Innsbruck, the capital of Austria’s Tyrol region, really is the city for everyone. Where else can you have lunch and shop in a charming town, enjoy iconic architecture and historic sites, then move to the top of a mountain for epic views, a leisurely afternoon coffee or a romantic dinner? This essential guide will help you plan your day (or more!) of Innsbruck sightseeing.
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Where is Innsbruck?
Innsbruck, Austria, is located 165 kilometres from Munich, Germany, 185 kilometres from Salzburg and 478 kilometres from Vienna, the Austrian capital.
From Munich, Innsbruck is just 1 hour 30 minutes by train (services depart at least hourly), and 1 hour 50 minutes by car. Private transfers from Munich Airport are available and Flixbus offers an hourly service with a journey time of around two and a half hours.
The fastest way to reach Innsbruck from Salzburg is by train – journey time 1 hour 50 minutes. Hourly services operate between the two cities. Allow two hours if travelling by car.
A Vienna to Innsbruck train service operates every hour with a journey time of just over four hours. If you’re short on time, regular flights operate between Vienna and Innsbruck and take 90 minutes.
Travellers coming from Switzerland should allow 3 hours 30 minutes for the Zurich to Innsbruck train ride (services every two hours).
18 Best Things to Do in Innsbruck Austria
From shopping to dining, and royal palaces to ski resorts, you will find many wonderful things to do in Innsbruck any time of year.
Innsbruck Old Town
When planning your Innsbruck sightseeing, your first port of call should be the charming Altstadt (Old Town), a small area of brightly painted medieval houses on cobblestone streets.
The main thoroughfare of the Old Town is the wide Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, which opens out into a central plaza lined with arcades.
Here you will find countless cafes and souvenir shops as well as an Innsbruck must see attraction, the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl).
A blend of Gothic and Baroque architecture, the Innsbruck Golden Roof was built in the early 15th century to serve as a royal box for Emperor Maximilian I so he could sit in luxury and watch tournaments in the square below!
The roof is capped with 2,657 gold-plated copper tiles and is an awesome sight.
As one of the most popular Innsbruck attractions, the square below the Golden Roof is always busy with sightseers during the day, all keen to get that postcard-worthy photograph.
We recommend you visit in the early morning or in the evening when all the day trippers have left the city. You may even find you have the square all to yourself.
Parish Cathedral St. Jakob
Just a minute’s walk from the Innsbruck Old Town is the elaborate Parish Cathedral St. Jakob.
Based on designs by the Baroque architect Johann Jakob Herkommer, the church was rebuilt between 1717 and 1724 on the site of an earlier Gothic church.
It is roofed with domes and has a lavish baroque interior. One of its chief treasures is a precious Madonna and Child on the main altar, painted by German master Lucas Cranach the Elder.
A wander round this elegant church will leave you in awe as you marvel at the intricate works of art.
The Triumphal Arch – or Triumphpforte in German – is one of Innsbruck’s most iconic sights. It can be found at the southern end of Maria-Theresien Street, and features breathtaking marble friezes.
While there are famous, historic arches in various parts of Europe – such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or London’s Marble Arch – the Triumphal Arch Innsbruck was constructed in a Roman style. Like Marble Arch, there are three arches you can pass through here, rather than just one as at the Arc de Triomphe.
In fact, the Innsbruck arch predates the 19th century ones in London and Paris. It was built in 1765 for Empress Maria Theresa and was constructed to commemorate both her son’s wedding and the life of her husband. Each side of the arch represents either the sadness caused by the death of Francis I Stephen of Lorraine or the joy at the uniting of the Duke of Tuscany and his Spanish bride Maria Ludovica.
The marble friezes decorating the arch are the work of Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, a famous Viennese sculptor of the Baroque era.
The Triumphal Arch and its friezes are one of the top tourist attractions in Innsbruck.
St. Anne’s Column
St. Anne’s Column can also be found on Maria-Theresien Street in Innsbruck. It’s named to mark where the final Bavarian troops departed from Tyrol in 1703 during the War of the Spanish Succession.
This took place on St. Anne’s Day, hence the building of the commemorative column. You can find the tall, slender column around halfway along the street when heading towards the Golden Roof.
The column is surrounded by statues of Tyrol patron saints, including of course St. Anne, and topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary. By night the column is illuminated, so it’s easy to see.
Another Innsbruck landmark not to miss is City Tower. This has an onion-shaped dome crafted from copper and is over 150 feet – or 50 metres – high. The 1400s tower is also used as an observation deck.
If you’re feeling energetic, climbing the 133 steps up the City Tower will reward you with great views over the city from the 31-metre-high viewing platform.
Maria-Theresien Street (or Strasse) is the most iconic street in Innsbruck. Various historic landmarks of the city can be found along the length of it, including St. Anne’s Column and the Triumphal Arch, as noted above.
