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Five Reasons You Should Visit Innsbruck (And Not Just Vienna!)

Innsbruck Inn & Mountains

Whenever I tell people that many many years ago, I used to lived in Tyrol, I often get blank stares. It turns out that while this region of Austria is well known throughout Europe, particularly for its fabulous ski slopes in the winter months, beyond European borders Tyrol isn’t a household name. “Innsbruck?”, I then usually try, referring to the capital of the state, but again – barely anyone has even heard of it. And that’s just such a shame, since Innsbruck is a gorgeous city, sitting in a wide valley, fringed by Alpine mountains on both sides.Driving along the Alps

But the city is usually overlooked or foregone in favor of Vienna and Salzburg, which has made it on the international tourist map thanks to its Sound Of Music fame. Innsbuck doesn’t have to hide behind Salzburg though – and did you know that the drive from Salzburg to Innsbruck is a mere two hours? So if you are visiting Austria and Salzburg is already in your travel plans, do yourself a favor and add Innsbruck to your itinerary.

Here are five reasons why you Innsbruck is worth a visit:
Innsbruck houses & snow-covered mountains

1 Alpine Nature Meets City

Innsbruck offers you the best worlds: mountain AND city life! It’s rare to have this combination, because you usually find cute Alpine villages around the popular ski and snowboard areas – but proper cities? Not so much! Innsbruck, however, has both: within minutes, you are in the mountains, but first and foremost, you can enjoy all the amenities that city life offers: there is great shopping, culture and nightlife in Innsbruck, and in addition, you have plenty of good bars and restaurants, entertainment and art galleries. For city girls like me, Innsbruck is the perfect base for a hiking vacation – it has easy access to hiking trails around the city, and several charming Alpine villages are within an hour’s drive, but you can return to the hustle & bustle of a big city (although, to be honest, with a population of ‘only’ 125,000, most people wouldn’t describe Innsbruck as big.)

Innsbruck st jacob's dome & inn

2 Stunning Hikes and Mountain Views

The best way to see Innsbruck is to hike up one of the surrounding mountains and look down at the city from the top. If you’re not a keen hiker, don’t fret – you can also take the easier route, via cable car, which conveniently leaves from the center of town and brings you all the way up to Karwendel Nature Park. There are several stops along the way up the mountain, but Seegrube (at 6,250 feet) and Hafelekar (at 7,401 feet) are the most remarkable viewing points. If you do enjoy hiking, you’ll want to make time for an extensive hike, following one of the many hiking trails on top of the mountain.Mountain & valley

Another option is to take the Patscherkofel cable car to the top of the Patscherkof Olympic Mountain (7,369 feet) and hike along the Stone Pine path, or, if you don’t want to go all the way up into the mountains, the popular short hike from Arzler Alm to Hoettinger Alm. The Bergisel Ski Jump is yet another impressive lookout over Innsbruck. You can find a list of the most popular hikes around Innsbruck here.Innsbruck houses & mountains

3 Tyrolean Specialties

One of the best thing about visiting Innsbruck is that you’ll find yourself in the heart of traditional, hearty Tyrolian cuisine. Some of the dishes you have to try during your visit are Speckknoedel (dumplings with pieces of bacon), groestl (roasted potatoes, speck, and onions topped off with a fried egg), and kaesespaetzle (egg noodles sautéed with a variety of mountain cheeses and topped with fried onions). Don’t miss the Markthalle, Innsbruck’s beloved indoor food market. To try some of Tyrol’s famous cake, head to Café Munding, which has been run by the same family since 1803.Dumpling & mushroom sauce

If you happen to visit around Christmas time, you’ll love the Christmas market right in the center of town, where you can sample dozens of regional foods and mulled wines at the food stands.

After gorging on all the delicious Tyrolian foods, you’ll understand why hiking is such a popular pastime around here 🙂
cake

4 Nightlife and Culture

Of course you can’t compare the art scene in Innsbruck not with Munich or Basel, which are both a few hours away, but considering that it is a moderately sized city, the art and culture scene is remarkable. The annual ART fair (held in January) is even the second biggest art fair in all of Austria! From fine art to contemporary artworks – Innsbruck has something for everyone!

Thanks to its considerable student population, Innsbruck also has a great bar and nightlife scene – obviously not comparable to Vienna, but there are several places that will make night owls happy: Bar 360, aptly named after the 360 degree views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains, Moustache Bar, right in the Old Town and famous for their Deadly Moustache Cocktail, and Tante Emma Club, an EDM nightclub that is a favorite among the local dance crowd. If you feel like going on a bar crawl, check out Culture Club’s Top Ten Bars in Innsbruck.cocktails

5 Golden Roof

The Golden Roof, or Goldenes Dachl as it is called in German, is the most famous landmark in Innsbruck, made with 2,657 copper tiles gilded with six kilos of gold. The tiles are still the original ones, dating back to the year 1500! Where else in the world can you see a roof like this? The roof was gifted by the Emporer to his wife during Austria’s Imperial days and there’s always something going on around here. Street performers, other striking Gothic and Rococo buildings, covered in historical murals, and the Christmas market during the Holidays – make sure to stop in one of the many cafes (which all have outdoor seating during the warmer months) and take in this unusual roof and the hustle and bustle surrounding it.Golden roof innsbruck

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Six reasons to visit Tirol in the summer

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Here’s something you might not know about me: Many many years ago, I lived in Austria for a while. My main reason to move there was a job in the hospitality industry which would pay for Business School later on. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the mountains, but that’s exactly what happened. I lived in Tirol, Austria’s third largest province and most popular tourist destination. Why? Think picturesque little mountain towns and rugged peaks, glaciers and waterfalls, a winter wonderland for half of the year, green rolling hills the rest of the year.

