The ultimate Innsbruck sightseeing guide

Discover the city like a local

The attraction of Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol in Austria, lies not only in its natural beauty due to its position in the heart of the Alps but also in its rich history coupled with some modern touches. This is your go-to Innsbruck sightseeing guide.

Innsbruck Maria Theresa Street.

The view down Maria Theresa Street to the Nordkette mountain.

Is Innsbruck worth visiting?

This is a question I often come across in travel forums: Is Innsbruck worth visiting?

Of course it is. Just don’t expect Vienna or Salzburg.

Instead, expect a city in the heart of the Alps with a history to match those other two famous Austrian cities, a mountain towering over it, and a culture unlike any other.

This detailed Innsbruck sightseeing guide is designed to help you discover why it’s a city and region worth visiting. It highlights the top Innsbruck sights to include on a sightseeing itinerary. There’s a good mixture to suit everyone’s taste – from standing on a mountain peak and exploring the Innsbruck Old Town to visiting Ambras Castle and being dazzled by Swarovski Crystal Worlds.

Some sights and activities are included in the Innsbruck Card, and some not. If you need more help to decide whether it’s worth buying the Innsbruck Card, read my detailed post about it here. It gives you all the prices of the attractions, with or without the Innsbruck Card, as well as details about the hop on hop off Innsbruck sightseeing bus.

Are you ready to read the most comprehensive Innsbruck sightseeing guide ever? The back to top links make it easy to return to the table of contents for you to read the sections you are most interested in.

Nordkette Mountain

No visit to Innsbruck is complete without making your way up the Nordkette mountain – if not all the way to the top, then at least to the first station of the Nordkette cable car at Hungerburg.

Type of attraction Mountain, architecture, nature reserve, ski area, viewpoint
Best time to visit Any clear day
€€€ €9,00 to €34,50
Time needed 3 to 4 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website www.nordkette.com

 

The Nordkette cable car trip is broken up into 3 stages. The first takes you from the city centre to the Hungerburg at 860 m, the second ends at the Seegrube at 1,905 m, while the third cable car drops you in high Alpine terrain just shy of the Hafelekar mountain peak at 2,334 m.

Depending on the weather and how much time you have, I would recommend going all the way to Hafelekar. The 360°-degree views are amazing. You can see up and down the Inn Valley and beyond toward Italy, while the rugged mountains to the back give you a glimpse of the unspoiled Karwendel Nature Park. The thrill of standing on an Alpine peak is only a 10 to 15-minute walk away from the cable car station.

Looking down on the Hafelekar cable car station of the Nordkettenbahnen.

Take a good look at the modern Congress and Hungerburg cable car stations. They were designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid.

Tip: Combine your Innsbruck sightseeing trip up the Nordkette with a visit to the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo. You can get off here on the first stage of the cable car journey to Hungerburg.

Read more: This detailed practical guide to the Nordkette cable car will help you plan your trip.

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Innsbruck Old Town Top 10

The Nordkette and the Innsbruck Old Town are inseparable. If you see the one, you see the other. It’s up to you in how much detail you want to explore both.

You can certainly get a good impression of the Innsbruck Old Town on a 1 to 2-hour self-guided walk. On the other hand, taking some time to explore some attractions more thoroughly is well worth it when doing Innsbruck sightseeing.

Type of attraction Historic old town, architecture, museums, monuments
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ Depends on what you want to see
Time needed 1 to 4 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Some

Most of the Innsbruck Old Town is in a pedestrian zone. The streets that are compulsory to walk down, are Herzog Friedrich Street, Hofgasse, and Maria Theresa Street.

10 old town sights to include in your Innsbruck sightseeing tour

1. Golden Roof

Undoubtedly Innsbruck’s most famous landmark. The Goldenes Dachl as it is more commonly known in German is an alcove balcony from around 1500 with a roof covered by 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles. It was built to commemorate Emperor Maximilian I’s marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza. The Royals used it as a box from where to watch festivities and sporting events in the square below.

Innsbruck Golden Roof
The Golden Roof with the Nordkette in the background.

The best impression of the Golden Roof is when you approach from Maria Theresa Street and have the Nordkette in view behind it. To find out more about its history, visit the Golden Roof Museum in the same building.

