The exceptional charm of the villages of Tyrol
he title of this article being “The Prettiest Tyrol Villages,” one might sense a conflict, and many do claim the title. Of them all, the most fervent pretender is Alpbach, nicknamed “The Prettiest Village in Austria.” It was given the accolade in the 80s and still exploits it more than three decades later. But not without reason. At one thousand metres, it flaunts an entirely homogeneous architectural style (large timber houses with wide balconies) in picture-postcard surroundings.
The splash of colour comes courtesy of the flowers that fill the balconies and terraces. Thanks to them, Alpbach has earned another title: “The Most Beautiful Floral Village in Europe.” Here, skiers and hikers are the most frequent occupants of the more than 3000 hotel beds, but not the most illustrious. Every year—since 1945—the village has hosted the Alpbach European Forum, which brings together speakers from science, politics, business and culture.
In one of the highest parts of Tyrol is Berwang, which fits the description of an Alpine village to a tee, its houses all perfectly prepared for the winter. With just over 500 inhabitants, it’s a popular starting point for hikers both in the warm months and the cold—when they share the space with skiers. But summertime opens up many more routes in the Berwangertal Valley. Just two kilometres from the village, hikers get their reward: the highest brewery in Austria, at the Hotel Thaneller in Rinnen.
A little more than a two-hour drive away lies Westendorf, in the Kitzbühel Alps. Mostly visited by serious thrill-seekers like snowboarders and paragliders, it’s far enough from the main urban hubs of Kitzbühel to exude an air of tranquillity and relaxation. A good way to learn the customs of this picturesque village is to visit the farmers’ market (Shcau zuichi Markt), held during the summer months. Westendorf meets all the requirements to be included on the list of the prettiest villages of Tyrol. In fact, in 1998, the Entente Floral Europe awarded it the “Most Beautiful Village in Europe,” thanks to its untouched natural landscape, agricultural economy and the opportunities it provides for sports and leisure.
Besides its snowy peaks and green valleys, the colourful facades of Innsbruck looking out over the River Inn are the most iconic images of Tyrol. Its inhabitants lovingly call the region’s capital “an oversized village,” and that’s an apt description. Its size permits you to get around on foot and its closeness to the mountains—just ten minutes on the funicular—distances Innsbruck from the typical big city. The Habsburg dynasty that lived here took on the embellishment of the imperial city where, in more recent years, a more modern and ground-breaking architecture has proliferated (the Bergisel scenic lookout, the Olympic Ski Jump and the funicular stations), although concentrated on the outskirts of the town. Or rather, the “big village.”