Choose from 9 Fun Things to Do in Innsbruck
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Although still standing on the site of the original medieval castle, which was in place by 1463, today’s majestic Imperial Habsburg Palace has undergone several transformations over the centuries, reflecting Innsbruck’s own political fortunes. The first Gothic castle was extended by Emperor Maximilian I between 1495 and 1519, and was subsequently given a Renaissance makeover in the 1560s. With the transition of political power to Vienna after the Thirty Years War, Innsbruck and the Hofburg lost importance; it was not until the 1750s that Empress Maria Theresa revived the fortunes of this great palace and gave it a glorious Baroque and Rococo facelift.
The palace offers a series of 25 ornate Imperial Apartments open to the public, from the Guard Room and the Giant’s Hall, both smothered with great paintings depicting the history of the Habsburgs, to the Furniture Gallery with its elegant examples of Biedermeier styling. The series of beautifully furnished and decorated private apartments are Rococo confections in blues, pinks and greens, complete with gilded clocks, four-poster beds and richly upholstered sofas. They are laid out as they were when occupied by the Imperial Family during the 17th and 18th centuries.
A branch of the extraordinarily expensive Café Sacher is also found in the Hofburg; head there for coffee and Austria’s most acclaimed Sachertorte after viewing the Imperial Apartments.
The Hofburg stands opposite the Hofkirche (Court Church) in Innsbruck’s Altstadt (Old Town). The palace is accessible on foot just a few minutes’ walk from Innsbruck’s main parking garages; or by bus line F to Congress. The Sightseer tourist bus also stops at Congress and Hofburg.
The Imperial Apartments are open daily, with late-night opening until 7pm on Wednesday. Multi-language audio guides are available and family tickets are offered on Sunday. Entry is free with the Innsbruck Card, which gives access to several Innsbruck museums and galleries.
Address: Michaelerkuppel, Hofburg, Vienna 1010, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 9am - 5:30pm
From $ 12
Innsbruck’s innovative zoo lies along the sunny slopes of the Hungerburg plateau to the north of the city and is the only zoo in the world to feature animals indigenous to the Tyrol region – so if you’re after lions and tigers, this is not the place for you –along with amazing Alpine views. It opened in 1962, the brainchild of Professor Hans Psenner, who toiled for much of his adult life to establish a zoo dedicated purely to Alpine animal life.
The Tyrolean region has incredible diversity and the zoo’s animal head count reaches 2,000 from 150 different Alpine species, from ibex to brown bears and birds of prey such as Golden eagles and owls.
For anyone with a keen interest in conservation, the Alpenzoo has enjoyed great success in breeding rare and endangered Alpine animals. The last 10 years have seen much expansion, with the zoo now covering an area of 4.1 hectares (10.1 acres) over six levels; the birds are housed in vast aviaries, mammals in free-running enclosures, and fish in cold water aquariums. The zoo also offers a petting farm for kids; a brand new aviary housing bearded vultures, partridges, marmots and snow hares; and a newly enlarged enclosure for the otters.
Innsbruck’s Alpenzoo is accessible on foot in 20 minutes from Innsbruck city center or by the Hungerburgbahn cable railway from Congress, which brings with it amazing views of Innsbruck and the Alps. Public transport also includes bus lines M and W from Innsbruck’s main station and Marktplatz.
The zoo is open daily year round. The animals are active all through the winter months and spring sees the courtship displays of the birds and the birth of young mammals, so a visit in any month will delight. Take comfortable shoes and be prepared for walking up hills.
Address: Weiherburggasse 37, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 9am - 5pm, November to March; until 6pm from April to October
Admission: €9 (USD$12) for adults; €7 (USD$9) for students; €4.50 (USD$6) for children
From $ 124
The Tyrolean Cultural Museum was founded in 1823 and consists of a group of museums set up to showcase Tyrolean culture; it includes the Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum, the Zeughaus (Armory), the Volkskunstmuseum (Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art), and the Hofkirche (Court Church).
