Best Things To Do in Innsbruck
Skiing is obviously the prime objective of most winter visitors. And with Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck, a combination of eight ski resorts, who can blame them? But even they will be distracted for a day or two by the other things to do in Innsbruck. While the shining Golden Roof lures travelers to the Old Town, nearby sites like the Hofburg and Maria-Theresa Strasse keep them there. If you're traveling with kids, you should enjoy the city vista from the Alpenzoo, the highest zoo in Europe, or the thrilling Bergisel Ski Jump.
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Acting as the triumphant entrance into the medieval Innsbruck, Maria Theresien-Strasse funnels visitors through a long procession of shops and restaurants. The avenue, though historic, has now become a bit overrun with tourists snapping photos of every gorgeous building they see (which are also quite numerous). The tourists, architecture, shops and restaurants also translates to inflated prices, so beware of the small price tags on objects and price-less menus at cafes.
When you're in need of a stroll, you can follow Maria-Theresien-Strasse through Old Town (or the Altstadt) to the Golden Roof. The area is safe during the day and night, but watch your pockets in crowded spots.
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The Stats: 81 mountain railways and lifts, 170 miles of runs, a 7,710 foot vertical drop, and nine different parks. With those types of numbers, Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. In theory, you might never have to ski the same run twice in a multiple-day stay; however, we are betting that after a thrilling first time you will want to repeat many of them. It also becomes easily apparent why Innsbruck was chosen as the site of the Winter Olympics not once, but twice. The Austrian Alps receives downpours of snow from November to mid April, so you have almost six months to catch fresh powder. Also, night skiing is available at three of the eight resorts. For experienced skiers and boarders, the Innsbruck Nordpark offers steep terrain, but the highest elevation goes to the Stubai Glacier area, which you can ski year-round. Families should head to Seefeld, which has comfortable accommodations and easier runs.
You can purchase lift tickets for one location or all eight, depending on the duration and location of your stay. During the winter, free buses link all eight skiing regions as well as shuttle visitors to nearby holiday villages and the Old Town. Although prices and packages range greatly depending on the time of the season, the number of ski areas you wish to visit and the duration of your stay, your bill will still be quite reasonable compared to stateside ski resorts for the incredible access to so much terrain. Check out Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck's website for more information.
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The 16th-century Schloss Ambras consists of two parts. In the Upper Castle you'll find numerous regal rooms to explore, not to mention a phenomenal portrait gallery featuring the works of Titian and Velázquez among others. But it's the Lower Castle that distinguishes this royal residence from other Germanic palaces. Conceived by Archduke Ferdinand II, this section hosts a large collection of armor and his "Chamber of Art and Curiosities," a fascinating assortment of bizarre objects. As one recent TripAdvisor explains, it's here that you'll find the most interesting -- and unusual -- exhibits: "See several depictions of the crucifixion, but all in coral," they write. "See paintings on cobwebs, giant playing cards, stuffed sharks, deer horns mysteriously embedded in a tree trunk … This is what you want in a proper Germanic castle! And all from the 1500s."
South of downtown, Schloss Ambras welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Admission costs €10 EUR (about $14 USD) between April and October and €4.50 EUR (or about $6.50 USD) the rest of the year. Both Upper and Lower Castles are free for Innsbruck Card holders. For more information, check out the castle's website.
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Built by visionary architect Zaha Hadid, this Olympic facility is a literal high point of any Innsbruck trip. At its peak, the structure reaches 820 feet above the city. From there, daredevil skiers fly off the Bergisel Ski Jump at up to 57 mph. Needless to say, only professionals should attempt this feat. But visiting to catch a ski jumping tournament or simply to venture to the top is still a thrill. The Bergiseltower's Café im Turm serves tasty meals accompanied by vistas of Innsbruck that rival those offered at the Alpenzoo.
After reaching the bottom of the ski-jump, one TripAdvisor describes: "A lift takes you up to the visitor's platform where you have an incredible view over the city of Innsbruck and of the surrounding mountains. … There you can go to a small balcony where you are right above the start of the speeding lane. It's kind of creepy because of its steepness!"
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The tolling bells and multiple clocks of the Cathedral of St. James have kept the town on time for almost three centuries. But it's more than just an oversized clock; this church is also a fine example of Baroque architecture and an exhibition of the excessive wealth of the Hapsburg Empire. Constructed in the early 17th century, St. James is easily recognized by its oxidized bronze domes -- two small ones in front and one above the transept crossing. You'll spot them from any of the city's lookouts like the Stadtturm.
