There are so many destinations around Europe that already have world fame. That are “known” to us all, even if we have never been. Paris, Rome, Berlin.
Innsbruck, you may know for hosting the winter olympics in both 1964 & 1972. That was about all I knew about the town. After arriving I learned that it has also been known as the “Capital of the Alps”, with an imperial palace that belonged to both the Habsburg empire – who ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire.
To the present day, what resonates the most for me is the colourful architecture – in fact, Innsbruck is considered the most colourful city in Austria – and the extensive traditional-meets-modern bar scene. On top of this, you are completely surrounded by mountains. It’s a scenic place and it’s a destination that has food, fun and adventure all year round – not just for the ski season.
Speaking of food…
FOOD – Strudel & Sausage
(All prices below have been converted to $USD)
We couldn’t visit Austria without eating Strudel. Not only can it be a super affordable option, any stereotypes of strudel being all about apples just got fired out of a cannon, straight out a window and down the drain. Don’t ask me why the cannon in my room is aimed at a drain. That is not the point.
The point is, we were pleasantly excited to discover a world of strudel options at Kroll Strudel Cafe. We opted for a Mushroom and speck (cured bacon) and a broccoli & Blue cheese strudel. Yes. In a strudel. Even more awesome was that they did not skimp on the filling. This was not a lump of flavoured pastry, it was a fully loaded strudel pastry ring.
If one course of strudel is not enough, then dessert strudel is of course on the menu. Once again, way more selection than just apple. We opted for cherry.
What else… Were you looking for sausage tips? Of course you were. It is Austria after all. We figured street sausage would be the obvious street snack. It is. But that is not where this story is going. We have two top tips for finding sausage in Innsbruck. The sausage truck on Maria-Theresien-Straße, called Siedepunkt is not on the menu. It’s a little too easy to find and we did not particularly love the “Johanner” we had.
Here is the twist we weren’t expecting. Instead of paying $3.50 for a sausage and $2.80 for a can of beer while sitting on a bench to eat it, why not pay pay $4.20 and $3.40 respectively. Sit down to enjoy your beer poured in a glass and your sausage on a real plate at the Stiftskeller.
The assumption, one which is true in a lot of destinations, is that restaurants are gonna cost you double the food cart price. This doesn’t ring true in Innsbruck. The more affordable restaurants really weren’t that outrageous at all. Plus, the traditional decor at the Stiftskeller and the overall ambience had us visit twice during our 48 hours in town.
So, If you can splash the extra $1.30, make an evening of it.
If you absolutely must eat sausage while standing on a street corner, the red van next to the mini Arc de Triumph comes highly recommended from Peter at Innsbruck tourism as the best local late night wurst stop.
FUN – Get ready to Party (or even take in some history, if you are sober enough)
Innsbruck is a big student town. This means bars.
We arrived at night and found some fantastic drinking holes, both traditional and hipster modern. More on that in a minute. We were surprised that during the day the centre felt more “gift shop” and “walking tour” orientated. Not that you can escape that sort of activity in most famous towns. But, coming out at night, as a first impression, with the colourful architecture and buzzing social scene, really sold Innsbruck to me as great, fun destination.
Now, you may know we like a good beer. And, one of the best things about the modern craft brew scene is that most bars let you do some taste tests. The frustrating thing is that craft beer has developed such a price tag. So, you better try as many as possible before you settle on one to pay for! Tribaun is newly opened, located in a really funky looking cellar. White arches loom over the 20 taps that deliver the crafty nectar. As I said, It’s not as cheap as the regular bars (Small beer from about $4USD), but for beer aficionados, your palette will be pleased.
But wait… If you thought that microbreweries were a new thing, forget about it. Craft beer is a re-branding of a long standing tradition in Austria. Making a little extra beer to sell on after you have had your fill is clearly a smart business plan. Well, Austrians have been doing that to scale for sometime. The Theresienbräu is essentially a large micro-brewery. The reviews on google maps were bad but we were assured it would be worth it for the beer – apparently it’s the food and service that are sub-standard.
We avoided the food, just in case, and powered back a Pale ale (small batch that is not always available) and a Dunkel (Dark beer). It was awesome beer, the flavour profiles were as you would expect from the style and this was certainly not dodgy home-brew. It was professional beer. They have regular happy hours too, so this can really help your wallet as well as your liver. The service was actually really attentive – they didn’t know we were bloggers – so no idea where all the bad reviews came from.
After an evening of beverage “testing” all in the name of blogging, the next day we decided to seek out some entertainment.
If you want a relaxing way to get over your hangover, we found the Imperial Palace (That I mentioned in the opening) actually had a really well put together audio guide in English. A detailed and easy to follow narrative takes you through the ages of the palace as you pass through its corridors and halls.