The Ferdinandeum offers a journey through 30,000 years of art and history; major draws include a collection of major Dutch paintings by Brueghel and Rembrandt, an exhibition of Biedermeier furniture, and masterpieces from Klimt and Kokoschka. The Hofkirche, containing the flamboyant German Renaissance tomb of Maximilian I plus his 28 marble guards, is accessible through the museum.
The Zeughaus is found in the 16th-century former weapons depot of Emperor Maximilian I; today it offers an insight into the cultural history of Tyrol, looking at how the region has been affected by local silver and salt mining, both World Wars, and the advent of mass tourism. Tyrolean customs and festivals are showcased at the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum (Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art), and the Tyrol Panorama at the Bergisel Ski Jump Stadium is now also under the auspices of the Tiroler Landesmuseum.
The Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum (Museum of Folk Art), and Hofkirche are in Innsbruck’s Altstadt (Old Town), a few minutes’ walk from Innsbruck’s main parking garages. The Hofkirche (Court Church) can be accessed through the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum.
The Zeughaus is a ten-minute walk along Dreiheiligenstrasse from the Volkskunstmuseum, while the Tyrol Panorama is at Bergisel, a 20-minute walk from the center of Innsbruck or five minutes on Tram No 1.
Multi-language guided tours of all the group’s museums are available, with a bus connection between them all. Admission is free with the Innsbruck Card, which permits discounted entry to the major Innsbruck museums and galleries. The Volkskunstmuseum is open daily, as is the Hofkirche, which is closed for services on Sunday morning; the Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum and Zeughaus are both closed Monday.
Address: Museumstraße 15, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily except Mondays from 9am - 5pm
Admission: €10 (USD$13) for adults; €7 for students and seniors; Free under 19 years old
From $ 124
Themed around one of Austria’s best-known exports, Swarovski Crystal Worlds (Swarovski Kristallwelten) is a dazzling attraction devoted to sparkling crystals. Twinkling exhibitions created by contemporary artists and designers, together with a playground, play tower, and hand-shaped hedge maze, make for a family-friendly day out.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds is dedicated to all things crystal. Visitors are greeted by The Giant, a large head built into the green hillside with a waterfall cascading from its mouth. Inside the Chambers of Wonder are 16 separate installations, each built using Swarovski crystals and designed by a different artist. The verdant garden also has crystal displays including the vast Crystal Cloud, as well as a hedge maze and a playground.
You can pre-purchase a Swarovski Crystal Worlds admission ticket and make your own way to the site or go as part of a guided day tour from Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or Salzburg. Most organized day tours also include time in nearby Innsbruck.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This crystal-themed attraction is a must for lovers of sparkle.
- Free Wi-Fi is available at the site.
- The attraction is home to Daniels Café and Restaurant and a store selling crystal creations.
- All interior exhibition spaces and most of the grounds, with the exception of the Alpine Garden, are accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Swarovski Crystal Worlds is located in Wattens, about a 20-minute drive from Innsbruck. A shuttle bus (also wheelchair accessible) departs central Innsbruck to Swarovski Crystal Worlds 5–6 times daily.
When to Get There
One of the best times to visit is during the Festival of Light, in late January and early February, when the garden is illuminated with lights after dark. Summer is also a good time to come, with extended opening hours and a Summer Festival program that includes open-air yoga classes, outdoor movie screenings, and other special events.
Chambers of Wonder
Among the glittering, fantastical displays of the Chambers of Wonder, there are several standout installations. Look for the Alexander McQueen–designed crystal tree in the Silent Light installation; South Korean artist Lee Bul’s mirror and crystal Into Lattice Sun; and Eden, by the British avant-garde duo Fredrikson Stallard, which evokes the sounds, shapes, and sights of the forest environment.
Address: Kristallweltenstrasse 1, Wattens 6112, Austria
From $ 22
The state-of-the-art funicular railway connecting Innsbruck with its hilly suburb of Hungerburg was opened in 2007. This futuristic cable railway is the work of British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who was also responsible for the Ski Jump Stadium at Bergisel, and it provides the first link in the journey from the Congress Centre right up to the slopes of Hafelekar, which are as high as 7,545 feet (2,300 meters), in under half an hour.
