Innsbruck, Austria is the fifth-largest city in the country and an absolutely charming destination to travel to. Settled between the Austrian Alps, gorgeous snow-capped mountains surround the vibrant town. One look at a photograph and you’ll instantly want to travel to Innsbruck!
If you’re considering visiting Innsbruck or are simply eager to know about the attractions in the city, this travel guide is here to help you out. Get to know the top sights, activities, hotels and restaurants in the area, as well as the most enjoyable tours to go on. Use these travel tips to plan your relaxing getaway as soon as possible!
This ultimate travel guide to Innsbruck will show you all the most beautiful places in Innsbruck, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Innsbruck and things to do in Innsbruck which will help you in planning a trip to Innsbruck.
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How to get to Innsbruck
Innsbruck Airport is only a 20-minute bus ride away from the city centre, or 15 minutes by taxi. As the largest international airport in western Austria, there are convenient flights from all over Europe. Many routes do operate on a seasonal basis, particularly during the ski season, so that’s something to be aware of when planning your trip.
A lot of travellers choose to take the train or bus to Innsbruck, as it offers a chance to see the beautiful Tirol countryside. There are departures throughout the day from Vienna, the capital of Austria, and the EC train from Munich Central Station in Germany takes under two hours. You can even catch the train all the way from London in a day, with some changeovers in Paris and Zurich.
What to expect in Innsbruck
German is the official language in Innsbruck. Fortunately, Austrian citizens learn English as a second language all throughout school, so English is widely understood and spoken as well.
Since Austria is a member of the European Union, the euro is used in Innsbruck. Tipping is common, although a service charge of 10 per cent is usually added to the final bill, so check before leaving anything extra. Hotel staff will expect a euro for every bag brought up to your room, and taxi drivers will also expect an additional 10 per cent of the metered fare.
How to get around Innsbruck
The bus system in Innsbruck has over 20 lines, so you’ll always find a way to get around. These buses are quick and affordable and cover all major areas of the city and its suburbs. Tourists, however, generally prefer to stick to the trams. There are only three tram lines, making things much simpler for visitors. The vibrant red tramcars are a wonderful way to get around, as you can see many sights up close by simply looking out the window.
To make catching public transport as smooth as possible, get yourself an Innsbruck card. These cards are valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours from first use and offer unlimited public transport rides, including the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus and the cable cars. Since the card grants you entrance into many museums and attractions as well, it’ll be your Innsbruck travel essential.
The best time to visit Innsbruck
Any time from April to October is ideal for getting out and sightseeing in Innsbruck. If you’re hoping for moderate weather and minimal crowds, spring and autumn are your go-to seasons. An Innsbruck summer rarely reaches 30 degrees, so the weather is still perfect then as well.
However, you’ll be dealing with many more tourists like yourself, as well as increased hotel and tour prices. If you have less time to wait around in crowds or want to ensure your trip is budget-friendly, visiting during the shoulder months is best.
That being said, maybe you’re a lover of the wintertime snow. Innsbruck is a wonderful place to get into the holiday spirit and is always a magical experience. Many attractions close during this time, however, so always check this in advance to avoid disappointment.
Things to do in Innsbruck
There are so many wonderful things to see and do in Innsbruck. Here are some of the top places to visit to have the best experience possible:
Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Easily the most unique thing to do in Innsbruck is to visit Swarovski Crystal Worlds. This museum is 20 kilometres east in the town of Wattens and is absolutely worth the short trip. The world-famous Swarovski crystals are produced in this area, and a stunning utopia of art and design awaits you here.
Upon arrival, you’ll spot André Heller’s grass giant, complete with jewel-like eyes and a water fountain for a mouth. There’s more to discover in the vast and manicured garden, from the Mirror Pool and Crystal Cloud.
17 artists from around the globe were invited to create exclusive art showrooms using crystals. The result is the Chambers of Wonder, an unmissable escape from the outside world. El Sol by Fernando Romero vibrantly represents the Aztec and Mayan pyramids and their geometry, while Lee Bul’s Into Lattice Sun will spectacularly challenge your perception of depth and space.
There’s even a contribution by Alexander McQueen and Tord Boontje in the form of a sparkling crystal tree. Yet, the top space to check out is the Crystal Dome. Following the principles of geodesy, the 595 mirrors will give you the illusion of being inside a giant crystal.
The Golden Roof
One of the most iconic attractions in Innsbruck is the Golden Roof, also known as Goldenes Dachl. You’ll always see many people within the Old Town stopping to admire this glimmering roof made up of 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles.
The roof, which appears golden, was constructed in honour of Emperor Maximilian I and his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza. Completed in 1500, it was built above the balcony the emperor used to watch over events and festivals in the square below.
The Imperial Palace, also known as the Hofburg, is one of the most significant cultural buildings in the country. Since the 15th century, the palace has seen many expansions and additions over time, including a Baroque makeover in the 18th century.
Once a former Habsburg residence, the luxurious complex has been turned into five themed museums: the Imperial Apartments of Empress Elisabeth, the rooms of Maria Theresa, the Ancestral Gallery, the Furniture Museum, and the Painting Gallery.
Considering the size of the Hofburg, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see everything. Noteworthy parts to check out include the Giant’s Hall, the Gothic Hall, and the Lorraine Room. You should also visit the 1300-square-metre cobblestoned inner courtyard.
The 16th-century Court Church in the Old Town was constructed in honour of Emperor Maximilian I by his grandson, Emperor Ferdinand I. It is notable for its minimalist black and white exterior, though the interiors are heavily influenced by Late Gothic architecture. Although Emperor Maximilian I is actually buried in Wiener Neustadt, the church features a large black marble cenotaph for him with impressive German Renaissance elements.
