Innsbruck has always been a lively city. It has grown at a steady rate since the first settlements of 1180, which clustered in the area now known as the old quarter. Innsbruck's various districts (Altstadt, Pradl, Wilten, Saggen) were gradually amalgamated and became part of the city as it is today. Let's take a quick tour through individual districts.
Innenstadt (The Inner City)
The Inner City and the Old Town together make up the heart of historic Innsbruck. It is well worth going on a walkabout in the narrow streets to soak up the atmosphere. There are lots of fascinating historical sights to see, such as the Hofburg and the Hofkirche ; the latter houses the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I. Other attractions also include the women's chapter founded by Maria Theresia, the legendary Goldene Dachl , the imposing baroque church Domkirche St. Jakob with its famous cathedral square, the Triumphpforte (commissioned by Maria Theresia in honour of her son's engagement to the Spanish princess Maria Ludovica), the Annasäule and the Leopoldsbrunnen .
Pradl & Saggen
These two districts ring the Inner City from the north, south and east. For an interesting and relaxing walk, try the Hofgarten with its parrot and butterfly house. During autumn and spring, the exhibition center attracts throngs of visitors from the locality as well as further afield. The autumn and spring fairs also bring in thousands of visitors every year who come to see novelties from Tyrol and beyond. By contrast, the Holiday Inn Casino offers games, drama and tension. Black Jack, Roulette, poker, and fruit machines keep visitors well occupied. The ultra-modern Cineplexx Kino caters for film buffs, whilst a coffee in Sillpark Einkaufszentrum is the perfect way to round off your day after a heavy bout of shopping.
Hötting & Höttinger Au
The district of Hötting lies on the northern bank of the river Inn which runs through the middle of the city. Formerly an exclusive residential area for the well-to-do, Hötting is today quiet and unobtrusive suburbia and home to the Alpenzoo . The founders of this zoo had a distinctive mission in mind: to find endangered species in the wild, rear them in the zoo, and then set them free again in their former Alpine habitats. The zoo has already scored several successes with this practice. You can get a rack-rail from the Alpenzoo to the Hungerburg , the base station for the cable railway that takes you to the lakes and valleys lying high above Innsbruck. There is even a restaurant at the top offering a superb vantage point from which to observe the magnificent spectacle of night falling over Innsbruck. A visit to the Botanischer Garten (botanical garden) or an evening in the observatory rounds off the day nicely.
Wilten is situated at the southern extremity of the city center. The main road over the Brenner Pass goes through Wilten and presents an imposing view for motorists approaching Innsbruck from the south. Two outstanding edifices in Wilten are the Stift Wilten and the Wiltener Basilika, a splendid example of baroque architecture dating back to 1120. Stift Wilten church's cloister houses a valuable collection of art and a noteworthy church museum. For bell enthusiasts, a visit to the bell manufacturers Glockengießerei Grassmayr is a must. This family-run business has been making bells for generations.
The Olympic village, a recent residential development, lies to the south of the city. The Olympic village sprang up, and gained its name as a result of the winter games held in Innsbruck. The village contains the Olympia Eishalle . Originally only used for sporting events, it now also plays host to concerts and other non-sporting activities. A new football stadium was recently built on the unused land next to the Eishalle. The Tivoli sports complex lies just around the corner, with its stadium and the Tivoli Freischwimmbad. You don't have to be a member to come here and the choice of activities–including track and field athletics–is practically endless.
Anybody leaving the city by its southern approaches is certain to spot the huge DEZ Einkaufszentrum , the largest shopping center of its kind in North Tyrol. If you let your gaze drift a little further in a southerly direction, you will notice the 10th Century Schloss Ambras . This castle hosts a well-known collection of armory and a quiet park dating back to the Renaissance.
Reichenau is an unassuming residential area, whose only distinguishing feature is Innsbruck airport. As flying is the preferred method of travel for most of the city's visitors, the airport is always very busy. Despite this, its excellent design means comfort and easy transit for travelers on their way to their various holiday destinations in and around Innsbruck.
These purely residential areas lie to the south-west of Innsbruck. They are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. Whilst the greater part of Innsbruck is sandwiched between mountains, these two districts sprawl uninhibited by geographic obstacles. Mentlberg has a small animal home and a penal institution with a handful of old crooks serving out their time.