Note the Baroque Helblinghaus with its stucco façade with cherubs and other decorative ornamentation on the opposite corner of the Golden Roof. One thing is sure, you can’t say you’ve been Innsbruck sightseeing if you haven’t stood in front of this little balcony with its shiny roof.

2. City Tower

For a unique angle to view the Golden Roof from, climb the 133 stairs to the top of the City Tower. It will be behind you if you stand in front of the Golden Roof. The tower of 51 m was built between 1442 and 1450 and served as a prison in the middle ages.

Innsbruck City Tower
The City Tower from the square in front of the Golden Roof.

3. Imperial Palace Innsbruck

From a castle to a Rennaissance palace to a Baroque palace. The Hofburg Innsbruck as it is known locally underwent many transformations over the years. It was a favourite holiday residence of the Habsburgs, with Empress Maria Theresa taking a particular interest and making a number of improvements during her reign.

Giants' Hall Imperial Palace Innsbruck. Include it in your Innsbruck sightseeing tour. © TVB Innsbruck / Christian Vorhofer
The Giants’ Hall in the Imperial Palace Innsbruck. © TVB Innsbruck /Christian Vorhofer

There’s not much to the Imperial Palace from the outside. That said, it’s worth taking a tour of the interior if you have time during your Innsbruck sightseeing tour. The Giants’ Hall with its beautifully painted ceiling and larger than life wall paintings of the Habsburg family is a highlight.

4. Court Church

Innsbruck’s Hofkirche or Court Church is on the edge of the historic old town, between the Imperial Palace and the Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art. It’s home to the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I (in which he was never buried…). Most striking in the Court Church is the 28 so-called Schwarze Mander (Black Men). However, don’t let the word men fool you. The impressive bronze statues of royalty and legends actually include 8 women.

Innsbruck Court Church.
Inside the Innsbruck Court Church.

5. Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art

Immediately adjacent to the Court Church (they share the same entrance), the Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art is home to a big collection of cultural treasures depicting Tyrol’s past. The multimedia presentation gives a good overview of the Court Church and Emperor Maximilian I. A word of warning 😊: there is an evil looking Krampus just as you enter the museum. M was very scared of it when he was little but the Krampus is as much a part of Tyrol’s culture as anything else.

6. Triumphal Arch

Forget about the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Innsbruck has its own impressive Triumphal Arch or Triumphforte. And instead of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, it has Maria Theresa Street stretching beyond all the way to Herzog Friedrich Street and the Golden Roof. The Triumphal Arch tells the story of the wedding of the Duke of Tuscany to a Spanish princess on one side and the death of Emperor Franz I on the other. A must-see while Innsbruck sightseeing.

Triumphal Arch Innsbruck.
Innsbruck’s triumphal arch on the southern end of Maria Theresa Street is a must-see while Innsbruck sightseeing.

7. Maria Theresa Street

Innsbruck’s main pedestrian street is lined with 17th- and 18th-century houses, many of which are now home to shops and restaurants. A main feature is St. Anne’s Column (Annasäule) near the entrance to the Rathaus Gallerien shopping centre. The monument was erected in 1706 to commemorate the withdrawal of Bavarian troops on St. Anne’s Day three years earlier.

St. Anne's Column Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck Christof Lackner
St. Anne’s Column keeping watch over Maria Theresa Street. © TVB Innsbruck Christof Lackner

8. Cathedral of St. James

Known as Dom zu St. Jakob, the cathedral dating from the 1100s was once on the Way of St. James, one of the most important medieval Christian pilgrimage routes. It was rebuilt in the early 1700s after being badly damaged in earthquakes in the previous two centuries. A highlight of the interior is the famous Maria Hilf painting by Lukas Cranach the Elder. You will find the cathedral down Pfargasse behind the Golden Roof.

Cathedral of St. Joseph Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Stadt Innsbruck
The two towers of the Cathedral of St. Joseph. © TVB Innsbruck / Stadt Innsbruck

9. Ottoburg

One of the city’s oldest buildings keeps guard at the entrance to the old town next to the Inn River. Today, it is home to the Ottoburg Restaurant where you can sample some of the finest Austrian and Tyrolean cuisine. While walking between the Ottoburg and the Golden Roof on your Innsbruck sightseeing tour, keep an eye out for the Goldener Adler Hotel. You will see all the names of famous guests, including modern day kings and queens, who stayed here on the wall outside the entrance.

Ottoburg Innsbruck.
The Ottoburg at the western entrance to Innsbruck’s old town.

