Having twice hosted the Winter Olympics, Innsbruck is surrounded by beautiful mountains and is renowned around the world for its fantastic winter sports facilities. Although incredible Alpine scenery is on show everywhere you look, Innsbruck itself is a feast for the eyes as wonderful architecture is ever-present in the form of its castles, churches and palaces and its delightful Old Town appears as if from out of a fairytale.
Indeed, it was from here that the Counts of Tyrol and later on Emperor Maximilian I held so much power thanks in part to Innsbruck’s strategic location. Dripping with history, there is much for visitors to see and do and tourists will be astounded at the beauty on show in the Capital of the Alps.
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Located in the Old Town, the Helblinghaus’ Gothic and Baroque facade is absolutely gorgeous and definitely warrants a stop when in Innsbruck. Very unique in design, the lavish stucco decorations appear as if from a fairytale, as sculptures and motifs snake their way around the window frames and sills. Standing out amid the rest of the buildings that neighbor it, the Helblinghaus remarkably dates all the way back to the late Middle Ages.
Towering above the rooftops that surround it, the Stadtturm (Town Tower) looks out imperiously over the city and is one of the main landmarks on show. Dwarfing the medieval buildings of the Old Town, it was here that guards kept a watch out for fires and invading forces; it was at one point briefly used as a prison. From the viewing platform at the top, there are amazing views on offer of the River Inn, the Old Town and Innsbruck itself, with all the magnificent mountains hemming it in on all sides.
Built all the way back in the 1400’s, Innsbruck’s Imperial Palace – otherwise known as the Hofburg – is dazzlingly white, standing out beautifully against the green of the gardens around it and the perfect blue skies above. With various architectural styles featured, the palace housed various emperors and empresses over the centuries. The luxurious apartments inside are fascinating to wander around, with lavish ornaments and decorations everywhere you look. The Riesensaal is particularly stunning; frescoes cover the ceiling and fine portraits coat the walls. With so much to see and do in the palace, visitors will certainly come away having learned a lot about the history of Austria, as well as that of all of the royals who resided here.
Innsbruck Cathedral, as it is known in English, is a magnificent building. Visitors to the city can hardly fail to notice it as it is such an important and recognizable religious landmark. Circular windows line the Baroque façade, which is delightfully framed by two bell towers, and the interior is no less beautiful to gaze upon. With some wonderful painted ceilings, a beautifully and intricately carved pulpit, and marble altars to boot, wandering around the Dom zu St. Jakob is a delightful experience. Almost destroyed during the Second World War, the cathedral is now one of the most popular tourist sites in the city.
The wonderful Alpine Zoo in Innsbruck is a great day out for all of the family. Most of the animals are either from the Alps themselves or are native to mountainous areas. As such, the animals appear to be very happy; their spacious enclosures are designed to replicate their natural habitats. Visitors can gaze in awe at the large brown bears and ferocious looking wolves before moving on to the cute and playful otters. With more than 2000 animals on show and a fantastic aquarium, Alpenzoo is great, and visitors will learn a lot about all of the residents living there.
One of the liveliest streets in Innsbruck, Maria-Theresien-Strasse is delightful to wander along. Beautiful 17th and 18th-century buildings line it and there are numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes on offer – full of locals and tourists alike. Numerous historic buildings and landmarks are scattered about and visitors can enjoy gazing upon such sights as the Town Hall, the statue-lined St. Anne’s Column, and the stunning Altes Landhaus – a beautiful Baroque palace. At one end of the long street lies the imperious Triumphpforte, which dates all the way back to 1765 and celebrates the Emperor Leopold II’s marriage, while at the other end, lies a magnificent view of the mountains that tower over Innsbruck.
Renowned throughout the world as a winter sports center, Innsbruck twice hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The impressive Bergiselschanze has since been constructed following the games that were held here. The ski jump is bedded into the side of a hill and the mind boggles at the speed the skiers must reach as they plummet down it before jumping off into the nether. With a cafe and a viewing platform at the top, visitors can enjoy the fantastic views of the city below. Once the site of an important battle – where the Tyrolese rose up and freed themselves from the occupying forces that had a hold on Innsbruck – there is an interesting memorial, monument, and tomb for visitors to check out alongside the towering Bergiselschanze.
This late Gothic church is a joy to behold, such is the artistry on show. It was commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand I in 1553. While the exterior is not particularly special, it is the inside which will set your heart racing. Marble columns line the nave and a remarkable 28 bronze statues are scattered about. Depicting some of the previous Hapsburg Emperors, renowned contemporaries such as Leopold III, and mythical heroes such as King Arthur, they are a unique feature that make Hofkirche so interesting to wander around. While they are fascinating in themselves, it is the glorious tomb of Maximilian I that is the highlight of the church, with its delightful ornamentation, carvings and huge sarcophagus; 24 reliefs depict important events from his life – simply breathtaking.
Not far from Innsbruck is the awesome Schloss Ambras, one of the most popular tourist attractions among visitors to the city. It is here that Archduke Ferdinand once resided. Surrounded by lush gardens and grounds, the castle is captivating to visit, with the interior being of particular interest; it is home to numerous suits of armor, many fine sculptures, and a delightful art collection. One of the highlights is the spectacular Spanish Hall, which so beautifully showcases the best of German Renaissance art and architecture; wonderful frescoes line the walls beneath the intricately decorated ceiling. In addition to this, the lovely Chapel of St. Nicholas is also worth exploring, as are the interesting bathing chambers.
Located in the Old Town of Innsbruck, the Golden Roof is stunning. The rich ornamentation around the windows and the gilded copper tiles of the roof glitter before your eyes. Built in 1496, it is one of the city’s most famous sights. While the arcade itself won’t take you that long to see, the museum is a captivating place and documents the life and times of Maximilian I; the Golden Roof was actually erected to commemorate his marriage. Indeed, it was from the balcony below the roof that the court used to watch festivities put on for their enjoyment in the square below. With lots of information on offer, interactive installations and interesting items to see, the Goldenes Dachl Museum will teach you loads about the history of Innsbruck and the emperor himself.
Set amidst the mountains, it comes as no surprise that Innsbruck is home to some of the world’s best ski slopes and ski resorts. Consequently, it is popular amongst locals and tourists who want to hit the slopes. Nearest to the city is the Nordpark, with such beautiful views on offer, as well as many great ski slopes which cater to all levels. The surrounding area is also home to a number of great pistes; it is for good reason that this place is considered to be the main skiing destination in the whole of Austria. With over 500 kilometers of trails for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy, taking to the slopes and breathing in the fresh mountain air is not to be missed when visiting Innsbruck.
The Nordkettenbahnen takes you from the centre of Innsbruck up to the stunning scenery of the Nordkette mountain and in only twenty minutes your surroundings completely change from that of a bustling city to a pristine and picturesque mountain environment. Starting off in the Hungerburgbahn funicular, you travel across the River Inn before taking a cable car to Seegrubenbahn where you transition to a chairlift for the second stretch of the journey. The highest highest point of the Nordkette moutain can be reached by taking the Hafelekar chairlift.
At the various stops, there are numerous activities on hand and you can go rock climbing, hiking and even skiing in the upper reaches of the mountain or simply sit down at one of the restaurants and drink in the breathtaking view. Jaw-dropping to behold, the 360-degree panoramas will live long in the memory and gazing down upon Innsbruck far, far below is an incredible experience with the scenic mountains all about you. Riding the Nordkettenbahnen is therefore simply a must when visiting this scenic Alpine city.