You know I have a difficult taste, but I loved our stay in Innsbruck and exploring the surroundings. And you will too. The impeccable nature has a lot to offer, be it winter or summer. Did you know, there’s Mordor near Innsbruck? Check out the top 9 + 1 places to visit in Innsbruck and the surroundings with prices, hotels and tips. We are Jan and Karin, and this is our experience in Tyrol’s capital.
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At the time of writing, all of the sights are temporarily closed due to the Covid pandemic. Check the official websites for updates.
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Innsbruck is the capital of the Austrian state Tyrol completely surrounded by the Alps. As you may already know from my other articles about Austria, my travel hack is to choose the largest city in the area as a base to explore the region. That might be a bit problematic in Tyrol, as it’s a long chunk and some trips would take you a whole day. For that reason, plan a few days in Sankt Anton am Arlberg, so you can explore the western part of Tyrol properly. And now, let’s move to Innsbruck highlights.
Fun fact: The name of the city comes from the German word brücke and the name of the river Inn, on which the city was built. So, if the city was American, it would probably be called Innsbridge.
Believe it or not, this is the one I’m not gonna hate. One of the reasons I place Innsbruck on the list of best Austrian cities (I would have considered it number one if it wasn’t for Hallstatt) is that there’s not stupid baroque everywhere. The streets of Innsbruck Old Town are filled with medieval houses and surrounded by majestic alpine landscape, and that’s something hard to beat (suck it, Vienna!).
The Stadtturm (Town Tower) guards the city for almost 450 years. Well, to be honest now it’s mostly a tourist pleaser rather than a guardian. And after we climbed up 133 stairs, we found out why. There’s a 360° view of the city and the mountains from 31 meters (102 ft). And a great spot for the best pics of the Golden roof and the beautiful Helblinghaus. Depending on how crowded it’ll be, the visit takes around 30 minutes.
Tip: Across the river from the Old Town lies Mariahilfestrasse with the famous colorful houses. The photo of the houses clutched between the river Inn and the mountains is a must-have in Innsbruck.
The German speakers call it Goldenes Dachl, but I wouldn’t go that far unless you want to break your tongue. The Golden Roof is like the biggest Innsbruck celebrity. When we got there, I was like, okay I get it, a medieval gold roof, nice. But the history behind it makes it even more captivating.
In the past, Innsbruck was a major hubbub of the Holy Roman Empire. Mostly because of all the silver and salt mines money that allowed the townsfolk and aristocrats to prosper. In the late 15th century, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court to Innsbruck so that he could check on the minting of the coins. And to mark his wedding with Maria Sforza in 1494, he decided to add an oriel with the gilded roof on the building with the best view of the town square, so he could watch the events on the square in style. The roof consists of 2 657 copper tiles gilded in a fire. A lot of money spent to flex, Max!
There is a perfect view of the roof from the Stadtturm, but we decided to explore the house to visit the balcony too. There is a Goldenes Dachl Museum inside explaining the history of the town and the building itself. Worth a visit, especially when you have the Innsbruck City Card. Clear about an hour in your schedule for the visit.
Well, this is something I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. The church itself was not that interesting for me. Yeah, it’s originally gothic, but way too much baroque decoration for me. But there’s also something I can’t wrap my head around. There is a gigantic tomb of Emperor Maximilian I in the center of the nave… with no body inside. The emperor’s grandson Ferdinand I had it built, together with the church, but his grandpa’s last wish was to be buried in the castle chapel in Wiener Neustadt. Boy, that’s tough. However, Ferdinand let it stay there as a cenotaph at least. But there’s more to it. The empty tomb is surrounded by 28 large bronze statues of the emperor’s ancestors and his favorite antique heroes. And by large, I mean over 2 m (6.5 ft) high.
All in all, the only real cadaver in the house is Andreas Hofer, Tirol’s national hero. The leader of the Tyrolean Rebellion against the Napoleonic invasion, who was captured and executed. Something like a Tyrolean version of William Wallace. I mean, all of that is a bit morbid, but it’s something you just must see with your own eyes.
Fun fact: There’re also 500 years old organs in the church.
I particularly enjoy the taste, but have you ever wondered about your other senses? In Audioversum it’s all about the sound. Surprise, surprise… I guess it wouldn’t be called audioversum if it was about touch. Anyhow, I enjoyed the exhibition a lot. It’s interactive and it teaches you about sound and hearing from many angles, sometimes unexpected. The virtual-reality balance test was especially entertaining—don’t laugh at me and try to walk in the frightening height yourself. The exhibition takes at least an hour, but it depends on how much time you spend there playing. Guess how long it took us. ?
Unlike many other castles, there’s actually an exhibition worth seeing. I would include Ambras Castle in a list of the top 10 Austrian castles. Good news if you only have one day to spend in Innsbruck. The Ambras Castle is just 4.3 km (2.7 mi) from the city center and it’s the best thing to see in Innsbruck from inside and out. Literally.
The castle was built on the ruins of the previous one in the 16th century. Archduke Ferdinand II had it rebuilt into a posh renaissance residence with sgraffito walls and impressive gardens and ballrooms. Yet, it was still a mighty fortress. That’s what I call a Phoenix among castles. And that’s not all. Ferdinand was a man of culture and he liked to collect various exotic stuff, art, and pieces from nature. That’s why it’s called the oldest museum in the world.
