Innsbruck is unique. Towering Alpine mountains surround the city which buzzes with the energy of life. Combine intriguing history with natural wonders in one of the most memorable city breaks in the Alps.

By - Paul | Last Updated - 10 Jul 2024 | Go to - Comments & Questions

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Innsbruck is a special destination.

Wedged between the Nordkette mountains to the north and the Patscherkofel range to the south, Innsbruck – the capital of Tyrol – became the centre of European politics in the 15th century.

The Habsburg Emperors made Innsbruck their home, building superb legacies to their wealth and power.

The result is a culturally fascinating city, set in a superb Alpine location.

There are many wonderful things to do which we have covered in detail below, but the real reward is lebensgefühl, the unique sense of life that emanates from this Tyrolean corner of the Alps.

Enjoy the historical sites in the city, then head up to the mountain on the cable car for unparalleled views. Take a leisurely stroll through the old town or join an e-bike tour cycling along shady forested tracks high up in the hills.

There is no other place in the Alps that can match this mix of cultural intrigue and grand mountain vistas.

We love Innsbruck so much; this was our third visit. In this guide we will cover why to go, and what to see and do, with some valuable money-saving tips.

WHY GO TO INNSBRUCK?

History and Culture – Innsbruck’s charming old town has cobbled streets surrounded by fascinating historical sights, quirky museums, great food and a buzzing nightlife.

Accessible Mountain Scenery – In just twenty minutes from the city centre, you can take a cable car high up in the Alps, enjoying spectacular views and a slice of rural Tyrolean lifestyle.

Adventure – Innsbruck is a youthful town and has the adventures to match. Test your limits on a Via Ferrata, mountain bike on rugged trails, paraglide off towering peaks or ski some of the steepest slopes in the Alps.

No Car? No Problem – The international airport is right next to the city centre and the excellent public transport network means you don’t need a car to visit Innsbruck. Regular local buses and trams connect you to all the main attractions and cable car stations.

Free Public Transport – All public transport is free in Innsbruck with the Welcome Card (more about this below). There are also great discounts on other visitor cards.

SEEKING LEBENSGEFÜHL IN INNSBRUCK

Lebensgefühl is the conscious feeling of taking part in life. It’s about filling your senses, experiencing the world, enjoying the moment.

Austrians have a sense of Lebensgefühl in abundance, and nowhere captures this feeling quite like Innsbruck.

Take a moment in the mountains, have a passing chat with a local, enjoy hearty Tyrolean food and fill your senses with a unique thirst for the everyday.

friends on the street in innsbruck
MARIA-THERESIEN-STRASSE

THINGS TO DO IN INNSBRUCK

1. INNSBRUCK ALTSTADT

The heart of Innsbruck is focused around the charming Altstadt (Old Town). It’s made up of pastel-coloured medieval buildings set along cobbled laneways.

On the edge of the Old Town the banks of the River Inn provide wonderful views of the colourful houses on the other side. The mountains in the backdrop make the scene even more special.  

The colour of the houses reflects the trade of the original owners: bakers were in blue houses, butchers in red and breweries in yellow.

The Old Town is not very big, and you can stroll most of the streets in a few hours. Many of the major sights such as the Imperial Palace, Golden Roof, Court Church and the City Tower we cover below.

Here are a few local places we recommend:    

  • Georg Schmollgruber – A timeless watchmaker shop on Pfarrgasse Street
  • Speckeria – A local speck purveyor with a wide selection. They have a corner (to the right as you walk in) that’s hidden and often overlooked by tourists.
  • Tiroler Edles – A trendy shop selling locally made goods including soaps, chocolates and crockery.

2. COURT CHURCH (HOFKIRCKE)

Emperor Maximilian I was one of the most important rulers of Tyrol. He is buried in Wiener Neustadt, but his tomb is in the Court Church, on the edge of Innsbruck’s Old Town.

Before he died, he planned 28 larger-than-life statues to watch over his tomb. The statues are of heroic and virtuous figures he admired, rather than saints as was the custom of the time. Legendary King Arthur of Britain is among the notable characters.

The church is beautiful and the detail on the statues are incredible. Maximilian’s tomb is decorated with exquisite marble carvings. This place is not to be missed.

3. MUSEUM OF TYROLEAN FOLK ART (VOLKES MUSEUM)

The Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art is in the building adjacent to the Court Church and it’s well worth visiting.

It contains a wealth of cultural artefacts from Tirol including handicrafts, religious art, carnival masks and festive costumes.

The highlight for Mark and me was the replica wood panelled farmhouse rooms from all regions of Tirol which show what life was like in the past.

4. NORDKETTE (TOP OF INNSBRUCK)

Nordkette (Northern Range) is a mountain range just north of Innsbruck. The summit is extremely accessible thanks to a lift/cable car service directly from the centre of town.

