Here’s how to plan the perfect trip to Innsbruck, Austria.
Nestled in an alpine valley on the banks of the Inn River and backed by photogenic peaks, Innsbruck, the fifth-largest city in Austria and the capital of the state of Tyrol, is a longtime destination for winter sports that provides access to many notable ski areas. When the cold weather rolls in and the flakes fall, people come from all over Europe and beyond to take advantage of the snow-covered terrain. Visitors can check out some of the venues from the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games such as the Bergisel Ski Jump. There’s also an impressive system of scenic cable cars that brings riders up the craggy mountains for eye-popping panoramas.
And while high-altitude pursuits may be the main draw, this compact city in the Alps offers way more than just frosty fun. Even during the off-season, travelers visiting the “Bridge Over the Inn” can admire the churches and gabled houses that line the narrow streets of the Old Town, check out Schloss Ambras Innsbruck, and go hiking.
Scroll on for local tips to plan the perfect getaway to Innsbruck that combines thrilling adventure, gorgeous architecture, and tasty Austrian food — no matter what time of year you decide to visit.
Related: T+L’s Guide to Vienna, Austria
Best Hotels in Innsbruck
Hotel Leipziger Hof
The family-run Hotel Leipziger Hof exemplifies the mix of past and present that Innsbruck does so incredibly well. The downstairs spaces are draped in darker tones and heavier fabrics, while rooms feel refreshed with light wood and sleek furnishings. There's also a fifth-floor spa area with a sauna and infrared chairs to relax in after skiing.
Best Western Plus Hotel Goldener Adler
In the middle of the historic Gothic part of the city, you’ll find the Best Western Plus Hotel Goldener Adler. “Built in 1390, it's one of the oldest buildings in Innsbruck,” says Tyrol-based ToursByLocals guide Alexander Bader. “It’s also quite walkable and makes a great home base for exploring.”
Situated on the river, Hotel Innsbruck offers a convenient address near the Old Town landmarks as well as comfortable rooms and winter gear storage. Angelika Mair, a local Innsbrook guide with Alpine Adventures, favors the spa, which features an indoor pool, Finnish sauna, aromatherapy steam bath, and floating tub.
The Penz Hotel
The Penz Hotel sits inside a sleek glass building, and the modern, design-forward ethos also comes through in the stylish common areas and sophisticated rooms that are equipped with all the requisite conveniences. “The rooftop bar is great for grabbing a drink,” says Mair. “The property also puts out one of the best breakfast spreads in the city.”
Best Things to Do in Innsbruck
Try a new winter sport.
Skiing put Innsbruck on the map, and barreling down the Alps at full speed remains a fan-favorite activity. That alpine terrain makes it a great place to try other winter sports, too. “Snowboarding, bobsleighing, and tobogganing are popular with visitors in the colder months,” says Mair. “And, of course, everyone gets really excited to visit the Bergisel Ski Jump.”
Stroll through the Old Town.
One of the best things to do in Innsbruck is to stroll through the narrow streets of the Old Town. “You will see architecture from the Habsburg Empire,” says Bader. Emblematic landmarks include the Imperial Palace, Court Church, and the famous Golden Roof. The Austrian Alps in the background create a frame-worthy photo op against all the historic buildings.
Visit Schloss Ambras Innsbruck.
“Don’t miss the chance to visit Schloss Ambras Innsbruck, the first museum in the world and one of the most significant sights in all of Austria,” explains Mair. The 1563-built Renaissance castle teeters above the city at an altitude of 2,073 feet and houses a treasure trove of armor, weapons, and art. Be sure to carve out some time to stroll the magnificent gardens.
Take a cable car up the mountains.
Innsbruck boasts a remarkable cable car system that goes from the city center to the summit in just 30 minutes. Designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the futuristic Hungerburgbahn funicular stops at a mountain plateau. From there, riders can hop on the Seegrubenbahn and Nordkettenbahn to the top for even more eye-popping vistas.
When the snow melts, the sunny peaks come alive with diverse flora and fauna. Spring through fall is a spectacular time to explore the alpine scenery on foot, peep native animals, stop at mountain huts for delicious food, and soak in the sweeping views.
Related: 7 Best Ski Resorts in Europe
Best Restaurants in Innsbruck
More than just a superb farm-to-table restaurant, die Wilderin goes a step further with nose-to-tail cooking, which means using the entire animal. Proteins are paired with locally grown vegetables and herbs for a delicious, memorable meal that’s rooted in a sense of place and served in a warm setting.
Accented with wood-beamed ceilings and ornate chandeliers, Stiftskeller is a classic restaurant with an old-school yet lively ambiance, a nice beer garden, and traditional Tyrolean specialties like spinach dumplings with Vorarlberg cheese sauce. “It’s also great for larger groups if you’re traveling with family or friends," adds Bader.
Vegan food isn’t necessarily the first thing people expect to find in Innsbruck, so Olive is a pleasant surprise. The welcoming atmosphere and sustainable alpine decor set the tone for thoughtful plant-based dishes.
Trattoria & Pizzeria "Da Rocco"
Geography buffs and gourmands probably won’t be all that surprised to learn that you can find excellent Italian cuisine in Innsbruck, given the boot-shaped nation sits just south of Austria. Trattoria & Pizzeria "Da Rocco" serves flavorful, comforting cheese plates, pasta, fish, meat, and pizza that celebrates fresh ingredients from Italy.
For an unforgettable fine dining experience in Innsbruck, book a table at Restaurant Oniriq. Diners rave about the seven-course tasting menu that consists of artfully plated dishes and wine (or non-alcoholic beverage) pairings.
Best Time to Visit
Innsbruck is very much a winter sports destination, so its busiest season is December to March. That said, visitors shouldn’t discount the quieter off-peak months for hiking and other alpine activities. The city also hosts charming holiday markets each festive season.
How to Get There
Most international travelers bound for Innsbruck fly into Munich International Airport (MUC). The journey from the Bavarian capital takes about two hours and 15 minutes by car or a half-hour longer by train. If you’re already in Europe, it’s even easier to reach Innsbruck thanks to the efficient, well-connected rail system and regional flights into Innsbruck Airport (INN).
How to Get Around
Innsbruck is super walkable with many of the top attractions located close to one another. Cycling lanes make it easy to bike if you’d rather ride around on two wheels. And the cable cars offer a scenic mode of transport for high-altitude adventures.
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