Sleep where royalty slept. Book your room in the Goldener Adler now.

10. Market Square

On the outskirts of the old town next to the Inn River, the market square is the perfect spot to end an Innsbruck sightseeing tour. This is where you can relax with a drink while admiring the row of colourful houses on the opposite side of the river. And of course, no visit to Innsbruck is complete without a picture of these houses with their mountain background taken from the market square or Marktplatz.

Innsbruck market square, a good place to end your Innsbruck sightseeing. Travel Tyrol.
The Innsbruck market square is a hub of activity on a sunny day. End your Innsbruck sightseeing tour here.

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Read more: If you love Innsbruck, you will love Hallstatt in Austria. Click here for a detailed guide to plan a day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt.

Ambras Castle

Ambras Castle or Schloss Ambras is on a rock about 100 m above the Inn Valley between Innsbruck and the village of Aldrans. Its current form started taking shape between 1563 and 1595 when it was the residence of Archduke Ferdinand II.

Type of attraction Castle, gardens, museum
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ Gardens free, castle admission from €7
Time needed 2 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website Schloss Ambras

What makes Ambras Castle unique? For one, there is the Spanish Hall, one of the most beautiful halls from the Rennaissance period in Europe. The balls the Habsburgs must have had here! Both sides of the 43 m long hall are decorated with full-figure portraits of 27 Tyrolean rulers.

Boys (big and small) will love Ferdinand’s Chambers of Armour, including rare suits of tournament armour and that of famous military commanders. He collected them to boast with the Habsburgs and to honour the heroic deeds of other famous “warriors”.

Ambras Castle Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner
Ambras Castle. © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner

For a more private glimpse into the life of Archduke Ferdinand II, you can take a peek into his wife’s bathing chambers. The copper tub which is sunken 1.6 m into the ground, is a rare example of what a private bathroom from the 16th century looked like.

In summer, the gardens of Ambras Castle are a feast for the eye. The castle is easy to reach with the Innsbruck sightseeing bus or by taking Bus 3134 from the main train station.

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Swarovski Crystal Worlds

It’s hard to describe Swarovski Crystal Worlds in the town of Wattens (a 15-minute drive from Innsbruck) in a few words. Is it an underground crystal museum? A crystal amusement park? One big in- and outdoor crystal art gallery?

Type of attraction Art, gardens, playpark
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ €19
Time needed 2 to 3 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website Swarovski Crystal Worlds

What Swarovski Crystal Worlds isn’t, is dull. 16 sparkling Chambers of Wonder await you after entering the mouth of the giant. And when it spits you out on the other side, there is a huge park area to explore.

Swarovski Crystal Worlds Giant
The Swarovski Crystal Worlds giant.

Think crystal clouds sparkling in the sun above a pitch-black lake. Or a children’s play tower where the young ones can play to their heart’s content on rainy days. The outdoor play area is also getting more attractive each year. There’s an obstacle course, a wooden marble run, and a labyrinth in the shape of a giant hand.

Read more: Click here for my detailed post about Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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Bergisel Ski Jump

This is where the world’s best ski jumpers competed in the Winter Olympics of 1964 and 1976. However, the modern ski jump of today, designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, was only taken into use in December 2001.

Type of attraction Sport, architecture
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ €9,50
Time needed 30 to 60 mins
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website Bergisel Ski Jump

The ski jump on the Bergisel Hill overlooking Innsbruck has a ramp of 98 m long. Visitors can take a lift or walk the stairs to the top of the 50 m high tower to get a bird’s eye view of what the jumpers see before they set off.

Bergisel ski jump Innsbruck.
View of the Bergisel Ski Jump from the circular hiking route that goes around it.

The Bergisel Ski Jump is a FIS Ski Jumping World Cup site and also a year-round training centre. This means you can see athletes jump even when you visit in summer – a luck which befell us when we visited in the late spring in 2017.

Read more: 3 reasons to visit the Bergisel in Innsbruck

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Tirol Panorama and Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry

Use the opportunity while on the Bergisel to witness the Third Battle of Bergisel through the eyes of painter Zeno Diemer. His famous 360° Tirol Panorama from 1896, covering more than 1,000 m², depicts the battlefield where folk hero Andreas Hofer led 18,000 rebels against the Bavarian enemy.

