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Breathe in the warming spicy scents, hug your hands around a steaming mug of gluhwein, and allow yourself to melt into the festive spirit at one of Innsbruck’s Christmas markets. Austria is famed for being an all around pro at all things seasonal, and the markets in this city never fail to raise Christmas cheer. One of the best and most traditional takes place in front of the iconic “Golden Roof”—a building gifted by the Emporer to his wife in Austria’s Imperial days—and sees clusters of wooden stalls selling a variety of handcrafted treats and trinkets and serving a variety of homemade dishes.
It’s hard to choose between city breaks and country getaways and Innsbruck offers its visitors both. The city has a modest yet interesting cultural scene, with many museums, galleries and, just a short distance away, you can be submerged in meadows and forests. The area surrounding the city contains many gorgeous little villages that can be easily reached for day-trips—try Rum, Kematen, Völs, or Zirl.
In 1964 and 1976, Innsbruck hosted the winter Olympics, and the city has always been a honeypot for snow sport junkies. Skiers flock to the surrounding Alps for weeks of gliding down perfect mountains and hikers populate the many mountainous trails. One of the most frequently visited resorts around the city is the Patscherkofel region in the Alps, and 1,400 meters above Innsbruck and the Hafelekar Run is one of the steepest ski runs in Europe.
Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, the Nordkette cable car lifts you high into the sky and into the wilderness, giving unobscured panoramic views of awe-inspiring Alpine landscapes that hug the city. Located in the center of Innsbruck, the journey takes you across unique views of the city below and then transforms over time to become idyllic countryside.
Although the capital city of Vienna is a must-visit destination when exploring Austria, around the peak months it becomes rammed with tourists. Innsbruck is the perfect place to visit if you want peace and tranquility, or a city break without the chaos.
The vast, sprawling market, Markthalle, on the banks of the Inn has been in existence since 1406. Here, you’ll discover local farmers selling regional fruit and vegetables and a variety of more modern stands. Must-try foods include the Tirol-style sausages, red venison bacon, faschingskrapfen (warm doughnuts), or nut or apple filled strudel. Or, try one of the many fantastic restaurants on offer.
Although popular in the winter, the summer months in Innsbruck are equally as beautiful. Take an amble through Inn Valley, a horseback ride, or a mountain bike tour on the beautiful Nordkette. Swimmers should head to Freibad Tivoli, one of Innsbruck’s public outdoor swimming pools, or the bathing lake in Rossau for a cooling splash on sunny days.
One of the earliest signs of life in Innsbruck is connected to the Roman Fortress which once stood near the River, and it is believed that during this period, the Central Alps and Alpine foothills were combined to form the Province of Raetia. Developing over time to become an important Imperial powerhouse, Emporer Maximilian I erected the “Golden Roof” in the Old Town as a monument dedicated to his wife.
Hiking is a great way to experience Innsbruck and become acquainted with its awe-inspiring natural surroundings. The many trails in the outskirts of the city (here are 50 of the best routes) take you around a variety of stunning landscapes—glittering rivers, soaring mountains, and some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see. The Arzler Alm to Hoettinger Alm is a favorite route, leading you through thick forests and lush meadows.
Although not famed for being a cultural powerhouse, Innsbruck does have a modest yet intriguing art scene. The annual ART Innsbruck fair, held at the city hall, is the second largest art fair in the whole of Austria, seeing over 60 exhibitioners present their work. Although it may not have as much as a reputation for being a cultural hot spot yet, there are some excellent galleries to explore with a colorful range of Austrian and international works. The Galerie Bernd Kugler is one of the most innovative, attracting a young crowd.