Igls is a pleasant, peaceful neighborhood populated by some affluent residents. In winter, the Olympischen Berg Isel Sprungschanze becomes the focus of intense competition between the best ski jumpers in the world. Bobsled and toboggan slopes are also nearby. Should you not be a professional sportsman, do not fret: there is a bobsled ride designed for amateurs and you can experience the adrenalin rush of the real thing without worrying about competing. All in all, Igls has earned itself quite a reputation amongst energetic and sporty holidaymakers, not least because of the hair-raising skiing opportunities on the Patscherkofel.
St. Nikolaus, Mariahilf, Vill, Mühlau & Arzl
These are purely residential areas with little to attract those in search of tourist entertainment, bar the shooting range Arzl. Gun owners will find plenty of shooting galleries to keep themselves occupied here. The architecture in these neighborhoods is varied, with everything from old villas to highly modern apartment blocks.
Your first impression of Innsbruck when it comes to the subject of dining out might well be that there are many more international establishments than traditional places to eat serving Austrian or even Tyrolean cooking. However, the range is actually broad; you only have to know where to look for the latter.
When it comes to a quick bite to eat the typical Austrian Würstelstandl (sausage stands) are a good alternative to the many McDonald's branches littering the city. These are not to be underestimated; such small and often mobile stands offer simple snacks and drinks at great prices and customers dine standing up. You can get plain sausages, a hot dog, or its variant, the so-called Bosna (rather spicy and with a lot of onions). These stands are numerous; some of them in the center can be found opposite the Golden Roof, on Maria-Theresien-Straße in front of the Kaufhaus Tyrol, at the triumphal arch, and a late-night address well known among locals, 'Franz' on the Südring.
In the gourmet category, there are the Europa Stüberl or the Altstadt Stüberl. Less expensive establishments offering good solid Austrian and Tyrolean food are, among others, the Stiftskeller next to the Old Town or the Ottoburg restaurant in its historic building.
There are of course also many international culinary establishments in Innsbruck. First of all, the numerous self-service Italian restaurants, such as Salute ; the Prendi branches on Innrain or in the viaduct are a good choice for a quick but hearty meal. If you have more time and are looking for an exceptional Italian meal, there's Innsbruck's more refined Italian, Da Peppino , situated close to the Old Town. What Da Peppino is among Italian restaurants, Thai Li is among Asian ones. This pleasant, pint-sized place does a good line in inexpensive lunches, is situated in the outer walls of the Old Town and has been singled out by Gault Millau in their restaurant awards. Papa Joe's and Chili's show what concept gastronomy taken seriously is like, with an American-Caribbean and an American-Mexican theme respectively.
Innsbruck is home to more than a handful of part-restaurant, part-cafe and part-bar establishments open all day and some throughout the night. A few prime examples of such places are Krahvogl , Elferhaus or Theresienbräu . The Hofgartencafe is similar in its concept and is one of Innsbruck's favorite spots on warm summer nights.
Cafes are another characteristically Austrian institution. Cafe Katzung is a traditional establishment with a charming note of nostalgia. You wouldn't gobble down your hot dog with a can of beer in such a place; these are rather spots for a relaxed cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Cafe Central , next to the hotel of the same name, is similar, but much larger and even more rustic; warm meals are often served from the Central restaurant. A smaller and comparably simple variant is the Domcafe on the Old Town's beautiful Domplatz. And for those who prefer a more modern ambience and are willing to do without the Viennese-style atmosphere, but enjoy an excellent cup of coffee, there are the many rather large cafe-restaurants, such as Stadtcafe , Segafredo Sky Cafe or Unicafe.
Finally, a broad range of bars await you for an evening drink. Kir Royal , for example, is a rather simple cocktail bar that will satisfy any connoisseur. Alternatively, try Toscana - a charming cafe-bar next to the Kellertheater. Fischerhäusl 's garden is really quite comfortable and is also open in winter; to keep you warm, they serve a great gluhwein here. Filou is rather more stylish, whilst some of the other bars in the viaduct row are rather less so; most of these are quite plain, which suits their clientèle, who are for the most part students.
Surrounding Neighborhoods & Outskirts
A tip for national dishes and specialties from all over the world is the unpretentious Weltenbummler (globetrotter). To round off, a tip for the evening: a good bar in which to start the night on a 'viaduct crawl' is Babalon . Gasthof Kapeller is a high quality restaurant, also recommended for business lunches.
