Back in January, I had a perfect, wonderful, stress-free weekend in Innsbruck. You know why? Because Innsbruck is ready for tourists. They have got this whole thing down to a science and are ready to give you as much history, culture, and mountains as you can cram into two days for 39 euros. Yeah, I’m talking about the Innsbruck Card, and this blog post may seem a little like an infomercial, but I was absolutely enamored by this great value tourist device.
I arrived in Innsbruck on Friday evening, and went straight into the bookstore in the train station. There, I bought my 48 hour Innsbruck card (so, valid until I left on Sunday evening). Included in that card, I had free use of the tram system (important, because the Jugendherberge–youth hostel–is located a ways outside of the old town), a return trip to peak of nine of Innsbruck’s local mountains, and admission to all attractions and museums in Innsbruck. Bam. There you go.
Innsbruck is a city with lots of cool, smaller attractions. They wouldn’t necessarily be worth the cost of admission individually, but with my magic card, I could hop in and out of them at my leisure.
Friday night, I headed up into the Nordkette Alps to visit “Cloud 9”–an igloo bar on a mountain. While it was clear down in Innsbruck, up at Cloud 9, it was snowing hard, and I felt like I was in another world.
Inside the igloo, there was a DJ, a bar (the most popular drink was, of course, Glühwein), and the softest sheepskin blankets I have ever touched. It was a surreal experience.
Inspired by my first mountain excursion, I headed back to the Jugendherberge for a good nights sleep. I fell in love with Innsbruck’s youth hostel, by the way, not because it was cool or modern, but because it was like stepping into the past. Precisely, into the 1970s, which, I’m pretty sure, was the last time it was refurbished. But the room was clean, with an ensuite bathroom, breakfast was included, and there was a tram stop right outside. I was so charmed by it, in all its ’70s blockiness, that I would recommend it whole-heartedly. Plus, it’s basically the only budget option in Innsbruck.
Anyway, I got up bright and early on Saturday (although not as early as the ski crowd, who had already cleared out by the time I got down to breakfast) and decided to head up the mountain again. This time, I was going all the way to the top. There are several stops on the way up to the peak at Hafelekar, but I decided to go up first, then stop along the way coming back.
The train up the mountain starts in the center of Innsbruck, right by the Congress building. You take the train up past the Alpine Zoo to the Hungerburg, then switch to these awesome panoramic cable cars up to the Seegrube (location of Cloud 9) and then further up to the highest peak–Hafelekar, 7,657 feet high. I made a friend on the way up, which was good–because it was windy and slippery on top of that mountain. Even helping each other, we both fell into waist deep snow at one point…
Being on top of that mountain was like nothing I have ever experienced before. The sun shining on the falling snow made it look like the sky was full of glitter. The quiet was unreal. The view was unreal. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because this was my first time on top of a mountain, or maybe it’s just how the Alps are, but I don’t have words for it. It was a staggering experience.
I had a Speckknodelsuppe (I might have just made up that word? Anyway, it was soup with a bacon dumpling in it.) on the mountain, and paid a visit to the alpine zoo, which features only animals native to the Alps. It was pretty cool for a short visit, but if I hadn’t had my Innsbruck Card, I wouldn’t have gone. Then I wouldn’t have met these guys!
After lingering a little while longer to enjoy the view from up high,
I said goodbye to the mountains and headed into Innsbruck proper.
I only walked around a little on Saturday evening, because Sunday would be my “city” day. However, I did visit the Swarovski shop (their headquarters is in Innsbruck) to see some amazing things made out of crystal, and to collect my free heart pendant (thanks, Innsbruck Card!).
Sunday’s forecast was for snow, and the weather did not disappoint. There is something unbelievably magical about walking through the old center of Innsbruck in the snow on a Sunday morning. Alles war schneebedeckt, and between the medieval buildings and the mountains in the background, it felt like I was in a snowglobe. I took in Innsbruck from above, by climbing to the top of the Stadtturm, including the famous “golden roof.”
As it was pretty cold out, I decided to hop in and out of a few attractions. I did visit the Golden Roof Museum, which was very small, but there was a documentary about Innsbruck in medieval times with an English audio option. However, the coolest place was the Tyroler Folk Art Museum, which adjoins the Hofkirche (main church). This was a fantastic museum. From the real medieval “parlors” (arranged much like an IKEA showroom) to traditional art and clothing, I felt transported into the past of this alpine region.
The Hofkirche was also grand and beautiful, and while the multimedia presentation that preceded it was a little hokey, it does set up Emperor Maximilian and his dream tomb (which he, sadly, never got to occupy).
I ended my Innsbruck weekend with the tourist office’s walking tour of Innsbruck (offered in English and German and included in the–you guessed it–Innsbruck Card!). It was a nice way to wrap up my visit, and appreciate the beauty of this lovely, snowy, wonderland. To sum up, even if you don’t ski or snowboard, Innsbruck has a lot to offer for a winter weekend getaway. The equation is something like Mountains + Kultur = Magic.