Planning a trip to Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck, imperial home away from home and occasional host to the Winter Olympics, is a sleepy little gem of a town, nestled amid a ring of stupendous Alps on a milky white river. This city-sized village is also a base for some of the best skiing, hiking, and scenic drives around.

Burggraben rings the Altstadt at the end of Maria Theresien Strasse, which ducks under a triumphal arch to become the rustic, souvenir shop-lined Herzog Friedrich Strasse. Near the end of this street is the Stadtturm tower, offering views over the rooftops to the surrounding Alps daily 10am to 5pm (6pm July and August; 4pm November to February) (Adm).

The street ends in a wide spot overlooked by the Goldenes Dachl, an overblown imperial balcony erected and gilded for Emperor Maximillian I in the 16th century as a box seat for the festivities on the square below. Admiring it from below is enough, though its Maximillian-oriented museum is open daily May to September 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday in winter 10am to 12:30pm and 2 to 5pm (Adm).

Turn right on Universitätsstrasse then left on Rennweg for a half-hour tour of the exuberant, curving, rococo stylings of Maria Theresa's Hofburg palace (tel. 0512/587-186), open daily 9am to 5pm (Adm).

Next door is the equally rococo Dom (cathedral), its altar decorated by Cranach the Elder's Maria Hilf. Across from the Hofburg at no. 2 Universitätsstrasse is the Hofkirche, containing a massive, statue-ridden monument to Maximillian I; it's open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm (Adm).

Its neighbor is the Tiroler Volkskunst-Museum (tel. 0512/584-302), a folk museum celebrating everyday life in the history of the Tyrol district. It’s open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday 9am to noon (Adm).

The zoo sits at the base of the Hungerburg plateau, which offers magnificent city views (funicular from Rennweg 41: 8am to after 5pm). From here, the Nordkette cable car (similar hours) rides into the mountain wilderness to Hafelekar, a 7,702-foot vista and trail base for Alpine hikes. Check with Innsbruck's tourist office about year-round glacier ski packages that include both lift tickets and rentals for as low as TK.

Outside the Alstadt is the Alpenzoo (tel. 0512/292-323) at Weiherburggasse 37, all but clinging to the side of an Alp and featuring animals indigenous to the region. It's open daily 9am to 6pm (5pm in winter) (Adm). From the center, cross the Inn river, turn right, and follow the signs a long way; you can also take bus N, D, E, or 4 from the Altes Landhaus on Maria-Theresien Strasse.

Where to stay and dine in Innsbruck

Quell your hunger pangs at the inexpensive Restaurant Ottoburg (tel. 0512/574-652) at Herzog Friedrich Strasse 1, an Austrian tradition since 1745.

The Hotel Goldene Krone Innsbruck(tel. +43-(0)512/586-160; at Maria Theresien Strasse 46, offers modern comforts in a baroque house just outside the Altstadt. Doubles start at €85. Reserve it

» More hotels in Innsbruck

Basic info

Ten daily trains arrive at Hauptbahnhof from Vienna (5 hours away), passing through Salzburg (2 hours away). The nearby German city of Munich sends 14 trains daily (1.5 to 2 hours away).

The tourist office (tel. 0512/59-850, fax 0512/598-507; is at no. 3 Burggraben.

The Innsbruck Card can be a good deal, getting you free access to all city sights and public transportation.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.