When we leave for a trip, I normally set my alarm an hour earlier so that I can quickly pack our suitcases just before we leave. I really am a disaster when it comes to packing – but not this time. For this trip, my clothes, sleeping bag and backpack were lying ready on the floor two weeks in advance! I couldn’t wait to set off – we’d been invited to the tourism department of Tyrol to hike the Inn Valley High Trail, a long-distance hike of six days in the heart of the Alps. Why was I beside myself with excitement for this trip in particular? Was it because of Corona, or because of the heatwave we’ve had in Belgium during August? The idea of enjoying the astonishing scenery with my head in the clouds (literally!) gave me goosebumps before we were even in the car on our way to Innsbruck. I last walked a real long-distance hike with a backpack during my trip to Peru. And I’m not going to lie… I’m now in the worst condition ever (thank you COVID-19!). I told myself in advance that I was going to encounter my own limits. But I was also prepared for peace – mental peace, that is. This Innsbruck travel guide takes you along on our adventures. For a detailed breakdown of our hike, click here to read the Inntaler höhenweg – long distance hike in Tyrol blog post.
**disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but this doesn’t change the fact that I share my own honest experiences.**
How to get to Innsbruck
By car, you’ll be on the road from Antwerp for about 9 hours. Keep in mind that you have to purchase a road vignette for Austria. You can order a digital vignette online in advance, via the Asfinag site. You can also buy the vignette just across the border, like we did at a gas station. You can choose a vignette for 10 days (€ 9.40), 2 months (€ 27.40) or a year (€ 91.10).
By train, you can travel from Brussels to Tyrol via Cologne with the Nightjet. This environmentally-friendly night train leaves every Monday and Thursday from Brussels to Innsbruck, and returns on Wednesdays and Sundays. The journey takes just over 14 hours.
Fancy flying instead? Innsbruck has its own airport. You can fly there out of Brussels, Transavia and Tui, among others.
Vienna International Airport is located in the Austrian capital, and it’s the largest airport in the country. From here, you can take the train to Innsbruck – it will take around 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take a domestic flight with Austrian Airlines towards Innsbruck.
Public transport in Innsbruck
Thanks to an extensive network of regional trains and buses, you can reach almost all of the major valleys of Tyrol by public transport out of Innsbruck. For more information about public transport in Tyrol, please contact the Verkehrsbund Tirol (VVT), the ÖBB and the Innsbrucker traffic companies (IVB).
Where to stay in Innsbruck
Stage 12 Hotel by Penz is the ideal base during your stay in Innsbruck. The hotel has 120 beautiful rooms, and is centrally located in the old part of the city. Breakfast consists of a diverse international buffet. The hotel also has a cozy bar with a lovely outside terrace, where you can enjoy the best cocktails! The rooms are spacious and equipped with wonderful box spring beds. More info and prices can be found here.
Let’s start our Innsbruck travel guide with a little bit of history. The 800-year-old city takes its name from the very first bridge in Innsbruck that crosses the river Inns. Partly because of its location and accessibility over water, the city was a main trade route to Italy and Switzerland in the 12th century.
At the end of the 15th century, Innsbruck was elected the imperial capital by Maximilian I. The city now has about 130,000 inhabitants – of which 30,000 are students! It’s primarily a popular winter sports destination – but the city is also a top destination during other seasons, too. Read on, and I’ll let you discover more of Innsbruck’s hidden gems.
Things to do in Innsbruck
Let’s get down to business – what is there to do during a trip to Innsbruck?
Get an Innsbruck card
Planning to explore the many cultural offerings in Innsbruck, or tend to use public transport? Grab yourself an Innsbruck card!
You can purchase the card for 24, 48 or 72 hours. The card gives you free access to all museums and many other attractions including the cable cars, the Crystal Worlds and public transport. You can even use the Innsbruck card as a free parking ticket in the coach car park. The card will save you a lot of money, and make your holiday even more enjoyable.
Spot The House with the Golden Roof
The House with the Golden Roof is Innsbruck’s best-known and most photographed tourist attraction. It became world-famous in 1500, when Emperor Macimiliaan I gave orders to pave the roof with 2,657 gilded copper shingles. The house is located in the historic center and can be viewed from the square in front of the building.
Visit the Hofburg
A sight not to be missed during your trip to Innsbruck is the Hofburg, not far from the House with the Golden Roof. This is the former palace of the Habsburg emperors, used whenever they were in the city. The Hofburg was built in 1460, and in a later period provided with a facade in rococo style. Today, you can find old imperial apartments and a number of art galleries here. Adjacent is the beautifully decorated Hofkirche, and immediately to the north is the Hofgarten, the old gardens of the palace that now serve as a public park.