Nothing embraces the spirt of lebensgefühl like a visit to the Top of Innsbruck, where you can enjoy the love of the outdoors like an Innsbruck local.

There are three stops on the route to the top of the Nordkette:

HUNGERBURG

A modern funicular takes you from the centre of Innsbruck up to the first section of the Nordkette, the Hungerburg. The station was designed by Zaha Hadid with inspiration taken from the icy landscapes of the area.

SEEGRUBE

From the Hungerburg, take the cable car up to Seegrube at 1,905 metres. This was our first view over the Inn Valley with the city dissected by the river, and it was one of the most memorable. Mark and I had lunch at Restaurant Seegrube which does traditional Tyrolean food. The Weiner Schnitzel and potato salad was delicious.

HAFELEKAR

From Seegrube, the final cable car takes you to Hafelekar, which is the official ‘Top of Innsbruck’. Located at 2,043 metres, the views are outstanding. One side looks down over Innsbruck and the Inn Valley, the other over a wild and rocky landscape.

From the summit there are several great hiking trails which you can read about on nordkette.com. If you are feeling more adventurous, there’s a via ferrata which scales all 7 peaks of Nordkette.

5. BERGISEL SKI JUMP

The Bergisel Ski Jump was used when Innsbruck held the Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976. The current iconic structure which towers over the city was designed by celebrated architect Zaha Hadid.

A funicular takes you to a panoramic viewing platform, 250 metres high, where you can take in spectacular views and have breakfast with champagne.

There is an outdoor viewing deck on the restaurant level of the tower which is right above the take-off point for the jumpers.

Mark and I thought the best vantage point to watch the professional jumpers was in the middle, at the top of the funicular station.

The ski jump is a short bus ride and walk from the town centre. The stadium and tower are open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Sunday. Jumps take place every day between 10 am and 12 pm, and between 1 pm and 3 pm.

6. TIROL PANORAMA & KAISERJÄGER MUSEUM

After visiting the Bergisel Sky Jump, walk down the hill to the Tirol Panorama.

The museum contains a massive 360° painting on a 1,000-metre canvas depicting the battle between Napoleon’s forces and Tyrolean troops in the Battle of Bergisel.

The battle is an important milestone in the history of the region because Tyrolean troops fought alone, withstanding (for a while), the onward march of Napoleon’s forces.

Entry to the Panorama also includes entry to the Kaiserjäger Museum via an underground walkway. The museum documents Tyrol military history. There’s an interesting exhibition between the two museums covering Tyrol’s relationship with the landscape.

7. STIFTSKELLER

Stiftskeller is an Innsbruck institution with a nostalgic indoor beer hall and a lively outdoor terrace. They have a great selection of beers on tap, all served at the perfect temperature as per the beer purity laws of 1516.

Their draft beer is the Augustiner full beer, but you can also choose from a wheat beer, or a dark. They all come in the famous 1-litre Maß which makes a great photo opportunity. But, if that’s too much, they have smaller sizes as well.  

Comforting food of traditional Tyrolean dishes are a great match for a whopping beer. Mark and I scoffed the Frankfurterwürstl with mustard and fiery fresh horseradish.

The other interesting thing about Skiftskeller is that their internal wall is the original city wall.

WHERE TO EAT? | OUR FAVOURITE BARS & RESTAURANTS IN INNSBRUCK

OTTOBURG – A charming old-world restaurant serving traditional fare in a historic room. The tables one floor up are much nicer than on the ground floor, so be sure to head upstairs.  

LICHTBLICHT – Lichtblicht has a modern menu in a smart restaurant with great views over Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. Just next door, Café 360 is a great place for a cocktail.

WEITSICHT – Located on the top floor of the Adlers Hotel, Weitsicht has a modern menu with a contemporary twist. The wine soup was excellent.

DAS HAUSBERG – A 30-minute bus ride out of Innsbruck, Das Hausberg at the Patscherkofel cable car station does wonderful traditional dishes in a large modern space with excellent sunset views.

8. MUTTERERALM

While Nordkette rises steeply above Innsbruck to the north, Muttereralm is an area of gentler slopes to the southwest. It offers great easy and intermediate skiing in winter, and an excellent network of mountain biking trails in summer.

To get to Muttereralm, take the STB tram (30 minutes) from the centre of Innsbruck to Mutters Nockhofweg. The journey, as the tram gradually makes its way up the mountain side is beautiful.

From the tram stop, it’s a five-minute walk to Muttereralmbahn cable car station where a gondola (free with the Welcome Card) carries you high up into the mountains.

At the top there are numerous activities you can try. If you decide to head down via the Mountain Bikes or Carts, make sure you have lunch at Muttereralm Restaurant at the top first.

hiking around muttereralm innsbruck

MOUNTAIN BIKES

Muttereralm is one of the best places around Innsbruck for mountain biking. There are trails for all levels, with courses ranging from blue, to red, to black.