A number of good inns can be found a little further out of town, popular with both tourists and locals for lunch, dinner or merely a little snack after a hike. Among these, Buzihütte or the Planötzenhof are worth mentioning. Restaurant Seegrube , situated about 1,900 meters above sea level, can be reached very comfortably by way of the Hungerburg and Nordketten funiculars. Another restaurant of similar quality is the Gasthof Wilder Mann , perfect for a romantic dinner in rustic surroundings, also situated a little off the beaten track.
Goldenes Dachl & Schloss Ambras
Start your tour at the famous Goldenes Dachl , a roof covered with 2657 gold-plated cupper shingles. Follow Rennweg north to Hofgarten , a former royal vegetable patch, that has been transformed into a beautiful English garden. Turn right on Karl-Kapferer-Strasse, straight onto Sieberer Strasse till you reach Claudiastrasse. Make a right till you reach the infamous Viaduktbogen. There you can rest at Yellowstone , a proper country saloon, before walking to Schloss Ambras . Simply follow Viaduktbogen south till you hit Amraser Strasse, make a left till you hit the castle after about two miles. It might be a bit of a walk, but the architecture and the castle's surroundings are well worth it.
Leopoldsbrunnen & Triumphpforte
Start the tour right in the center of Innsbruck, at the Leopoldsbrunnen . The fountain consists of one of the first sculptures depicting a horse standing on its hind legs. The Triumphpforte is located next to the fountain. It was built to duly welcome archduke Leopold, the son of Maria Theresia, and his Spanish wife Maria Ludovica. Head north to the Stadtturm , climb its 350 steps and enjoy a breathtaking view of Innsbruck with the Alps in the background. End the tour with a stroll down Universitätsstrasse to Fuzzy , a rustic beer bar, where you can enjoy more than 20 different beers and 40 delicious whiskeys.
Alpenzoo & Abenderlebnis Seegrube
Tram no. 1 takes us from the city center to the Hungerburgbahn (cable car) stop. This is where the Riesenrundgemälde is located. After only a few minutes on the cable railway (Hungerburg), we arrive at the Alpenzoo stop. This is the highest zoo in Europe. The zoo contains over two thousand animals, at least 150 of them from the alpine region alone. Have a little rest and light refreshment in the Burgschenke Zoo restaurant while the children let off steam in the play area. Our cable railway journey then continues in the direction of Hungerburg, where we change trains to get up to the Seegrube. The eight-minute trip is in itself a feast for the eyes, as every meter of the steep rise reveals an ever more panoramic view of Innsbruck and the surrounding valley. The station at the top lies 1905 meters (6250 feet) above Innsbruck. The adjoining Hotel and Restaurant Seegrube is open all year round. If the weather is clear during the day, you can also get a breathtaking view of the jagged icy peaks and escarpments of the main Alpine range gleaming in the distance under the sunlight. For the more adventurous amongst you, there is also the option of taking the cable railway further to the stylish guest house at the Hafelakar station (altitude: 2260 meters or 7415 feet) and attack one of the many Bergwanderungen (mountain hike routes) or Klettertouren (climbing tours) from there.
Hall in Tyrol
Hall in Tirol is a former salt-mining city about ten kilometers (six and a half miles) to the east of Innsbruck, whose history is closely intertwined with that of its larger neighbor. Hall is easy to get to by car (take exit Hall Mitte off motorway A12) and by public transport (IVB bus lines D, E, S and 4).
Let's begin our tour through the historic old quarter from the Upper Market Place, which is transformed on market days into a beehive of frantic activity where brisk trade is done in fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and various rarities and local specialties such as home-made farmer's schnapps. This is not just a market for locals though; traders and visitors come here from far and wide. The Alte Rathaus (Old Town Hall) lies due north of the Pfarrkirche. Then proceed eastwards down the Salvatorgasse. To the south-west lies the cloister of the former Spital Church and the Heiliggeistkirche , which has served as a school church since 1851. We then take the same way back towards the Bundesstrasse (Federal road), where the Schweyger steps lead us up to the Erzherzog-Eugen-Strasse. At the end of this street (which is typical of the old quarter) we come to the Bergbaumuseum , which realistically recreates the salt mine which operated in the Hall valley until its closure in 1967. Further west lies the church square with the collegiate church built by Archduchess Magdalena in 1568. This church is particularly notable for its Kloster Herz Jesu mit dem Damenstift cloister, which has housed a working order of nuns since 1912, after a long period of disuse. On the north side of the Stadtgraben we encounter the Franziskanerkloster (Franciscan cloister and college). This cloister is famous for its frescoes, which were designed in 1644 and reconstructed after a fire in 1760.