Type of attraction Museum, monument, art
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ €8
Time needed 1 to 2 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website Tyrol Panorama

The Tirol Panorama allows you to step right into the battle. It’s in the same building as the Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry. The museum houses an interesting exhibition dedicated to the myths of Tyrol as well as a wide selection of weapons belonging to regiments of the Imperial and Royal Light Infantry.

 

Take some pictures of Andreas Hofer’s statue in the park between the Bergisel Ski Jump and the museum. There is also a gazebo with lovely views of Innsbruck, the Inn Valley and the Nordkette to the right in front of the museum.

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Alpine Zoo Innsbruck

About halfway between Innsbruck and Hungerburg, the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck is Europe’s highest lying zoo. With more than 150 species that are or has been typical to the Alps, the zoo is one of a kind.

Type of attraction Zoo, nature
Best time to visit Spring, summer, and autumn
€€€ €11
Time needed 2 to 3 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card Yes
Website Alpenzoo

Be prepared to walk a couple of short hills when visiting the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck. However, it’s totally worth it once you discover the wolves, the Alpine Ibex, the European Elk, and the lynx. The latter had 3 babies with her in a tree the last time we visited.

Wolf Alpine Zoo Innsbruck
A wolf in the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck.

I know many people are against zoos. The enclosures in the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck are large and as close to the animals’ natural habitat as possible. From the pathways between the enclosures, visitors have beautiful views over Innsbruck and the Inn Valley.

The Hungerburg funicular of the Nordkette cable car stops close to the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck.

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Hall in Tirol

The historic old town of Hall in Tirol is not even a 10-minute drive from Innsbruck, also in the Inn Valley. It is the biggest old town in Tyrol with a completely different character than that of Innsbruck. Therefore, I suggest you include it in your Innsbruck sightseeing.

Type of attraction Historic old town, heritage site
Best time to visit Year-round
€€€ Depends
Time needed 1 to 2 hours
Included in Innsbruck Card The Mint Tower
Website Hall in Tirol

After visiting Hall in Tirol, you will know where the dollar in American dollar comes from. It is here where the first thaler, the great-grandfather of the dollar, was pressed.

The old town of Hall in Tirol is contained in a pedestrian area with narrow cobbled streets opening into squares surrounded by buildings from different time periods, including Roman, Gothic, and Baroque.

Town square Hall in Tirol
Hall in Tirol’s upper town square covered in a dusting of snow.

Near the Inn River, outside the perimeter of the old town hall, the medieval Mint Tower dominates the skyline. The tower complex also houses the Hall Mint Museum with its impressive collection of coins, including the world’s largest silver medal which weighs over 20 kg.

Read more: All there is to know about Hall in Tirol

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The best places to stay for Innsbruck sightseeing

Hotels in historic buildings

  • Best Western Plus Hotel Goldene Adler – This centuries-old hotel near the Golden Roof in the heart of the Innsbruck Old Town is perfect if you like to be part of history. After all, this is where kings and queens have slept before doing some Innsbruck sightseeing themselves. An added bonus is that it’s non-smoking and very good 4-star value for money.

Book your room in the Best Western Plus Hotel Goldene Adler

  • Altstadthotel Weißes Kreuz – Another hotel in Herzog Friedrich Street and a stone’s throw from the Golden Roof that has been welcoming guests for centuries. Actually, since 1465. The food is great, the rooms are big, and you can start your Innsbruck sightseeing tour right here.

Find a room in the Altstadthotel Weißes Kreuz

  • Hotel Schwarzer Adler Innsbruck – You guessed right, the Hotel Schwarzer Adler Innsbruck building is also at least 500 years old. It’s a boutique hotel with a spa and lots of little luxuries. At the same time, you will feel very at home in the traditional dining room and be able to walk to all the major Innsbruck sights from the front door.

Make a reservation at Hotel Schwarzer Adler

Read more: Are you also heading to Vienna? Check out these 25 things to do in Austria’s imperial capital

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Disclosure: My content is intended to help you plan the best trip to Tyrol and Austria. Where appropriate, I include affiliate links in blog posts or pages to help you access relevant services and attractions. I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, to help me maintain the blog if you click through and make a purchase. All support is appreciated!

