If Innsbruck is the capital of the Alps, then the Nordkette mountain is the jewel of the Alps. With the Innsbruck cable car, called the Nordkettenbahnen, you can stand on one of its peaks within an hour from leaving the city centre. This guide tells you everything you need to know about the trip up the mountain.
The Nordkette mountain range makes a powerful and lasting first impression no matter how you arrive in Innsbruck. Its presence is what ultimately defines the city. Nordkette literally means the north chain, referring to the range of mountains just north of Innsbruck and the Inn Valley in Tyrol. The Nordkette is part of the Karwendel mountains which make up the largest nature reserve in Austria.
The Innsbruck cable car trip that takes you from the city centre to the Hafelekar on top of the Nordkette is broken up into 3 stages. This guide will tell you where to go and what to expect of the Nordkette cable cars.
Nordkette Cable Car Price
Return trip Innsbruck to Hafelekar – €34,50 per adult, €20,70 per child
Return trip Innsbruck to Seegrube – €31,10 per adult, €18,60 per child
Return trip Innsbruck to Hungerburg – €9,00 per adult, €5,40 per child
Different rates apply for seniors and youth/students. Find the complete breakdown of the Innsbruck cable car prices here.
Where to Buy Tickets
There are manned ticket offices at the Congress and Hungerburg stations. All the other stations have ticket machines where you can only pay by credit or debit card. Or you can click here to conveniently buy your tickets online before your trip.
I think it’s fair to say the Nordkette cable car prices aren’t cheap. That’s why it may be a good idea to invest in the Innsbruck Card and the Freizeitticket Tirol (only for residents of Tyrol). You get direct access to the cable cars with these tickets. The Innsbruck Card is valid for one return trip. However, you can break it up into stages if you want to stop and visit the Alpenzoo for example.
Read more: The ultimate Innsbruck sightseeing guide
Stage 1 — Innsbruck Congress (560m) to Hungerburg (860m) via Löwenhaus and Alpenzoo
The Hungerburg funicular departs from the Congress station just down the road from the Imperial Palace in Rennweg (see map below) for the first stage of the Nordkette cable car trip. You can’t miss the modern design by architect Zaha Hadid. Inspired by Alpine glaciers, she designed all four the bottom stations of the Nordkettenbahnen.
The Löwenhaus station on the banks of the Inn River is reached within a few minutes after leaving the Congress. From here, the next stop is the Alpenzoo (750m), with the Hungerburg after that. It’s possible to disembark at the Alpenzoo for a visit to Europe’s highest-lying zoo and continue your journey up or down the Nordkette later.
The Hungerburg funicular leaves every 15 minutes. For the best views, try to get room in the front compartment (the furthest away from the tunnel when you leave the Congress station).
Operating Times – 7:15 to 19:15 from Monday to Friday and 8:00 to 19:15 on weekends and public holidays.
Stage 2 — Hungerburg to Seegrube (1905m)
The cable car leaving for Seegrube is in a different building from where you disembark when arriving in Hungerburg from Innsbruck. Looking towards the mountain, it is across the Herman Buhl square in the big white building next to the restaurant on your left.
You have time for a few quick photos of the views before waiting in line for the next stage of your Innsbruck cable car trip. It’s one big car with mostly standing room and can get quite full. On busy days, it may happen that you must wait for the next car.
Operating Times – Daily from 8:30 to 17:30.
- If you have time to explore the Hungerburg, the Small Cable Railway Museum (free entry) and the Theresien Church are worth a visit.
Stage 3 — Seegrube to Hafelekar (2256m)
Stepping out of the Innsbruck cable car at the Seegrube station, you can either go left towards the restaurant and enjoy the views from the terrace or go right to continue your journey to Hafelekar.
Operating Times – Daily from 09:00 to 17:00
- If you do decide to pause before leaving for Hafelekar, you can either sit and relax with a hot cuppa or cold something (depending on the weather and your taste!) at the Seegrube restaurant. Or you can work up an appetite by doing the short circular hike around the Seegrube or the short and easy walk to a huge rock which the locals call a “relax zone”.
Final destination — Hafelekarspitze (2334m)
You made it all the way to 2256m above sea level by cable car. Now you might as well let your legs take you a further 78m to the Hafelekarspitze. It only takes 15 minutes and it may be the only summit you will ever climb! You ‘ll be sorry when you get home without a picture at the summit cross. Besides, the 360° view will let you see all the way to Italy in the south and Germany to the north. The barren landscape behind the Hafelekar station is in stark contrast to the fertile Inn Valley and green mountain slopes to the front.
The Hafelekar is the start of several summer hikes. These include the Goethe trail to the Gleirschspitze, the Mandlspitze, the Gleirschtaler Brandjoch saddle or the Rumer Spitze.
Fast Facts and Tips About the Nordkette
- The claim that the Innsbruck cable car whisks you up the mountain in 20 minutes, is a bit misleading. This might get you to Seegrube if you don’t have to wait long for the funicular to arrive at the Congress station. Generally, you should allow at least 45 minutes to get from Innsbruck to Hafelekar.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. It’s no use travelling all the way up the mountain for the views if you are going to be trapped in clouds. And don’t forget to take something warm. Temperatures can drop quite dramatically in a short space of time. If there is a breeze on the mountain, you will be happy if you have something to cover your ears.
- For spectacular sunsets and starry night skies, visit the Seegrube on a Friday evening when the Innsbruck cable car runs from 18:00 to 23:30. Take note these times only apply to the section between Hungerburg and Seegrube. After 19:15, you must walk, take a bus, or call a taxi to get back to Innsbruck if you don’t have a car parked at the Hungerburg.
- Save some money by walking to and from the Alpenzoo and Hungerburg from Innsbruck. Find your way to the bridge over the Inn at Löwenhaus, from where the trail is clearly marked. Or park your car at the Hungerburg (the parking is a bit cheaper than in Innsbruck) and take the Nordkette cable car from there.
- The Nordkette is home to a variety of winter and summer sports, including skiing, mountain biking, paragliding and rock climbing.
- Find out what it’s like to have a drink in a real igloo at the Seegrube in winter. The Cloud 9 Igloo Bar is open daily from 09:00 to 16:00 as well as Friday evenings from the end of December to April.
The map gives you an idea of your trip with the Innsbruck cable car, all the way from the city to the Hafelekarspitze.
- Looking for more inspiration for things to see and do in Innsbruck? Read why you should also visit the Bergisel museum and ski jump.
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