It is hands down one of the most beautiful regions of Austria. I was lucky enough to experience the mountains snow-capped during the winter and lush green during the summer – and while I initially thought I’d be whizzing down the ski slopes and turn into a winter sports fanatic, I realized that snow isn’t my best friend (which hasn’t changed until this very day!) and that I prefer walking with my own two feet instead of two wooden boards strapped to my feet. I love hiking in the mountains, and I have been returning to Austria regularly ever since my first visit to Tirol, the last time in spring 2011 (maybe it’s time to return this summer?!) and let me tell you: there’s so much more to Austria than skiing and snowboarding.ZugspitzeIf you’re still not convinced – here are six reasons to visit Tirol in the summer:

1 Have your very own ‘Maria experience’ in the mountains of Tirol

Dancing in the green fields in the mountains, face towards the sun, a big smile on your face? That’s the dream of every The Sound Of Music lover, and believe me, it’s as awesome as it looks in the movie. Of course you won’t only dance in the mountains and sing your favorite The Sound Of Music songs, but also hike along one or two or five of the hundreds of hiking paths. Tirol has nearly 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of marked hiking paths! The hikes don’t cost a thing, and the views are priceless – there’s just nothing like a good mountain hike. Some of the best hikes in Tirol? The dramatic Wilder Kaiser mountain, the Seefeld plateau near Innsbruck, the Ziller Valley and the Oetztal Valley, both filled with waterfalls, glaciers, little villages and breathtakingly beautiful mountain vistas.Mountains &meadows

2 Experience quaint little mountain towns

There are dozens of towns and villages in Austria that tick all the boxes of a picture-perfect mountain town: wooden or half-timbered houses with balconies overflowing with colorful flowers, a gorgeous church, a mountain backdrop and enough hiking paths to keep you busy for a month. One of my favorites? Seefeld in Tirol, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region both during the winter and summer months. In the winter, ski and snowboard fans come to enjoy the slopes, and in the summer months, mountain bikers and hikers come to enjoy the many trails, but it is also a great place for families. There’s a series of lakes that you can hike to, there is a castle ruin (Schlossberg) and a stunning pilgrimage church, and there several spas and indoor pools.bad kohlgrub houseThe mountains around Seefeld are Gschwandtkopf (1,495m), Seefelder Spitze (2,215 m), Härmelekopf (2,224 m) and Reither Spitze (2,374 m) – you can climb a different mountain each day, if you want to!

Seefeld also makes a great base if you want to explore other parts of Tirol and is close to city life, with Innsbruck only half an hour away.

If you decide to base yourself in Seefeld, I recommend checking out Hotel Tyrol-Alpenhof, a gorgeous hotel that takes pride in its local heritage and is built in typical Tirol-style with wooden balconies and offers local specialties in its restaurant. The hotel also has an indoor pool and a sauna and is in walking distance from all the restaurants and shops of the village, and of course the trail heads! You can find a comprehensive overview of hiking trails around Seefeld here.Mountain & valley

3 Swim in mountain lakes

Around Seefeld, there are several lakes which make for incredible swimming experiences during the summer. There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into the cool waters of a mountain lake after a hike through the valley, with the majestic Alps as a stunning backdrop. Lakes worth a visit: Lake Going, which was voted Tirol’s most beautiful natural swimming lake, the large Lake Achensee, Lake Natterer See, or the stunning Lake Plansee.Eibsee from Zugspitze

4 Adrenaline galore

If you’re as adventurous as I am, you’ll be happy to hear that there are a ton of adventure activities to be enjoyed in Tirol. Mountain biking, rafting and kayaking, ziplining, climbing – there’s something for everyone, and most activities can be enjoyed with kids. The Adventure Park Kaltenbach in the beautiful Ziller Valley for example offers some of the region’s most thrilling experiences: an aerial forest, outdoor climbing – including a waterfall climb – high ropes… if you’re an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss this park!

5 Combine culture & being active

All-inclusive resorts? Not for me. Sure, I love me some beach time, but after a few days, I get bored. I prefer being active, and I learn loving about local culture. An all-inclusive at a beach in Mexico does nothing for me. Climbing pyramids, however? That gives me the chance to exercise and to learn about the rich history and culture of a country at the same time. And that’s why I love the Culture Hiking Trails in Austria. There is a trail between the two small towns of Reith and Leithen, for example, on which you pass historical monuments and learn about history and culture while enjoying a walk through beautiful scenery.Innsbruck Inn & MountainsOr check out the Leutasch Spirit Gorge Trail, which is home to all kinds of secrets and mysteries involving dwarfs, ghosts and gremlins. Local folklore is a big part of every country, and when you can learn about it while marveling at waterfalls, bizarre rock formations and breathtaking views over a gorge? Priceless!

