As the so-called ‘capital city of the Alps’, Innsbruck is a town of vast proportions, both in natural beauty and schnitzel serving sizes! Once part of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, Innsbruck’s rich heritage is still very much on display in the city’s architecture and in the geographical wealth that has seen it host two Winter Olympics and make it home to some of the best winter sports in the world. Off-piste, Innsbruck houses 120,000 people and a large student population gives the town a youthful liveliness and hard to beat nightlife for a city of such small size.
When you’ve stopped staring at the jaw dropping mountain view protruding from pretty much every outpost in town, there’s certainly no shortage of exciting things to do in Innsbruck. The stunning sixteenth century Renaissance Ambras Castle is just one thing you won’t want to miss. With ornate buildings, cobblestone streets and quirky shops, picturesque Altstadt (Old Town) is another great destination to explore Innsbruck’s imperial past. Of course a trip to Innsbruck isn’t complete without a ride on the Nordpark scenic railway. For non-climbers, this is the only way to find yourself perched on top of one of Austria’s peaks and with an unforgettable panoramic view of Innsbruck and nearby mountain ranges - definitely a Kodak moment.
Eat and Drink
Eating in Innsbruck offers everything from exclusive restaurants showcasing world class fare, to the countless budget options keeping the city’s population of more than 25,000 students well nourished between glasses of Stiegl Beer. Start your gastronomic journey at Old Town by sampling some hearty Tyrolian fare, typically consisting of pork and ending with a glass of schnapps. Another option is the family owned inns known as a ’Gasthaus’ or ‘Gasthof’ which are littered all around town and are a perfect place to indulge on apple strudel and wine jelly. For something a little livelier, head for a stroll along Inn Street on the banks of the Inn River and stop at one of the city’s hip bars and nightclubs.
Where to Stay
You definitely won’t find a shortage of beds in Innsbruck with everything from modern décor lodgings and international chain hotels to old-fashioned Alpine motifs. Prices do tend towards the mid to high end of the market but there are still budget options available. For something typically Austrian, traditional hotels like Penz provide the pick of Innsbruck accommodation options. Some of which are housed in centuries old facades and contain all of the trappings of imperial Austria. As Innsbruck is a rather compact town, most accommodation is located within a small area of central Innsbruck but you’ll still do best to find yourself something close to the action at Old Town.
While not exactly a shopping mecca, Innsbruck still provides plenty of chances for you to fill your baggage allowance. Outside the usual tourist knick-knacks and souvenirs found in Old Town, Maria Theresa Street is a good starting point for fashionistas. Besides the many impressive historical monuments, as the city’s main shopping and entertainment strip, here’s where you’ll find international mainstays such as Benetton, Hugo Boss and H&M. Serious shoppers, step inside the recently reopened Kaufthaus Tyrol where you’ll find six levels of retailers offering a mix of wares from both regional Austria and abroad. Rathaus Galerien offers another tasteful selection of fashion and jewellery.
Innsbruck Like a Local
Say "no thank-you" to your waiter. Buying bottled water is a trap only for tourists in Innsbruck. Why bother? Experts describe the local tap water as 99% spring water with the Nordkette mountain range acting as a fabulous natural basin to collect the water. There it’s stored for up to 20 years for purification and mineral enrichment, then sent straight down the mountain and into the city’s water supply. When it’s time to take a shower you’ll no doubt feel just a little bit guilty the water is so precious.