Innsbruck – Where City and Mountain Stand Shoulder to Shoulder

Innsbruck – Where City and Mountain Stand Shoulder to Shoulder

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.

17 Comments

  • Rebecca

    January 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm Reply

    History and acetic beauty together – Innsbruck looks like a stunning place to visit.
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    • Joe

      January 16, 2017 at 11:27 pm Reply

      It is, can’t recommend it highly enough really 🙂

  • kels

    January 16, 2017 at 10:56 pm Reply

    I visited here in 2006 for some skiing and sightseeing, and I remember it being just stunning. I spent most of my time in Old Town, and see that it hasn’t changed much 🙂 I highly recommend this as a travel destination!

    • Joe

      January 16, 2017 at 11:29 pm Reply

      No need for it to change if it was beautiful back in 2006 🙂 Hope you had a great time skiing here too, that’s something I would have loved to do!

  • Cat | For Two, Please

    January 17, 2017 at 10:11 pm Reply

    What a magnificent view of Innsbruck from the mountain! Looks like a great place to visit 🙂

  • Emily

    January 17, 2017 at 10:56 pm Reply

    A beautiful looking city that I’m sure I wouldn’t have explored to my satisfaction in just a day! I think I could spend just as long walking through the streets here as I could in the mountains. I bet you had trouble deciding which side of Innsbruck to see first! I’m sure it looks beautiful in all seasons too.
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    • Joe

      January 18, 2017 at 7:10 am Reply

      Yes, I absolutely did! I visited in the summer, and it was beautiful, but I imagine the mountains would look even more beautiful in the winter 🙂

  • Ali May

    January 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm Reply

    Innsbruck is a fascinating place. My short visit to the city and mountains in winter of 2003 is one that I will never forget. I would love to go back and explore the city more, as my time was so limited on that trip and I hit the slopes as my main focus. Do you think 3 days would be enough to see everything?

    • Joe

      January 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm Reply

      Hi Ali! Innsbruck is a small place, so I would say that three days is enough to see the main sights, definitely. A lot depends on if you want to revisit those slopes of course, which I’m sure you do – even then I would say you have enough time to see the main city highlights, albeit at a slightly less relaxed pace 🙂

  • Womanhattan

    January 20, 2017 at 7:40 am Reply

    Wow. Austria is pretty close to me, yet I have never been to Innsbruck. That sure is something that I will have to correct soon 🙂 it looks lovely

  • LC of Birdgehls

    January 22, 2017 at 11:07 am Reply

    I’ve only passed through Innsbruck on the train on my way to Vienna, but it looked just a little bit pretty! It does look like it has a good balance of the natural and the manmade, always important for a city. I’ve sadly only spent one day in Austria, but I’d like to return and Innsbruck is somewhere worth visiting. Those mountains. :-O
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    • Joe

      January 22, 2017 at 11:15 am Reply

      Yes, definitely worth a visit, and the mountains are indeed spectacular. Ironically, I haven’t actually been to Vienna – something I’ll need to rectify in the future!

  • Only By Land

    January 22, 2017 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Man, I’m jealous, I visited Innsbruck and your photos are taken from way better angles than mine. I didn’t know you could go up into those buildings in downtown! I didn’t go up the mountain either, did you go up in the cable car then? Or walk? Whatever you rewarded with great photos!

    • Joe

      January 22, 2017 at 10:24 pm Reply

      Thanks 🙂 If you had gone up I’m sure you’d have got great photos too! I got the cable car…would have walked, but was a little pressed for time.

  • Violeta

    January 22, 2017 at 9:24 pm Reply

    Innsbruck looks awesome! I’ve been so close to it and didn’t stop to see it. I should keep it in mind for my next road trip to Austria.
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  • Joanna

    January 23, 2017 at 11:16 am Reply

    I would love to visit Innsbruck, it is the one big town in Austria that I haven’t been to. I have always wanted to visit due to that dreamy image with the mountains behind. I would love to hike in the Alps, same as you. Shame the weather wasn’t the best and you couldn’t reach the top. But there is always next time. 🙂
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  • Brownie on the go

    January 26, 2017 at 8:44 pm Reply

    It’s a shame i haven’t been there cause it’s not too far away from my city. I guess i should give it a shot cause it seems like a nice and beautiful city! Hopefully i will visit it this year! 🙂

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