weekend away - Innsbruck
Written by Brett Harriman
Referred to as the 'treasure of the Austrian Alps', Innsbruck is famous for its winter sports and has twice hosted the Winter Olympics, in 1964 and 1976.
Nestled on the banks of the Inn River and flanked by majestic mountains, Innsbruck was first mentioned in the year 1167 and takes its name from the bridge (brücke) built here crossing the Inn. Innsbruck thrived during the Middle Ages with the backing of Habsburg royals, who established the alpine settlement as the imperial capital of the province of Tyrol.
Today, Innsbruck is a must-do destination for recreationists experiencing wanderlust. Skiers and snowboarders flock to the region’s nine ski areas that total some 290km of slopes and 80 lifts. The mountains in summer flourish with alpine flowers, hikers, climbers, nature lovers, and paragliders. In the valley, cyclists take to the trails while bell-wearing cows graze, and cable cars quietly ascend to the summits of scenic peaks.
Tourists pull into Innsbruck for its exceptional attractions. These include Hofburg Palace, in which visitors relive Innsbruck’s imperial era and wander through sumptuous bedrooms and ballrooms, including the Giant Hall, regarded as the most magnificent ceremonial hall in the Alps.
Across town, Schloss Ambras, dating from the 16th century, is one of Europe’s oldest museums, home to paintings by European masters such as Cranach, Titian, and Rubens.
Standing tall like an exclamation point above Innsbruck, the world-famous Olympic ski jump is the site of many death-defying competitions held here during the winter season. Atop its soaring tower sits Café im Turm, serving regional cuisine with million-dollar views from every table.
Within sight, the village of Wattens is home to Swarovski Crystal. Together with the three-floor Swarovski Crystal emporium in Innsbruck’s old town, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds theme park in Wattens is another worthwhile attraction in this spectacular slice of Austria in the Alps!
Taste traditional Tyrolean schnapps made from a variety of fruits and choose from a selection of boutique Austrian wines at Spezialitäten aus der Stiftsgasse (Stiftsgasse 2, Tel: +43 512 576 580).
Where to stay
No two rooms are the same at Innsbruck’s oldest inn, the non-smoking Goldener Adler, dating to the year 1390. Composer W. A. Mozart and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe have overnighted here; now the tastefully furnished suites and deluxe rooms at this historic address await your arrival in the heart of the old town.
Purchase Austria’s best-valued welcome card, the Innsbruck Card. Free admission to all of Innsbruck’s most important attractions and unlimited use of public transport are included in the price. (The card can be purchased at the tourist information office or attractions.)