Innsbruck | The city trapped in the Austrian Alps

Hidden in the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is one of the most beautiful cities in Austria. Set deep between towering mountains, the city keeps precious monuments and picturesque streets: Innsbruck, the city trapped in the Alps.

Innsbruck
Innsbruck

Innsbruck is in the heart of the Austrian Tyrol. It is located in the valley of the Inn River, a deep valley surrounded by high mountains. Tyrolean culture is evident in all its streets and corners. It is the perfect combination of city and nature.

The city

The history of Innsbruck has something to do with the river that gives it its name. Innsbruck means ‘bridge over the Inn River’. It began as a camp for routes through the Alps, the trade generated income and around the XIII century, the camp became a city.

Innsbruck at night
Innsbruck at night

The predominant architecture is Gothic, when expanding during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Innsbruck has one of the most beautiful and best preserved old towns; especially its old main street, Herzog Friedrich Strasse, characterized by narrow passages covered by vaults through which walking in the streets.

This street ends at the so-called ‘Golden Roof‘, a kind of royal balcony that Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg ordered to build in the Palace of Archduke Friedrich IV for the wedding of a relative of his. This Roof is a symbol of the city; however, it is not gold but fire-gilded copper tiles, giving a golden look.

Golden Roof
Golden Roof

The city has other interesting monuments such as Wilten Basilica, the Cathedral of St. James and the City Tower. The latter was the tower of the Old Town Hall, and is perhaps the most beautiful monument of Innsbruck. You can climb the tower to have a good view of the city, but for that it is much better to climb the mountains.

The mountain

The mountains are the real protagonists of Innsbruck. The peaks that surround the city reach 2500 meters while the city is at a height of 500 meters above sea level. They are almost 2000 meters of altitude, a striking contrast.

The most visited mountain is the Nordkette, just north of the city. It has cable car but you can walk it up (perhaps you need to spend the night in a shelter or hutt for it). From there you can see all Innsbruck and the mountains from south to  west.

Innsbruck at Bergisel, the opposite of Nordkette
Innsbruck at Bergisel, the opposite of Nordkette

We suggest instead to climb the south mountains, crowned by Patscherkofel Peak. This mountain, smaller than its northern neighbours, can climbed up in one day and its paths are less difficult. Also, from there you will have a nice view of the northern mountains, which are spectacular.

As it could not be otherwise, winter sports are practiced in the city. You can even ski in summer on stations that are about an hour from Innsbruck. Pitzal, Stubai or Kitzsteinhorn are some examples of glaciers that are retaining their snow throughout the year.

Top of Stubai glacier
Top of Stubai glacier

When you have time, do not miss the opportunity to visit such a unique city like this, where the city and the mountains, the urban and the natural are so twinned that we say that Innsbruck is the city trapped in the Alps.

Photos: Li Feng, Benedetta Benardini, Gergo Kazsimer, ktischlinger and Jon Ford.