Why you have to visit Innsbruck in spring
nnsbruck awakens from its winter sleep and rises to reclaim its title of capital of the Tyrol. The snow melts, the fields turn a striking green and the smell of freshly cut grass inspires you to climb a designer wall or savour saurkraut cake in a tiny market. With centuries old buildings that seem plucked from the pages of Grimm’s fairy tales, gigantic mountains that toss up views as far as Italy and Germany, and a galactic ski jump, Innsbruck offers an incredible array of springtime pleasures. If you still need convincing, here are bigger reasons to discover the small alpine city.
The mountain peaks rise up to 2500 metres, protecting and surrounding Innsbruck like a bar of Toblerone. Of them all, the Nordkette range—which forms part of Austria’s largest natural park—provides the best views and activities. The futuristic Hungerburg funicular connects the city centre to the mountain. The ride to the top makes several stops, some at stations designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid. At each one there’s something different to do, from a mountain bike ride along the forest trails to a visit to the Alpenzoo, the highest alpine zoo in Europe.
Medieval, Baroque, Rococo and Gothic walls are part of the 800-year history of Innsbruck. The splendour of the Habsburgs—one of Europe’s most powerful royal dynasties—is preserved in the Imperial Palace and the Golden Roof, the city’s star attraction. The balcony is covered with 2657 gilded copper tiles that roof the former residence of the Emperor Maximilian, who contributed the most to the fame of the Tyrol capital. Ambras Castle, the Gothic Hofkirche (Court Church) and the 15th-century taverns where the likes of Mozart and Sartre found lodgings, complete the journey through the city’s magical past.
Climbing has become highly popular in the Alps in recent years, in anticipation of Tokyo 2020 where the sport will make its Olympic debut. The Innsbruck Kletterzentrum design rockdrome has become Austria’s premier climbing centre and one of the biggest in the world, with more than 6000 square metres of climbing surface that adapts to the different disciplines of the sport. It’s a bold complex of megaliths with an avant-garde design where climbing routes are shared with the Olympic team that trains there.
Innsbruck is teeming with traditional markets where you can shop and eat, not necessarily in that order. Alpine rose honey, hand-crafted mountain cheeses and smoked fish are sold in the country market that sets up every Saturday in Wiltener Platzl. For more modern shopping, the renovated Kaufhaus Tyrol—over a hundred years old—makes up the commercial heart of the city in the busy Maria-Theresein Strasse, with more than fifty shops selling all manner of Alpine products.
Another way to “measure up to” the Alps is in one of Innsbruck’s gastronomic viewpoints. Perhaps a toast in the 360º bar, with panoramic views over the tiled roofs of the capital, or a mug of hot chocolate with a spectacular Alpine landscape 2000 metres up in Seegrube, a restaurant reached by the Hungerburg funicular. Not to be missed is the famous local dish, ‘Gröstl’ (a meat and potato stew topped with an egg) served in the restaurant that sits at the top of the Bergisel ski jump.
The natural wonderland surrounding Innsbruck comes back to life as the weather warms, offering all kinds of outdoor adventures. The ski runs of the Stubai Valley become improvised parasailing launches. The Europa Bridge (192 metres) is the fifth highest bungee jump in the world, and you can ride the inhospitable trails of the Muttereralm mountains in a three-wheeled buggy. Extreme experiences can also be had within the city. River Surfing—a combination of water-skiing and surfing—makes use of the river that runs through the town.