Inside, pink marble columns draw the eye upward to the exquisitely painted ceilings. It's a vista that moves parishioners and tourists alike. One TripAdvisor user says: "If you're in Innsbruck, it's a must. The art on the interior ceilings is impressive and for free admission it's a great place to sit and rest your feet for a few minutes."
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Most roll their eyes at the suggestion: Go see a roof. But if you don't take a few photos atop the Goldenes Dachl then people won't believe that you've actually visited Innsbruck. This site is by far the city's most popular, despite its ability to underwhelm. One TripAdvisor user remarks: "The roof is gold colored but only covers one small awning. Not only that, but the roof isn't true gold, but gold plated copper. Take a photo on the way by, because there really isn't much else to do here."
Despite the projection's lack of awe, Emperor Maximilian I, who built the projection in the 15th century, was on to something -- people watching. Overlooking a bustling square, the Golden Roof is the heart of historic Innsbruck and a great place to have a costly coffee and watch the street traffic at a nearby café -- just don't expect Maximilian's ideal vantage point.
- #7View all Photos#7 in InnsbruckParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
While the Alpenzoo's claim to fame is "the highest zoo in Europe," visitors are more impressed with the critters than the elevation. The park specializes in caring for creatures native to the Alps -- wolves and bears are the scary highlights. A recent TripAdvisor visitor comments: "You can actually go into some of the exhibits to a degree that you can't in most other zoos. It was interesting to see all of the animals that inhabit the area." Still, the high altitude has its perks as one Virtual Tourist points out, "The Alpenzoo in Innsbruck is well worth a visit -- even if it is just to see the amazing views from the top of the mountain where the zoo is located."
Alpenzoo opens at 9 a.m. each day and closes between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., depending on season. It's only a 30-minute walk from city center, but most visitors take the shuttle bus from Maria-Theresien-Strasse or the lift from the Hungerburg cable car. Entry costs around €8 EUR (approximately $11 USD) with reduced ticket prices for kids and students. This attraction is also included in the Innsbruck Card. For more information, check out the park's website.
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Sandwiched between the Golden Roof and the Cathedral of St. James, this imposing Baroque palace was once the royal residence for many monarchs of the Hapsburg Empire. Dating back to the 16th century, its current exterior can be credited to Empress Maria Theresa, the powerful sovereign of the Holy Roman Empire and the mother of Marie Antoinette. The interior is equally impressive and decadent; however, to the disappointment of many enticed visitors, you're only able to view about 20 rooms. Still, as one Virtual Tourist writer notes, "The Giant's Room is the most beautiful room of whole Hofburg," with its exquisite frescoes, regal portraits and flamboyant gold touches.
In historic Old Town, the Hofburg is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the Imperial Apartments costs €8 EUR (about $11 USD) and you can purchase a combined ticket, which also includes the visiting art exhibition, for €10 (about $14 USD). This attraction is also included in the Innsbruck Card. For more information, check out the Hofburg's website.
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Completed in 1450, this 200-foot high structure originally housed prisoners, but not anymore. Someone must've realized that this panorama was too good for the city's convicts. Many consider the Stradtturm, or Town Tower, a perfect perch to snap photos of the rooftops and steeples of downtown Innsbruck. The nearby Golden Roof might draw more visitors, but those in the "know" claim that this site offers the superior experience.
One VirtualTourist recalls, "Here time seems to standstill as you enjoy a magnificent view of the whole city and its mountains."
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You've certainly seen these sparkling, diamond-like jewels. Today, they appear on just about everything -- dresses, purses, sculptures, microphones, chandeliers and more. Innsbruck, the origin of the dazzling gems, hosts Swarovski Crystal Word just outside downtown to display the intriguing possibilities of this created and cut material. So it would appear that it's Swarovski crystal -- and not gold -- that glitters in Austria.
In fact, Swarovski Kristallwelten has been described as the Disney World of Crystal; however, in reality, the theme park is more akin to a large contemporary art exhibition featuring the prized gems. You'll find crystalline reproductions of artwork by famous artists such as Andy Warhol. And the most impressive feature of all greets you at the entrance -- a gigantic glimmering bust that spits water into a pool. Still, as one TripAdvisor user confesses: "Our visit … was a complete waste. We saw nothing interesting except for the 300,000 karat cut crystal. … The brochure said we would see the work of the world's top designers. Instead we just walked through rooms full of nothing satisfactory."
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