After two years of limited travel and virtual experiences, it's time to get out and discover the real Austria again. And the gateway city of Innsbruck offers a unique place to start: just flying into Innsbruck is exhilarating as the city is ringed by beautiful mountains.
You can stroll its streets full of imperial elegance and beautiful Baroque style and Gothic architecture in Innsbruck Old Town, and then take the cable cars from the city centre and be at 2,000m in just 20 minutes. Its warm, friendly atmosphere, relaxing outdoor activities and cosy surrounding villages will make you feel at home in no time.
Where is Innsbruck?
Known as the capital of the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is situated in the West of Austria, where the country's territory narrows towards Switzerland, bordered by Germany to the north and Italy to the south. Innsbruck airport is a popular choice for skiers heading to nearby ski resorts as well as to northern Italy, and is just 20 minutes from the city centre.
Why visit Innsbruck in the summer?
Famous as a destination for winter sports enthusiasts heading to nearby ski resorts, Innsbruck has much to offer the summer traveller with its blend of beautiful nature and popular tourist attractions.
The city is compact enough to be experienced on foot or a bike, while the surrounding mountains and pretty villages are easily accessible for outdoor adventures and amazing views.
Curious about the Tirolean cuisine? Join a Food Tour and spend four hours with a local guide, walking through the old town and sampling all the typical and local delicacies while learning more about their history and ingredients.
The Best things to do in and around Innsbruck
Check out the famous sights such as the Golden Roof, the Helbing House, Innsbruck Cathedral, the Town Tower, the Triumphal Arch and Innsbruck's most famous street Maria Theresien-Strasse, or head to one of the hip districts such as Mariahilf and St. Nikolaus where Innsbruck’s uni students like to meet for a beer or cocktail.
Outside the city there are hiking and biking trails and chances to try kayaking, canyoning and paragliding. You can even surf on the green waters of the Inn river, right in the city itself.
And don't forget a visit to the Bergisel Ski Jump Tower, rebuilt in 2001, in honour of Innsbruck's status as a Winter Olympic Games host. History buffs will also want to take in the Tirol Panorama Museum which charts the history of the Tirol region, and the Tirolean Folk Art Museum to get a feel for the area.
And when visiting Innsbruck, don't forget to pick up your Innsbruck Welcome Card. Available to all visitors staying two nights or more, it includes public transport, free hiking and e-biking tours and discounts on many Innsbruck attractions. Here are some highlights to enjoy.
In the city:
Explore Innsbruck's Old Town and see the famous Golden Roof
Undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Innsbruck, the Golden Roof is a must-see for any visitor to Innsbruck. The city's most famous landmark gleams in the heart of the Old Town, and gets its name from the 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles that adorn the roof of the striking alcove balcony. Dating back 500 years, it was built by the Emperor Maximilian who would gaze out at his city and bask in the adulation of his people.
The balcony structure is adorned with a wide variety of figures and images, including Maximilian and both of his wives. As well as enjoying the Golden Roof, a visit to the adjoining museum will immerse you in the time of Emperor Maximilian. Another must-see is the Imperial Palace, also built during Maximilian's reign.
Visit Ambras Castle
Ambras Castle stands on a hill on the southern outskirts of the city and is one of its most-cherished landmarks. The cultural and historic significance of this Renaissance castle is bound up in the life of Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595), a famous Renaissance patron of the arts and sciences.
This outstanding historical site holds the title of the oldest museum in the world, with its 'chambers of curiosity' still having some of the same exhibitions on display since the 1600s! Exploring the castle is a great opportunity to wander the well-trodden halls and get a unique insight into Renaissance history.
Today, the upper castle is also home to the magnificent Habsburg Portrait Gallery, which contains more than 200 portraits, including works by artists such as van Dyck and Velasquez.
Go on a foodie tour of Innsbruck to explore Tirolean cuisine
Why did bread in Tirol used to be stored on shelves on the walls? Which rather unusual Tirolean specialty has Ban Ki-moon, the former secretary general of the United Nations, tasted twice? Take an Innsbruck Food Tour and you will not only taste some of the finest Tirolean cuisine for yourself, but you will learn the stories and anecdotes behind almost every meal.
Accompanied by a 'local', you can enjoy typical local delicacies and specialties for up to four hours. With a nice walk and lots of meals and tastings, you will be able to experience the beautiful city of Innsbruck in a unique way. The rule is: eating, walking, talking, eating, drinking... again and again, rain or shine!
Plus, if you'd like to take experiencing the local cuisine to another level, book a Gourmet Gondola Breakfast at the Patscherkofel cable car. You'll be whisked up the mountain in a specially-reserved gondola where your breakfast will be waiting for you. You'll eat on the journey up and back down the mountain, pausing at the Das Kofel restaurant at the top station where a glass of Prosecco will be waiting for you.
