Known as the capital of the Alps, Innsbruck is located in the far west of Austria, sandwiched between Germany and Italy. The city is known for its medieval Old Town, impressive architecture, as well as nature’s own architecture – the sweeping Alpine mountains.
There’s plenty of things to see and do in Innsbruck for all tastes and interests, from folk art museums to mountain cable car rides, to regional cuisine, to the Swarovski Crystal World theme park! These recommendations include the top 10 things to do in Innsbruck, how to get around the city, as well as the benefits of the Innsbruck Card.
Top 10 things to do in Innsbruck
Narrowing down sightseeing and experiences to just ten main attractions is tough, but these are the best things to do in Innsbruck, to squeeze into your itinerary.
1. Nordkette Mountains
Located in Austria’s largest national park, Karwendel Nature Park, Nordkette is the mountain at the heart of Innsbruck. Offering Alpine scenery, hiking trails for all ages and abilities, plus enjoyable cable car rides, a visit here is the best thing to do while you’re visiting the city.
There are three funicular and cable car options, which are fun to ride and the best way to enjoy views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountainous environment.
The Hungerburg Funicular
Costing just a few euros, this funicular is a cheap and quick ride up to Hermann Buhl Square, and offers incredible views over the city to the mountains beyond.
Runs every 15 minutes Monday to Friday 7.15am to 7.15pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, hours are 8am to 7.15am.
Next, you can take the Nordkette cable car to Seegrube from Hermann Buhl Square. Once at the top, you can also hike the Panorama Trail for 360-degree epic landscapes (this easy hike takes only 30 minutes to complete).
Runs every 15 minutes between 8.30am and 5.30pm daily.
Hafelekar Cable Car
This cable car ascends to a whopping 2,300 meters, for the most spectacular views of the Alps. Aside from the photo opportunities and fresh mountain air, you can also enjoy mountain biking, hiking trails, hand-gliding and snow sports, such as skiing.
Runs every 15 minutes from 9am to 5pm daily.
2. Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal World)
If you’re a fan of Swarovski or sparkly crystals in general, then pay a visit to Innsbruck’s Swarovski Crystal World.
A theme park of sorts, there are large sculptures and outdoor displays, a hedge maze, a waterfall, exhibitions about Swarovski, as well as the “Chambers of Wonder,” which show off dazzling crystals in unique displays crafted by world-class designers.
Swarovski Crystal World is open daily from 8.30am to 7.30pm, with last entry at 6.30pm. In December and early January hours are extended to 9pm, with last entry being 7pm. The attraction is closed on November 4th and 5th, and has limited opening hours on December 24th – 26th and 31st.
Tickets start from €19 for adults and €7.50 for children, though family packages are available.
3. Aldstadt von Innsbruck (Innsbruck Old Town)
Steeped in history and rich Tyrolean heritage, a walking tour around Innsbruck’s Old Town provides lessons in architecture, as well as an insight into the bustle of modern life in the city. Meander the medieval streets, then partake in the Austrian pastime of coffee, pastry, and people-watching.
Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof)
Constructed in 1496 to commemorate the marriage of Emperor Maximillian I and Bianca Maria Sforza, this decadent roof canopy is made of 2,738 gilded copper tiles and a key landmark to visit in Innsbruck.
Stradtturm (Town Tower) and Old Rathaus
This 14th-century tower offers gorgeous views over the red roofs of Old Town.
4. Learn about the Tyrolean culture
The history of the Tyrol region dates back thousands of years and many enduring traditions still survive today. Be sure to soak up the culture and learn about the local heritage during your Innsbruck trip.
Tyrolean Folk Art Museum
This museum displays an extensive collection of Tyrolean cultural artifacts, which offer context and insight into the region’s history, such as replicas of Tyrolese houses. One of the most popular things to do in Innsbruck, this museum is considered one of the best folk art museums on the continent.
Tyrolean State Museum
This museum houses a collection of historical items and artworks relating to Tyrol, ranging from the Gothic period to pre-historic times.
Tyrolean Folk Show
Sample Tyrolean cuisine and absorb Tyrolean culture with a dinner and show at the family-owned Sandwirt Restaurant. Clap along as the Gundolf family demonstrate the fast Schuhplattler dance, while you enjoy a three-course meal of wiener schnitzel and other regional delicacies.
5. The River Inn
Not an Inn, but the name of the river, which gives Innsbruck its name, the beautiful riverside is perfect for a leisurely stroll. Start in the Mariahilf District, home to Mariahilf-Kirche (a church dating back to 1649, noted for its frescos) and the Botanic Garden.
Next, you’ll arrive at the district Hötting, where you can pay a visit to the Alte Pfarrkirche (Old Parish Church) and the Höttinger Höhenstrasse (Hotting Ridgeway), which showcases beautiful views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Fortresses, palaces and cathedrals to visit in Innsbruck
Austria is not short of fortresses, palaces, residential houses, cathedrals and other impressive buildings – and Innsbruck is no different. Here are a few significant structures to add to your Innsbruck trip.
6. Schloss Ambras (Ambras Castle)
Located in the south of Innsbruck, this impressive medieval fortress was converted into a Renaissance-era castle by Archduke Ferdinand II for his wife. The Archduke was a big fan of the arts and sciences, collating the Ambras collections and creating a museum facility to display them in.
Today, the castle is open to the public and noted for its exhibits of armor, artworks (especially the portraits in the Habsburg Portrait Gallery in the upper castle), antiquities and the opulent Spanish Hall, now a classical music venue.
The castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm, with last admission 30 minutes before closing time. The castle is closed completely in November. Tickets start from €12 (April to October) and €8 (December to March) for adults, and children go free.
7. Hofburg (Imperial Palace)
Dating back to the 15th century, The Hofburg is one of the most historically significant buildings in the country. Once the residence of Emperor Maximillian, the rococo façade and décor reflect the tastes of Empress Maria Theresa. Portraits of their 16 children can be found in the Giant’s Hall.
Today, the palace shares the stories of Austria’s rich imperial history, especially the female members of the royal family. The Inner Apartment was furnished by Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) in the 19th century, while the ornate courtly furniture on display at the Furniture Museum was originally selected by Maria Theresa.
Other attractions around this district include the Silver Chapel, the Old University, a Jesuit Church, a Capuchin Convent, the Tyrolean Provincial Theater and the Hofgarten.
The Innsbruck Hofburg is open daily from 9am to 5pm, including holidays. Tickets cost €9.90 for adults and children go free.
8. St. James Cathedral
Most European cities are home to a historic landmark – the cathedral – and Innsbruck is no exception. The Baroque architecture of the 1724 St. James’ Cathedral, also known as Innsbruck Dom, features two green-domed bell towers, home to eight working bells.
Inside, the interiors are decorated in stunning artworks, including ceiling stuccos and a carved pulpit, with trappings typical of such an important religious building. The cathedral is also the final resting place of Archduke Maximillian III, who was the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.
Other religious buildings worth visiting around Innsbruck include the Hofkirche (home to the tomb of Emperor Maximillian I) and Wilten Parish Church and Basilica.
Things to do in Innsbruck in winter
As an Alpine wonderland, Innsbruck is impressive in all seasons, but winter holds some special experiences. If you’re visiting the city during the winter months, don’t miss these festive and snow-related activities.
(However, note that many attractions close or operate with different opening hours during November.)
9. Innsbruck Christmas Markets
In Innsbruck, Christmas is a big deal and the city plays host to not one, not two, but six Christmas markets to celebrate the festive season:
- The traditional market can be found next to the Golden Roof in the Old Town, and the market here dates back to 1973.
- The family market is located on the market square and as you may imagine from the name, has plenty of fun things to do for children.
- The modern market is on Maria-Theresien-Strasse, the city’s famous avenue, which looks particularly lovely illuminated in sparkly tree lights.
- The panorama market is on the Hungerburg, with city views that will awaken the festive spirit in even the biggest of Grinches.
- Wiltener Platzl is great for activities, including arts and crafts, foodie fun and cultural programs too.
- Hans-Brenner-Platz square is home to the quietest Christmas market, but a great escape if you’re looking to get away from the crowds.
10. Winter Sports
Innsbruck has twice been the host city for the Winter Olympic Games, first in 1964 and then again in 1976. Therefore, it’s no wonder that winter sports are a popular activity in the Innsbruck region, with options including ice skating, ice hockey and of course, skiing.
Claiming the title of Austria’s best ski destination, Innsbruck boasts six different ski areas, which are linked by shuttle services:
- Igls – these runs are suitable for all levels.
- Hafelkar – accessed via the Hunderburg-Seegrube, these slopes are the most challenging.
- Axamer-Lizum – near the village of Axams, around 10 kilometers outside of the city.
- Tulfes – intermediate terrain
- Mutters – intermediate terrain
- Seefeld – offers year-round skiing
Bergisel ski jump
Used in both Winter Olympic Games as well as the World Championships, this 90-meter ski jump also serves another purpose – the view from the platform is truly amazing. And, if you time your visit well, you might even see people training or competing in the dangerous sport of ski jumping.
Interestingly, the ski jump has a long legacy. The 746-meter hill on which it stands, Bergisel, was the site of a heroic 1809 battle when Tyrolese peasants fought off French and Bavarian invaders. You can see a memorial to those who fought at the Andreas Hofer Monument, on the north side of the hill.
How to get around Innsbruck
Public transport includes buses and trams. Single tickets cost €3 if you buy them from the driver, or €2.40 if you buy them in advance from a ticket machine or Tabak shop, though they must be stamped at the start of the journey.
There are also day tickets (€5.60), week passes (€21.80) and monthly passes (€54.50) available, but if you factor in sightseeing as well, the best option may be to invest in an Innsbruck Card:
An Innsbruck card offers explorers of the city free admission to many of Innsbruck’s main attractions, free travel on public transport on all IVB routes, use of lifts and cable cars, as well as travel on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus, plus a free walking tour – all of which adds up to great value.
The Innsbruck Card is available for 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours, and becomes valid after its first use. You can buy it online before your trip, or buy it at a Tourismus Information center.
- 24 hours – adult €43 and child (6 to 15 years old) €21.50
- 48 hours – adult €50 and child (6 to 15 years old) €25
- 72 hours – adult €49 and child (6 to 15 years old) €29.50
For comparison, a round-trip on all three cable cars up to the Nordkette Mountains costs €38. Buy your Innsbruck Card before your trip here.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
The Adlers Hotel is located in a great location. It is in a quiet location and is walking distance from the train station. It is also walking distance from all the must-see sights. The rooms are extremely spacious and have amazing city and mountain views.
Other Things to Do in Innsbruck
What are your favorite things to do in Innsbruck? Are there are entries in the above list that surprised you, or that you found helpful? If you’ve visited Innsbruck before, are there are tips, tricks, or hacks you have for visiting the city? Let us know your recommendations and suggestions in the comments.
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