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A guide to the things to do in Innsbruck in Austria – the ‘Capital of the Alps’ whose 800 years of urban history combines with the mountains.
There’s no city quite like Innsbruck in Austria with its mountainous walls, and this is the very first thing you will notice upon arrival. The proclaimed ‘Capital of the Alps’ in the west of the country is an urban basin filled with eight centuries of history, defined by the peaks and alpine forest slopes that hug it.
Its dual city and mountain offering make it a unique city for visiting. From the altitude heights to the riverside landscapes and attractions below, here are the things to do in Innsbruck in and outside its famed Old Town.
- What to See in Innsbruck Old Town
- What to Eat in Innsbruck
- Places to go in Innsbruck Nature
- Innsbruck Today – Modernity in Downtown
- Things to Do in Innsbruck Outside of the City
- What to Know Before You Visit Innsbruck in Austria
What to See in Innsbruck Old Town
Quite literally picture perfect, you can’t go wrong with any angle of the city. I first explored the history in the urban grounds below before heading up to various elevated viewpoints for an alternative angle on the city layout.
It’s quite the entrance into Innsbruck’s Historical Old Town. I started at the Triumphal Arch which faces the mountainous backdrop of the city.
It was built in 1765, commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa to commemorate the marriage of her son and now stands proudly on Maria-Theresien-Straße – the most navigable thoroughfare from which to enter the cobbled stoned streets and alleyways of late-Gothic architecture.
The Historical Old Town is tiny but packed with sights and traditional bistros (once you weave past all the souvenir stores). Here you can wander into the past by visiting the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the gothic Hofkirche (Royal Court Church), City Tower and the glimmering Golden Roof with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles (which makes it quite the star attraction).
Innsbruck’s old streets are a conveyor belt of gothic and baroque architectural styles and facades – Helbling Haus being one of the most exquisitely detailed and stand-out examples. You’ll find it on Herzog Friedrich Straße, next to the Golden Roof.
What to Eat in Innsbruck
Traditional Tirol Eats
No trip to Tirol is complete without re-fueling with a local dish such as the Tiroler Gröstl (potato and meat fry-up, topped with an egg). What to eat in Innsbruck is easy, but choosing where to go from the vast choice available can be hard.
The two best traditional establishments include Weisses Rössl, the oldest restaurant in the city that dates back to 1509 and Stiftskeller, which is set within an old monastery.
The distinctive castle-like building, with Austrian flag-coloured window shutters in the Ottoberg, is one of Innsbruck’s revered long-standing restaurants serving traditional Austrian cuisine.
Best Strudel in Innsbruck
For those craving a strudel, see how long it takes you to choose one of the many sweet or savoury options at the Strudel Café Kröll in the Old Town. It’s a rite of passage after all the historical wandering. I decided on chocolate and raspberry in a move away from my traditional apple choice.
Places to go in Innsbruck Nature
Get up to the Nordkette Mountain
What’s unique when you visit Innsbruck is that it is an accessible nature haven and cityscape all rolled into one, where cable cars to the city’s darling 2000m high Nordkette Mountain leave from the very heart of the city. In less than 20 minutes you can reach Austria’s biggest nature park, Karwendel and Europe’s highest (Alpine) Zoo alongside various viewing platforms.
The avant-garde design of the three main Nordkettenbahnen cable car stations combines Innsbruck nature trails with modern design without impacting on the visual elements of the landscape.
Wander Along the Inn River
During my visits to Innsbruck, I was always curiously drawn to the Inn River for a stroll, with its famous multi-coloured townhouse views and green spaces as a backdrop.
Innsbruck Today – Modernity in Downtown
Modern trends intertwined with the preserved old is one of the exciting things to see in Innsbruck.
Innsbruck Bars and Modern Hangouts
The Downtown area adjacent to the Historical City Centre is where you’ll find everything from the 360° (panoramic) bar or Trobaun for its huge selection of world craft beers on tap and the more swanky hangouts like Erlkönig. Swap old cafes for hipster coffee shops like Max Standard and Crema and try to score a table in the busy burrito joint, Machete, a local favourite. A city home to 30,000 students and a lot of young professionals, it has a vibrancy that compliments that within its centuries-old offerings.