Mountain bikes and safety equipment can be hired from ‘Die Börse’ on the ground floor of the Muttereralmbahn cable car station. They recommend you book in advance by phone or email.

mountain bikes muttereralm innsbruck

MOUNTAIN CARTS

If you’re not quite up for the whole mountain bike experience, we highly recommend the Mountain Carts.

They are three-wheel carts (with good breaks) that take a special closed-off course down the mountain. The track is 5 kilometres long and can be undertaken by anyone over the age of 10, as long as they are over 150 cms tall.

Mark and I had enormous fun racing each other down – I won!

mountain carts on muttereralm near innsbruck
MOUNTAIN CARTS

HIKES

From the top cable car station, there’s a short walk to Panoramasee, a very scenic lake for great photo opportunities overlooking Innsbruck. If you have a bit more time, there are several longer trails that wind in and out of the trees. There’s a board near the Mountain Cart station with a map of the hikes.  

9. ST JAMES’ CATHEDRAL (DOM ST JAKOB)

The double bell towers of the Innsbruck Cathedral make an eye-catching landmark on the city’s skyline. Inside, the beautiful baroque church is a wonderful thing to do in Innsbruck.

The highlight is the ceiling frescoes depicting scenes from the life of St James. They are stunning works of art which appear to be painted on domes when in fact the ceiling is flat.

Don’t miss the Mariahilf painting, which has become the iconic image of the Madonna and Child in the Alps. It takes pride of place on the exquisite high altar.

innsbruck cathedral
ST JAMES’ CATHEDRAL

10. IMPERIAL PALACE (HOFBURG PALACE)

Along with the Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Palace in Vienna (read our guide to Vienna here), the Hofburg Palace in Innsbruck is one of the 3 top historical monuments in Austria.

The palace was recently restored to its opulent past. The Giant’s Hall, Guards’ Hall and Lorraine Room showcase the wealth and influence of the mighty Habsburg Dynasty.

The museum includes 18th-century tapestries and works of art; however, photos are not permitted inside.

11. STADTTURM (CITY TOWER)

The Innsbruck City Tower was built between 1442 and 1450 as a watchtower for guards to warn citizens of dangers, especially fire, intruders or civil unrest.

There are 148 steps to the viewing platform which provides a wonderful view over the medieval old town with the Nordkette mountain range in the background. You also get a great view of the Golden Roof.

The stairs to the viewing platform are an interesting double helix design with the result being a separate one-way up and one-way down system.

12. GOLDEN ROOF

The Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) is one of the most popular landmarks in Innsbruck. Taking up a central location in the old town, it’s something you’ll no doubt walk past several times.

It was completed in 1420 as a sovereign residence. Emperor Maximillan added the bay window extension and decorated it with 2,657 gold tiles to display his wealth to his enemies. Don’t miss the images of Maximilian in the reliefs on the window.

The roof fell into disrepair over the years and was eventually restored with the growth of tourism.

There is a museum inside the building where you can learn about its history.

golden roof innsbruck
GOLDEN ROOF

13. TRIUMPHAL ARCH

The Triumphal Arch was built in 1765 on the southern gate to Innsbruck to celebrate the wedding of Archduke Leopold. However, the father of the groom died during the celebrations, so the south side of the arch is decorated with wedding motifs while the north side shows people in mourning.

It’s a Roman-style arch that sets an imposing frame to the mountains in the background.

Triumphal Arch is located at the end of Maria-Theresien Street which is a popular pedestrianised street where you’ll find locals hanging out.

triumphal arch innsbruck
TRIUMPHAL ARCH

14. AMBRAS CASTLE

Ambras Castle holds the distinction of being the first museum in the world, still in the same place it was established.

The complex includes an Upper Castle and Lower Castle, both set on beautiful grounds.

The Lower Castle contains an Armoury showcasing battle gear from various stages of Innsbruck’s history, but the highlight for us was the Chamber of Art and Wonders. The collection includes rare and unusual oddities acquired by Archduke Ferdinand II.

The Upper Castle was designed as a Renaissance palace. Don’t miss the charming St Nicholas Chapel.

Ambras Castle is a 30-minute bus ride from the centre of town on bus M.

15. WILTEN BASILICA

Basilica Wilten was a delightful surprise for Mark and me on our last trip to Innsbruck.

Records show that a church has stood on this site since early Christian times, but the current building was constructed between 1751 and 1756.

The interior was decorated by fresco painter Mathias Günther and it’s a beautiful space. The simple elegant design is bright and airy, and the artwork is incredible.

The ceiling paintings of heavenly images and grandiose architecture are particularly impressive. It’s free to enter and makes an easy stop on the way or way back from Muttereralm.

