Barely 20km from the German and Italian borders, Innsbruck lies in the far west of Austria in the beautiful Tyrolean Alps. Sandwiched between high mountains that are lush and green in summer and brilliantly white with snow in winter, Innsbruck has a stunning location. After the construction of a Roman road across the Brenner Pass in 15 BC, Innsbruck enjoyed a strategic position on what was one of the most important north-south routes in the Alps. Despite these early settlements on the site of the modern city, the name Innsbruck only dates to 1187 and means “bridge of the River Inn”. By 1429, the prosperous city had been promoted to Tyrolean capital, and was to enjoy further glory in the 15th century when the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, was relocated here. Despite Second World War bomb damage, many of Innsbruck's historic buildings remain. A city steeped in history, a seat of sovereigns and site of fantastic castles, it's pure pleasure to wander the streets and sample the delights of Tyrolean gastronomy. Innsbruck is also an ideal base for mountain sports – skiing in winter, walking and rock-climbing in summer. The Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976, and the newly re-designed Bergisel ski jump attests to Innsbruck's continuing love affair with winter sports.
It's a good idea to invest in the [http://www.innsbruck-tourismus.com/xxl/_site/innsbruck/_lang/en/_area/478344/_subArea/478358/index.html Innsbruck Card] – which provides entry for all the major sights and is very good value at €23 for 24 hours. Longer durations are available for a few extra Euros – you're likely to need more than one day to see all the sights!
Start your tour in the Old Town, where centuries-old buildings lean at alarming angles either side of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. This avenue will lead you to the central square and the Goldenes Dachl, or Golden Roof, which dates to the reign of Archduke Friedrich IV. The fabulous three-storey balcony was designed as a place for sovereigns to watch the activities in the square below. Almost three thousand gold-plated copper shingles tile the roof – it's a fabulous sight.
Don't miss the Imperial Palace, which dates to the 15th century but was extensively remodelled in the 1700s, the original Gothic style being replaced by flamboyant Baroque. In one of the four wings, you'll find the Riesensaal or Hall of Giants, decorated in wintry white and gold and home to a large collection of portraits of the Habsburg dynasty.
You'll see Schloss Ambras long before you reach it as the castle dominates Innsbruck's skyline from afar. One of the finest sights in the city, the castle as you see it today is the work of Ferdinand II who refurbished and expanded it in the 16th century. Records show, however, that the site was important as early as the 10th century. Surrounded by clipped lawns and topiary, the Schloss contains some real treasures including an impressive range of weaponry and harnesses, the renaissance Spanish Hall and a clutch of life-size paintings of the archdukes of Tyrol. For art aficionados, there is an extensive portrait gallery, with works by Titian and Velásquez.
For a bird's eye view of the city, head up to the Bergiselschanze, a spectacularly sited ski-jump re-opened in 2002 after a major facelift. Take the funicular and the tower elevator right up to the restaurant, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Inn Valley and the Tyrolean Alps.
Innsbruck is a lovely place to shop, and you can easily mix sightseeing and souvenir hunting. With two dozen shops under one roof, the [http://www.rathausgalerien.at/ Rathaus Galerien Shopping Centre] on Maria Theresien Straße is a good place to head for fashion – especially if it's raining or snowing outside! More authentic Austrian goods are on sale on in the city centre. On Herzog-Friedrich- Straße you'll find [http://www.edelweiss-tirol.com Bliem], a specialist filigree jewellers. Beautiful traditional and contemporary pieces are on sale, with the trademark Edelweiss brooch making a wonderful souvenir of Austria. Look out for the “Handwerk Tyrol” symbol which guarantees quality craftsmanship. At Konditorei Munding, you can buy "shingle tiles from the Golden Roof“ - made of chocolate rather than clay! Head for the specialist shops on Stiftgasse if you want to stock up with typical Tyrolean products like speck (bacon) and schnapps (fruit brandy). The weekend farmers' markets also offer wonderful food and plenty of atmosphere.
Nightlife and Eating Out
The hardest thing about eating out in Innsbruck is deciding where to go! The choice is huge – international cuisine from Italian to Thai, gourmet restaurants and traditional Gasthöfe. You'll find several of the latter on Herzog-Friedrich-Straße, all serving classics like Schnitzel (breaded escalope) and Tafelspitz (beef stew). For dessert, head for a bakery and buy a slice of Linzertorte (Austria's answer to Bakewell tart) or Sacher Torte – a rich chocolate cake.
Innsbruck has dozens of bars, cabaret clubs and nightspots which offer a wide range of entertainment. The Hofgarten Café is very popular in summer, with masses of outdoor seating and a licence to stay open until 1am. The Couch Club is a favourite with young people, with theme nights on different days of the week. And you can even enjoy a night at the tables at Casino Austria, right in the city centre near the Triumphsforte.
TourismusverbandBurggraben 36010 InnsbruckTelephone: +43 (0) 512 59 850-0Email: email@example.comWebsite: [http://www.innsbruck-tourismus.com/ www.innsbruck-tourismus.com]
AirportBA flies direct to Innsbruck eight times a week. Flying indirect gives you more options, try Lufthansa or British Midland via Frankfurt, or Austrian Airlines via Vienna. There are also direct charter flights from the UK during the winter months which can be a cheaper option – First Choice fly once a week from London Gatwick and Manchester.
The city centre is easily reached from the airport, by bus it's a journey of 18 minutes. You will find taxi ranks outside the airport building. The airport has a large duty-free shop and several cafés and eateries.
All car hire locations in Austria
- Graz Airport
- Hohenems-Dornbirn Airport
- Innsbruck Airport
- Klagenfurt Airport
- Klagenfurt Am Wörthersee
- Lauterach Airport
- Linz Airport
- Neusiedl Am See
- Salzburg Airport
- Sankt Pölten
- St Anton Airport
- Vienna Danubepier Hov Airport
- Vienna International Airport
- Wiener Neudorf
- Wiener Neustadt
- Zell Am See