From my point of view, I felt like Charlie in a chocolate factory. Except there is an armory instead of chocolate and my name is Jan. The armory is amazing! There are some original (previously used) armors of 16th-century commanders, armors from tournaments (including those for horses), and child armors. And the second-best thing is the Chamber of Art and Wonders, where you can find the original portrait of Vlad III the Impaler, who served as an inspiration for the famous count Dracula. And much more of course, but I must leave something as a surprise. I recommend planning at least 2 hours for the visit.
Tip: Use the paid parking lot. There’s no place near the castle where it’s allowed to leave your car in the streets. Believe me, this experience cost me 50 EUR. The charges for parking are 1 EUR per half an hour with a maximum of 5 hours.
Seefeld in Tirol is a small but important town. It hosted Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976. If you love winter sports, you’ll be in paradise here. There are professional ski areas, giant slalom, biathlon routes, and even ice rinks for curling. We were there in summer, and let me tell you, this region is definitely worth coming back to.
Back to our trip, I decided to take a break from the city and head out to Mordor. We wandered through the planes of Gorgoroth until we finally reached Mount Doom. We met neither Gollum nor the insane stairway at the end. And I leave it to you to decide who was Sam and who was Frodo, but spoiler alert: we kept our rings. Now seriously, this trek to the Seefelder Spitze was challenging but awesome. Thanks to good weather we even saw the Zugspitze peak in Germany. It requires good boots though; the paths are not steady at some points.
Our tips for Innsbruck: Save money with the Innsbruck City Card. Take the Sightseer Hop on-Hop Off bus to save time. Free with Salzburg City Card. Check this map with timetable. Be sure to visit the Ambras Castle, but don’t forget about the paid parking! Stroll the Maria-Theresien Street in Old Town, there are stunning views of the medieval architecture and alpine landscape. Here’s a google map with all the places listed.
Take a trip from Innsbruck to Sölden to visit the James Bond Museum 007 Elements. It’s a must-see stop for fans of classy cars and badass agents (so I couldn’t miss that obviously). The cinematic installation takes you through the major moments of James Bond movies, with special emphasis on Spectre, which was shot at Sölden. You will see how the tricks in the movie were made, the exhibition dedicated to action scenes, the hall of James Bond’s legacy, and more. I was super excited. It’s clear they thought through all the exhibitions and when I walked the underground tunnel leading to the museum, I felt like an action hero myself.
If you’re interested in an extremely expensive experience, head to the ice Q gourmet restaurant on the premises. I don’t know if you’ve ever had lunch in 3 038 m (9 967 ft), but the view is breathtaking, and so is the bill. The food is served from 11.30 am to 3.00 pm.
This was one of the biggest surprises on our trip to Austria. The museum of Swarovski crystals is located a few minutes by car outside Innsbruck and it’s very sophisticated. One could say there’s nothing for men to see. I’m saying everyone can be a princess from time to time.
This large complex comprises the museum, gardens, observation deck, playground, and even the roman excavation site! The tour takes around 2 hours and the exhibition itself attacks all your senses, there’s I dare say psychedelic display—of course, no drug included (wink wink). And the whole route is accompanied by music and a light breeze and all kinds of gadgets. I must say I hadn’t had any relation to the brand before, but this experience was captivating.
When you’re in Innsbruck, this is an obligatory side tour. The Silver mine in Schwaz is the oldest silver mine in the world! 85 % of worldwide mined silver came from this place. And the Schwaz Water Wheel installed in the mine in 1556 was a technical marvel at that time.
Not suitable for the claustrophobic though unless you have a mother-in-law whom you’d like to invite out of spite. The initial train ride lasts less than 10 minutes, but it goes through some very narrow passages and sometimes also very dark. Authentic for some, frightful for others. I also appreciate the suit they lend you, not only we were very handsome in it, but it’s practical too as there is water dripping inside the mine, it’s quite cold in there and you spent there around 90 minutes.
Everyone needs to see the iconic Disney Castle once in a life, right? Technically, it’s in Germany, but in reality, it’s just a stone’s throw away from Innsbruck. My first impression was the same as with Statue of Liberty, it seems rather small in person. But hey, The Neuschwanstein Castle is a must-see when you’re around. For more details, read also Neuschwanstein Castle: 10 Facts You Need to Know Before You Go.
We stayed at Hotel Innsbruck, right in the city center. The hotel facilities include a delightful spa area with a pool and the location is just perfect, few minutes to Golden Roof and the Old Town. The only downside is that the hotel doesn’t have a private parking area and the public parking in the city center is quite far from the hotel. But if you intend to travel by public transport and stay in the city, this hotel is a good choice.
This family-run hotel is located around the corner from the main Maria-Theresien-Strasse. Hotel Maximilian features very friendly, yet professional staff, cozy interiors and fantastic breakfasts (from what I’ve heard). The parking is just 100 m (330 ft) from the hotel at Rathausgalerien car park, with a discount rate from the hotel.
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