Discover Innsbruck, Austria
When we read the phrase “mountain town,” we usually conjure images of quaint snow-sprinkled villages, hamlets amidst towering peaks, hidden in the farthest reaches of remote ranges. But that’s only one kind of “mountain town.” Innsbruck, Austria is a mountain town on a whole other level. A medium sized city and a regional capital, the place is hardly a hamlet—though its alpine charm and picturesque valley cradle might make you think otherwise. At almost 700 meters elevation, located in the very heart of the German-speaking Alps, Innsbruck is a mountain town of massive, mind-blowingly lovely proportions. This summer, discover Innsbruck in all its “off-season” glory—when the ski slopes become a hiker’s paradise, the hills come alive with grazing cattle and sheep (and of course the sound of music), and the roads clear out and await the skinny tires of intrepid cyclists.
Where to stay?
Though Innsbruck is best known for the grand peaks and natural splendor which surround it, the City’s Old Town area is a treasure trove of baroque and imperial architecture, world class restaurants, shopping and museums, and generally plentiful sightseeing. To take full advantage of all this, be sure to book a room in Old Town. The Hotel Schwarzer Adler offers plush accommodations, plus an in-house restaurant, sauna and a rooftop terrace, for quite reasonable nightly rates. With rooms overlooking the city’s royal gardens and the Inn river, it’s hard to imagine a sweeter spot to wake up in. A little ways south, well-situated between the train station and the river, is the family-friendly Hotel Sailer.
If you’re looking for a slightly more stylish affair, try the Weisses Rössl. Just across the street from the famed Golden Roof (more on this later) the Weisses’ spacious, modishly clean-cut rooms are actually just the latest incarnation in a long line of changes and adaptations that have come over the 400-year-old establishment. To counterbalance the 21st century accommodations, the hotel’s restaurant prides itself on cooking the best of traditional Tyrolean cuisine (Tyro is the Austrian province of which Innsbruck is capital).
What to do?
To start where we left off: any trip to Innsbruck’s Old Town is not complete without a visit to the Golden Roof. The Roof, actually made of 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles, was commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I in 1493 as part of the multi-story, ornately frescoed balcony that he had built on Innsbruck’s royal residence. Be sure to grab an espresso or latte at the classic Café Munding, just a couple minutes from the Golden Roof, to get energized for more adventure.
Once you’ve had your fill of fresh pastries, wandering across age-old cobblestone and taking in the rich architectural history, it’s time to head to the mountains!
Hop aboard the Innsbrucke Nordkette cable car, whose base station is just a few blocks from the Golden Roof, and ride your way past rocky outcroppings, grazing pastures, icy glaciers, and the starkly modern cable car stations. If you’re looking to up the adventure, get off the Nordkette at the Karwendel Nature Reserve. The reserve’s 100 square kilometers of alpine beauty are riddled with well-marked hiking and mountaineering routes, and you’re bound to stumble across breathtaking views of the Zugspitze (highest mountain in Germany) and countless cabins and huts to warm up in and replenish your supplies.
Not a hiking type? The Karwendel Reserve is also known for its one-of-a-kind mountain biking routes. The Karwendelhaus route is a reasonably gentle out-and-back with exquisite views and a few memorable cliff-side sections, while the Achenseeradweg Loop a few kilometers east of town highlights the beautiful Achenee Lake.
To really get some adrenaline pumping during your stay in Innsbruck, consider checking out one of the world class rock faces that surround the city valley. Check out the Locherboden climbing garden for some beginner friendly pitches and a warm welcome into the local rock-climbing community.
Ways to End an Innsbruck Day
Innsbruck is really a perfectly designed getaway destination: stay in a cozy, chic hotel, have a nice breakfast, head out for a day exploring the wilds of Alpine peaks and forests, after which you can easily loop back downtown for a night of fine wine and dining.
To get a genuine taste of Austrian cooking that is sure to warm soul and body, try Gasthof LAMM, on the banks of the Inn. Dishes like lamb ribs, beef cheeks with creamy mash, veal schnitzel and more fuse a modern sensibility with local, traditional ingredients. For some lighter and no less tasty fare, try the Greek Akropolis Restaurant.
To drink like a local, head over to the summer hotspot Der Hoftgarten, a pub built inside Innsbruck’s royal garden. Sip on a cold, famously delicious Austrian ale while chatting about the day’s mountain adventure or learning from a local the secret trails up the Zugspitze.
True hop-heads should try Tribaun right in the heart of the Old Town, where over 20 European draft beers are available in half liters or flight samplers. For a purely traditional pub experience, head over to Wetter Café on the southern fringe of the Old Town.
Tribaun – Innsbruck, Austria