Nestled into the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is the capital of the western state of Tyrol. The name means bridge over the Inn. It was once a major transportation link between north and south Europe being located along the easiest route over the Alps, with a bridge crossing the Inn River. Winter sports are a major attraction in this city which has both imperial and modern architecture. The Nordkette funicular brings people up a mountain to 2,256 meters above the city center for winter skiing or summer hiking and mountain climbing.
The area has been settled since the stone age, and fallen under a variety of different rulers through the ages. It was taken over by the Nazis in WW2 and suffered heavy damage from allied bombings. Innsbruck hosted the winter Olympics in both 1964 and 1976. More recently it hosted the winter Paralympics in 1984 and 1988, and was the very first host of the youth winter Olympics in 2012.
Things to do in Innsbruck
Olympic Ski World is a main attraction for winter tourists. People go to the Bergisel Ski Jump for the views even when it’s not ski season. Other things to see or do include riding the funicular or cable cars, or a visit to the medieval old town area, Hofburg castle, the golden roof (which is an awning of gold plated copper, but also a major 5th century symbol of the city built by Maximilian I for his own personal viewing spot), Ambrass castle, and the Cathedral of St James – a 17th century baroque style cathedral with interior pink marble columns, painted ceilings, and free admission.
Stradtturn town tower which once housed prisoners is another tourist destination. People can climb it for a fee. Hofkirke is a gothic style church built in 1553. It has bronze statues of Emperor Maximilian 1’s ancestors including King Arthur. The emperor’s grand black marble tomb sits empty as he was buried elsewhere.
Innsbruck’s Alpenzoo is the highest altitude zoo in Europe. It has great views and animals native to the alps. Innsbruck also has a number of museums including Swarovski Crystal World, Tyrolean Folk Art Museum and Tirol Panorama. Hofgarten park has walking trails and a little river, formal gardens, a playground, and a beer garden.
Our train travels in Europe prior to boarding the MSC Lirica in Italy found us traveling from Buchs, Switzerland to Innsbruck, Austria. We got lucky on this leg of the journey having one train making the full distance with no need to transfer. This train was quite different from all the other trains we rode on this trip. It had separate little compartments with 6 seats each. We had reserved our seats in advance and had the ones by the window. This was also the only train on our journey that had a rack over the seats large enough for a full-sized suitcase. There was just one other person in the compartment when we got on, but we didn’t get far before the rest of the seats filled up. A reserved seat was definitely a good plan for this train. As it made more stops people got on, but rarely off and eventually there was someone without a seat who stood in the aisle outside of the compartments for several stops looking quite sad before someone finally got off the train. We were quite happy to have reserved our seats early enough to get the window seats because the scenery through the Alps is beautiful.
Innsbruck is a lovely town, surrounded in tall rugged mountains and full of interesting old buildings. We arrived shortly after noon so we had time to walk around and see things on our travel day. We went to the Golden Krone hotel where I had booked a room the previous summer through booking.com. The girl at the desk asked our name and looked at her list and couldn’t find it. I gave her the paperwork I printed out when I made the booking. She went and looked it up on her computer and then said it was cancelled because I didn’t update my credit card info and that Booking.com sent a message saying to do so.
My credit card info had not changed since I made the booking. Booking.com did send me a number of messages between when I booked 3 of our hotels for that trip through them and when we left for our trip, but none of those messages pertained to my credit card. The only ones regarding Innsbruck contained offerings of things to book to do while there. Later when I checked my email I found the hotel had sent a message just the day before our stay in Innsbruck saying they had cancelled the booking, but since we were traveling and I wasn’t checking it all that often I did not know about it at the time. All our hotels were booked on the same card and none of the others had any issues.
The hotel receptionist said the hotel was booked full and she couldn’t offer us another room. Just like that we were homeless in Austria with 2 days until our next train even though I had booked all our lodgings months in advance. All she could suggest was to try another hotel, but she wouldn’t even call any to see if they had room. Luckily around the corner and down the way there was a giant sign saying HOTEL in English so we actually knew what it said. We went there. It was called Hotel Neue Post. While more expensive than our original booking, at that point we were just happy to get a room. If the reception area was any reflection of the rooms, this was a much nicer hotel.
It was a nice room too, and this hotel had free breakfast. Like all the other hotels this trip they had the odd sleeping bag type sheet & quilt combo things. Typical of a European hotel there was no coffee pot, no washcloths, no USB ports, and like the last one in Liechtenstein, some sort of nasty soap/shampoo/body wash all-in-one stuff.
The view from our room was awesome with giant mountains and an old building with a tall spire or steeple in either direction. Giant mountains are the norm for views in Innsbruck as that is what you see anywhere where there is not a building blocking your view.
We took a walk around town and found some of Innsbruck’s famous sites like the golden roof, some old churches, and a row of colorful buildings along the Inn River that reminded me of Curacao. We wandered through a couple holiday markets and got a tasty spiraled potato on a stick at one of them. Passing by numerous restaurants we noticed that all of them had prices about half what they were in Switzerland. Although the language there is German, just about everyone speaks English as well so communication was not a problem.
We didn’t see any of the red-spired churches in Innsbruck that we saw so many of in little mountain towns as the train passed by, but there was certainly no lack of churches. They just didn’t have red roofing. There were also lots of onion domes on buildings, something we rarely saw on the way over.