Are you visiting Innsbruck? Then read on for the 30 best things to do in Innsbruck. Innsbruck is the fifth largest city in Austria, in the mountainous state of Tyrol, and a very popular tourism and skiing destination.
The region is famed for its many skier-friendly slopes which range from beginner runs all the way up to the almost impossible black runs.
There have been many notable skiing events and competitions held there, from the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, to the Winter Paralympics in 1984 and 1988, and the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in 2012 – the sport is something of a symbol for the city.
There are other things to do in Innsbruck as well as a host of exciting things to see in Innsbruck: let’s take a look at thirty or so of these.
30 Best Things To Do in Innsbruck
1. Snowy, Sporty Things to Do in Innsbruck
Of course, skiing will be the first thing to do in Innsbruck – it is the primary purpose of visits to the region.
There are several ski resorts and plenty of varied slopes and pistes, all catering to every level of skill from gentle nursery slopes for the complete beginner to decidedly tricky runs that should not be attempted by any but the most skilful and experienced skier.
As well as skiing, you can try your hand at snowboarding (believed by many to be easier to master than two separate skis and you can even have a go at ski jumping.
The Tyrol enjoys snow all year round, thanks to the glacier in the Stubai Valley, so as well as mountaineering on the lower slopes in summer, you will be able to ski whenever you visit, even in mid-summer.
2. Apres-Ski! See and Be Seen
Despite the stereotypical idea of Austria as being the land of lederhosen and oompah bands, Innsbruck’s apres-ski nightlife is something a bit more sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
The wealthy skiing jet-set would instantly feel at home in Innsbruck’s stylish bars, cocktail lounges and restaurants, where having a drink or two and a bite to eat is almost less important than seeing who is around and being one of the highlights for others to see in Innsbruck.
There are also cosy lounges and coffee bars for those days when the weather chases everyone off the slopes and all anyone wants to do is cluster near the roaring log fire with a good book, jigsaw puzzle or even their favourite phone game.
But it is not all glamour, glitz, and scarily high prices for a single cocktail, Innsbruck is also home to more grounded apres-ski venues, where you can get a burger and a beer to chase away the aches and pains of your first day back on the slopes, family friendly venues where your children can chase around with other visitors and local children, while you relax in a social and convivial atmosphere, planning your itinerary for non-skiing sight-seeing days.
3. The Golden Roof of Innsbruck
If you are an emperor, you need somewhere to stand so that you can address your people and be seen by them, preferably in a superior position to remind them of your lofty position compared with their lowly, ground-level status.
And that’s exactly what Emperor Maximilian had in mind when, in 1493, he commissioned the beautiful Goldenes Dachl – or Golden Roof – to showcase a loggia (a sort of internal veranda, open to the outside but part of the building) overlooking the square of the Old Town area of Innsbruck, from which he and his new bride could watch parades and festivals and generally be entertained by their subjects.
The loggia is surmounted by the eponymous ‘golden roof’, which is neither golden, nor, technically speaking, a roof!
The glorious golden colour comes from 2,657 copper shingles which have been fire-gilded to gleam and sparkle even on the greyest day, positively glittering on sunny days.
The golden roof is not atop the building: rather it is on one side, so that the people in the square below can properly admire the beauty of the tiles.
The gleaming tiles are not the only attraction of the loggia, which is comprehensively decorated with relief carvings of Andalusian dancers, the court jester, other scenes from court life of the time,
Even the emperor himself appears in two of the central panels, once with each of his wives: his beloved first wife Maria of Burgundy, and second wife, Bianca Maria Sforza who is depicted holding an apple.
The Golden Roof is as stunning as it ever was, perhaps because the tiles have largely been renewed, with some examples of the old ones to be seen nearby, and it is a must-see in Innsbruck, having the claim to fame of being Innsbruck’s most iconic tourist sight.
4. Bergisel Ski Jump to do in Innsbruck
While much to do with winter sport relies on nature to produce the venues: plentiful crisp firm snow to line skiing and snowboarding routes, a brisk freeze to keep skating ponds safe and suitable for races or ice dancing displays – when it comes to ski jumps, the reliance on nature falls away somewhat.
Ski jumps don’t actually need snow at all as they can be created from artificial surfaces – and are, whether using snow or not, almost always entirely man-made, the work of an architect and engineering team rather than a happy accident.
