Unlike many ski resorts, Innsbruck isn’t just about the white stuff.
A town in its own right, it has a university, pastel-coloured buildings, a gushing river (the Inn), trendy shops and buzzing nightlife. And if that’s not enough, the mountains provide a pretty backdrop that’s particularly stunning in the winter.
Innsbruck is also relatively small, so gaining a feel for the place is possible in a day. Here’s how:
Breakfast’s a breeze
09:00: Wrap up warm and head to the old town for Café Central on Gilmstrasse. A cavernous, Viennese-style coffee house, it has enormous windows, heavy chandeliers and a grand piano that’s frequently tinkled by passing musos.
Order the signature breakfast – a silver platter of breads, cheeses, meats, boiled eggs, juice and fresh coffee – and settle in for an hour or two. Nobody will rush you.
Get your skates on
10:00: Time to discover what Innsbruck has to offer. Tear yourself away from the old town and head to the city’s Olympic Village, twice host of the Winter Olympic Games (in 1964 and again 1976).
The Olympic village, reachable by tram from the main station, is located south of the city and contains an Eishalle – an outdoor ice rink. The rink should be quiet this time of the morning so take advantage of the 360-degree mountain-view without being shown up by the sickeningly talented locals.
Head for the heights
12:00: Time for some orientation. Take the Hungerberg cable car from the northern end of Rennweg to Seegrube for sweeping views of the city below. The city’s Alpen Zoo is also here, renowned for its bears, eagles and otters which are indigenous to Europe’s mountainous regions.
Pick up a bosna
13:00: It might not be Germany, but sausages are still a favourite lunchtime snack. Join the locals at the Seegrube café and try a bosna – a spicy sausage smothered in curry powder and onions. Order a mulled wine and watch as skiers and snowboarders carve zig-zags in the snow.
14:00: Back to the old town for some serious shopping. Start on Maria Theresien Strasse – the main drag through the city with walkways and covered shops. Traditional wares are sold in its many boutiques including Austrian chocolate, jewellery, cigars and other luxury items.
Au fait with the Emperor
15:00: At the end of the Maria Theresien Strasse the Goldenes Dach (golden roof) shimmers with 2,657 gilded copper tiles built in 1500 by Emperor Maximilian as a gift for his wife. Inside the Gothic house below is a small museum dedicated to the Emperor with paintings and coats of arms. Entrance costs €3.60 including a free audio guidebook.
Coffee and cake
15:30: Café and kuchen (coffee and cake) is as much a tradition in Innsbruck as Lederhosen. Try Café Margit Kroll on Hofgassestrasse where coffee and rich chocolate cake or hot chocolate and apple strudel are popular combinations. The café’s signature pull is its white hot chocolate.
16:00: Spend some time meandering through the winding cobbled streets at the end of the main drag with their open-air shops selling postcards and typically Austrian souvenirs. It’s pedestrianised, so feel free to stare up at the mountains without fear of being run over, but watch out for the push bikes.
Make a meal of it
19:00: Freshen up and take a taxi to Buzihuette, a restaurant high in the mountains covered in fairy lights. Based at the edge of a forest, it’s a magical place to eat dinner, especially when the trees are weighed down with snow.
Inside, only candle light is used and hearty dishes such as karsspatzln (noodles with cheese and caramelised onions), and schnitzel (pork cooked in breadcrumbs) are served. Those seated at the large table at the back are free to strum on one of the many guitars hooked on the walls, often prompting a sing-song. Can’t yodel? Order more schnapps and give it a go.
Beer and buzz
21:30: Most of the town’s nightlife centres around the old town, so ask a taxi driver to take you back to the main station where many of the railway arches have been converted into bars. The area is known as the Viaduct Crawl, and has dozens of places to keep you going until the early hours.
Try Babalon with its clientele of artists and politicians, Plateau with its long, thin bar packed to the rafters at weekends, or Down Under, an Australian spot with a late licence. Most bars are waitress service, so take a seat and be prepared to tip.
Blame it on the boogie
00:00: In the mood for dancing? The clubs in the centre don’t get swinging until after midnight with youngsters partying until the sun comes up. Try Couch Club on Anichstrasse a small space with bright red wallpaper, table football and regular DJ competitions.
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