Innsbruck Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump
A short distance in the opposite direction of the Old Town and the Nordkette range is the 50m high Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump Tower. It’s one of my favourite places to visit, both in keeping with the winter sport pastime Austria is known for and watching the ski jumpers, and as a platform for one of the best views of Innsbruck.
Tirol Panorama Museum
On the short trek up to the entrance of the Innsbruck Ski Jump, I stopped at the Tirol Panorama Museum, where history is depicted with a modern approach via a giant 1,000 metre-squared panoramic painting.
Arts and Festivals in Innsbruck
And with a state theatre and an opera, 30 museums and art galleries, as well as a year-round timetable of festivals that take place in the old palace Historical Old Town grounds, Innsbruck is quite the pulsating modern town, considering its small size.
Things to Do in Innsbruck Outside of the City
Ambras Castle and Chambers of Art and Curiosities
Outside of the centre of the city you have further options for a historical or modern fix. I’m not one for tourist buses but the ‘Sightseer’ bus was surprisingly interesting, passing through Innsbruck’s outer neighbourhoods and got me out to areas including to the hillside where you will find Ambras Castle. This Renaissance castle built by Archduke Ferdinand during the 16th century and home to the Chambers of Art and Curiosities and all manner of weird and wonderful collections he built up.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Many take the time to visit the famed Swarovski Crystal Worlds, which ranks as one of Austria’s most visited attractions. Bling and excessive in parts, the brand shows off its sparkling craftsmanship via exhibitions and art installations in its ‘Chambers of Wonder’ that includes a Crystal Dome and a crystal tree garden, upping the ante on the usual showroom model.
Innsbruck’s urban landscape was carved out in front of a dominating mountain range, giving it a unique makeup that cannot be found or replicated anywhere else in Austria.
Providing the best of the country’s great outdoors with a long history and trendy modernisation, you have it all in one place without travelling very far.
What to Know Before You Visit Innsbruck in Austria
Getting to Innsbruck
- Innsbruck is well-connected via the ÖBB rail network. I travelled from Vienna to Innsbruck in 4-5 hours and then onto Salzburg – a journey that takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- This travel guide to Innsbruck, Austria, was part of a city-hopping tour to uncover the connected urban hubs of Innsbruck, Salzburg and Graz and show how you can see different sides of the country even in a short time.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
- I stayed at the funky Nala Hotel, the city’s only boutique and art design hotel less than five minutes from the Triumphal Arch and Maria-Theresien-Straße. Every room has a unique design, which you can browse on the hotel’s website. I stayed in ‘La Suite Pan on Rama’, and I’m keen to check more of them out!
Innsbruck Package Deals
Right now, as tourism sparks up again, Innsbruck is offering various city package deals, including:
- One night accommodation and the 24-hour Innsbruck card from €45 per person
- Two nights of accommodation and the Innsbruck card from €75 per person
- Multi0night family packages from €156 per person
The Innsbruck Card for Sightseeing
- The Innsbruck Card grants access to all the city’s museums, art galleries, and all forms of local transport, including the shuttle bus to Swarovski Crystal Worlds and all cable cars. It also includes discounts for listed activities and outlets.
- 24 hours: €49
- 48 hours: €55
- 72 hours: €66
- 50% discount for children (6-15 years)
Further Information on Planning a Trip to Innsbruck
- For more information, visit the Innsbruck Tourism Website. For further information about planning your trip around Austria, visit the Austria Tourism website.
One of my favorite cities! Great article 🙂
Wonderful article – brought me right back to Innsbruck. Unfortunately, I was there for only a day so I was unable to do a few of the items you mentioned (just couldn’t work them in with the time I had). But I have to agree, a stroll along the river is a MUST when visiting. The serenity of the river with the surrounding mountains combined with the colorful houses was just perfection.
Only place I have been in Austria is Vienna. I will have to go back now after reading this 🙂
Thanks for sharing.
Picture perfect town! Want to go so bad.