Bergisel Ski Jump
Innsbruck is internationally known for its winter sports facilities. Built on the Bergisel Hill is the 50-metre-high Bergisel Ski Jump, which also happens to offer a spectacular panoramic view across the region. A cable car will take you to the top of the jump in minutes, where you’ll also find a cafe and restaurant. The surrounding stadium can hold up to 26,000 spectators and has hosted prestigious tournaments and events over the years.
Tirol Farmstead Museum
Interested in the area’s pre-industrial period? Head out to the Tirol Farmstead Museum, where 37 historic farms will show you how people once lived and worked. The expansive open-air museum has media installations and interesting exhibits to explore freely. Wander around and see the lumberjack huts, blacksmiths and mills from the small town of Kramsach.
Nordkette Mountain Range
Only 10 kilometres away from Innsbruck is the gorgeous Nordkette Mountain Range. In 20 minutes, you can reach the Hafelekar Peak at 2,250 metres. All you need to do is catch the Nordkette funicular to Hungerburg Station, change for a lift to Seegrube, then get the cable car to Hafelekar. Hiking and rock climbing are popular activities when it’s not snowing. However, it’s worth going up the mountain just to enjoy the incredible views below.
What to eat in Innsbruck
What sets the cuisine in Innsbruck apart from the rest of Austria are the traditional Tyrolean dishes you’ll get to taste. Here are some local meals you’ll have the opportunity to try and where you can order them from:
- Kasspatzln: Soft egg noodles or dumplings, baked and covered in cheese and fried onion. Enjoy a warm dish at Stiftskeller Innsbruck on Stiftgasse.
- Speckknödel: Austrian bread-based dumplings filled with bacon and served in a broth. Order a plate at Altstadtbeisl on the corner of Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse and Hofgasse.
- Gröstl: A delicious and comforting fry-up of bacon, onion and potatoes, often served with an egg on top. You’ll be able to order this just about anywhere, but Stieglbrau on Wilhelm-Greil-Strasse offers up a generous serving.
- Kaspressknödel: Flat, cheesy potato dumplings, plated with a broth or sauerkraut. Order at Fischerhausl on Herrengasse.
- Kiachl: A heavy yeast pastry sweetened with powdered sugar and filled with jam. Grab one at any bakery, such as Der Bäcker Ruetz.
Where to stay in Innsbruck
One of the most opulent places to stay in Innsbruck is the Hotel Neue Post. Step back in time with the impeccable Art Nouveau design and enjoy a peaceful night’s rest in the soundproofed rooms. The location is an even distance between the Inn River and the main railway station (Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof), and walking distance from an array of Old Town attractions.
A budget-friendlier choice that will definitely delight is the Altstadthotel Weisses Kreuz. The charming, rustic interiors with wooden floorboards are homely and inviting, so there won’t be any homesickness here. The hotel is right in the city centre, and rooms on the top floor showcase beautiful mountain views.
Tours to do in Innsbruck
Ensure you see as many sights as you can with a private three-hour tour of Innsbruck. Your guide will take you on foot through the streets and provide insights about the city’s history. Stop for a cup of coffee and a pastry at Café Sacher, and get to know all about the Habsburg Monarchy.
Immerse yourself in the culture of the region with a Tyrolean folk show. The highlight of this one-and-a-half-hour show is the Gundolf family performing a fast-paced dance known as the Schuhplattler, which you can clap along to. These traditional dances have been passed down through generations and are unique to Tyrol. Purchase your tickets on Viator and upgrade for hotel pick-up and drop-off, as well as a three-course meal.
The Schwaz Silver Mine, 30 minutes east of Innsbruck, was once the most productive mine in history. Take a train 800 metres below the ground and go 500 years back in time. The fascinating 90-minute tour of the mine uses light and sound displays to teach you about a day’s work as a medieval miner searching for silver and copper.
Day trips from Innsbruck
See the beautiful landscapes of Bavaria with an eight-hour day tour by private vehicle. Visit the opulent Linderhof Palace near Ettal Abbey and the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein Castle. The latter is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace perched above the village of Hohenschwangau and is one of the most visited attractions in Germany.
At both of these sites, you will learn about the life of King Ludwig from your private guide. This tour takes you on the scenic route, through the Bavarian Alps and past Lake Plansee.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not go mountain biking? Join in on a full-day City Explorer tour running on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and cycle through the stunning Tyrolean region. The Nordkette Singletrail provides challenging terrain for any experienced cyclist and is one of the longest downhill trails in Europe.
Visiting Innsbruck during the summer? Head to Lake Achensee to relax for the day. The trip will take 40 to 45 minutes driving, or you can take the train to Jenbach and a bus to Maurach. Also known as the Fjord of the Alps, the lake is the largest in Tirol and is surrounded by the picturesque Rofan Mountains. Hire an electric boat or a pedalo to get around the lake, or go swimming and snorkelling by the shore.
Recommended budget tours in Innsbruck
- Tyrolean Folk Show in Innsbruck
- Innsbruck Combo: Innsbruck Card, Traditional Café and Austrian Dinner
- Paragliding Tirol – AIR TAXI Tirol
- Cable Car Round-Trip to the Top of Innsbruck
- Ambras Castle in Innsbruck Entrance Ticket
- Mountain bike tour Innsbruck surroundings
- Innsbruck city tour – 3 hours – with private an local tourguide
- King Ludwig Castles Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Private Tour from Innsbruck
- Tyrolean Sweets & Coffee Tour
- Innsbruck city tour & Swarovski day tour – with private guide