Wander around the old town
There are countless other beautiful buildings in the city center. There is the 51-meter-high Stadtturm with a beautiful view over the city and the valley of the Inn. The Katzunghaus, the Trautsonhaus and the Hotel Goldener Adler, which has existed since 1390, are other examples of well-preserved medieval architectural highlights. The Helblinghaus is also beautiful to see, as it features an elegant Baroque façade from 1725.
Also worth mentioning is the Baroque-style Innsbruck Cathedral. Inside you’ll see beautiful artwork that is definitely worth a visit.
Brush up on your knowledge in the museums of Innsbruck
Impressed by Innsbruck and want to know even more about the city? The museums are the perfect place to visit during your stay. For Tyrolean art and history, there are several branches in the Tyrolean Landesmuseum, the most important museum in the state.
Prefer to visit more practical exhibitions? How about the Tyrolean Museumsbahnen – where you can learn absolutely everything about the Tyrolean trains. I personally find the Tiroler Kaiserjägermuseum the most interesting, which focuses on the soldiers of the former Austrian Empire. For children there’s the Alpenzoo – the highest-located zoo in Europe, where you can view a variety of animals that live in the Alps.
Head up to Ambras Castle
Schloß Ambras is located on a mountain ridge on the southern outskirts of Innsbruck. The Renaissance style castle was built in 1563 for Ferdinand II of Habsburg. Nowadays, it houses an art gallery, a cabinet of curiosities and the beautifully decorated 43-meter Spanish Hall. Surrounded by splendid gardens, Schloß Ambras is one of the city’s most visited attractions.
Admire the Bergiselschanze
A big fan of skiing? Your trip to Innsbruck is not complete until you’ve visited the Bergiselschanze. The world-famous ski jump was built in 1927, and then completely renovated in 2001. The 1933 Nordic World Ski Championships took place here, as well as the 1985 World Cup. The third race of the Four Hills Tournament is traditionally jumped at the Bergiselschanze. In addition, the Bergisel jump was also the Olympic ski jump twice.
Enjoy the view from the Patscherkofel
The Patscherkofel, easily spotted by the large transmission mast on the top, is a mountain that towers high above the city of Innsbruck. It’s best known for the Olympic Games of 1964 and 1976, when it hosted several alpine ski competitions. The mountain, with its beautiful view over the city, is especially popular among skiers and hikers .
Shop ‘til you drop
Feel like indulging in a bit of retail therapy during your stay in Innsbruck? Head over to the Maria Theresien Strasse. Almost all major retail chains are housed here, as well as several cozy coffee bars to catch a breather from all that shopping. Looking for more boutique shops? The old town is filled with both authentic souvenir shops and beautiful clothing stores.
Explore the city on foot
The best way to explore Innsbruck is on foot, and there are plenty of city walks to enjoy. The city has handily mapped out seven unique walks that take you past all the highlights. Go on a journey through the oldest parts of the city, discover the new side of Innsbruck, or walk in the footsteps of the famous Habsburg imperial dynasty. Discover all walks here.
Stay in romantic Schwaz
We spent our last evening in the authentic, romantic village of Schwaz located next to the river Inns, filled with plenty of lovely bars, restaurants and trendy shops.
We spent the night in Pension Clara a lovely accomodation where we were truly pampered by the friendly owner. There are several single and double rooms, all very spacious, equipped with a shower and with a beautiful view over the village. You can park next to the building and you can easily reach the city on foot.
We concluded our last evening with a delicious dinner at Gasthof Tippeler, an authentic restaurant founded in 1657. It’s located in a beautiful, perfectly preserved building, where we received a warm welcome. They serve traditional cuisine – and it is to die for!
Swing by sparkling Swarovski
Just 15 kilometers from Innsbruck and 12 kilometers from Schwaz, you will find the magical world of Swarovski in the village of Wattens.
Learn more about the history of the brand, and prepare to be enchanted by rooms filled with various artists from all over the world. You can also explore the largest Swarovski store in the world, where you can shop without limits and find all collectors items in one place.
This year, they’re celebrating their 25 th anniversary – and to mark the occasion, visitors get 25% discount on their ticket.
After your visit you can go to Daniels for a bite of lunch or a delicious coffee. The store also has a dazzling bar, with just about every cocktail possible. The Daniels Kristallwelten serves international, regional and seasonal cuisine, and even has its own pastry department.
A special feature is that the bright pavilion flooded with light, designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta. It genuinely makes you feel as though you’re eating in the middle of the park!
Book your tickets in advance online to avoid long queues.
All in all, Innsbruck is a very enjoyable city – we haven’t been bored for a second. I hope this Innsbruck travel guide is useful when planning your trip – don’t forget to read about our incredible hike before you go!
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