Though it may not have the profile of Austria's most famous cities, Innsbruck is a popular destination on many touring routes.
Though it may not have the profile of Austria's most famous cities Vienna and Salzburg, Innsbruck is a popular destination on many touring routes through Europe due to its location. The city is just a couple of hours from Venice in the south, Zurich in the West and Munich in the north. But Innsbruck is no mere gateway town. It offers history, culture and adventure for visitors.
Innsbruck's history dates back 900 years and its beautiful Old Town, a pedestrian zone apart from local trams, is filled with historic Gothic buildings and pretty town squares, the likes of which can't be seen in the city's larger tourist rivals, Vienna and Salzburg.
The Bergisel Ski Jump (above) was built for the 1964 Winter Olympics, then rebuilt in 2003 to a design by the late architect Zaha Hadid. Australians will likely be surprised to find the jump operates year-round, even without snow, so visitors might actually see jumpers in action during training. The tower at the top of the jump offers great views, though somewhat hilariously the end of the jump overlooks a cemetery – something to keep athletes focused perhaps?
The rooftop terrace restaurant Lichtblick offers modern fare with a touch of local tradition, such as white asparagus soup (during its brief season), potato souffle or venison with potato dumplings. See restaurant-lichtblick.at
Isserwirt in the village of Lans, just outside the city, dates back to 1313 and offers hearty fare in a traditional inn setting. It can be reached via a short taxi ride. isserwirt.at/?lang=en
For that classic Austrian favourite, strudel, head to Strudelcafe Kroell in Old Town, where you'll find a huge range of strudels beyond the traditional apple, such as rhubarb, chocolate and raspberry, and savoury options like ham and cheese strudel.
Innsbruck is surrounded by mountains and numerous funiculars will take you to the top of some of these to enjoy spectacular views of the valley below (or, if you're feeling fit, you can try hiking up one of the many mountain trails). The Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen, with its stylish stations designed by Zaha Hadid, will take you to near the peak of Nordkette mountain, rising 2300 metres, where you can enjoy a pub lunch at the Seegrube Restaurant. See nordkette.com/en
The Adlers Hotel is just a short walk from Innsbruck's main train station, with the Old Town in easy reach via a short walk or tram ride. The hotel has a stylish, modern vibe, complemented by the funky bar on the top floor with a terrace offering great views across the city. Most of the hotel's 75 rooms also feature great views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, with the three different room types all fittingly starting with the word panorama (Panorama Classic, for example. Rooms start from €143a night. See adlers-innsbruck.com
The Crystal Dome at Swarovski Crystal Worlds.
One of Austria's most famous exports, Swarovski crystals, are made just outside Innsbruck. The site is also home to Swarovski Crystal World – what you might call a crystal theme park, though art gallery is probably a better description. The installations make use of the famous crystals to create dazzling displays, with some unusual works including multimedia, robotics and optical illusions. There's also an excellent restaurant on site. A shuttle bus to Crystal World runs from Innsbruck's main train station on a regular basis. See kristallwelten.swarovski.com
See also: The world's most dazzling attraction
The writer travelled as a guest of the Austrian National Tourist Office.