This immense and strangely beautiful edifice was built by the renowned British-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, to replace the existing old structure which had played home to the 1964 and 1976 Olympics.
The new ski jump was completed in 2003 and is a thing of grandeur as well as being home to a 150-seat café with a striking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
5. Ambras Castle
The site of this castle has long been home to a magnificent residence, and there are records of a castle of some sort being known on the site as far back as the 10th century.
The castle passed into the hands of the famously inbred Hapsburg royal family, who constructed the current building there in the late 1300s/ early 1400s in order to have a Renaissance palace in which to house his tremendous collections of art, books and weapons.
The Portrait Gallery alone holds over 200 wonderful works of art, each one of which would be the star in any other collection – a sign of just how important and valuable this collection really is.
Book your entry ticket here
6. Alpine Zoo
This small zoo might not seem all that much to write home about when compared with larger, more impressive zoos found elsewhere, but it has several things to make it a must-see activity in Innsbruck.
The first is that it is one of the highest zoos in Europe, which already gives it a certain amount of cachet as well as ensuring that the second point, that the zoo specialises in Alpine animals – breeding, maintaining and learning about them.
Conserving natural populations in the wild – is appropriate for recreating the habitats of those sometimes rare or severely endangered species. The conservation work undertaken by the Alpine Zoo is careful and painstaking.
It has already seen the successful breeding up of an exceedingly rare mouse, as well as participation in movements to conserve and protect animals as diverse as the European Bison, Alpine ibexes, lynxes and wildcats, various birds ranging from vultures and storks to Alpine owls and grouse, and even the European brown bear.
The zoo might be small, but it is a jewel of its type, perfectly formed, very effective with its conservation and education offerings,
It is also a great deal of fun to spend a day walking through, admiring the sight of animals that it is almost impossible to otherwise catch a glimpse of, contentedly living in simulacra of their home habitats.
7. Nordkette Cable Car to do in Innsbruck
This cable car is not only to transport eager skiers up the mountain to enjoy the battle down on skis or snowboard, you can also enjoy a sight-seeing trip from the sturdy gondola car, looking down over the city of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains and the nearby Karwendel Nature Park.
The cable car carries people to three distinct areas:
- a return which goes up and then returns you to your starting point – this is ideal for those who are not the most energetic or who have mobility issues – having shown you an aerial view of the stunning mountain scenery;
- a one-way ticket to the top peaks for you to ski or snowboard your way down;
- and a day-tripping sort of pass which will take you neatly to the above-mentioned Alpine Zoo before continuing on to the peaks where you can either leave the cable car to make your own way down, or retain your seat to be returned to the lower levels following your zoo visit.
8. Hofkirche (or Court Church)
This ancient church dates back to 1553 if not before and is well worth a visit for the sheer amount of history that can be found within its walls.
It is also home to several striking statues, which were originally meant to adorn the grave of Emperor Maximilian I, according to his instructions. However, the statues proved too large, bulky and heavy for the Emperor’s chosen resting place of St George’s chapel in the Weiner Neustadt Castle.
Sometime in the 1500s, Maximilian’s grandson, Ferdinand I, himself an emperor commandeered those statues that had been completed (some 28 out of a potential 40) two of which are women, thought to be the two wives of Maximilian, for his own burial site – now thought to be one of the finest Imperial tombs in Europe.
Uneasy bedfellows with the emperor, perhaps, the church is also the final resting place of Andreas Hofer, Australia’s most famous resistance fighter who began life as a drover and innkeeper.
Elsewhere in the church, there is the Ebert organ, a very old but still working Renaissance instrument.
9. Marie-Theresien Strasse
Something a little different to the usual run of winter sports or historical venue, Marie-Theresien Strasse is a modern and vibrant shopping street that runs through the ‘new’ part of the city.
This ‘newness’ began when the city underwent a dramatic expansion in the 1300s, so it is not quite as brand-new as the word might imply to someone from an area less steeped in history!
The road, originally named Neustrasse or ‘New Street’, runs from the Triumphal arch at one end to the Old Town area, at which point the road’s name changes (to Herzog-Freidrich Strasse).
It is packed with many historic buildings – some of which have protected status due to their importance and excellent condition – and retail opportunities that range from art at high-end galleries, to high-street and designer shops to coffee shops and wine bars.
In short, it is a wonderful place to while away a few hours and immerse yourself in Innsbruck’s busy community.