The city’s Baroque past is clearly evident here and the history of the thoroughfare dates back for more than seven centuries. There are plenty of ancient and magnificent buildings to see as you stroll along the length of it.
The less historic attractions of Maria-Theresien Strasse include gelato parlours, cafes, shops and a retail mall. It’s a great place to browse or to take a coffee break during your Innsbruck sightseeing.
You can sit and people-watch at one of the lovely outdoor cafes, or admire the brightly coloured buildings as you stroll along beside the River Inn.
For those with a fascination for all things royal, you won’t be left wondering what to do in Innsbruck.
The Imperial Palace, also known as Hofburg Innsbruck or Kaiserliche Hofburg, is one of Austria’s most significant structures. The palace is a major attraction, and was first built for Archduke Sigmund the Rich.
Incredible splendour awaits those who step inside the palace to explore. The chapel, Guard’s and Giant’s Hall, the Lorraine Room, and particularly the Empress Elisabeth Apartment, show off the great wealth of the Habsburg Dynasty.
The collection of 18th century artworks, furnishings and tapestries is unparalleled and gives visitors an authentic sense of what it was like to live in Innsbruck during that era.
The Court Church of Innsbruck is situated on the border of the historic district, and is famous as the final resting place of emperor Maximilian I. The emperor ordered the building of 40 bronze statues, but just 28 of them were ever completed.
Originally St. George’s Chapel at Wiener Neustadt Castle was intended as the emperor’s burial site, but the bronze sculptures were too heavy. Thus the Court Church was commissioned by his grandson, Ferdinand I.
In terms of art, history and as a final resting place, the 1553 Court Church – or Hofkirche -is one of Tyrol’s most important landmarks.
Ambras Palace was built by Archduke Ferdinand II of Tirol in the 16th century and was his favourite residence. It is divided into a lower and an upper castle set in the remains of a medieval fortress.
The lower castle was constructed by the Archduke as a museum for his various collections, including arms, armour, art and books, all of which can still be seen today.
The upper part of the palace houses the Habsburg’s Portrait Gallery, an awe-inspiring collection of works by some of Europe’s most famous artists.
Bergisel Ski Jump
Towering high above the city on Bergisel Hill sits the Bergisel Ski Jump, another of the most popular Innsbruck tourist attractions.
The first ski jump was erected here in 1925 and in 1964 and 1976, the Innsbruck Ski Jump was the venue of the Winter Olympic Ski Jumping competitions.
Even if you’re not into extreme sports like ski jumping (and I can’t blame you!), it’s worth taking the lift to the top of the tower for fantastic views over the city of Innsbruck.
If you would like to partake in some winter sports, Olympiaworld at Igls allows visitors the chance to have a go at ice skating and bobsledding.
Ski Resorts Near Innsbruck
If you are visiting Innsbruck Austria in winter, the alps are just a 25-minute funicular ride from Innsbruck’s city centre. Innsbruck skiing is among the best in the world.
Ski resorts in and around Innsbruck cater to everyone from beginners to experts, and with skis, boots and all the other necessary equipment available for hire, you won’t have to carry your gear all the way from home.
Here are some of the best ski resorts near Innsbruck:
- Nordkette: Located just a short tram ride from the center of Innsbruck, Nordkette offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains. It’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, with a variety of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
- Axamer Lizum: Just a 20-minute drive from Innsbruck, this Innsbruck ski resort is a great option for intermediate and advanced skiers. Axamer Lizum hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics and offers over 40 kilometers of ski runs.
- Kühtai: About 45 minutes from Innsbruck, Kühtai is a high-altitude resort that’s popular for its reliable snow conditions. With over 44 kilometers of runs, it’s a great option for skiers of all levels.
- Patscherkofel: Located just south of Innsbruck, Patscherkofel is a smaller resort with around 18 kilometers of runs. It’s a great option for families and beginners, with gentle slopes and plenty of ski schools.
- Stubai Glacier: About an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, Stubai Glacier is a year-round skiing destination that offers over 100 kilometers of runs and dramatic views. It’s a popular choice for advanced skiers due to its challenging terrain and off-piste opportunities.
- Kitzbuhel: One of Austria’s premier ski resorts and towns is located just about midway between Salzburg and Innsbruck. With world-class skiing and ski lifts extending from the centre of town, Kitzbϋhel is another great choice for a ski vacation.
There are numerous rustic inns and mountain huts dotted across this unique Tyrolean region where you will receive a warm and hospitable welcome in the cold of an Innsbruck winter.
Innsbruck Christmas Market
If you’re planning an Innsbruck Christmas, festive markets can be found below the Golden Roof and at Marktplatz alongside the River Inn.
You can also join a two-hour Innsbruck Christmas tour to learn about Austrian traditions and customs, and explore the beautifully decorated streets of the Old Town with a professional, knowledgeable guide.
