Innsbruck is often overlooked in favor of other larger, more popular cities. In my opinion, it’s an underrated area with a lot to see and do.
We visited Innsbruck many times over the years and throughout every season.
If you like the crisp mountain air with plenty of outdoor activities, read on to see why I recommend visiting Innsbruck for your next vacation.
Why Visit Innsbruck?
Innsbruck is in the Tyrol state of Austria and is the largest city in the Western part of the country. Tyrol has over 40 alpine lakes that shimmer an emerald green color.
It’s is a larger mountain town of about 120,000 and is the capital city of the Tyrol state.
What’s nice about staying in Innsbruck is that it’s a great home base to explore other areas. From here you are only a 30-minute drive to Italy, a 30-minute drive to Germany, and a few minutes to many ski resorts and stunning lakes nearby.
There are hiking trails all over, and if you want to hitch a ride one way (or each way) you can take one of the many ski lifts and cable cars found all over. This link has a lot of information on hiking in the Innsbruck area.
The Olympic Winter Games were held in Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976, and you can still visit the main ski jump perched on the mountain. There is a restaurant inside the Bergisel as well as a museum, and there are still ski/snowboard events held in the winter months.
Is 1 or 2 Days Enough in Innsbruck?
I purposely made this itinerary with a 1 or 2-day option as you can see most everything in a short period of time. I think one day is perfect to explore this small city and visit a castle or museum nearby. And with 2 days, you can explore more of the area.
Innsbruck 1-Day Itinerary
Start at the Altstadt
Whether you flew in or drove here, I recommend stopping first at the old town (Altsadt). It’s a beautiful area with many baroque buildings and a charming old-town feel. The Inn River runs through the old town, so be sure to stop at the Inn Bridge (Innbrücke) to get that beautiful picture of the colorful homes set against the mountainous backdrop.
It is a good-sized pedestrian walking area with shops, bars, and restaurants. The University is nearby as well and you can walk around some of the buildings.
Grab Breakfast or Lunch at the Altstadt
I recommend grabbing breakfast or lunch here. There are many great breweries and restaurants, but my favorites are Die Wilderin and Stiftskeller.
Cafe 360 is a fun rooftop bar in the center of downtown. It’s located at Maria-Theresien-Straße 18. You also get the added benefit of beautiful views of Innsbruck and the mountains.
Try Local Schnapps
While you’re downtown, visit some of the local schnapps stores. They can be found at every corner; in little shops and all of the restaurants and cafes around. Many of these shops let you taste samples of their schnapps.
And many pour from large fishbowl as seen in the photo below.
How to Spend the Afternoon: 3 Options
Visit Nearby Castles
If you are interested in learning the history of the area, there are many castles and palaces to visit nearby.
Innsbruck has 3 castles nearby; Castle Ambras, Castle Hellbrunn and Castle Trauttmansdorff . All of the above are located within a two hour drive.
Castle Ambras is very close to Innsbruck with over 1000 exhibits, open 365 days a year. Castle Hellbrunn is located next to Ambras with beautiful gardens and history exhibitions. The last but not least, Trauttmansdorff Castle features beautiful mosaics in the most luxurious rooms of this castle.
Ride the Nordkette Funicular
Take the Nordkette Funicular to the Top of the Mountain (1-hour return): The highest mountain in Innsbruck offers a 360-degree view over the city. It is not only worth the climb, but also fun as you can take the Nordkette Funicular with exposed sides and an open top carriage.
It’s also easy to get to – head to Congress Station in the old town (Altstadt) and get on the Hungerburgbahn. In just 8 minutes, you’ll reach the end where you can then take two more cable cars to get to a height of 6,250ft (1,905m).
Visit the Alpine Zoo
The Alpine Zoo in Innsbruck is the highest-themed zoo in Europe. It features various animals, beautiful surroundings, and play/activity areas for children.
This zoo can be accessed from the old town (Altstadt) via the Hungerburgbahn cable car (see above).
Innsbruck 2-Day Itinerary
With two days in Innsbruck, I recommend doing all the activities listed on Day 1, then adding the following to your trip!
Visit the Achensee (Achen Lake)
If you like the outdoors, the entire region of Tyrol is a natural paradise. Today, I recommend the short drive (or bus ride) to the Achensee.
The Achensee is the largest lake in Tirol and is known for it’s great water quality. From Innsbruck, it’s a short but beautiful 50 minute drive over a small mountain.
Once here, there’s plenty to keep you busy for the day!
Things to Do at the Achensee
Take a Boat Tour
The Achenseeschifffahrt (which simply means Achensee shipping company) offers boat tours daily. They have a popular hop on/hop off option so you can explore the lake by boat. There are also themed events throughout the year such as Christmas Brunch.
Take the Achensee Steam Train
You can find the oldest steam cog railway right here at the Achensee. From the town of Jenbach, you can ride over 4 miles to the lake.
Take a Cable Car Ride to the Top
Hike Around the Lake
There are miles of paved trails around the Achensee and many of hiking options too!
The Achensee has plenty of other activities too such as paragliding (we saw so many people doing this when we were there), kiteboarding, and sailing lessons.
The Achensee is one of the hundreds of lakes in Austria. We drove by many on the way to Innsbruck and almost all of them are very green in color and so clean that you can easily see to the bottom.
Common Questions About Innsbruck
Where to Stay in Innsbruck
Best for Families
Hotel Kasperhof: I absolutely loved these apartments. If you want something family-friendly that’s just a short 13-minute bus ride to town, this is it! It was so peaceful and quiet here, and they even have horse stables which is so fun for kids.
There are trails directly behind the property that go for miles, and you can even hike to a restaurant on a local farm called Planötzenhof. The views are stunning and the food is farm to table.
Luxury Central Stay
Hotel Innsbruck: For a more luxury stay, I recommend the Hotel Innsbruck. There are two spa areas and includes a panoramic spa with a bio sauna, a Finnish sauna, an infrared cabin, and a sun terrace. This hotel is centrally located in the Old Town.
Is Innsbruck or Salzburg Better?
If you’re trying to plan your itinerary, you might be wondering which city is better, Innsbruck or Salzburg. I think the answer depends on where you are going.
Innsbruck is in the mountainous Tyrol region in Western Austria. Salzburg is in the lakes region and more central. It’s also just 30 minutes from the German border and at the foothills of the Alps.
My recommendation would be to stop at the one that best suits your itinerary. I have a 10-Day Austria, Germany, Switzerland Itinerary that shows how you can add Innsbruck to your trip.
They are quite different towns as well. Innsbruck is a lively college town with a large downtown area. Innsbruck is surrounded by the Alps. Salzburg is smaller but hilly and has many ties to Mozart and music.
What’s the Best Way to Get to Innsbruck?
Travel Tip! If you’re trying to decide the best way to get to Innsbruck on your trip, I recommend starting with a site called Omio. Omio gathers all the best train, flight, and bus options to find the cheapest and fastest way to get around Europe. I use their site a lot when I’m in Europe.
Drive: If you’re planning a road trip, driving is incredibly easy in Austria. Just be sure to follow the speed limits as tickets are quite expensive in Austria. You’ll also need something called a Vignette, which is a sticker you can purchase at the border or any gas station along the road. If you’re driving from another country, be sure to buy one before you enter to avoid hefty fines.
Train: Trains are well-connected to Innsbruck, depending on where you’re coming from. If you want to plan ahead, I recommend using Rail Europe to search for train options.
Fly: Innsbruck has a small airport (INN) with flights from a few select airports throughout the year. Some of the larger routes are from Frankfurt, Hamburg, London, and Amsterdam.