With the majestic scenery of the Nordkette mountain range, Innsbruck is one of the most charming cities in Austria. Almost embedded in the Alps, the capital of Tyrol offers a unique natural environment, where the famous Bergisel ski jumping trampoline – the work of the great Iranian architect Zaha Hadid – coexists with the Gothic historic center with Renaissance touches, one of the best preserved in Europe.
Innsbruck has a population of less than 150,000 inhabitants, who live surrounded by a unique alpine landscape of lakes and snow-capped peaks that climb above 2,000 meters.
Some of the must-see sites in Innsbruck are: the Golden Roof, the Ambras Castle, the Maria-Theresien Strasse, the Royal Palace or the Court Church.
The Golden Canopy
One of the first sights to see in Innsbruck is the Golden Roof, a roof made of almost 3,000 copper tiles, which protects the balcony of the Residence Palace, built by Maximilian I of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, five centuries ago. The story goes that Maximilian himself used to lean out on the balcony every morning to feel the pulse of the street. Two frescoes stand out on the façade, showing the archduke with his two wives. It is recommended to visit this site on a sunny day, to admire the canopy as if it really were a piece of gold glittering in the light.
The Hungerburgbahn funicular enables you to travel from the old town to the Alpine Zoo station in less than eight minutes, and then on to the Seegrube station at an altitude of more than 1,900 meters. This is an ideal place to watch experienced skiers gliding down the mountain. The next station, accessed by the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen funiculars, is located at 2,300 meters and is called Hafelekar. From there, the views are incredible.
The two most beautiful streets to see in Innsbruck are Herzog Friedrich and Maria-Theresien Strasse. In the case of the latter, it is here that the baroque buildings with their colorful fronts, which make up the Alstadt or old town, unfold. The Maria-Theresien Strasse concentrates several of Innsbruck’s attractions, such as the Old Town Hall and the Triumphal Arch (commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa during the 18th century).
Another of the beautiful places to see in Innsbruck is the St. Anne’s Column and the facades of incredible houses: the Helblinghaus and the Katzunghaus are especially recommended. In the Maria-Theresien Strasse are located the Kaufhaus Tyrol department store and very nice stores along the street, particularly in the Rathauspassage. To end the visit to this 700-year-old street, a hot drink in one of the many cafés is welcome.
Ambras Castle is one of the must-see sites in Innsbruck. Renaissance in style, it was the consummate wish of Archduke Ferdinand II, who rebuilt the castle during the 16th century (its foundations dated back to the 10th century). The archduke was an art fanatic, a true Renaissance patron of the arts, and had an exhibition space built on the first floor. Portraits of the Habsburg family and paintings by renowned artists, such as Diego Velázquez and Van Dyck, are exhibited there, along with a room of medieval weapons and armor.
The Church of the Court is known as the Church of the Men in Black, since 28 bronze human figures guard the beautiful marble cenotaph -funeral monument- of Emperor Maximilian I, which is located inside the temple. The curious thing is that not only eight of the 28 figures are women (something strange for the time) but the sarcophagus is empty, since his remains rest in the chapel of St. George in Wiener Neustadt. The Court Church, or Hofkirche, has beautiful red marble galleries and columns, along with a showy Renaissance organ.
Olympic diving board
South of Innsbruck is one of the symbols of the city: the Olympic diving board in Bergisel. The first version of this jump was built in 1925 and was a success during the 1964 and 1976 Olympic Games. The new trampoline, considered the most modern in the world, was built in 2002 by the famous Iranian architect Zaha Hadid. In addition, the complex can accommodate 28,000 spectators and has a fantastic panoramic restaurant called Bergisel Sky.
Emperor Maximilian I had a great influence on the destiny of Innsbruck. His stamp was imprinted on the lavish Royal Palace, built at the end of the 15th century, and within these walls lived the powerful Habsburg family, one of the most important royal houses of the Old Continent and another of the sites to see in Innsbruck. Inside, the period furniture is displayed in the majestic imperial apartments. Also very nice is the cobbled inner courtyard, late Gothic style, the Tower of the Shields and a room where Emperor Maximilian kept his hunting trophies.
Cathedral of Santiago
Very close to the Golden Roof is St. James Cathedral, the most important religious temple to see in Innsbruck. It was built in the 18th century, in an inspired Baroque style, and is notable for its two bell towers. Although it was damaged by an earthquake during the 16th century, it was rebuilt two centuries later. Inside are striking frescoes on the ceiling, illustrating the life of St. James the Apostle. Also surprising is the image of Maria Hilf, by the German artist Lukas Cranach the Elder, and the funeral monument of Archduke Maximilian III.
Less than 15 kilometers from Innsbruck is the Swarovsky Museum, the prestigious firm of luxury products made of cut crystal. It is an authentic city of crystal, whose interior exhibits works of artists who use this precious material, which shines with incredible play of light. Outside, it is wonderful a work called Crystal Cloud, made with more than 600,000 colored crystals, whose image is reflected in a black water lake.