In the midst of the Tyrolean Alps, the provincial capital of Innsbruck nestles on the banks of the River Inn and attracts visitors to its pretty old town with cosy cafés, fine boutiques and magnificent architectural monuments from imperial times.
There is hardly any other place in Central Europe where nature and city are as close as in Innsbruck. The capital of Tyrol exudes both urban and alpine flair, offering exclusive hotels and magnificent buildings in the immediate vicinity of sun-drenched peaks and sleepy mountain villages. In short - Innsbruck attracts visitors all year round with cultural highlights, relaxed and enjoyable leisure time and sporting challenges.
The "Capital of the Alps", as Innsbruck likes to be called, presents itself to the visitor as small and manageable as it is multifaceted and sophisticated. Away from the magnificent nature around Innsbruck, the city has its own highlights to offer.
A tour of Innsbruck's old town is best started at the impressive Triumphpforte, which is also the entrance gate to Maria-Theresien-Strasse, which is well worth seeing.
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Once the Triumphal Gate marked the southern gate in the city wall, today it is one of Innsbruck's most famous sights. The stone portal was built in 1765 in honour of the wedding of Archduke Leopold to Maria Ludovica of Spain.
In addition to portraits and status symbols of the Habsburgs, the south side of the triumphal gate shows motifs of love in honour of the young couple. The marble reliefs on the north side focus on the sudden death of Emperor Franz Stephan of Lorraine at that time.
Behind the Triumphpforte begins the wide Maria-Theresien-Straße, which leads via Herzog Friedrich Straße to the Goldenes Dachl, Innsbruck's world-famous landmark. It was laid out in the course of the city's expansion in the 13th century and is today one of the six most important shopping streets in Austria.
Magnificent baroque façades line the imperial street, which together with modern shops, cafés and restaurants form an attractive mix of old and new. After just under 500 metres, Maria-Theresien-Straße joins Herzog-Friedrich-Straße, which leads directly to the Goldenes Dachl on the other side of the former city moat.
PICTURES: Maria Theresien Street in Innsbruck
Town Tower and Old Town Hall
The most prominent point in Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, apart from the Golden Roof, is Innsbruck's city tower. The 51m high tower was built between 1442 and 1450 as part of the historic 14th century town hall. It is thus the oldest such tower in Austria.
At that time, the city tower housed the tower guards, who were employed by the citizens of Innsbruck to defend their city and warn them of fire. The city prison was also located here, behind the barred windows. In 1967, the last "Türmerin" left the Türmer flat. Today, the Turmbund holds its meetings in the tower room one floor below.
A viewing platform at a height of 31 metres can be reached via 148 steps, offering an excellent overview of Innsbruck's city centre and the River Inn.
The Helblinghaus at the end of Herzog Friedrich Straße owes its fame to the magnificent stucco ornaments that cover almost every centimetre of its façade. The once Gothic burgher's house was built in the 15th century and presumably given its magnificent Baroque dress some 200 years later. Owned by Sebastian Hölbling from 1800 to 1827, it has borne his name ever since.
The Golden Roof, Innsbruck's landmark, lies in the heart of the city in the bend of Herzog Friedrich Straße. Since 1500, its 2657 fire-gilded shingles have been gleaming in the Tyrolean sun. The building, on which the magnificent, frescoed oriel is located, was the residence of Tyrolean sovereigns Frederick IV and Sigmund the Minty Rich in the 15th century.
Waltherpark, Innsteg and Court Garden
After the golden roof, the path leads past the Helblinghaus to the Inn bridge. From here the view falls on the colourful buildings on the banks of the Inn, which are among the most famous postcard motifs of Innsbruck.
On the other bank of the Inn, the Innallee leads from Waltherpark to the Innsteg, from where the view falls on the church towers of St. Jakob 's Cathedral framed by greenery and the parish church of St. Nikolas. The Innsteg leads into the Hofgarten, on the south-west side of which the cathedral church of St. Jakob and the Imperial Hofburg with the Hofkirche can be found.