The glittering Hungerburgbahn terminus at Congress strongly resembles the spaceship in Star Trek. On exiting the station, the funicular train crosses the River Inn before ascending 1.15 miles (1,838 meters) into the alpine foothills on the Hungerburg plateau. There are two stations on the line, including a stop at the Alpenzoo Innsbruck, Europe’s highest zoo.
From Hungerburg skiers, boarders and hikers can catch the Nordkettenbahnen cable car up to Seegrube, with panoramic views of the peaks in the Inn valley and Zillertal Alps from the gondolas. The Alpenlounge Seegrube at the cable car station has a terrace on which to enjoy the scenery along with a cocktail for two. A second cable car then journeys on up to Hafelekar in the Alpenpark Karwendel.
The Hungerburgbahn runs daily, with services every 15 minutes between 7am-7:30pm (Saturday services start at 8am). Other public transport tickets are not accepted on the system.
The last cable car down the mountain from Hafelekar departs at 7:30pm. The Alpenlounge Seegrube offers a Friday evening ‘Ride & Dine’ package between 6pm-11:30pm; book ahead for a thrilling cable car ride up to Seegrube and diner with an Alpine view.
Address: Höhenstraße 145, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 7am-7:30pm, until 8pm on Saturdays. Later trips can be arranged as well.
Admission: Varies depending on trip; Ranges from €3,30 (USD$4.30) to €6,80 (USD$9)
From $ 11
Innsbruck’s iconic Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) is found on Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, the main square in Innsbruck’s charming Gothic and Baroque Altstadt (Old Town). The three-story, gold-topped balcony is tacked on the Neuhof (New Court), which was built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century as a residence fit for kings.
The Golden Roof was constructed in 1500 at the behest of Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I in celebration of his second dynastic marriage, this time to Bianca Maria Sforza of Milan. The roof glitters with 2,657 sparkling gilded copper tiles, apparently placed there to confound rumors that the Imperial Family was running out of money.
Intricate carved wooden reliefs and frescoes painted on to the balcony show the emperor’s many coats of arms, and his likeness alongside that of both his wives. The structure also provided Maximilian I with an appropriately regal spot from which to observe tournaments and festivals in the square beneath. At Christmas, carolers appear on the balcony to serenade the crowds at the Yuletide Market in the square.
Inside the Neuhof, the six-room multimedia Maximilianeum showcases the life and times of Maximilian I, highlighting the political and economic power struggles endemic in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Goldenes Dachl is accessible on foot in Innsbruck’s pedestrianized area, just a few minutes’ walk from the main parking garages. The museum is open from December through October, and closed on Mondays between October and April. Multi-language audio guides are available in the museum. There is an admission fee for the museum but it’s free for Innsbruck Card holders; this pass allows free entry into most major Innsbruck museums and Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
Address: Herzog-Friedrich-Straße 15, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 10am - 5pm; closed during November
Admission: The roof can be photographed 24/7, but entrance to the museum is €4 (USD$5.25)
From $ 11
The 16th-century Renaissance castle of Ambras perches in the foothills of the Alps just south of Innsbruck. Once the home of Archduke Ferdinand II, the majestic Renaissance building houses collections of armor, fine paintings and one of the most important examples of German Renaissance architecture in Austria in the shape of the Spanish Hall. Finished in 1572, this vast banqueting room is 157 feet (48 meters) long, with an inlaid marble floor and an intricate wood-paneled ceiling but the stars of the show are undoubtedly the 27 full-length portraits of the Habsburg Imperial Family.
The armories are located in the Lower Castle and were collated by Ferdinand II; they include suits of jousting armor, knights on horseback and rare weaponry. Here there’s also an eccentric Cabinet of Curiosities full of oddities such as coral crucifixes and stuffed sharks, all laid out as they were in Ferdinand‘s time. The Upper Castle houses the Portrait Gallery, in which 300 paintings cover 400 years of Habsburg history and include works by Titian, Anthon van Dyke, and Cranach the Elder.
