The Heart of Tyrol
Across the mountains
over the river
and through the city walls
lives the heart and soul
of Alpine tradition
in the center of Tyrol.
Where once upon a time
and Emperors ruled
all travelers to the Alps
to pass through.
So like the Queens
and peasants and paupers
of many years ago
I made my way to Innsbruck
where all roads to the Alps
come and go.
In the historic old town center
hugged by the stunning white peaks
I found myself in a vortex
where all worlds seem to meet.
Churches and palaces
a town steeped in history
and a young hip vibe
from the local University.
The art and entertainment
of a cosmopolitan city
that hasn’t lost its connection
to the natural scenery.
You can shop
in designer malls
or centuries old
hole in the walls.
Take a cable car
in twenty minutes you’re on snow
then jet back down
to catch the opera or a hip hop show.
Watch the sunrise
over the majestic mountains
watch the sunset from a rooftop
with attractive twenty-somethings.
Where people claim to be the healthiest
of anywhere else on Earth
from hiking high in the mountains
shooting schnapps and eating wurst.
Innsbruck was the first place
in the Alps where people were free
that explains why
even the Catholics think liberally.
They’re educated and cultured
like other European cities
but haven’t lost sight of the treasure
of mountains, lakes and trees
spending time in nature
hiking up the mountain with their skis.
While it’s impossible to deny
there were years of great strife
people in Innsbruck will tell you
they can’t imagine a better life.
How to Get to Innsbruck
Due to its geographic positioning, Innsbruck has been the major transportation hub in the Alps for centuries. Today it’s very convenient to reach, with international flights, trains, and buses coming through often. Easy Jet and British Airways operate flights directly from the UK. Check the train schedule here. You can find out more information on getting to Innsbruck from the local tourism board.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Innsbruck is one of the few places in the Alps where you can stay in a modern skyscraper, a six hundred year old hotel, or a budget backpacker hostel. There’s something for all budgets and all tastes here.
Singles staring at 111 euros, doubles at 135 euros
I can imagine few better ways to wake up in the morning than with the view of the sunrise over the Alps from your bed. At the Adler’s hotel you have stunning views of the city and mountains from modern rooms with floor to ceiling glass windows. The hotel is quite new, and a nice alternative to the homey classic Austrian hotels. A small spa offers a nice variety of sauna and steam rooms. The rooms are spacious with big, beautiful bathrooms, but really what makes them so special is the view. The restaurant and bar on the top floor also has sweeping views, with an outdoor dining terrace glass windows all around. An elaborate breakfast is included in the room rate. Even if you’re not staying at the Adler’s hotel, I recommend coming in for a sunset cocktail or for a special Sunday brunch. Brunch includes an enormous buffet of hot dishes, salads, sparkling wine, local bread, cheese, fruit, and so much more plus live music. Adler’s is conveniently located, a short walk from the old town and less than a block from the train station.
Hotel Weisses Kreuz
Singles starting at 39 euros, doubles at 72 euros
Dating all the way back to 1465, this hotel is in a lovely historic building right in the center of the historic old town. Rooms are classic and cozy, and an excellent value including a big breakfast buffet.
Dorms starting at 24 euros per person
Situated in a pretty square in the old town, Nepomuk’s has a warm, community atmosphere. Guests cook together in the well stocked shared kitchen and have breakfast downstairs in the popular bakery. A great budget option for people who want more peace and quiet than one finds at your typical hostel.
Dorms staring at 13 euros per person, singles for 30 euros
Hostel Marmota is the best budget option in Innsbruck, and likely in the whole Alps. Where else can you sleep for only 13 euros and hop on a bus to go skiing? It’s located in a quiet neighborhood near the Castle Ambras and a short tram ride to the city center. Guests can use the shared kitchen and all rooms have their own bathroom.
Where to Eat and Drink in Innsbruck
Every morning, except Sunday, vendors from farms surrounding Innsbruck come to sell their organic produce, homemade cheese, free range eggs, whole grain bread, and more in the Markethalle just along the river. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, it’s an excellent place to stock up on local groceries. Otherwise, you can pop into one of the little cafes connected to the market, which serve fresh fish, local wine, and more.
Entrees from 8-15 euros, beers around 3 euros
Classic Tirolean vibes and classic Tirolean food abound at Stiftskeller, one of the most popular restaurants in Innsbruck. The place is typically packed. Sausage and sauerkraut isn’t really my thing, so I preferred having a beer in the very lively bar. Though, keep in mind, it’s extremely smoky in there.
