Ask most people what the word Innsbruck means to them and they will say snow and snow sports – after all, the city has staged the winter Olympic Games twice, and it remains one of the world’s most popular ski and snowboard hubs, with key ski resorts close by.
What many people don’t know is that summers in the capital of the Austrian Tyrol are a delight, with warm temperatures showing the beautiful city and its stunning mountain backdrop in a very different light. Summer is when Innsbruck becomes a favourite among hikers and other visitors keen to explore this once royal city, the surrounding mountains and the Tyrolean lakes.
Innsbruck’s significant cultural roots date back to the 15th century when the Imperial court moved to the city following its designation as capital of the Tyrol.
There is much remaining evidence of this regal past, led by the Imperial Palace (now a museum), built around 1460 and redesigned in the latter half of the 18th century, and the impressive hillside Schloss Ambras, home to Archduke Ferdinand in the latter part of the 16th century.
Modern-day attractions include the highest zoo in Europe, the picturesque Stubai Valley tram ride, and – of course – the mountains themselves. The Nordpark cable railway will take you from the centre of the city to the mountaintop with its breathtaking views.
Eat and Drink
The mix of about 25,000 students, 120,000 permanent residents and thousands of visitors, winter and summer, means plenty of places to eat and drink catering to all budgets and ranging from local specialities to more international flavours and classic European fine dining in an elegant setting.
For a truly traditional experience, look out for the taverns (gasthaus). They are usually family owned, serving Tyrolean fare for a reasonable price. Favourites include schnitzel, pork with caraway seeds, grostl – a hash of potato, onion and bacon – pot roasts, savoury and sweet dumplings and strudels, all washed down with one of numerous types of beer, of course.
Where to Stay
Innsbruck caters to a huge shifting population so you are unlikely to have any difficulty finding a place to stay. Hotels range from budget to five star, with some familiar international brands. The biggest concentration is in the compact city centre with additional options in the Old Town, an attraction in its own right with its medieval history and twisting laneways (many vehicle free).
Those visitors wishing to limit cost by self-catering will also find a range of apartment-style accommodation on both sides of the River Inn, including private rooms as well as homes for rent. Farm stay is another option and a great way to experience Tyrolean life.
There are plenty of places to shop, but if souvenirs and handicrafts are top of your list a selective look through the stores in the Old Town should meet your needs.
If you have a taste for more high street-type shopping, such as fashion, footwear and jewellery, Innsbruck has its share of shopping centres.
Head to Maria-Theresien-Strasse for its stores and the newly opened, six-level Kaufhaus Tyrol which offers shopping as well as superb cafes, or to Rathaus Galerian which promises to “make shopping easy”. Think Lacoste, H&M, Esprit and Lindt among many others, all within easy walking distance of one another.
Innsbruck Like a Local
The city takes its name from the River Inn that essentially hugs the Old Town and city centre in the curve of a bend in its course. A walk taking in the river promenades, some of Innsbruck’s most historic buildings and maybe the Botanic Gardens and other green spaces is a great way to while away some time. The mountain views are a continuous joy. The water provides further pleasures in summer with lots of watersports on the nearby, achingly beautiful Tyrolean lakes.