Outside there are English-style box gardens and sunken baths to explore plus a pretty courtyard bar for drinks in summer.
The Sightseer tourist bus (free with the Innsbruck Card, which also gives access to several Innsbruck museums and galleries) takes 30 minutes to Schloss Ambras from central Innsbruck; taxi rides are 10 minutes long.
The castle is open daily (but closed throughout November) and both audio guides and guided tours are available in several languages. Entry is free with the discounted Innsbruck Card. Classical concerts are often held in the Spanish Hall.
Address: Schloßstraße 20, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 10am - 5pm
Admission: €10 (USD$13) for adults; free for children and teens
From $ 8
On the outskirts of Innsbruck, the slopes at Bergisel have been the home of Tyrolean ski jumping competitions since 1927. To celebrate this, British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid designed a towering ski jump stadium, which was completed in 2002 and can seat 28,000 people. In 2008 Pope John Paul II gave Mass here and it has quickly became a year-round Innsbruck attraction as it soars 820 feet (250 meters) above the city and offers superb views over the Inn Valley and surrounding Alps.
The Tyrol Panorama, featuring a massive, century-old painting of the heroic Tyrolean revolt against Napoleon, is found at the foot of the sculptural stadium. From here, the top of the tower rises to 165 feet (50 meters) and is reached by funicular – or 455 steep steps – plus elevator. Here you’ll be rewarded with 360° views over the city and coffee and cakes in the Panorama Restaurant. Breakfast is served here daily until 11am; enjoy a glass of prosecco and scrambled egg while watching the sun light up the Alps.
January and February see ski jumping and freestyle competitions take place at Bergisel, while the stadium becomes a practice center for the Austrian ski team during the summer. In 2012 the Youth Olympic Winter Games were staged here; the third time Innsbruck has hosted Winter Olympics. The ski jump itself is 395 feet (120 meters) long and skiers can reach up to 60 mph (92 kmh) on take off.
Bergisel is open all year, but closed on Tuesday from November to May. It’s a 20-minute walk from the center of Innsbruck or can be reached by Tram No 1. Tickets encompass entry to the Tyrol Panorama (now part of the Tiroler Landesmuseum) and the stadium as well as the viewing platform.
Address: Bergiselweg 3, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily except Tuesdays from November to May 10am - 5pm; Open daily from June - October, 9am - 6pm (last entrance is 30 minutes before closing time)
Admission: €9 (USD$12) for adults; €4 (USD$2.25) for kids 6-9; free for children below 6
From $ 11
Found on Herzof-Friedrich-Strasse opposite the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), Innsbruck’s Stadtturm (City Tower) was built in 1450; it reaches 167 feet (51 meters) in height and was built on to the former city hall to enable the tower guards to keep watch over the city, look out for enemies, and keep peace at night.
Today the tower is topped with a bulbous dome and the viewing platform at 100 feet (31 meters) offers spectacular views over the roofs and Baroque spires of the Altstadt (Old Town) as well as to the Nordkette mountains in the Alps lying to the north – but be prepared to climb 148 winding stone steps to get to that view. Pick a clear day otherwise the Alps will have disappeared behind cloud.
Combine a trip up the tower with a peek at the frilly exterior of the Hölblinghaus, a Rococo extravaganza with flamboyantly carved balconies, and the iconic Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) – not missing its fascinating museum showcasing the life of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.
The Stadtturm is accessible on foot in Innsbruck’s pedestrianized area, just a few minutes’ walk from the main parking garages. It is open daily and there is an admission fee but it’s free for Innsbruck Card holders; this discounted pass allows free entry into most major Innsbruck museums.
Address: Herzog-Friedrich-Str. 21, Innsbruck 6020, Austria
Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, October to May; until 8pm from June through September
Admission: €3 (USD$4)
From $ 124