Innsbruck is one of Europe’s must-see alpine cities. Many go there specifically for its winter sports, but there’s also a charming and beautiful medieval old town, several noteworthy museums, beautiful scenery, and impressive parks. A longer stop means you can explore the mountains – either on foot or skis. But many travelers also use this as a brief pit stop en route to Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and other Austrian cities.
Innsbruck’s old town is packed full of beautiful medieval buildings, but it’s the Golden Roof that gets most of the attention. This balcony, topped with 2,657 glistening gold tiles, is an impressive sight from the ground. It’s located in the middle of the town and sets the tone perfectly for a short stay in Innsbruck.
Good to know: If you’re truly taken by the sight of the Golden Roof, there’s a museum that you can visit as well.
Maria Theresien Street
Most of Innsbruck’s retail and dining action takes place on Maria Theresien Street. This stunning stretch through the heart of the city offers beautiful views of the mountains. It’s also home to stunning examples of Baroque architecture.
Insider tip: The slew of outdoor cafés along Maria Theresien Street makes this the perfect place to refuel for your day in the city.
Innsbruck feels remarkably regal and stately, and this overflows into its parks and gardens. The 15th century Imperial Gardens were once the private playground for the royals of the Tyrolean Habsburg. These days it’s open to the public to enjoy it in all its glory.
Insider tip: The music pavilion in the center plays host to regular concerts during the summer months.
Keep going with the royal angle and visit the Imperial Palace. This opulent building dates back to 1500 and has seen several refurbishments and upgrades over time. When monarchy ended in 1918, the palace became state property. Now you can explore much of the breathtaking complex.
Insider tip: Children and accompanying adults get free entry and audio guides on Sundays. Check the palace website for opening and tour times.
The Court Church is home to 28 life-size bronze statues that stand guard over the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I. Despite the local nickname of Schwarzmander Church (“Black Men Church”), these striking figures are actually a mix of men and women.
Good to know: The church’s organs are also worth a look. The first is over 500 years old, and the best-preserved of its kind in Austria. The second dates back to 1900.
Innsbruck from Above
The best aerial view of Innsbruck is from the Nordkette mountain range. The Hungerburg funicular and the Nordkettenbahnen cable cars will get you there quickly and without needing to exert any energy. The panoramic vista from the top is a spectacular sight.
Insider tip: Though quick and easy, during peak seasons this can eat into your schedule. If you’re pressed for time, consider the urban view from the City Tower (see below).
Innsbruck’s Alpine Zoo is unlike most zoos in the world. There you’ll find brown bears, wildcats, wolves, and eagles typically found in alpine regions. It’s set against the Nordkette mountain range and is easy to visit on the way back down from the top.
Insider tip: The zoo is open daily but closes at 6 p.m. in summer and 5 p.m. in winter, so plan your trip carefully and allow enough time to avoid missing out.
If you ran out of time getting to the top of the Nordkette mountain range, or you simply want another vantage point, return to the Golden Roof. Once there, look for the entrance to the City Tower. From this unique vantage point in the heart of the city you’ll be able to look down on the rooftops, much like the town guards did for half a century. The walk to the top requires you to traverse nearly 150 steps, but the views of the town and surrounding mountains are worth the effort.
Insider tip: The tower closes at sunset or just before, depending on the season. Make sure you get there with enough time to spare.
Innsbruck is a fascinating city that's easy to explore in a day or two, but there’s enough to keep you occupied for several days as well, particularly if you’re looking to ski or hike. It's also a perfect stopover on a rail trip through Austria, and there are easy high-speed connections to all neighbouring countries.
Originally published on Eurail.com