You will almost certainly be stunned by the Hercules Great Hall. Recently refurbished, it’s a unique room that breaks with historical traditions, of displaying relatives long gone, and instead focuses on the, at the time living, family of Maria Theresa, the only female ruler of the Habsburg family. Maria Theresa had 16 kids – she was busy – and all are depicted in this grandiose 18th Century room.
We also found time to visit the alpine zoo – the highest in Europe. Mainly because they have bears. It’s geared at family, so if you are visiting with kids, it’ll be awesome. We still had a lot of fun, even as big kids. The lynx was asleep but the bears were certainly not and I got an excellent shot!
5 seconds later, they were friends again. Bears. Somewhat unpredictable. Glad they had glass and fences.
ADVENTURE – Unlimited Mountain Adventures
Regardless of the season, Innsbruck is a great adventure destination. Situated in the Alps, on the edge of Germany, everything from skiing and bobsled to hiking and mountain karting is available. I was really surprised by just how many options actually seemed to be available during the summer season.
It should be noted that May might not be the most ideal month to visit though. The Bobsled takes a break between winter and then reopens in June for summer sledding.
We were set to go mountain karting instead, which can be done at Mutteralmpark just a short tram ride south of Innsbruck. Due to the rain, we figured dirtying up our rather limited supply of travel clothing would not be ideal. Chronic screw up on our part. We discovered later that the company actually provides a smock, of sorts, to cover you up and save you from additional laundry time. I hate laundry.
So, learn from our mistake, don’t let bad weather screw up your adventure time in Innsbruck like we did. Of course, we made the most of it by going to more museums and bars…
For a simpler adventure, and amazing views, you can ride the funicular & cable car all the way from the centre of Innsbruck to the top of Hafelekarspitze peak and see all the way over to Germany.
30 euros for a cable car ride may seem a little steep (pun), but it’s relatively similar to a lot of alpine resorts, I guess maintenance can be high (pun 2) and well, I’m happy not to fall out of the sky while riding one (not pun). A return trip on the cable car is actually included if you get the Innsbruck card – more on if that is value for money next.
Obviously, it’s best to head up the top of the mountain on a sunny / clear day. We enjoyed views of mist 🙁
One of the best reasons for spending more time in any destination is to not have your visit messed up by bad weather. The day before we arrived had great weather, as we pulled away on the train after our 48 hour visit, the skies started to clear. Bummer.
So, here is someone else’s photo of the view…
(Prices below in Euros, not USD. $1 = about 0.9E)
I love it when destinations actually provide a card that saves you money. Really saves you money. The Innsbruck pass gives you a free ride on the cable car, free public transport, completely free entry to a number of top attractions, like the Hofburg and the Alpine zoo.
Free public transport is a typical inclusion, but the Innsbruck card, with so many free entries to attractions, rather than just discounts, makes it feel like you can really smash through a lot of interesting things and make your money back easily. Given that a single trip (inc. transfer) on the metro/tram/bus is 2.60E.
Here is how it shaped up for us:
Cable car (30E)
Hofburg Palace (9E)
Landesmuseum (5E) (Which we didn’t find as exciting, but some ok exhibits)
Alpine zoo (10E)
2 rides on public transport (E5.20)
Price of 24Hour Innsbruck card: 33E (All this stuff was included in the card.)
We went to the Hofburg and Landesmuseum on the first afternoon, and rode the cable car and visited the alpine zoo the following morning – within our 24 hour card.
So, all in all a lot of stuff for a great discount. Having the flexibility of unlimited public transport is always good too.
Accommodation – S14
Affordable guesthouse meets private apartment at S14 – Less than 10 minutes walk from the main town centre. The first cool thing that happened was that our arrival code had been emailed to us in advance. We used this code to open a little box next to the front door which had our access cards in. These opened both the front door, the door to the shared apartment and the door to our superior double room.
S14 has a full kitchen so it’s easy to save some money on food. Although Innsbruck is affordable to eat out comparable to other major cities in the region, it certainly isn’t “Asia” cheap, so having the option of a kitchen is awesome. “Hofer” is the budget supermarket (Known as “Aldi” in most countries)
One of the best things about S14 was how enthusiastic the owner, Martin, was about making sure the young people could experience Innsbruck affordably. We were lucky enough to be included as young people – this rating applies to anyone under 50, so I have a few years left yet as a youngster 🙂 So, Martin had a lot of great advice for the best places to go eat and drink and was super helpful.
The private room we had was huge and very clean! In fact the whole place is kept spotless.
It should be noted there is a strict 10am check out policy. We weren’t aware how strictly this is applied in the Austria/Germany region. Seems to be a to the minute thing and we found that at other accommodation too.
Transport – Getting in and out of Innsbruck
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We loved Innsbruck. Have you been convinced to visit Innsbruck? Leave us a comment below