I want to start this entry with a little story about the people living here in most beautiful Tyrol, Austrias highland. The Tyroleans are a very special kind of people. If you approach them too open minded and loud, before they can flee, you can be prepared for a reply which can be harsh sometimes, or at least sarcastic. Foreigners, especially the ones living permanently in Tyrol, like Germans, are not always welcome to them – Germans in particular are a matter of a longterm love hate relationship. The term for Germans in Austria is “Piefke” which goes back to a story of two officers on the Prussian miltitary squad of the old times, before the Nazis took over Europe. They were so in shape, that they defined this term as typical German (towards the Austrian mentality). It might be due to the success of Germany in football, olympics, industry etc. while speaking the same language, it might be due to the size of Germany and amount of Germans, or because of the lively, self-confident (overexaggerating sometimes) appearance much more Germans have compared to Austrians, who are almost ever much more relaxed and laid back – even if they are equally qualified for what they do. I started to love this kind of attitude, it’s “just being relaxed” vs. being permanently stressed out and hasty in your everyday life… So this is by any means critics on the Austrian mentality. If you befriend with those guys and they go to the mountain with you, be sure you have found friends which understand this meaning from the heart.
This is the Tyrolean “National Anthem” if it comes up to the Tyroleans in Tyrol, East Tyrol and South Tyrol (Alto Adige), it should be still a united country, without Alto Adige belonging to Italy.
Sights of Innsbruck
But this entry is to bring the sights of Innsbruck to you, who are probably not living here, who are planing to do an unforgettable vacation in the Alps. Innsbruck is a tremendous base for your endeavours because you have lots of great restaurants and entertainment on the one hand and top notch skiing resorts or hiking on the other within an hour in your car or by public transportation.
Rank 10: Plenty of Chinese and Japanese visitors rush in every day and it’s a main sight of the city, the Swarovski flagship store with its crystal exhibition in the center of the old-city. The company is actually a Tyrolean family owned company and does precision glassware for analytics and optics besides the jewelry. The main facility is in Wattens, just a 30 min. busride away the Swarovski Kristallwelten in Wattens. As I mentioned in my last entry about Innsbruck, this is nothing we would attend to, but I know there is big interest in these exhibitions, so it’s worth to mention them here.
Rank 9: The inner city of Innsbruck itself is a sight. You will have this panoramic view nowhere else while you go shopping. It includes the old-city itself, with the well known Goldenes Dachl, which I grant the Rank 5 in this listing. It includes the colorful houses along the Inn, the Dom (the main church), the Stadt-schloss, Landestheater, Hofgarten and everything related. The city shines in its beauty and this is based on the fact that it was not destroyed during WWII.
Rank 8: Schloß Ambras and the Ferdinandeum, the lovely Tyrolean museum for history are going places when you are into history and old stuff, which is exhibited there. The castle is lovely and the garden beautiful. The Ferdinandeum is quite modern but the exhibition still has its charme.
Rank 7: Another main sight of the city is the Bergisel Schanze where the olympic wintergames took place. It’s annually used as venue in the tournament of the Vierschanzentournee, as I reported in my last entry. Another curiosity is the Wok WM, which was hosted by the German host Stefan Raab during the last years. A crazy tournament for crazy people, who enjoy a race down the bob-trail on a heated wok (yes the cooking device).
Rank 6: The zoo of Innsbruck, better known as Alpenzoo, is a nice place for families and animal enthusiasts. The inhabitants are all living in the Alps, so get a good overview which kind of animals can be found here, when you wander off the beaten tracks. Capricorn and eagle are the most prominent inhabitants, but bears, wolves and bobcats can be found there as well, and of course the otters, which have been my personal favorite! Another great sight is the botanical garden of the University of Innsbruck – small but well organized and the entry fees just apply for the tropical houses, visiting the garden with the flora of the Alps is totally free of charge!
Rank 5: The main sight depicted on all the postcards from Innsbruck is the Goldenes Dachl (golden roof). There is not much to say about it, it’s simply beautiful and you should stop there and take your touristic photo souvenir, when you pass it. It gets a separate rank, because it is the symbol of the city.
Rank 4: Compared to Salzburg or Kärnten there are just few lakes where you can go to dip on hot summer days. But some of them are most beautiful and I want to mention them here as one “sight” because most of them are in close range and easy to reach. The most beautiful lake around the area is Lake Obernberg, it is not allowed to swim in there, but we were never punished when we took a fast dip after we hiked the surrounding mountains. Another great lake is the Achensee, which you reach by car going via Jenbach, turning northwards up into the mountains.
You can even sail on this lake and (kite)surf in summer, in winter you find a school for snow-kiting. The two most beautiful swimming lakes in the surrounding of Innsbruck are the Reintalersee in Kramsach and the Piburger See in the Ötztal. In the Ötztal you find the Area 47, a water themepark for your amusement and plenty of opportunity to do rafting and canyoning.
Rank 3: The endless amounts of skiing resorts in the region are a major sight for your activity and your exploration. I will just recommend the best of the best to you and not give you info on the smaller ones. Leave those to the locals and the guys who tend to be alone when they do their sports. If you are interested in touring skiing you can ask me for those via the comment section, albeit from that, stick to the ones, which offer your daily dose of convenience, apres ski and awesome. For the following list, I do not have a special ranking. Ischgl, Arlberg, Zillertal, and Serfaus are huge, the rest is smaller and some are closer to Innsbruck.
- Ischgl-Samnaun – Party and Apres Ski
- Sölden – Party and Apres Ski in combination with show and glacier skiing
- Stubaier Gletscher – the most reliable resort when it comes up to snow
- St. Anton & Lech/Zürs at Arlberg – the finest Austria has to offer
- Zillertal – everything you could imagine in 45 min. distance
- Serfaus & Fiss-Ladis – huge and well established but relatively inexpensive
- Obergurgl – the finest in regard to empty pists and high alpine loneliness
- Axamer Lizum – small but close to Innsbruck for short trips, no high standard
Rank 2: The Höttinger Alm is an easy to hike hut, which you should visit when you are in good shape during the summer month. You can reach it in a two hour hike via easy routes and the food is fantastic! You have a great view on Innsbruck and it is my personal favorite, when it comes up to traditional huts and the mountain flair.
Rank 1: The Nordkettenbahnen are the main sight in my opinion and they bring you up to 2300 m of elevation to the Hafelekar right over the roofs of Innsbruck. This experience is so unique, no matter if it summer or winter, it has to receive rank 1. You can jump in there, like into a metro and right from the old-city of Innsbruck, go up to Hungerburg, from there by cable car to Seegrube, and from there up to Hafelekar with just another cable car. It opens a playground for adventurers, skiing experts (yes, experts!) in winter, and mountainbike freaks (yes freaks!) in summer. You find an awesome climbing trail and plenty of opportunity to live your personal experience of wanderlust. If you are not into those sports regulary and very experienced leave this place out and just go up to enjoy the view – you can do that every Friday in summer til 11:30 p.m. and in winter til 1:30 a.m.! It’s in your own interest to not overestimate yourself because otherwise you just hurt yourself and are brought down to the valley in a helicopter. I mean it like I write it, please don’t overestimate your skills here. I have to mention the Patscher Kofel as well here – just for completeness and without taking rank 1. It’s by far not as impressive as the Nordkette, but the views on Innsbruck, the Nordkette and the Innvalley are more than beautiful as well. If you have few time, do just the Nordkette, if you have plenty do Patscher Kofel as well and hike the Zirbenweg.