Having only lived in Innsbruck for a few months, Lea shares her tips for first-time visitors to the city:
Why in the world move to Innsbruck? My desire to travel was ignited aged 15 when I went on a student exchange to New Zealand. Since then I’ve travelled extensively, seen a huge amount and have always cherished the longing to live somewhere else in the world; San Francisco perhaps, maybe Melbourne, or a small hut somewhere on the west coast of New Zealand? But, for some reason, this place ended up being Innsbruck. Living in the Tirol is simply wonderful, particularly if you’ve moved here from a big city or somewhere which lacks mountains.
I absolutely love the mountains, whether I’m snowboarding in the winter or hiking in the summer – no other outdoor activities make me happier. But I have to admit, my passion for the mountains is something that’s developed over time; it’s not a love I grew up with. And it takes a while to get used to and understand the language of the locals – the Tirol dialect can be tricky to get the hang of.
Innsbruck sits in a narrow valley, restrained by the mountains which rise around it. Sitting in my garden, I can see the top of Serles mountain and I feel like I could watch the clouds drifting across the on the Alpine horizon for ever. No Skyscrapers block my view and no grey walls stand in the way. Whenever I feel like it, I pull on my running shoes and, within minutes, I can be jogging through the woods or alongside the river. The layout of the city is extremely simple, with everything lying between the Northern Chain and BergIsel hill – if you can’t see either, something’s gone very wrong!
The intimacy of Innsbruck’s inhabitants took a little getting used to at first – everyone knows everyone in this city – but Innsbruck wouldn’t be half the place it is today without this lively social network. Before too long, I became fascinated by Innsbruck’s unique lifestyle and have come to depend on this close-knit community, which is full of personalities: the river surfer who rides the waves on the Inn River; the snowboarders and skiers who take the first gondola into the Northern Chain on a powder day and cheer loudly as they ride back down; and the BMX rider who seems to accumulate a whole mountain’s worth of mud on his legs, after his morning ride.
Innsbruck has become my home and, as I’ve got to know it better, I’ve discovered that there are so many fascinating places, beyond the most obvious attractions, like the Golden Roof.
To truly understand this city, try the following instead:
Start with a morning stroll, stopping off for a leisurely breakfast at Stefan’s bread factory, or picking up an Apfelstangerl pastry and a coffee at the Ruetz Bakery (Herzog -Friedrich- Straße 36). Next, hop on the funicular and ascend 2000m above sea level to Hafelekar and Seegrube; you simply have to look back down on the city from these mountains, no matter what time of year it is – although clear days are best.
A quintessential mountain lunch awaits you at Arzleralm pasture (a 20-minute walk from Hungerburg, accessible by bus or train); my favourite item on the menu is the cheese dumplings – they taste fantastic, every time. And if you don’t fancy hiking, you can eat lunch at the base station, where you can sit in the sun and watch the skiers, cyclists and downhill bikers speeding past.
Back in Innsbruck, for magnificent views across the city, go for an evening drink at the classy 360-Grad, taking the elevator to the 6th floor of the Town Hall Galleries. And since you’ve already got dressed-up for this stylish bar, you may as well move onto to somewhere equally classy, like the Pizzerei Italian restaurant.
After dinner, it’s time to explore the Old Town and pay a visit to the Flüsterbogen, where you can whisper secrets to your friend of loved one, using the unique acoustics of this historic arch – stand to one side of the arch, whisper at one end and your companion should hear your clearly on the other side. Now and again, glance up at the illuminated Seegrube Mountain in the Northern Chain, or admire the Golden Roof, before diving headfirst into the city’s nightlife scene – night owls can party until the early hours at Tante Emma nightclub.
Top Tip: From 6am, you can get a wonderful strudel breakfast at Cafe Kroell (Hofgasse 6).
Best time to visit:
Why not try one of these local and lesser known events?:
• 20inch Trophy, BMX contest. Several times a year.
• Ugly Ski Day in vintage clothing on the mountain. Every spring.
• Afterstash, free concerts at the market place. Throughout summer.
About the author:
Lea Hajner has lived in Innsbruck since October 2013 and writes her own travel blog about the Tirol, having spent an intense few months exploring it since arriving. She has been involved in the creation of the first Luups Innsbruck coupon book. You can follow her experiences in Innsbruck on Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #onlyinibk.