Set lunch for 14.50 euros, Set dinner for 60 euros
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s nice to have a break from the meat and potato heavy Tirolean food. Chez Nico serves extremely elegant dishes, all meat free. I recommend coming for lunch when they offer a great deal of 14.50 euros for two courses.
Looking to stock up on superfoods? Christoph’s has it all from spirulina powder to Himalayan sea salt to pure cacao. They also have a green smoothie bar!
7-10 euros for burgers and salads
Evidently one of the most popular spots in Innsbruck, this place seems to be packed every night. The vibe is laid back and hip, the design contemporary. Most people come for the burgers (they have vegan and vegetarian options too), which look delicious, but I came for the superfood salad. Finding healthy, light meals isn’t always easy in Austria, and Ludwig had a great assortment of salads. The superfood salad includes quinoa, broccoli, arugula, cucumber and feta.
Arguably most famous food item to ever come out of Tyrol, Austria for that matter, is the strudel. Kroll Studel Café has a huge assortment of not only sweet strudel, but also savory! Come in for a light breakfast strudel and cappuccino, or afternoon snack.
Nibble on chocolate cake fit for a king before strolling into the palace next door.
When the sun begins to set, head to 360 Grad Lounge for, you guessed it, a 360 degree view of the city inside of a glass dome. The bar has a very trendy vibe and is nice and intimate. I recommend going when the weather is good so that you can sit outside and avoid the cigarette smoke inside the bar.
What to do in Winter in Innsbruck
In Innsbruck you can go to a museum in the morning, ski on a glacier all afternoon, catch the opera in the evening, then party in an ice igloo. The proximity and convenience between city and nature makes for a great lifestyle. My advice while in Innsbruck? Do like the locals and taste a little bit of everything. Depending how much you plan to see, and if you’ll use public transportation, it may be worth getting an Innsbruck Card, which includes free transport and entrance to museums and other sites.
Typically I prefer to explore on my own rather than take a tour, however taking a private tour with Elisabeth Grassmayr (Elisabeth@grassmayr.at) or her daughter Monika is a different story. Their family has been in Innsbruck for hundreds of years, and owns and operates one of the original bell foundries in Europe. They will custom tailor an itinerary based on what you’re interests are, and their knowledge is so vast you will form a deep understanding of Innsbruck in a very short amount of time. I highly recommend going sightseeing with one of them if you’re a cultural junkie and what to see the city like a local.
With such a rich history, there are many historic sites to discover in Innsbruck. Be sure to visit the main ones, including the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Golden Roof, and the Cathedral. I also recommend going to the Grassmayr Bell Foundry Museum, one of the oldest bell foundries in Europe, where they even have the world’s largest singing bowl that you can sit in. Apparently the vibration that moves through your body when you sit inside of the singing bowl has the ability to improve circulation, adjust your alignment, and ease joint pain. If the weather is nice, the Castle Ambras, a short bus ride from the city, has a beautiful setting and tons of history to discover.
One of the best ways to learn about local culture in Innsbruck, is to pop into shops where the locals go. In the old town you will find tiny wine shops where you can go and have a glass in the evening, traditional meat sellers, and local craftsmen. Outside of town in the surrounding countryside of Tulfes you’ll find local farm shops selling homemade schnapps, bread, cured meat, and local crafts.
Likely the reason you’ve come to Innsbruck in the winter is to get up in the mountains. There are tons of nearby opportunities for skiers of all levels, ski tourists, snowboarders, and those just interested in taking in the view. About an hour by bus and you’ll reach the Stubaier Glacier, the biggest glacier ski resort in Austria. There you have a large ski area with pistes for all levels, a snow park, opportunities for ski touring, and even an ice grotto. Also popular and ultra convenient from Innsbruck is Nordkette Mountain, with gorgeous views of the mountains and the city. Reaching Nordkette from the city is as easy as hopping into a funicular that takes you up to the top in 20 minutes. Ski touring is popular on Nordkette, but you also have on piste. The Seegrube Alpenlouge restaurant has a nice variety of traditional Tirolean dishes and a salad bar, and gorgeous views. Discover more ski areas nearby here.
The Tiroler Landestheater has performances often, ranging from modern dance to classical opera.
Party in Ice Igloo
Take après ski to a whole new level at Cloud 9 Iglu Bar up on Nordkette Moutain. They’re open daily if you want to pop by for a drink between runs, but every Friday starting at 6pm they have a party with a live DJ inside of their ice igloo. A truly unique experience you should not miss.