What are the top things to see in Innsbruck, especially if you have little time? The Innsbruck old town is full of historic and architectural gems. Here is my list of the top 5 things to see in Innsbruck to give you a general impression of the old town. Plan about an hour for just the walk and to take pictures, while 2-3 hours should be enough to go inside the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl), Imperial Palace (Hofburg), Court Church (Hofkirche) or climb the stairs to the top of the City Tower (Stadtturm).
1. Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl)
A balcony with a roof adorned with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles is the biggest attraction in the old town of Innsbruck. The Golden Roof was built around 1500 in the heart of the Gothic old town (known as the Altstadt) by Emperor Maximilian 1. Since then, it has become the symbol of Innsbruck. A visit to the city is incomplete without a photo stop in front of the Golden Roof. For a picture that really captures the capital of the Alps, step back to include the Nordkette mountains in the background. If you have time, why not visit the Golden Roof Museum?
2. Innsbruck City Tower (Stadtturm)
The Innsbruck City Tower is just a stone’s throw from the Golden Roof. Why don’t you get some exercise and climb the 148 stairs to the viewing platform? From here you have a 360-degree view over Innsbruck and surroundings. The Nordkette mountains, Patscherkofel and the Bergisel ski jump are just some of the things you will see. While you are up there, imagine what it must have looked like around 1450 when the first sentries stood guard in the tower.
Read more: Reach an Alpine Peak in 60 minutes with the Nordkette cable car.
3. Innsbruck Imperial Palace (Hofburg) and Court Church (Hofkirche)
As former residence of the Habsburg Dynasty, the Innsbruck Imperial Palace impresses with beautifully painted ceilings and portraits of illustrious imperial personalities, such as Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Maximilian I. The palace was originally built by Archduke Sigmund the Rich in the mid-1400s. Highlights are the Giant’s Hall, the Guard Room and the Hofburg Chapel. The Court Church (Hofkirche) opposite the Imperial Palace is a Gothic church that was built by Emperor Ferdinand I in memory of his grandfather, Maximilian I. Consecrated in 1553, the church is home to the famous Schwarze Mander (Black Men). They are 28 impressive statues of Habsburg relatives and heroes surrounding a black marble cenotaph for Maximilian I. The Court Church also holds the tomb of Andreas Hofer, Tyrol’s national hero.
4. Triumphal Arch (Triumphpforte)
Innsbruck’s own Triumphal Arch spans the southern end of Maria-Theresien Street and tells the story of a wedding and a funeral. The Triumphal Arch was originally commissioned in 1765 by Empress Maria Theresa to commemorate the marriage of their son, the Duke of Tuscany (later to become Emperor Leopold II) to Spanish Princess Maria Ludovica. Sadly, Maria Theresa’s husband Emperor Franz I died during the festivities. Thus the Triumphal Arch ended up depicting the wedding on its southern facade and the mourning of the Emperor on its northern facade.
5. Colourful Houses along the Inn River
End your tour through the old town of Innsbruck with the perfect picture to remember the city by. One of my favourite things to see in Innsbruck is the row of colourful houses against a mountain backdrop along the Inn River on Mariahilstraße. They are best photographed from the Innbrücke (Inn Bridge) or the Marktplatz (Market Square). The Marktplatz is also a good place to sit down to quench your thirst after your walking tour.