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Megan Jerrard
I would love to visit Innsbruck and discover the heart of the Alps region. Personally I’m a big nature fan, so I love the range of outdoor activities, and the town itself looks like it’s been ripped straight from the pages of a fairytale – very stereoptypically Austrian! The mountainous background against Innsbruck’s main pedestrian street is stunning. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more beautiful town 🙂 I would love to visit the Alpine zoo – I haven’t encountered the likes of wolves, the Alpine Ibex, or the lynx before. I’m not usually a fan of visiting zoos,… Read more »
Indrani

All I knew of Innsbruck was their Swarovski crystals and I excluded it from my itinerary. Big miss! This list of places to see is really good and worthwhile. The pictures are fantabulous, a beautiful town.

Claire

Innsbruck certainly has enough to make it worth visiting! The architecture is beautiful, I love that Arch, any arches like that remind me of Paris, although I know they are all over Europe! The views from up on the cable car are incredible – as you say you have to check the weather carefully, it would be a shame if it was cloudy!

Carrie

I totally overlooked Innsbruck when I was in Austria, and now I’m really regretting it! The views of the mountains as a backdrop to the cute architecture and charming squares are really amazing. Is it possible to hike up to the viewpoint at Nordkette? Or do you have to take the cable car? (Seems pricey)

Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

I’m such a mountain girl that you sold me from the very beginning with such easy access to the Alps. I’d definitely start with Nordkette Mountain. The old town looks very Austrian and rich in history. The Court Church and the Imperial Palace would be great to see. And, how cool is that ski jump where you can see the view ski jumpers see!? I’m obsessed with the Olympics and this would be such a unique opportunity to see in person.

Vanessa

The market square looks so charming! I bet that’s an amazing place to pick up some local cheese (let’s face it, I’m always obsessed with cheese). I also remember reading about the Golden Roof in my very first European guidebook from nearly 15 years ago – it’s amazing how some things can just captivate you and they never leave your mind.

Linda

This is a most timely post for me. We are just planning our May visit to Austria and Switzerland. I had not really planned to visit Innsbruck but maybe I will need to reconsider. Will definitely check out the Innsbruck Card if we visit. Definitely would want to go to the Hafelekar mountain peak and inside the Imperial Palace. The Triumphal Arch is certainly more decorative than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. You provided so many option that we really need to consider Innsbruck!

Nicki

I just discovered your blog today and LOVE the layout and how informative it is. Innsbruck was not high on my list but because of your post it now is. So well detailed. You should do this for every city then I don’t have to buy guides 😉 !!!

Paige

Innsbruck has always been on my Austria list. I was hoping to go a few years ago and I didn’t make it. I am so awe-struck by mountain towns so it seems like a perfect spot for me, doesn’t it? I had no idea that they had a zoo there. And with such a wide variety of species?! Very interesting!

Jessica

Thanks for the comprehensive guide! I love Austria and would love to go to Innsbruck one day. Would love to check out the ski jumpers. It looks like such a fascinating sport.

Val

This is such a comprehensive guide, great job! I went to Innsbruck quite a few years ago and have great memories, very pretty town. I missed cable car trip up to the Nordkette mountain though, meaning I will have to go back 🙂

Serena

This is a really comprehensive guide! I’m dying to visit!

Tomeka Allgood

This is one of the best guides I’ve ever read. I loved the views, architecture and art.

unaveronicavagante

Innsbruck has been on my list for quiet a long time now, and every time I see photos, it makes want to go more and more!

Kanika gupta

Very comprehensive blog! This is like one-stop info about Innsbruck.. the photos are beautifully woven into the content too.. great job.

Amrita Sen

Mountains and history both in one place – it is something I would definitely love to visit. Innsbruck looks really beautiful and the guide is quite detailed and comprehensive. I would love to explore the heritage town and go for a hiking!

Aarti

I have never been to Innsbruck yet! this is definitely in my places to see for its natural beauty and for architecture sake! I have heard so much about the views from the cable car.
I do hope you had loads of fun!

Anita

This is such an informative post. I think if I ever go to this place I will find it very useful. I didn’t expect it has so much to offer. I liked the blue boxes with info , that’s a great idea to keep it clear

AMBER

I never went to Innsbruck while I was in that area, I regret it so much after looking at this really awesome post!

Yvette Benhamou

Innsbruck looks so picturesque and regal, and this post is a really comprehensive guide to making the most of a visit. I would love to wander around Old Town and scale a mountain by cable car, and exploring all the ornamentation inherent in the architecture of the churches and palace would keep me busy for days.