The street is something of a public transport hub, with buses, trams and so on all converging on the street, just before it transforms into a mainly pedestrianised area which makes your experience even more fun.
In winter, the street is home to a vibrant Christmas market complete with warm, spiced wine, steaming hot chocolate and exquisite must-have gifts for everyone back home!
10. Tyrolean Museum of Folk Art
This collection is a fascinating, down-to-earth, beautifully curated gathering of the folk art and traditions of the regular people of the Tyrol.
The focus on working class beliefs and artefacts is a refreshing change from the exquisite masterpieces of the super-wealthy or Imperial royal families.
Standing next door to the Hofkirche, the collection examines and celebrates every part of the lives of the people of the Tyrol, from household appliances and labour-saving gadgets to religious icons such as hand-carved nativity scenes.
It displays even objects as strange and wonderful as carnival masks and costumes, amongst other unique and beautiful historic items that would have formed a background to every Tyrolean’s daily round.
11. Patscherkofel Mountain
While Patscherkofel is a great mountain for winter sports when there is snow lying on the ground, it is also an unexpectedly glorious summer holiday destination.
You will find here over sixty hiking trails designed for all abilities from first timers and families to seriously athletic ramblers, summer camps and superb restaurants offering a wonderful range of meals from cheap and cheerful sandwiches and light brunches to full and fancy international standard cuisine.
Look out for the highest botanical garden in Austria, an adventure playground that your children will not want to leave and guesthouses where you can enjoy the best views and food in the country!
Recommended tour: Patscherkofel Mountain Winter Hike
12. The State Museum of Tyrol
This museum, comprising seven fascinating collections, is housed in an immense and beautiful building that was constructed in 1823 for the purpose of housing the museum.
The huge building is the ideal destination for a rainy day – or a day when weather prevents you from hitting the slopes – and is sure to have a little something for everyone.
It contains, amongst other things, a tremendous art collection, historical artefacts from prehistory right up until the Early Middle Ages, a huge library which focuses primarily on the Tyrol, and various arts and crafts items from a sizable period in history – the whole adding up into a fascinating exploration of a whole way of life and the changes wrought upon by time and innovation.
13. Europa Bridge something to do in Innsbruck
You might not think of a bridge – usually a means of crossing a river or gorge without needing to travel out of one’s way – as being something to do in Innsbruck, but this bridge – ‘The Bridge of Europe’ – is no ordinary bridge.
Built in 1959 – 1963, the bridge was the tallest in Europe when it was built, and it is still within the top five, with a dizzying height of 190 metres (620 feet) and an impressive 198 metres (650 feet) forming the longest unsupported span of the bridge.
As long as you are not suffering from intense acrophobia (fear of heights), you can bungee jump from the span, dropping a heart-exercising 192 metres – this is the fifth highest bungee jump in the world, and sure to make your holiday in Innsbruck quite unforgettable!
14. Innsbrucker Hofgarten
The Court Garden, as the name translates, is exactly as it sounds, a beautiful large garden, laid out by the emperor of the time, Archduke Ferdinand II.
Over the years, the garden has survived, transforming itself into a highly stylised French garden, a Renaissance garden and finally a traditional English garden, it’s current form since 1858.
The garden contains many walkways and benches for people to stroll or sit and relax, there is a playground where children can have fun and let off steam, a garden restaurant and a palm house containing over 1,700 species of plants.
Some of the oldest plants are true pieces of history having been planted by the Empress Maria Theresa herself sometime between 1740 and 1780.
There are exhibition pavilions and giant chess sets, and while most lawns should not be walked upon for their own protection, there is also a sun-bathing lawn which can be used by the public.
15. The Cathedral of St James
Built in the early 1700s (opening in 1724), this striking Catholic cathedral is in the Baroque style, and was built on the site of an earlier Romanesque church that was believed to date from the 1100s.
However, other churches and religious venues had stood on the spot in the intervening years.
The current building sustained severe damage during the Second World War, but was painstakingly restored.
Admire its superb architecture both inside and out. The cathedral really does deserve a lengthy spell of observation as it is packed with all sorts of intriguing carvings, reliefs, pilasters and minute details that are best appreciated at leisure.
The cathedral is home to two significant treasures: a wonderful 16th century painting of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and the tomb of the Archduke Maximilian III from 1620.
The cathedral also has an interesting bell history which dates back as far as 1394 right up to the present day, making it a fascinating place to see in Innsbruck for campanologists and other bell-ringing enthusiasts.