16. E-BIKE TOUR TO HÖTTINGER ALM

A great way to experience ‘lebensgefühl’ and the outdoors lifestyle around Innsbruck is via an e-bike tour.

There are several well-marked trails in the foothills of the Nordkette Mountain range. Mark and I took a guided tour from the centre of Innsbruck up to Höttinger Alm at 1,500 metres.

The trail was a combination of sealed roads and shady forest trails. There are several scenic huts to stop for refreshments on the way up.  

We used Die Boerse who had excellent bikes and a friendly guide who made the whole day out a lot of fun.

COFFEE IN INNSBRUCK

HAEPINEST – A lovely space with a great selection of cakes and probably the best coffee in Innsbruck.  

MANNI.COFFEE – A more functional space but an excellent, Australian-style coffee.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

MARIA-THERESIEN-STRASSE

Maria-Theresien-Strasse is a commercial avenue that runs between the old town and the Triumphal Arch. There are pavement cafes, high-end shops and you’ll often find street performers entertaining crowds in the wide pedestrian street.

EXPERIENCE TIROL

Experience Tirol is an immersive digital experience that showcases life in the Tirol region. The show takes 60 minutes and includes holograms and 3D projects. 

BAGGERSEE SWIMMING LAKE

Rossau is an artificial swimming lake on the banks of the Inn River in the south-east of Innsbruck. It has lovely grassy banks, plenty of shade from the surrounding trees and great views of the Nordkette Mountains.

BEST BARS IN INNSBRUCK | PFARGASSE STREET

If you’re looking for some where to have a quick drink in the old town but away from the tourists, head to Pfarrgasse Street. Our favourite bars were Hopfmann & Söhne and Dom Café-Bar.

GETTING TO INNSBRUCK

Innsbruck is a popular skiing destination in winter and an excellent hub for exploring the Alps in summer. It is easy to get to and we started our Italian Dolomites itinerary from here.

BY PLANE

There are direct flights from many European cities to Innsbruck including Vienna, London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Manchester and Mallorca. Additional flights are added in winter from more destinations including Antwerp, Berlin, Reykjavik and Bristol.

Innsbruck International Airport is just a 15-minute bus ride from the city centre.

The best starting point for checking flights is Google Flights. The approach into Innsbruck is one of the most dramatic landings in Europe.

BY TRAIN

If flying is the most dramatic way to reach Innsbruck, arriving via train is the most relaxing. The Austrian Federal Railway (ÖBB) has several daily services to Innsbruck. You can also arrive direct from neighbouring countries including Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Check train prices at thetrainline.com.

standing out the front of wilten basilica innsbruck
WILTEN BASILICA

GETTING AROUND

One of the best things about visiting Innsbruck is that you can easily do it without a car.

The central area is compact and many of the main attractions are within walking distance. In addition, Innsbruck has an excellent bus and tram network, joining up the funiculars and cable cars in the area.  You can get everywhere you want to go.

WELCOME CARD

Between 1 May and 31 October, all guest who book a 2-night stay in any participating hotel will automatically receive a Welcome Card. The card provides free access to public transport around the city, plus many other great benefits including:

  • Free guided hiking tours
  • Free guided e-bike tours
  • Discounts at swimming pools
  • Free entry or discounts at several museums and cultural venues

If you book 3 nights or more, you also get free cable car rides on selected lifts like Muttereralm.

INNSBRUCK CARD

The Innsbruck Card provides free entry to 22 museums and attractions around Innsbruck including the Top of Innsbruck, the Imperial Palace, the Court Church, Ambras Castle and the Bergisel Ski Jump.

The card costs €59 for 24 hours or €69 for 48 hours. You can purchase the card online in advance at Innsbruck.info.

WHERE TO STAY

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation in Innsbruck. All these hotels include the Welcome Card if you stay for two nights or more.

OUR PICK

DESIGN HOTEL

STAGE 12

Stage 12 has slick design details without losing any of the charming Tirolean hospitality. The breakfast buffet is one of the best we’ve seen, and the rooms are well-designed and well-equipped.


QUIRKY & COMFORTABLE

NALA INDIVIDUELL HOTEL

Nala has very cool, individually designed rooms that manage to hold on to the hotel’s long history. There’s a gym, spa and lovely walled garden. Some rooms have kitchen facilities.


VALUE

HOTEL MONDSCHEIN

Although it’s looking a bit dated, Hotel Mondschein is a great value choice, just across the bridge from the Old Town. Breakfast is good and the staff are friendly and helpful.   


colourful houses on the inn river innsbruck

MAP OF INNSBRUCK

We have included all the attractions in Innsbruck we covered in this guide on the below map along with our hotel and restaurant recommendations.

This guide was produced in partnership with the Innsbruck Tourism Board.
paul mark 1
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- Paul & Mark.