Innsbruck, Tyrol’s metropole
Mountain boots and stilettos
Innsbruck is a natural fusion of city and mountains. And despite the contradiction, in Tyrol’s trendy capital it all blends as though it was always meant to be. Promenading and climbing, shopping and downhilling, lounging in a sky bar and eating Speckknödel in a cabin. And they choose sustainability. Starting this year, public transport is included in the new WelcomeCard.
Within a stone’s throw of the uber-classical Hofburg with its flamboyant Sisi-interior, you find the futuristic Nordkettenbahn station. It’s a kind of city metro that would take you from one trendy neighborhood to the other in Milan or New York. But this is Innsbruck, Tyrol’s metropole. And here, you go from the glittery Swarovski store straight to the tough mountain world of the Seegrube (1.905 m) and the Hafelekar (2.334 m). From stilettos to climbing boots in twenty minutes.
The stations we pass are a pure form of modern art, designed by Zaha Hadid, who was also responsible for the ski jump on the other side of the city. They are somewhere between spaceships and glaciers. And apparently, that was the intention. Once at the top, it gets giddy. Sitting on a sunny bench or hanging from the Klettersteig, you look right on top of the city’s head. A difference in height of almost 2.000 meters!
The brain switches to its highest gear to get everything clear: above, ibexes climb against the steep rocks; below, tourists are crowding around the Goldenes Dach; above, marmots are whistling in the wind; below, the sounds of hip hop accompany the skaters at the Landhaus; above, you look out over the incredible summits of the Alps; below, baroque city palaces reflect in the glass facades of modern structures.
You take a deep breath: BAM! Views of the city and mountains.
Slight confused but filled with curiosity, I travel back to the valley. I have downloaded one of the seven ‘Walks to Explore’ on my phone. This one takes me straight through ‘Modern Innsbruck’ because next to the classical history of emperors and empresses, the city also has a modern side that demands more and more attention. Not in the least because of its young inhabitants.
The walk takes me straight through the heart of the city and reveals the taut design of the Haus der Musik, which is located right across from the traditional Hofburg. It also takes me past various squares, and successful and less successful facades. Rathaus Galerien, for example, falls a bit short to be honest. In Innsbruck, they are delighted with it, but an average provincial town in the Netherlands has a more exciting shopping center.
But then you take the elevator to the top floor, you exit through the glass doors and you take a deep breath: BAM! Views of the city and mountains. In Bar 360° you find a spot in a lounge sofa and just admire the view. Contemporary gin & tonic in hand (the one with cranberries is amazing). Enjoy. Wow, there is the city tower that was built in 1440, and there you see the green of the amazing Hofgarten. And on the other side, the taunt Bergisel ski jump and a tip of the new Tyrol Panorama, the surprisingly great museum on Tyrol’s history.
The whole world of city and mountains is reflected in the windows of the round Bar 360°, where it is quite busy at the end of the day. Not surprising, considering there is no better place imaginable to meet your loved one for dinner. The white peaks of the Alps on the horizon, the pastel-colored city at your feet.
A day later, I take the free Bike Shuttle downtown to the village of Mutters, about a 20 minute ride. Old farms adorn the center. Wooden balconies, murals, the inevitable geraniums and a village pump, classic Tyrol. Mutters is only one of the many villages close to the city that form a whole other universe.
A little outside of Mutters, a funicular takes hikers to the sweet Mutterer Alm, at the foot of the Nockspitze (2.403 m). And mountain bikers. On the alm, you can find the Bikepark Innsbruck, which includes five trails, a practice area and a special area for children.
Downhillers look like motocross riders, but then on a mountain bike. Helmet, protectors and a focused look in the eyes
The trails range from easy to difficult. Downhillers look like motor crossers, only on a bicycle. Helmet, protective gear and eyes focused. Crack Erich emphasizes the challenge but says any biker can do it. Go ahead and try. I start with Erich’s final advice in the back of my head: ‘Don’t ride like a Dutchman on the Grossglockner. Don’t break, steer!’
The first descent is one for trying and adjusting. No clue about the surrounding landscape. Only the meters in front of my bike are important. The second run is already more relaxed, and in the third I have enough confidence to speed up, look at the valley where I see Innsbruck and keep my hands off the breaks as much as possible.
What about roasted trout with asparagus-gröstl or tomato-fennel-risotto with shrimp?
New places to eat come and go, the good ones are there to stay. Take Treibhaus, which has been a cultural and alternative address in the city for years. Here, you order a Tyroler Gröstl or Turkish durum surrounded by students, hipsters, businessmen, artists and mothers with strollers. Did I already mention Treibhaus was once born to help women get work?
Innsbruck is not a Michelin star city like Vienna or Salzburg. In this Tyrolian mini-metropole, they like good, honest, regional cuisine. Sometimes served traditionally, sometimes full of contemporary creativity. One of the gastronomic temples that has been ‘hip’ for a long time without being pretentious is run by two experts: Elisabeth Geisler and Irmgard Sitzwohl. In the minimalistic décor of their restaurant Sitzwohl, they serve dishes inspired by the regional and the Mediterranean kitchen. Example? What about roasted trout with asparagus-gröstl or tomato-fennel-risotto with shrimp?
The combination of nature and city is easy to get used to. It becomes very obvious why Innsbruck is such a popular city to live in. You have all the advantages of a real city without many of the disadvantages. When you are sick of the crowds, you are away from it all within 15 minutes. And vice versa.
Almost like a seasoned Innsbrucker, I leave the city by foot at the end of the morning, heading straight into the mountains. I still feel the city dazzling in my back, while my head is already lost between the cows with bells. The route is popular with many Innsbruckers, because it gives so much peace in such a short time, with thick trees, high grass, soft paths and a babbling mountain stream.
I still feel the city dazzling in my back, while my head is already lost between the cows
My goal is the Arzler Alm at 1.067 meters, a true mountain cabin with an unpolished cabin atmosphere. On the menu here are Speckknödel and hausgemachte Kuchen. On top of that, there is more chance someone takes out their accordion to play Tyroler Volksmusik about Kufstein and Edelweiss, than you would hear compelling DJ beats. Take a break between office girls, retirees, sporty people and trendy mothers with trendy strollers who have worked their way uphill. And a lot of e-mountain bikes.
A large tree offers shade with a view of the Inntal and the mountains located south. The audience tells the whole Arzler Alm story. Two young creatives are discussing serious business behind their laptop, while a hiking club of elderly people starts a mountain song in the distance. Meanwhile, two mountain bikers on their fully’s – full suspension mountain bikes – race past and a very old man with a hat slowly walks onto the terrace: ‘Griass Gott.’
New starting in the summer of 2020 is the free public transport for guests with a Welcome Card. Every visitor who spends at least two nights at one of the partnering companies gets one of these cards. It not only offers free public transport but also access to and/or discounts on many attractions. Those who stay for at least 3 nights get a Welcome Card Plus with even more advantages. And for visitors who also want to visit other great spots in Tyrol, there’s the Welcome Card Unlimited, for which you pay €65 (adults) or €32 (children). When you go to Ötzal for a day (007 Elements and Adventure park), you have already gotten your money’s worth.
There is also the new Innsbruck Card Light, the ideal discount card if you are in the city to see everything for a shorter amount of time. For €32, you get almost all advantages of the full Innsbruck Card, like free guided tours, bike rental for three hours and access to attractions such as the Hofburg, the Goldens Dachl, Tyrol Panorama and Schloss Ambras. Only the entry for Swarovski in Wattens and the Hungerburgbahn are not included, but you do get a discount there. With the Innsbruck Card Light, you also get public transport in the city and trips to Mutters and Igls.