Many of us like to visit both urban and natural environments on our travels, and this often requires a not inconsiderable journey on some form of transportation between the two. In Austria’s Tyrolian capital, you get the best of both worlds and all it takes is a couple of rapid cable car rides.
Of course, it’s a fallacy to say that it’s the only place in the world where man-made structures rub shoulders with towering peaks. But where Innsbruck stands out is in the sheer majestic quantity of the extensive mountains that encircle the city, coupled with the imperious beauty of its architecture. In most directions, you are almost guaranteed to see snow-dunked mountains rising organically from the roofs of intricate baroque architecture.
I think the fact they complement each other so well almost makes it an oxymoron to discuss the two separately, but here it goes anyway. To start with the architectural attractions, I would say that almost all of them are clustered together in the Altstadt (old town), meaning it is quite possible to see them all within a day if you’re pressed for time. Of course, these buildings are as much about what’s within their walls as their exterior. But to my mind, both inside and outside are all crucial components of the lovely mountain-architecture hybrid tapestry that is Innsbruck.
The Hofkirche tends to get the headline news, and with good reason as this lavishly realised church is undoubtedly a Renaissance-era masterpiece. It’s almost single-handedly the work of Emperor Maximilian I, and a suitable ego-stroking tribute at that! His other building of note, the Goldens Dachl Museum, is arguably to Innsbruck what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, and the city has other visually arresting buildings such as the wedding-cake façade of the Hoblinghaus.
I enjoyed the views from the Stadttrum City Tower, but the real views are best enjoyed from the nearby Nordkette Mountains. Whilst the glorious architecture slides away in to the distance the further you head up the mountains, the city is still within close enough distance so as to create an impression on your ramble along the craggy peaks. The views of both Innsbruck itself and the surrounding mountains are simply magnificent.
While I was the Seegrubbe station, some 1905 metres up the slopes, a storm raged on an adjacent peak, bringing a touch of smoky, grumbly drama to the surroundings. Unfortunately, the proximity of the storm led to a temporary suspension of the cable car, stranding me at Seegrube as the staff debated when would be a good time to reopen it. Strangely, when it did reopen, by the time I reached the Hafelekar station (2256 metres) the weather had got wetter and windier still, killing any thoughts of reaching the 2334 metre mountain summit. But safety should always be the main consideration when up a mountain.
When in Innsbruck, your main consideration should definitely be to immerse yourself in both sides of this wonderful city. If the city only showcased one of stunning mountain vistas or grand architecture it would be a delightful, highly recommended destination. The fact it features both tips it, for me, in to ‘highlight of Austria’ territory.