Innsbruck is located in the Austrian region of Tirol. Surrounded by mountains, it is a busy ski resort in winter and a hiking paradise in summer.
The city is well connected to the rest of Europe with an international airport and a railway station with direct trains to Switzerland, Germany and to other destinations in Austria like Salzburg and Vienna as well as to Verona and Venice in Italy.
Innsbruck has got a very good transport system that includes trams, buses and for tourists The Sightseer, an hop-on hop-off bus stopping at all the major tourist locations in the city. The Old Town, where most monuments and interesting buildings are located, can be easily visited on foot. To save on entrance fees and transport costs, an Innsbruck Card is highly recommended; it can be purchased with a validity of 24, 48 and 72 hours and it covers all transport around the city and its surrounding villages as well as one return trip on the cable cars and free entry to all museums and visitors attractions.
It is a short bus trip from Innsbruck airport to the railway station in the city center; from here to reach the Old Town, pass the vast Eduard Wallnöfer Square with the Liberation Monument, and walk through the Triumphal Arch to Maria-Theresien Strasse.
This elegant pedestrianized street is lined with coffee shops with tables outside, beautiful buildings, shops and restaurants serving traditional Austrian food.
St.Anne’s Column and Spitalskirche (Hospital Church) can be seen here and further along is the City Tower; climbing to the top will give the chance to get good views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains as well as the street and the buildings below, including the beautiful Helbling House.
A short distance away is one of Innsbruck’s most famous landmarks: the Golden Roof. It was built for the Emperor Maximilian I and, it was from the terrace under the roof that the Emperor and his wife would observe events staged in the square below. A small museum can be visited in the building.
The visit to Innsbruck’s Old Town and its imperial past can continue with a look at The Hofburg, the Imperial Palace and its gardens. The building housing the National Theater can be seen across the road.
From here there are two options: to stay in town and visit some of Innsbruck’s churches like St.James’ Cathedral and The Court Church were the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I is located or, to get the funicular and get up to the mountain.
Nordkettenbahnen is a system of funiculars and cable cars that takes visitors from Innsbruck city center to the upper station of Hafelekar 2256m above sea level; the stations were designed by the renown Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid .
The first part of the journey starts at Congress Station with a stop across the river Inn before climbing to the Alpenzoo Station.
It is possible to get off here to visit the zoo; it houses many animals found in the Alps including bears, lynx, wolves and a moose.
For people deciding to stay on the funicular, the next stop is Hungerburg; from here there are very good views of Innsbruck but even better views can be seen by boarding the cable-car to the next station, Seegrube.
For people not afraid of heights and suitably dressed, another cable-car run from Seegrube to Hafelekar.
The contrast from the city to the top of the mountain could not be any different: it is quite common to leave Innsbruck city center on a sunny day and ski or just relax on a sun-lounge with snow all around up here. Hot drinks and food are available in the restaurant.
Although Innsbruck can be visited over a long weekend, a longer stay will give the opportunity to visit its surroundings; Swarovski World, a museum dedicated to the famous crystals, is just outside the city and it is connected by a shuttle bus; both the bus journey and the entrance fee are covered by the Innsbruck Card.
The entrance to the museum is through a giant (literally!) and inside there are 14 different rooms or, as they like to call them, Chambers of Wonders; the visit ends in what is considered to be the biggest Swarovski shop in the world.
Outside there are manicured gardens and a labyrinth shaped as one the hands of the giant.
Another pleasant excursion outside Innsbruck is to the village of Igls. It can be reached by bus but a more scenic route is by tram through the forest.
From Innsbruck city center trams stop at Wilten Basilica and the Monastery nearby; stopping here will also give the opportunity to visit the Bergisel Ski Jump not too far away.
Tram number 6 makes the journey to Igls with a stop near Ambras Castle en-route.
Igls stands under Patscherkofel mountain, the site of the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976.
A cable car takes skiers to the top of the mountain and for non-skiers the options are limited to a cafe serving food and drinks.
A visit to Innsbruck would not be complete without sampling the local food, from Wiener Schnitzel and Apple Strudel to hearty stews with dumplings washed down with beer. As they say around here: Prosit!