This truly an unforgettable experience is available for breakfast from Thursday to Sunday, with dinner available to book on Thursdays.
Take a day trip to Swarovski Crystal Worlds
A 20km drive from Innsbruck brings you to Swarovski Crystal Worlds where the wonders of crystal are revealed as never before in a remarkable showcase, dedicated to installations of light and sparkle. Here you'll have the chance to appreciate this world-famous brand from a different perspective and delve into what makes Swarovski so special.
Highlights include a poetic garden featuring a unique Crystal cloud made from 800,000 hand-mounted and floating crystals, and an outstanding infinity mirror room, with its 'chandelier of grief', created by artist Yayoi Kusama.
The Shuttlebus to get here is included in the Welcome Card.
In the mountains:
Take the cable car up to the mountains and explore the Nordkette
They call it the highest city stroll in the Alps: Taking the cable car from the city up to the top of Innsbruck's local mountain is to experience a journey high above the river Inn, spruce forests and jagged rock formations, up to the home of the alpine ibex. The Nordkette mountain range is marked by some breath-taking panoramas and has achieved cult status among locals and visitors alike.
You begin your half-hour trip on the futuristic-looking Hungerburgbahn funicular, designed by star architect Zaha Hadid, which transports visitors from the centre of Innsbruck up to a mountain plateau, from where you take the Seegrubenbahn cable car on the second leg and the Nordkettenbahn cable car up to Hafelekar, at 2,300m, the window to the Karwendel mountains.
During winter the Nordkette mountains are covered in snow and are a playground for skiers and snowboarders. In the summer the landscape is transformed into lush meadows and shady coniferous forest.
Cycle the Innsbruck BikePark and surrounding area
Mountain biking fans will not want to miss the BikePark with its diverse trails with phenomenal views over Innsbruck and a spectacular alpine backdrop. Fast trails, mountain huts for eating and chilling, and a practice area await at the Muttereralm. Plenty of tracks graded from easy to hard ensure plenty of action, whether it's side tracks, jumps, trails or obstacles. You can also make the most of the bike washes, equipment rental and local guides.
Innsbruck's BikePark is also the home of Crankworx Innsbruck. In June, the world's best riders come together at the Mountain bike Gravity Festival and show off their jumps, top-speed downhill racing and much more.
Head a little further afield and you'll also find a fantastic technical mountain bike route at the top of the Seegrube cable car. The Nordkette Singletrack Trail is 3.2km long, has a vertical drop of 1,030m and a gradient of up to 36% - considered one of the trickiest tracks in Europe. Through wide open spaces and dense forest, the trail includes high, banked corners, loose ground, big steps and loads more to really test your riding ability.
Walk the many hiking trails
The wider Innsbruck area offers superb hiking terrain. Numerous trails weave around the mountain ranges and fan across the valley, offering all kinds of walks from a leisurely family stroll to a challenging high-altitude hike. A free mountain hiking programme - which is available with the Innsbruck Welcome Card when you stay two or more nights in the area - helps visitors make the most of the local landscapes, with guides showing you the forests, alpine meadows and mountain huts, and, of course, the best views.
Stay for over three nights and the Welcome card gives you four free cable car rides to hike even more of the area!
Hikes are spread over five mountain ranges with something for everyone, from enjoyable flat paths of the Mieming Plateau, to high alpine trails and rugged terrain in the Sellrain Valley. If you prefer, you can stay down in the valley and choose one of the Walks to Explore, all of which combine easy hiking with sightseeing and start directly in Innsbruck.
Innsbruck is known as the Climbers City and has a range of attractions for fans of rock climbing, from various via ferrata, outdoor climbing parks, indoor climbing centres and much more, with more than 1,000 single-pitch routes and numerous multi-pitch routes. The wide range of rock types provide plenty of variety and diverse terrain, from limestone to breccia, slate and gneiss.
Via ferrata, especially, are great for 'non-climbers' - more than a hike but less dangerous than free climbing, these special routes pass over craggy terrain with climbing aids such as steel ropes to hold onto and open up otherwise impassable terrain.
To experience the #realAustria and to find out more about summer in Innsbruck, go to austria.info
This year has also seen the introduction of brand new flights to Innsbruck from the UK to make getting to the Tirol even easier.
Jet2 flies you to Innsbruck from:
- Birmingham every Saturday
- Bristol every Saturday
- Manchester every Wednesday and Saturday
easyJet takes you to Innsbruck from London Gatwick:
- 19 April - 25 June 2022 on Tue | Thu | Sat
- 26 June - 3 September 2022 on Tue | Wed | Thu | Sat
- 4 - 30 September 2022 on Tue | Thu | Sat