25 minutes it’s possible to travel from the heart of the city to over 2000m above sea level.
Summer and winter outdoor activities abound, and it’s understandable why some visitors only take a peek at Innsbruck proper before heading for the hills. But to do so is a shame, for Innsbruck is in many ways Austria in microcosm, with an authentic late-medieval Altstadt (Old Town), inventive architecture and vibrant student- driven nightlife.
What to do in Innsbruck’s?
Innsbruck’s pride and joy is the Gothic Hofkirche, one of Europe’s finest royal court churches. It was commissioned in 1553 by Ferdinand I, who enlisted top artists of the age such as Albrecht Dürer, Alexander Colin and Peter Vischer the Elder. Top billing goes to the empty sarcophagus of Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), a masterpiece of German Renaissance sculpture, elaborately carved from black marble.
Goldenes Dachl Museum
Innsbruck’s golden wonder and most distinctive landmark is this Gothic oriel, built for Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), lavishly festooned with murals and glittering with 2657 fire-gilt copper tiles. It is most impressive from the exterior, but the museum is worth a look – especially if you have the Innsbruck Card – with an audio guide whisking you through the history. Keep an eye out for the grotesque tournament helmets designed to resemble the Turks of the rival Ottoman Empire.
Golden roof museum GOOGLE MAP
Grabbing attention with its pearly white facade and cupolas, the Hofburg was built as a castle for Archduke Sigmund the Rich in the 15th century, expanded by Emperor Maximilian I in the 16th century and given a baroque makeover by Empress Maria Theresia in the 18th century. The centrepiece of the lavish rococo state apartments is the 31m-long Riesensaal (Giant’s Hall)
Picturesquely perched on a hill and set among beautiful gardens, this Renaissance pile was acquired in 1564 by Archduke Ferdinand II, then ruler of Tyrol, who transformed it from a fortress into a palace. Don’t miss the centrepiece Spanische Saal (Spanish Hall), the dazzling Armour Collection and the gallery’s Velázquez and Van Dyck originals.
The Innsbruck Card allows single entrance to Innsbruck’s main sights and attractions, a
return journey on lifts and cable cars, unlimited use of public transport including the
Sightseer bus, five-hour bike rental and numerous discounts. It’s available at the tourist
office and costs €38/48/55 for 24/48/72 hours.
Zaha Hadid’s space-age funicular runs every 15 minutes, whizzing you from the Congress Centre to the slopes in no time. Walking trails head off in all directions from Hungerburg and Seegrube. For more of a challenge, there is a downhill track for mountain bikers and two fixed-rope routes (Klettersteige) for climbers.
www.nordkette.com – 1 way/return to Hungerburg €4.80/8, to Seegrube €17.30/28.80, to Hafelekar €19.20/32;hHungerburg 7am-7.15pm Mon-Fri, 8am-7.15pm Sat & Sun, Seegrube 8.30am-5.30pm daily, Hafelekar 9am-5pm daily)
Based at Die Börse, Inntour arranges all manner of thrillseeking pursuits, including canyoning (€80), tandem paragliding (€105), whitewater rafting (€45) and bungee jumping from the 192m Europabrücke (€140). www.inntour.com
DON’T MISS !!
From late May to October, Innsbruck Information arranges daily guided hikes, from sunrise walks to half-day mountain jaunts. The hikes are free with a Club Innsbruck Card, which you receive automatically when you stay overnight in Innsbruck. Pop into the tourist office to register and browse the program.
Sleeping The tourist office has lists of private rooms costing between €20 and €40 per person.
🏠 Hotel Weisses Kreuz (www.weisseskreuz.at)
Beneath the arcades, this atmospheric Altstadt hotel has played host to guests for 500 years, including a 13-year-old Mozart. With its wood-panelled parlours, antiques and twisting staircase, the hotel oozes history with every creaking beam. Rooms are supremely comfortable, staff charming and breakfast is a lavish spread.
🏠 Nepomuk’s (www.nepomuks.at)
Could this be backpacker heaven? Nepomuk’s sure comes close, with its Altstadt location, well-stocked kitchen and high-ceilinged dorms with homely touches like CD players. The delicious breakfast in attached Cafe Munding, with homemade pastries, jam and fresh-roasted coffee, gets your day off to a grand start.
🍽 Where to have lunch?
Breakfast Club (www.breakfast-club.at)
Hip, wholesome and nicely chilled, the Breakfast Club does what it says on the tin: all-day breakfast and brunch. And boy are you in for a treat: free-range eggs, Tyrolean mountain cheese, organic breads, homemade spreads, cinnamon-dusted waffles with cranberries and cream, French toast, Greek omelette – take your pick. It also does fresh-pressed juices and proper Italian coffee.
Chez Nico (www.chez-nico.at)
Take a petit bistro and a Parisian chef with a passion for herbs, et voilà, you get Chez Nico. Nicolas Curtil (Nico) cooks seasonal, all-vegetarian delights along the lines of tomato and argan oil consommé and watermelon and chanterelle carpaccio with pine nuts and parmesan. You won’t miss the meat, we swear.
II Convento (www.ilconvento.at)
Neatly tucked into the old city walls, this Italian newcomer is run with passion by Peppino and Angelika. It’s a winner, with its refined look (white tablecloths, wood beams, Franciscan monastery views from the terrace) and menu. Dishes such as clam linguine, braised veal and salt-crusted cod are cooked to a T and served with wines drawn from the well-stocked cellar.
This cracking new bar taps into craft-beer culture, with a wide variety of brews – from stouts and porters to IPA, sour, amber, honey and red ales. The easygoing vibe and fun-loving crew add to its appeal. For more insight, hook onto a 90- minute, seven-beer tasting (€19).
Playing Spot-the-Moustache (Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and co) is the preferred pastime at this retro bolthole, with table football and a terrace overlooking pretty Domplatz. They knock up a mean pisco sour.
ℹ Innsbruck information – Main tourist office with truckloads of info on the city and surrounds, including skiing and walking.