Famous for its picturesque Old Town, Innsbruck is also popular for its skiing facilities and great Christmas markets. We were fortunate to visit recently and are sharing some of the top things to do in Innsbruck.
Firstly though, do you know how the town got its name? Bruck means bridge and Inn is the river that flows through the town so Innsbruck is the bridge over the Inn. The town is the capital of the Tyrol region and surrounded by the Nordkette mountain range. With 30,000 students and a population of 130,000, it’s surprisingly vibrant. It’s also a good base from which to explore the countryside as well as other Austrian towns and villages such as Kitzbuhel.
Things to Do in Innsbruck – Altstadt
Perhaps the most famous attraction is the Golden Roof or Goldenes Dachl in Innsbruck Altstadt. This magnificent structure dates from around 1500 AD and was added on to the exiting building by the emperor Maximilian I. He wanted to put paid to rumours about the empire’s financial difficulties and this roof certainly looks impressive. The 2,657 tiles fire-gilded copper tiles gleam in the sunshine all these years later.
A few minutes away, there’s a wonderful panoramic view over the town and the mountains from the City Tower which dates from 1450. Brace yourself to walk up the 148 steps, although the 31 metre climb isn’t actually that strenuous. In no time at all you’ll be admiring the views…Head back down and towards the river to get a closer look at these colourful houses.
Hofkirche Court Church is a great surprise. It houses the cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I, but the real draw are the 28 larger than life figures carved in bronze that line the church nave.
Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump
Innsbruck is the only town apart from London to have played host to the Olympic Games three times, in 1964, 1976 and 2012. Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump is over 47 metres high and as you can see, the views from here are phenomenal. It was designed by world-famous architect, Zaha Hadid. There’s a walkway and a roof-top restaurant and bar where you can admire the scenery.
She also designed the Nordkettenbahn cable car station, which takes you up 2000 metres to Hungerburg and Seegrube in 20 minutes. It’s not just used by tourists, as some locals use it for their daily commute. At the top, For dinner with a view, Seegrube restaurant is the perfect choice.
Schloss Ambras is the oldest museum in the world! This medieval fortress was transformed into a Renaissance castle by Archduke Ferdinand II for his wife, Philippine Welser. Inside, there are some truly unique pieces in the collection as the Archduke was fascinated by oddities and created The Chambers of Art and Curiosities, with objects from far away lands as well as portraits of people such as the Hirstute Man, an extremely hairy man who married a beautiful woman. Schloss Ambras is situated slightly outside of the town centre but is one of our favourite things to do in Innsbruck.
The Spanish Hall definitely has the wow factor. Constructed from 1570-1572, it played host to balls and contains 27 portraits of Tirolean rulers.
Swarovski Kristallwelten Wattens
Over 13 million visitors have come to this unique attraction. Swarovski Kristallwelten is a 20 minute drive from the centre of Innsbruck and a must-see. There’s a stunning museum, a huge shop and a good restaurant, Daniels as well as a play-tower and outdoor play area. My favourite feature though is the Crystal Cloud, with 800,000 hand-mounted Swarovski crystals set above a black mirror pool.
Europe’s Most Exciting Flight
If you’re looking for a unique Innsbruck experience, how about the first no doors heli ride in Europe! It’s run by MySnapAir, who are one of the very few European operators to have a licence to fly without doors. They do a detailed safety check, you must bring photo identification and no loose elements are allowed. Photo equipment must be attached by a strap, selfie sticks are not permitted and you can’t change camera lenses during the flight. A minimum of four people are required and there’s a maximum of five per flight. For ladies with long hair, don’t forget a hairband as my hair was blowing around in the strong wind! It’s worth it for the chance to sit on the edge, with your legs dangling over whilst you take a #shoeselfie ;-). We flew over the spectacular Stubaital Valley, over the Bergisel ski jump and above the Nordkette mountain range on our journey of a lifetime.
If you’re planning to see several museums, then the Innsbruck Card is a good purchase. It costs €39 for 24 hours, €48 for 48 hours and €55 for 72 hours. Most of the major attractions in Innsbruck and nearby are included, such as Schloss Ambras, Hofkirche, Swarovski Kristallwelten and Bergisel Ski Jump Stadium. We used it to visit the Hofburg Imperial Palace which has some impressive interiors including a ceremonial hall. Just be aware that you can’t take photos inside.
Best Restaurants in Innsbruck
One of the best places to eat in Innsbruck is a sister establishment of the famous Hotel Sacher in Salzburg and Vienna. With a cosy wooden decor, it serves up local specialities, including the iconic Sachertorte. This chocolate cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate icing was invented by Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Metternich.
In addition to its many medieval buildings, Innsbruck has some modern shopping maĺls. Lichtblick restaurant and bar is located at the top of the stylish Rathausgalerien mall. It’s a fine dining restaurant with fantastic 360° views from its bar and dining room.
How to Get to Innsbruck
There are regular flights to Innsbruck from many international airports including Frankfurt and London. We travelled with Austrian Airlines and the flight was comfortable and quick, with friendly flight attendants.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Austria Trend Hotel Congress Innsbruck is a contemporary four star hotel, conveniently located in the Saggen district. It’s a ten minute walk from the old town and surrounded by the Tyrolean Alps. There are 106 comfortable rooms and 2 suites, all with free WiFi, laptop safes with power plugs inside and a stylish restaurant. The amenities include a spa with sauna and steam room, as well as a gym with direct access to the hotel’s charming outdoor terrace.
We hope we’ve inspired you to visit Innsbruck and the surrounding area. Which Innsbruck attraction takes your fancy the most?