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Best Things to do in Innsbruck, Day Trips to the Austrian Alps & Tyrol

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About Innsbruck

Innsbruck is the fifth-largest city in Austria and the capital of Tyrol. The oldest settlers were the Romans, who built a fortress here in 15 BC. It was the epicentre off crossroads through the Alps. Innsbruck developed slowly ever since until it reached its first climax when Emperor Maximilian I chose the town as his main Imperial residence between 1459 – 1519. After his death, Innsbruck somewhat declined but thanks to its magical vibe, today, one could say that the city reached its second climax. Its history is very well represented in Innsbruck streets, which feels like straight from a fairy tale.

Translated from German, Innsbruck means Inns bridge. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Explore Innsbruck Old Town

I always imagined that Innsbruck is just a great hub for the exploration of Tyrol and the surrounding majestic Alps. Apparently, the city has its own unique aura, making Innsbruck a worthy stand-alone travel destination. Nowhere I have seen mountains and architecture work so close together. It is possible to see three different mountain ranges towering the cityscape: Karwendel Alps, Stubai Alps and the Tux Alps.

There is no other part of Innsbruck where the uniqueness of the city could be experienced better than in the medieval old town. I won’t pinpoint all the interesting objects in the old town, such places are best experienced by simply wandering. All I can say is that most of the magic happens around Hofburg Palace, Golden Roof and market square. Look out for the fairy-tale creatures while exploring the old town of Innsbruck, you never know what’s over the corner.

If you are afraid of getting long or not using your precious time efficiently, booking a guided tour might be a good idea. Innsbruck has many interesting sectrets!

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Exploring the old town of Innsbruck is a real joy to any adventurer. Architecture and the Alps play together as a visual masterpiece. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Get to the Top of Innsbruck by Nordkette

It might be not the top of the world or even Austria, but you can’t get a glass of sekt in any of those places, and on the top of Innsbruck – you can. One has to be totally indifferent to mountains not to find this place fascinating. Wherever it is Karwendel Natural Park, Tux Alps, Stubai Alps, peaks of Zillertal Alps or Innsbruck itself, the views are absolutely mesmerising. It is possible to spend hours observing the panorama while analysing all the details but there is so much to do here. Depending on the time of the season, there are quite a lot of hiking routes from all the stations. The true potential of Nordkette could be observed only from the Top of Innsbruck, where you can easily reach the peak of Hafelekar (2,334 m / 7,657 ft).

Karwendel Natural Park is the biggest park in Austria. It stretches from Innsbruck as far as to Germany. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

With the ticket to the top of the Innsbruck, you can take off and spend as much time you want in any of the stations before you continue your journey. The main attractions are the top of Innsbruck itself and Seegrube. At the latter stop, you can get everything you’d expect in a typical Austrian restaurant. Drinks are served either in hotel-restaurant or nearby Cloud 9 outdoors bar, it is perfect for sunbathing too!

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Visit Swarovski Crystal Waters in Wattens

It wouldn’t surprise me that for the majority of the tourists Swarovski Crystal Water would be the first and only thing that rings a bell once they hear the name of Innsbruck. This unique city, of course, has much more to offer but it doesn’t mean that this one-of-a-kind museum is not worth a visit. Nowhere else, mesmerising crystals are used in such a manner to transfer its visitors into a magical world, places like “the giant” and “Crystal Cloud”. You don’t have to be a fan of jewellery to feel the childish joy of adventure in the museum.

If you are planning to pay a visit to Swarovski Crystal Waters, the first thing you need to know is that it is located not in Innsbruck but in nearby Wetters, which could be reached in minutes with a car or a train. Being probably the main attraction for foreigners in the area, Swarovski Crystal Waters is well integrated with tourists cards. Wherever you book a stay in the region for 2 or 3 nights, the welcome card will give a discount for the entrance ticket. With Innsbruck Card, you can access it for free. This card must be bought, while Welcome Card is given for free for anyone staying at least 2 nights at the same place. Optionally, given the popularity of Swarovski Crystal Waters, it might be a wise idea to book a skip-a-line ticket online in advance.