6 Spa & wellness

Tirol is known for its many spa and wellness facilities, and there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a steam room, a massage, soaking in a whirlpool or a swimming in a pool after a day of hiking. Nearly every hotel has a wellness area, so you don’t even have to go far, but most towns also have public spas with larger pools. Seefeld for example has two indoor and four outdoor pools!

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Picturesque Innsbruck | Austria

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Nestled in a valley halfway between southern Germany and Northern Italy, the Austrian city of Innsbruck combines the rustic flair of the Alps with the Italian dolce vita lifestyle. This spring, we hopped down from Munich in under two hours, white-knuckling the steering wheel as we wound up, around and through the 3,000m snow-covered peaks of the Alps, and past cows and sheep grazing on the greenest grass we’ve ever seen in the fertile valleys below. On a visit to Innsbruck, the journey is truly as breathtaking as the destination.

Driving along the German AlpsAlthough initially Innsbruck might seem like a quiet little town with its 120,000 inhabitants, the city tucks a lot of nightlife into that sleepy facade. Just under one quarter of the population is students thanks to two large universities, meaning Innsbruck is teeming with enough Austrian cafes, old fashioned pubs plus trendy bars and clubs to rival more populated European cities.

Innsbruck town centerMaria-Theresien-strasse InnsbruckOn sunny days, it seems that the entire town heads outside to spend time under the big blue mountain sky. Parks, such as the lovely Hofgarten (Imperial Court Park) are filled with picnicking couples, outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants is completely packed and the pedestrian-only Maria Theresien Street, in the middle of the city’s shopping mile, is spilling over with people sampling the local Stiegl beer or the popular ‘Spritz’, a drink which looks like orange wine from afar, but is actually a mix of Aperol orange liquor and white sparkling wine.

Innsbruck parkAlthough surrounded by imposing Alpine peaks, downtown Innsbruck itself is very bicycle-friendly, with residents preferring to cycle around town rather than taking their cars from the short distance from A to B. Rent a bike and gulp down buckets of fresh mountain air riding for miles on the flat path along the river ‘Inn’, which slices right through town, and after which the city is named. Innsbruck literally means ‘bridge over the Inn’, with the name of the river, Inn, and ‘Bruck’ coming from the German word Brücke meaning ‘bridge’.

Innsbruck Inn & MountainsThe city’s compact size makes it easy to explore on foot. The impressive dome of the baroque St Jacob Cathedral, which can be seen from a good distance, is the center of the Old Town, and leads to a truly magnificent interior, definitely worth a visit.

innsbruck st jacob's domeAnother baroque highlight is the Hofburg, Innsbruck’s Imperial Palace, which features a great collection of portraits of the Emperor Habsburg and his family. Innsbruck’s biggest tourist attraction is the ‘Golden Roof’, built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the 15th century. The city-center building was the residence of the rulers of Tyrol, with the 3rd-story balcony capped with 2,738 gold plated copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I to serve as a luxury royal box where he could enjoy tournaments in the square below.

Innsbruck golden roof old townThe roof is impressive, but equally exciting is aimlessly walking through narrow medieval alleys, discovering beautifully-painted buildings decorated with opulent frescoes and housing dozens of independent shops, such as typical Austrian bakeries, art galleries, year-round Christmas shops, and shops selling traditional Tyrolean costumes and hats or the famous Mozartkugeln (marzipan rum truffles).

Innsbruck frescoInnsbruck old town squareInnsbruck shopIn addition to the must-try Mozartkugeln, make sure to sample plenty of Austrian pastries such as authentic apple strudel or Kaiserschmarrn, which is a sweet pancake, sliced into pieces and covered in powdered sugar and raisins. Austria’s proximity to Italy means that in addition to typical Austrian favorites, world-class Italian food (and wine) is readily available, from mouthwatering pasta and pizza eateries to gelato shops with lines of locals around the corner.

cafe strudel innsbruckWhile the historic town makes for a fabulous city escape, Innsbruck is best-known by winter sports enthusiasts as the host of the Winter Olympic Games (twice!), and home to the sky-tickling Bergisel ski jump, which hosts jump competitions like the famous annual Vierschanzentournee, and is a tourist attraction in its own right. Non-skiers should make the trip to the super-high ski jump, as a trip to the top offers amazing views of the Alps and a birds eye view of downtown Innsbruck below.

Innsbruck church & mountainEven in summer, skis and snowboards are strapped to the roofs of cars or under the arms of bike riders either heading up the mountain or just returning from a day on the slopes, as the glaciers surrounding Innsbruck offer year-round snow to winter sports enthusiasts. Just outside of Innsbruck, several world-class ski resorts stay open all year. For the skiers and non-skiers alike, dozens of little spa towns dot the Innsbruck countryside, making this area perfect for spa breaks – especially as Austrian spa facilities are some of the best in the world.

Dog in Innsbruck

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