Innsbruck Cathedral St. Jacob
As the main church of the diocese of Innsbruck and part of the Tyrolean Way of St. James, the Cathedral of St. James sits enthroned on the eastern bank of the Inn. In addition to a spectacular interior, Innsbruck Cathedral also houses the tombs of Tyrol's Prince Maximilian III and Archduke Eugene of Austria, as well as the most extensive carillon in Austria.
Like every true Habsburg city, the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck also has a Hofburg, which served as the residence of the monarch's family in imperial times. Its magnificent rooms date back largely to Empress Maria Theresa and can be visited on guided tours.
Worth seeing are above all the magnificent banqueting hall, the apartments of the imperial family, the court chapel (once the death chamber of Maria Theresa's husband) and the listed court garden.
The Hofkirche, which is rather plain on the outside, is located right next to the Hofburg. It houses the magnificent but empty tomb of Maximilian I and the so-called "Schwarzmander". These 28 larger-than-life bronze figures give the interior of the Hofkirche its unique character.
Regional Theatre and Museums
Opposite the Hofburg, directly on the Rennweg, sits the pillar-tested Landestheater von Tirol, which presents operas, operettas, plays and musicals to audiences of up to 800.
East of the Hofburg on Universitätsstraße, the Jesuit Church of the Holy Trinity is worth seeing. Just before it, Angerzellgasse with the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum branches off to Museumsstraße, which houses the Tyrolean Provincial Museum.
Via the Museumsstraße and the Burggraben you get back directly to the Maria-Theresien-Straße and have thus visited our top 10 sights of Innsbruck.
PICTURES: Old Town of Innsbruck
Top 5 excursion destinations around Innsbruck
Apart from the historic centre of Innsbruck, Tyrol's capital has other sights to offer. Some of these can be reached easily on foot, others in a few minutes by car.
Bergisel Ski Jump
From the old town of Innsbruck, the view falls directly on the famous ski jump at the Bergisel, a venue for the international Four Hills Tournament. Just like the Golden Roof, the Bergisel Ski Jump is also considered a landmark of Innsbruck. The Olympic ski jump, designed by star architect Zaha Hadid, was opened in 2002.
The approach to the Bergisel, some 250 metres above the old town of Innsbruck, is effortless via an inclined lift. Right next to the ski jump is the Bergisel Sky panorama restaurant. The panorama terrace also offers a breathtaking all-round view of Innsbruck and the Nordkette.
Ride with the Nordkettenbahnen
If you want to see the Nordkette from close up, you should take a ride on the Nordkettenbahnen. In just a few minutes from Innsbruck city centre, you'll be in the middle of the Karwendel Nature Park with a magnificent Alpine panorama and a view of Innsbruck. Some of the stations were also designed by Zaha Hadid.
The Hungerburgbahn takes you from the Kongresshaus in the old town to Hermann-Buhl-Platz (there is also a paid car park here). From there, take the Seegrubenbahn up to the 2,344-metre Hafelekar. There you can enjoy the Nordkette Panorama Breakfast or the magnificent view from "Cloud 9", Innsbruck's highest sun terrace.
The Hungerburgbahn stops at the ever-popular Alpenzoo. Its enclosures are built directly into the slope and make a visit to the zoo quite a strenuous mountain walk. Along the 100 metres of altitude you can observe around 100 species of animals from the Alps in their natural environment.
There are ibexes, wolves, eagles, brown bears, lynxes, marmots and many more to see. Younger visitors will enjoy the show farm and the spacious playground.
The Habsburg Ambras Castle high above Innsbruck is barely 10 minutes away by car and is considered the oldest museum in the world. The exhibitions in Ambras Castle are part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and show the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II, the impressive Habsburg portrait gallery and around a hundred suits of armour of famous commanders.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Only about 20 minutes by car from Innsbruck lies Wattens with the famous Swarovski Crystal Worlds. The "illusionistic glittering world in 14 chambers of wonder" was designed by André Heller. The largest and smallest crystal in the world, a gigantic crystal wall and the world 's largest Swarovski shop are hidden behind the water-spouting giant.
Official tourism website of Innsbruck
Official website of the Bergisel Ski Jump
Info about the ride up the Nordkette
Official website of the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo
Official website of Ambras Castle
Official website of the Swarovski Crystal Worlds