Keeping an eye on the forecast in the days leading up to a vacation or to the weekend is often a nerve wracking experience. You’ve spent months planning your trip and the prospect of it being scuppered by poor weather is not something you want to deal with. How do you make the most of your trip if rain threatens to spoil your plans? Well, as you’ll find out, rainy days does not mean there isn’t anything to do in and around Tirol – there are plenty of dry options—and even a couple of not so dry outdoor pursuits.
Visit the beautiful medieval town of Hall in Tirol: Discover the treasures and treats of small town individuality that make Hall so special. The winding lanes, punctuated by pastel-coloured Gothic-style townhouses and never crowded, are made for aimless ambling. Take a stroll around one of Austria’s biggest and most beautiful medieval old towns—it’s even bigger than the old town district of Innsbruck and has been lovingly restored to its full splendor during the last two decades. The parish church with its Baroque-style steeply and Gothic-style interior and the Mint Tower, the landmark of Hall with its rewarding museum, are perfect places to spend time in and it’s very easy to while away a few hours admiring the displays and exhibitions. In between, gather new strength over a hearty lunch at Goldener Löwe Restaurant, which is located on the Upper Town Square.
One of my popular places for historical-based excursions on a rainy day, I visit Tratzberg Castle every two years. In the possession of the Goess-Enzenberg Family, it is the very embodiment of a 16th century Tirolean castle that proudly stands as a reminder of the past and reflects the medieval glory in which the nobility of yesteryear lived. With loving care given to historical detail, the castle underwent a meticulous renovation and refurbishment. All rooms of the castle are lavishly appointed with priceless antiques and visitors get a deep insight into the history of the estate and the private life of its former imperial owners. The sights, scenes and sounds of Tratzberg Castle and its environs, best enjoyed via audio guide, all combine to recreate the atmosphere of the era.
Hiking in the rain. While it might not be your first choice, rainy day hikes can offer solitude and a special ambiance, especially if you’re dressed to stay dry and warm (no, I won’t quote the popular saying about bad weather and bad clothes). My advice for choosing a hike for a drizzly day is taking a Doppler rain umbrella that is designed for ultimate protection from bad weather while walking. Pick trails suitable for the weather, such as logging roads (think old growth forests) and avoid exposed ridge walks or hikes involving scrambling over slick rocks. What’s best, you’ll never find overcrowded on-mountain eateries on a rainy day. My favourite rainy day hikes lead to Walderalm Alpine Pasture Hut (with the trailhead in Gnadenwald), to Rumer Alm Alpine Pasture Hut (starting in Innsbruck) or to Aldranser Alm Alpine Pasture Hut (starting in Aldrans), to Gasthaus Pfandl Inn (from Kufstein toward Kaisertal Valley) or to Jagdhaus Alpine Pastures (St. Jakob in Defereggental Valley/East Tirol). All above mentioned huts are open year-round and in all weathers, even when it’s absolutely shafting it down.
The Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art in Innsbruck contains the most important collection of cultural artefacts from Tirol and is perfect to spend a few hours on a rainy day. It’s a funny fact that many Tiroleans never have been there—and if, they did so within a school field trip. Strongly recommended: Visit the Court Church next door, home to the biggest Imperial Cenotaph in Europe: The church, also called “Schwarzmanderkirche” (literally “Black Men Church”), is famous for its namesake “Black Men” – 28 over-life-sized Renaissance bronze statues of important historical figures that flank the empty sarcophagus of Emperor Maximilian I. And if it’s raining cats and dogs all day long, you’re invited to explore another worthwhile museum, the nearby Ferdinandeum. Also known as the Tyrolean State Museum, this is a treasure-trove of Tirolean history and art that houses remarkable artefacts in its collections. Stop for a pause at the museum’s wonderful “Kunstpause” restaurant before venturing out into the lanes and alleys of Innsbruck once again.
The medieval center of Rattenberg, Austria’s smallest town, is full of revitalized townhouses, cobbled streets and alleyways and dotted by specialist glass shops. Discover a town rich in history, with countless stories to tell. Pop into the Augustine Museum, view the amazing Nagelschmied Homes, discover the lovely parish church and visit the Kisslinger Glassblowing Shop. Relax, indulge yourself and enjoy one of the Konditorei Hacker’s unique yummy pastries – a little gem offering quality and always fresh home-made treats. Lucky ones can join one of their popular apple strudel cooking classes.
A legend in its own right—and a great place to visit on a rainy day, Kitzbühel is the playground of the Rich and Famous, set against a backdrop of jagged and rugged mountains. The medieval town has cobble-stoned streets and a quaint cluster of high-end fashion boutiques, cafés and restaurants – for picture perfect you can’t get much better. I love strolling around the historic old town with a rain umbrella for top-notch window-shopping—and to find out what’s the latest trend in rainwear. However, my foremost recommendation is the Walde Museum at the heart of town: The centerpiece of the Municipal Museum of Kitzbuehel is the largest permanent exhibition of the artistic work of Kitzbühel-born painter and graphic artist Alfons Walde who achieved international recognition mainly with the posters of winter landscapes and winter sports motifs. He was the first artist to successfully bring skiing as a subject into painting. Afterwards, have lunch at Huber Bräu Stüberl Restaurant just around the corner, offering the ultimate mountain-infused dining experience. And Café Praxmair, located opposite to the restaurant, is the place to go for mouth-watering pastries and a hot cup of specialty coffee drink to get you going.
Tirol’s indoor treasures rival its outdoor ones, and a rainy day presents the perfect opportunity to explore them. The indoor pools throughout the country are some of the best ways to make the most of a wet day in Tirol. Here’s to my favourite three: Recently refurbished and extended, the Leutasch Alpine Bath is the place for wellbeing, fun and a splashing time for all in indoor and outdoor heated pools. The ample health suite houses a variety of four different sauna baths that are never crowded. The calm environment and soothing heat are also relaxing and therapeutic all by themselves.
If you’re looking for a place to take refuge from the rain where you can be ensured a great experience, try visiting the Arlberg well.com Center in St. Anton. The unique combination of indoor and outdoor pools captures the Alpine environment with glorious mountain views and assures year-round swimming pleasures in all weathers. This is where nature meets nurture. If you are looking for a place to relax and unwind, the delightful Sauna World is for you. Indulge yourself in the ultimate sauna experience where renewal and rejuvenation come naturally.
And then, of course, there is the Aqua Dome, Tirol’s most spectacular recreation complex that is part water park, part geothermal hot springs in Längenfeld, Ötztal Valley. There’s a trio of flying saucer–shaped outdoor pools that offer underwater music and are strikingly illuminated – there’s certainly something surreal about gazing up to the peaks while floating in a brine bath, drifting around a lazy river or being pommelled by water jets on a rainy day or when the snow is falling.
Never let a rainy day ruin your Tirol vacation. There’s always something to do and see – you just need to know where and what. That said, I’ve been saving the best for the last: The Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens top the list of Austria’s most-visited attractions. Visitors from every corner of the world have walked through these portals, yet few have experienced anything like the Swarovski Crystal Worlds before… Inside you’ll find a subterranean labyrinth of crystalline chambers of wonder that astonish and amuse its viewers. The drawbacks, if any, are the crowds (so I’d recommended to come early in the morning or late in the afternoon) and that the Crystal Cloud won’t sparkle that much in the rain. The crowning feature of the enchanting garden, the Crystal Cloud, floats above a black Mirror Pool—this mystical masterpiece is bedecked with 600,000 hand-mounted Swarovski crystals and is a marvellous sight to behold.