16. Altstadt Innsbruck
The word ‘altstadt’ literally means Old Town and, of course, it refers to the original smaller footprint of the city of Innsbruck.
The Old Town area is the most historic part of the city, with many buildings having survived more or less unscathed despite the passage of over a thousand years and several bombing campaigns during the Second World War which damaged some buildings, necessitating their repair or demolition if repair was unfeasible.
Today, the Old Town area, once kept exclusive with moat and gates, welcomes visitors from all over the world to explore the wonderful architecture, enjoy socialising at wine bars, coffee shops and trendy restaurants before spending their holiday allowance on some of the wares on offer throughout the area.
This edifice is also known as City Tower or Town Hall Tower and it stands tall overlooking Innsbruck. It was built during the same drive for improvements that saw the Golden Roof and the Anna Column being erected.
The tower stands tall and has a viewing platform at around 31 metres high (just over halfway the height of the full tower) but it was not always freely accessible to the public.
Initially the tower was a defensive measure, guarded night and day so that the populace could be warned well in advance of an enemy’s approach, giving them time to man the defences, evacuate the vulnerable and generally prepare to repel the invaders.
Book your City Tower Entrance Ticket here
For those who love Austrian summers and want to introduce the family to the joys of Alpine mountain rambles, the Zirbenweg trail is the hiking solution that you have been looking for.
Perfect for beginners, breath-takingly beautiful at any time of year, and only 7 kilometres long, this trail has Europe’s largest and oldest grown of stone pines along its length.
The oldest of which is reputed to be a staggering 750 years old: already hundreds of years old when Shakespeare first put pen to paper, which only adds to the magic it imparts on those lucky enough to be able to walk its length.
Unlike many similar trails, this one is well serviced with a restaurant on the trail to take care of your sharpened appetite before you go on with your holiday or walk back along the trail to your starting point.
19. Hofburg Innsbruck
Translating to The Imperial Palace, the Hofburg was built in 1460, making use of some medieval structures that had survived unscathed until that time.
The complex grew and changed over the next 250 years as each successive archduke and their family made the place their own.
Today the building is an immense museum with five disparate sections, which taken together provide a clear and fascinating picture of the life and doings of generations of Habsburgs, the ruling family of the time.
Furniture, art, recreations of bedrooms and parlours, and even an Ancestral Gallery will allow you to see clearly through five hundred years or more of history and see how things changed – and what stayed the same! – during those years.
20. Kaiserjager museum
Innsbruck’s very own military museum, this building offers details and impressive anecdotes about Austria’s feistiness with enemies who were sometimes very much bigger and better armed than she.
It serves as a celebration of each and every brave soldier who felt it their duty to go off to war to banish invaders, repel enemy forces or generally prove their love of country by stepping up when called.
21. Helbling House
A confection of a Baroque-Rococo house, this edifice looks like something from a fairy tale with detailed carvings and reliefs, curly cornicing, beautiful bay windows – perfect for a princess to sit in while she plans on living her life on her own terms.
The best aspect of the house is the outside – it really is very beautiful, especially on a sunny day when you will see the beautiful architecture in counterpoint to the fiery gleam of the Golden Roof’s tiles.
Previously mentioned as forming one end to Marie Theresien Strasse, the Triumphal Arch is one of Innsbruck’s most instantly recognised landmarks.
The arch was erected in 1765 for twin reasons: to celebrate the marriage of Maria Theresa’s son but also to mourn Maria Theresa’s own husband who passed away during the nuptial ceremonies.
This is why the decoration on one side is mournful and sad, while the other shows the joy and celebration of the wedding.
23. Burg Hasegg/ Hall Mint Museum
Large silver coins called ‘thalers‘ became corrupted over time into coins called ‘dollars’ and they are now known all over the world.
These coins – the original thalers – hailed from the small town of Hall on the outskirts of Innsbruck and this striking historical claim to fame has led to the creation of the Hall Mint Museum.
A visit to this museum will take you on a fascinating and unique journey through the history of money, coin creation (minting) and will even let you strike your very own coin as a souvenir to remind you of your visit.
Add to the experience by toiling up the Mint Tower’s 186 steps to enjoy fabulous views: one of the many exquisite vistas you can see in Innsbruck.
