Urban sophistication and Alpine playground. Tirol’s capital typically wows visitors with its sights and its heights. Strolling through the old town district makes you feel like you’re on the set of a medieval movie; looking up, you’re surrounded by craggy Nordkette Mountain Range, the city’s natural skyscrapers. This is Innsbruck, a city that beats to an outdoor rhythm, albeit one with a young, vibrant alter ego. If you’re in Innsbruck for a good time, not a long time, and looking for a mix of emotional responses, here’s how to spend 72 hours.
Time to take a stroll around the medieval heart of town. ‘Go see a roof’ might not sound appealing to most; however, this is the Golden Roof, the landmark of town. If you don’t take a selfie at the Golden Roof then people won’t believe that you’ve actually visited Innsbruck. But the real joy of Innsbruck lies in the streets, a maze of Baroque and Gothic architecture, criss-crossed by high-sided cobbled alleyways and lanes. Poke your head into the Flagship Store of Tirol-based designer Bernd Mühlmann (Seilergasse 5) , sample fine delights at Tiroler Edles (Seilergasse 13), browse for unique gifts at „feinheiten“ (Pfarrgasse 8) and for unique candles and soaps at Seifenmanufaktur Walde (Pfarrgasse 5), right opposite.
As you wander through the town center, stop by Strudelcafé Kröll where locals settle down with a coffee and pastry, preferably strudel (Hofgasse 6; try their crumbly nut strudel!). And once you’re on Hofgasse, go to Burgriesenhaus (Hofgasse 12). It has a whispering archway that is popular for murmured sweet nothings. Just don’t confess anything that you don’t want strangers to overhear! Another nearby must-visit is the Court Church (Universitätsstraße 2), also called “Schwarzmanderkirche” (literally “Black Men Church”). This is Emperor Maximilian’s mausoleum, in which his empty tomb lies surrounded by 28 over-life-sized statues of acolytes, the namesake “Black Men”. Very impressive!
Situated at the heart of the old town, Ottoburg Restaurant (Herzog- Friedrich-Straße 1) is a wonderful place for dinner. If you’re not ready to go home yet, order a nightcap at “Brixnerhaus Da Vincenzo” Italian bar (Domplatz 3) or sink into one of the leather seats at 360 Grad Rooftop Bar and take in the breathtaking 360 degree views over the city. Careful, you might never get up.
Fresh local ingredients are a priority at lovely “Immerland” at Wiltener Platzl Square, where they serve ‘breakfast & beyond‘; now that you’ve got your energy back, it’s time to explore the south of town, deeply steeped in history and legend. An architectural masterpiece in its own right, the Tirol Panorama (Bergisel 1-2) offers a journey through the history of Tirol. The huge and historic 360-degree cyclorama helps to retrace the dramatic events unfolding amidst the impressive scenery of the Bergisel, the exact spot the museum is located today.
At the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex of Innsbruck, built by visionary architect Zaha Hadid, you’ll see close up the ramp that ski jumpers launch from before flying over the town. Take the elevator to the Bergisel SKY tower-top restaurant and observation deck and get a bird’s eye view of what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp. Along with stunning views of Innsbruck. In the summer, ski jumpers (including many Olympic hopefuls) train here so you have a chance to see jumpers launch from the ramp.
There is little question that Oscar kocht (Oscar Cooks) is the most in-demand table in town: it has only one table and it takes just eight people at a time. Lively and casual, with an interior design that would be at home in London or Rome, enjoy a feast of Vegetarian flavours with a Mexican-Tirolean twist. You really have to plan ahead for this one, as reservations are tough (Defreggerstraße 21)!
And wherever you turn, there are the mountains. So now it’s time to get to the top! From the town center, catch a gondola up to the top and enjoy the view of the town as you’re carried upward. Hungerburgbahn Gondola speeds you up to Nordkette in minutes. Keep your eyes open, the view of the town and mountains is spectacular. If you can tear yourself away from the Jazz Brunch at Seegrube—and from the views—and have appropriate hiking gear (sturdy boots!), take a walk along one of the many hiking trails. A fantastic way to see the scenery! After all that hiking you’re going to need to refuel: Relax at one of the quaint on-mountain eateries while you get your bearings back over Tirolean grey cheese (Graukäse), a strongly flavoured, rennet-free cows-milk acid-curd cheese made in the Tirolean Alps that is even low in calories. Perfect for your last meal in Innsbruck. Get back down to the valley on foot or by gondola.
Time to say goodbye. To do so with just the right amount of melancholy, let your smartphone search for Heinrich Isaac’s Renaissance lied “Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen” (“Innsbruck, I Must Leave You”), with the German lyrics expressing sorrow at having to leave Innsbruck …