Further reading: Best Places to Spend Christmas in Austria
Hungerburg and Alpenzoo
If you are visiting Innsbruck with kids, head to Hungerburg, regarded as the Innsbruck mountain, where you’ll find Europe’s highest zoo, the Alpenzoo.
The Alpine Zoo is home to a large collection of alpine creatures, including bears and ibexes, and makes a great day out for the whole family.
To get to Alpenzoo Innsbruck, you can walk up the hill to the zoo – just 20 minutes from the city centre – or take the Hungerburgbahn (funicular railway), which the kids are sure to love.
You can take the Innsbruck cable car and continue on from Hungerburg to Nordkette, which is known as Top of Innsbruck. At 2,256 metres above sea level, you are guaranteed fantastic 360° views over the city and the mountains.
Tyrolean Folk Evening
Another fun thing for the whole family to do is to attend a Tyrolean Folk Show. Be entertained by traditional Tyrolean folk music, dancing and yodelling, whilst enjoying a delicious three-course meal.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Another of the most popular Innsbruck things to do is to visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds at Wattens, just 10 kilometres from Innsbruck. This multi-media museum features all things crystal and is set in a beautiful park.
Here you can discover the history of Swarovski crystal, enjoy lunch or a coffee and then shop to your heart’s content in the large gift shop which stocks hundreds of beautiful Swarovski pieces, from jewellery to homewares and collectibles.
There’s a great playground for kids, too.
Private Guided Tours
It’s easy to visit Innsbruck’s many attractions on your own, but if you’d like to delve deeper into the city’s history and really get to feel its heartbeat, booking a private guided tour is a great idea.
A knowledgeable, local guide can customise a tour to your interests and give you all their tips to make the most of your visit to Innsbruck.
More Information About Innsbruck Austria
The Innsbruck Tourist Office can provide more information on all of the sights and activities mentioned above. The office is located at Herzog-Friedrich-Straße 21 (near the Golden Roof) and is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sunday from 10am to 4.30pm.
To help you plan what to see in Innsbruck before you arrive, you can browse an interactive Innsbruck tourist map here.
Getting around Innsbruck is easy with the Innsbruck City Card. This all-in-one ticket includes public transportation and one time entry to many of the city’s museums and attractions, as well as discounts to many other attractions.
If you are looking for Innsbruck day trips and prefer to take an organised tour, options are available from both Munich and Salzburg:
- This Munich to Innsbruck day trip is a good choice.
- You can join a private day trip from Salzburg to Innsbruck.
If you’d prefer a break from the city, there are lots of alpine trails and crystal clear lakes close to town. While Innsbruck is popular for skiing, there are also plenty of things to do in Innsbruck in summer. The beautiful lakes and hiking trails make great day trips from Innsbruck.
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Whatever your budget, there are Innsbruck hotels and accommodation to suit every traveller. Three of the most popular hotels in Innsbruck are:
The five-star Grand Hotel Europa dates back to 1869. It’s centrally located on Sudtiroler Platz, and is around seven minutes’ walk from Maria-Theresien-Strasse in the centre of historic Innsbruck.
The main train station is easily accessible from the hotel and it’s just a ten minute drive to the airport.
Grand Hotel Europa offers 122 Italian-style rooms with modern amenities like high speed WiFi, a mini bar and a small fridge.
The hotel also offers a wealth of facilities including a gym, outdoor pool, snack bar and a wellness centre with sauna. There is also a bar, lounge and restaurant on site.
Located just a one minute walk from the famous Golden Roof, the four star Best Western Plus Goldener Adler in Innsbruck is a comfortable and luxurious place to stay. It’s ideal for those who want to explore the historic heart of the city.
While the building itself is notable, inside you’ll find elegantly styled rooms combining classic and modern touches. Enjoy cable TV, complimentary WiFi and a well-equipped gym.
The centrally located hotel has a bar and restaurant serving Tyrolean and international dishes. Outdoor dining is available during the warmer months.
This Innsbruck accommodation is also a centrally-located, four star property. Located by the river, it’s perfect for anyone who wants to discover the historic Old Town district.
The hotel is more modern in style, so it suits those seeking a more contemporary property in the Austrian city.
Hotel Innsbruck offers a range of air-conditioned accommodation, including a selection of single, double, triple and family rooms. All have flatscreen TVs.
The spa at the hotel is a key feature and includes an adults-only naturist zone. A large heated swimming pool, a range of saunas and a sunny terrace make this a relaxing place to stay in the heart of the city.
For more, browse ratings and current prices for Innsbruck hotels and apartments on Booking.com.
I hope this list of Innsbruck sightseeing and tourist attractions has helped you plan your visit. This beautiful city, with its picturesque location, should definitely be included in your Austrian holiday itinerary.
Regardless of what time of year you plan to visit Innsbruck, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this beautiful city just as I have.
For more Austria travel inspiration, read our Austria travel guide.