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Igls town center is filled with hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and cafes. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Visit Olympic City Igls

Innsbruck might be the Capital of Tyrol but most of the people live in the beautiful countryside of the region. Igls is the closest cozy town near the city, where you can get to experience how does a typical Tyrolean village look like. Situated about 900 m / 2,953 ft above sea level at the foot of Patscherkofel (2,246 m / 7,369 ft), Igls overlooks Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. It is a perfect place for hiking in summer and for winter sports during the cold part of the year. Igls took a part in 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, hausing bobsleigh track on Patscherkofel. Hotels, restaurants and cafes in the center of the town unveil the character of the town. Igls is a very good and popular ski resort, o at least celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hoffman found it so.

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Go to Hungerburg by Funicular

I consider the ride to Hungerburg an absolute must-do for any visitor. Even if you can’t afford to go to the Top of Innsbruck, a funicular trip to Hungerburg should be within reach of anybody visiting the mountains capital of Austria. Since Hungerburg is a part of Innsbruck, this funicular is considered to be public transport. Hungerburgbahn connects the upper district of the city to the edge of the old town by Congress Innsbruck. It is also possible to come to Hungerburg by public bus J, also known as ‘from peak to peak’.

It is possible to get to see this beautiful panorama of Innsbruck by public transport. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Hungerburg overlooks the rest of Innsbruck. Spectacular panoramas open up across the district. There is a perfect platform for the best views just between funicular and Nordkette cable car stations. Since it is included in the Top of Innsbruck ticket, there is no point in not experiencing Innsbruck vistas from Hungerburg before going higher. In my mind, it gives the best effect before Seegrube and the Top of Innsbruck. The trip should be done in this order for the maximum experience. Since Hungerburgbahn is a mode of public transport, there is no limit to access it. Though have in mind, that at some hours there might be long queues for it. You can save some time by ordering Hunberbahn ticket online.

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The current funicular to Hungerburg was built in 2007 by the design of Zaha Hadid. It replaced the old line operating since 1906. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Visit Olympic Bergisel Ski Jump Arena

It is no secret that Innsbruck has hosted Winter Olympics twice: 1964 and 1976. Bergisel Sky Jump Arena was a central piece of both of these renowned sports events. It is situated on the foot of the Tux Alps and could be seen from various points of Innsbruck. Nevertheless, the arena doesn’t have to be observed only from a distance. Bergisel Ski Jump arena is open to the public, where learn more about the history of ski jump sport and the winter Olympics. Surprisingly, this arena can fit up to 27,000 thousand observers. It also offers an amazing 360 degrees panorama of the surrounding Alps and SKY restaurant. Bergisel Ski Jump Arena has an entrance fee, you can secure your spot with a skip-the-line ticket.

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Bergel Ski jump arena was used in both Winter Olympics of Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Interestingly, the meaning of ‘Bergisel’ transcends German ‘berg’, meaning ‘mountain’. The origins of the contemporary name of Bergisel comes from the deep pre-Roman past when the hill had a name ‘Burgusinus’. Coincidentally or not, the word translates to ‘elevated position’, which is as close to a definition of a mountain as it gets. I would speculate that given that the Germans probably came from steppes, they adapted the local word for ‘mountain’.


More Things to Do in Innsbruck

One can enjoy the beautiful panorama of the Austrian Alps even from the train station of Innsbruck. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

How to get to Innsbruck

Innsbruck is great for travelling without a car. There are more than enough things to do within the city and the close proximity to it. Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol and the Austrian Alps, many roads meet here including railways. One can get around Tyrol with a train without a problem.

By Train

Not only does Innsbruck have a direct train connection with most of the major cities in Austria like Vienna, Linz, Salzburg and Bregenz but with the neighbouring countries as well. This includes Switzerland (Zurich), Germany (Munich) and Italy (Venice and Bolzano/Bozen). Regional trains connect Innsbruck to most corners of Tyrol.

Pro tip: Both, Innsbruck City Card and Innsbruck Welcome Card provide free public transport within the city limits.


By Car

Innsbruck could be accessed from three different directions: from Switzerland and Vorarlberg (West) by roads A12 and 171, from Italy by road A13 and from Germany or Salzburg (East) by roads 171  and A12.


By Transfer

The private transfer options are managed by GetYourGuide – in my opinion, the best tour platform out there. It guarantees the quality of the provided services and free cancellation up to 24 hours before the tour to get a full refund.

All content and photos by Alis Monte. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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