From stunning slopes to stylish citybreak: enjoy skiing, sightseeing and a vibrant food scene in Innsbruck

Fall in love with the charming Tirolean city of Innsbruck, which offers central access to 13 ski areas, an enchanting historic centre, atmospheric activities, and delicious local cuisine – for the perfect dual city-and-ski destination...

Thursday 09 March 2023 14:02 GMT

Surrounded by a range of dramatic peaks, and a long-held location for winter sports, the charming, landlocked city of Innsbruck is Austria’s fifth biggest, situated around 500km east of the country’s capital, Vienna. The capital of Austria’s western state of Tirol is easily reachable by air from most UK airports, or, if you’re travelling by train, sits within two hours of Salzburg or Munich.

Stunning surroundings

Wandering the streets of Innsbruck is a captivating experience. Impressive architecture greets you at almost every turn, from intricate, Baroque buildings like the Dom zu St Jakob – aka Innsbruck Cathedral – or the fairytale, wedding-cake-like Helblinghaus, to modernist structures such as the Adambrau, a former brewery now part of the university’s Architecture Department.

A jaunt through the city’s Altstadt, or Old Town, will reveal several cosy stops for wine and deli platters on its more secluded streets, and imperial palaces and museums to explore. Here, too, you’ll find the famous Goldenes Dachl. This Innsbruck landmark is the shiny, gilt-tiled ‘Golden Roof’ which sits atop a 16th century balcony formerly used by Emperor Maximilian I and his wife to observe festivals and celebrations in the square below. Munch on traditional snacks such as Kiachln (piping hot doughnuts with a sweet or savoury topping) as you soak up the centuries-old sights.

From city to slope

Being surrounded by 13 ski areas, however, also means that the city really comes into its own when the first snows fall, giving you the best of both worlds.

Conveniently-located cable cars will whisk you from the town centre up to the slopes.

Whether your passion is for skiing, snowboarding, sledding or snowshoeing, you have swift access to the slopes thanks to a profusion of cable cars and gondolas. In some cases, these showcase some striking contemporary architecture: the Hungerberg funicular to the Nordkette mountain range, just north of the city, has futuristic stations designed by the late Zaha Hadid, and climbs up to 2,256m from the city centre – a perfect area for everyone from beginners to free-riders. Extended winter fun can be found at the Stubai Glacier, which is snow-sure from October through to June, and offers 69km of slopes ranging from easy to challenging. And there’s also the family-friendly Kühtai – Hochötz, a ski-in, ski-out resort at 2,020m which is also Austria’s highest ski village.

Head to the Nordkette mountain range via a futuristic funicular (Innsbruck Tourismus / Andre Schönherr)

Have a foodventure

But not every day is a ski day, in which case Innsbruck offers plenty of other distractions. Have you ever dined on a ski jump? Bergisel, also designed by Zaha Hadid, is one of the best known jumps in Europe, and features the SKY restaurant in its tower. Here is a stunning place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or coffee and cake, with the backdrop of a breathtaking view.

Similarly, the Lichtblick Restaurant and 360-degree bar offers a panoramic vista of the mountains from its glass-lined interiors. Opportunities for delicious Austrian cuisine abound both here and elsewhere in town – favourite local dishes include Käsespätzle, a hearty, Germanic take on mac and cheese; Tiroler Gröstl, an Alpine fry-up with bacon, onion and potato, topped by an egg; and Tirolean Dumplings, warm balls of comfort featuring fillings from ham to cheese or spinach. All are perfect after a chilly day out and about, or some energetic activities on or off the slopes.

Must-see sights

While you can do anything here, from shopping to day spas, try something a little different; visit LUMAGICA, a park containing more than 300 illuminated light sculptures inspired by the five continents of the globe in Innsbruck’s Imperial Gardens, or check out Swarovski Crystal Worlds, an attraction centring around Austria’s famous gemstones, with exhibitions, installations and – of course – retail opportunities, set amongst gorgeous gardens. Don’t miss a trip to Ambras Castle, a Renaissance palace which was once home to Archduke Ferdinand II, containing armouries, priceless works of art, and a fascinating range of scientific and natural objects.

The colourful, late medieval houses of the Mariahilf neighbourhood are as much an Innsbruck icon as the Golden Roof (Innsbruck Tourism / Markus Mair)

One impressive, key factor about visiting Innsbruck is its SKI Plus CITY Pass, which gives you all-inclusive access to 22 city sights, the 13 ski areas, 3 swimming pools and public transport. In addition, most Innsbruck hotels give guests staying two nights or more a Welcome Card, which offers free public transport (therefore encouraging visitors to explore the city and ski regions in an environmentally-friendly way), as well as a free guided snowshoeing, winter hiking, cross country and ski touring programme.

To find out more about Innsbruck, from resorts and accommodation to activities and experiences click here

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