24. LUMAGICA Innsbruck
A seasonal delight, Lumagica in Innsbruck is an outdoor display of lights which runs annually for about three months over Christmas and the New Year.
Each display is themed and aimed to be as inclusive as possible, with displays referencing animals, people and places all over the world.
Wonderful for children and those who are still child-like about the beauties of Christmassy decorations, this exhibition, which is usually held in Innsbruck’s Court Garden is sure to raise a smile on even the most Scrooge-like face!
Take a break from history and the past in this interactive and welcoming science museum that will have adults playing just as hard as their children as they try out experiments. As the name implies, the museum has a focus on sound and hearing.
As well as testing your own ears and their functionality, you will learn about how hearing works, try to catch invisible birds by following their sound only and try and navigate like a bat in a dark cave: purely using echo location.
26. The Basilica of Wilten
Basilica is the name given to a large religious building which is not assigned to a religious leader: cathedrals must have bishops, churches must have priests and so on.
There was a religious shrine on this site since Roman times with an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary rumoured to have been the reason for the building of the basilica in that place.
The basilica is decidedly more impressive on the inside, with sumptuous Baroque-Rococo décor clustering on every inch of interior wall, while the outside, while lovely, is somewhat plainer and hardly even betrays the fact that it is a religious building at all!
The organ inside the basilica dates back to 1758, and is a superb window into the past of religious buildings and how organs were built in place to maximise their sound.
27. Lake Lans
Probably one you will want to keep purely for summer visits, Lake Lans is a clean and clear bathing lake dotted about with fun water slides and pedal boats for those who don’t want to get too wet.
Despite the proximity of tall mountains and glaciers, the lake water is usually a very pleasant 25°C in summer as it is fed through ground water and water from the nearby lake which enjoys a layer of insulation provided by the protected water lilies which prevent the escape of the sun’s warmth.
You can also play volleyball and soccer, have a go at badminton or frisbee, or, if you are really wanting to be at one with nature, you can visit the discreetly private nudist beach a short distance away.
While summer activities are the main draw to this lake, you can also visit in winter when the lake is generally well frozen over allowing for outdoor ice-skating which is wonderful exercise and great fun besides.
28. Casino Innsbruck
For something a little different to skiing, sightseeing and hiking, why not raise your pulse in a slightly different way by having a little flutter with Lady Luck and Chance.
Admission is adults over eighteen only, but you can put on your fanciest suits and dresses, and playact your best at being James Bond as you size up the competition and win a small fortune – or dream of doing so anyway!
Always remember that you can lose all your stake with gambling and only ever gamble as much as you are prepared to lose
29. Grassmayr Bell Foundry
Rendered in German as Glockengiesserei Grassmayr, this company was founded in 1599 – over four hundred years ago – and is still in business today.
They have survived by widening their customer base and currently make bells for eight different religions in over a hundred countries which are spread over almost every continent in the world!
Grassmayr’s bells can be found throughout Europe and often in superlative descriptions, such as the oldest bell in Italy (from 1635), the world’s largest tubular bell, made for Aarhus in Denmark, which is rung every time a baby is born in the city and many more too numerous to detail.
You can visit the foundry to see how bells are made and even have a go at bell-ringing yourself as well as learning a little about the truly impressive slice of history that this amazing company has seen in its 400-year-plus history.
30. Anna’s Column
Also known as the Column of St Anne’s, this striking column was raised in 1703 as a celebration of Austria’s banishment of the invading Bavarian troops.
Despite its name, St Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary) is just one of the four saints clustered around the base of the column, the others being Cassian, Vigilius, and St George.
The large woman atop the column is St Anne’s daughter, Mary, in her guise as Woman of the Apocalypse.
The column, readily accessible on the street, no longer holds original statues: they have all been removed for conservation purposes and replaced with sturdy replicas.
The originals are all on the first floor of the nearby Altes Landhaus (Old Countryhouse) where they can be viewed.
Depending on how long you are staying in Innsbruck for, and your personal interests, you can pick and choose from this list of the best thirty things to see and do in Innsbruck – or you can try and work out the best way to see as many of them as possible.
Many of the historical sites are fairly close to one another and require walking only a short distance from your previous destination.
No matter how many items on this list that you do decide to see, you are sure to have a wonderful and fascinating time in Innsbruck – it has been around for so long that it has mastered the art of making visitors feel welcome and inclined to return again and again to experience the best of Austrian and Tyrolean hospitality.