Innsbruck might not be top of your radar. Especially if you’re not the winter sport type. But the multi-coloured capital of Tyrol is one of Europe’s best somewhat hidden gems. And a definite addition to your bucket list.
In winter, Innsbruck becomes a landing pad for skiers and snowboarders who spend their days on the slopes. But in summer, the city pops.
Try and find a displeasing view – it’s simply not possible. Face any direction and you’re rewarded with scenes of jagged mountain tops and lush greenery that frame the pastel painted buildings and historic Old Town.
And there’s plenty to keep you amused. From one of the highest zoos in Europe to classic city break attractions. Here’s your guide to Innsbruck in summer, including the best things to do and how to plan your trip.
Where is Innsbruck?
Located in western Austria’s Tyrol region, Innbruck sits within the Inn Valley surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Nordkette mountain range.
Straight through the centre runs the River Inn, supplying clear, glacial water to 40 nearby villages such as Kühtai and Igls. It’s one of Austria’s biggest cities yet still holds a small-town feel.
Getting to Innsbruck
Innsbruck has its own airport, located just 2.5 miles from the city centre. It’s easily reached by bus in 20 minutes (costing just €2) or taxi.
If coming from another destination, the Innsbruck Railway Station is within walking distance of the Town Square. Austria is extremely well connected by train (and worth it for some of the most scenic routes in Europe) so a trip to Innsbruck pairs wonderfully with a few days in Salzburg, Munich or Switzerland.
A personal note...
I reached Innsbruck after a 9 hour train journey from Graz in the Panoramic First Class carriage that carries on to Zurich. It was one of my favourite journey’s I’ve taken, and a definite highlight of my trip around Austria.
Summer weather in Innsbruck
In the summer months, Innsbruck tends to range between 19°C and 25°C, with nights cooling off to 7-13°C. July and August are the warmer months but also have a slightly higher chance of rain than the shouldering months of May and September.
A personal note...
I visited in early July, and luckily experienced a few warm days with a slightly cool breeze. There was however a spot of rain and lack of visibility in the mountains – so make sure to check the webcams before heading up!
How many days do you need in Innsbruck?
To see the city centre and main sights, you only really need 1-2 days in Innsbruck. But if you want to explore the surrounding areas and get up into the mountains, you’ll want at least 2-4 days.
Top things to do in Innsbruck
With mountains to hike, bike and climb, there’s plenty of activities to get stuck into in Innsbruck.
But you don’t have to be outdoorsy to fully appreciate what the alpine city has to offer. With many attractions in the city and surrounding areas, there’s enough things to do to entertain all ages.
The best way to see everything the city has to offer is with the Innsbruck City Card. From £47.60 per person, you can get entry to every museum, the Imperial Palace, Swarovski Crystal Worlds, the Alpine Zoo and various cable cars. Plus discounts, free public transport and unlimited rides on the city’s hop-on and hop-off bus tour. A huge saving for those who don’t want to miss out.
1. Ride the Nordkette cable cars
The Nordkette nature park is the largest in Austria, offering striking views from three different points on the mountain. Take the Nordkettenbahn cable car from the Congress lift station in the city centre where you can ride two cable cars and a funicular to the ‘Top of Innsbruck’ that sits at 2,334m high, otherwise known as the Hafelekar peak or top of the Nordkette.
Along the way you’ll pass the Hungerburg area with panoramic views of the valley as well as the Seegrube, a restaurant and panorama trail located 1,905m above sea level.
Tickets for various routes are available in advance or at the station, ranging from €11.40 to €44 depending on where you’d like to ascent to peak.
Check out the webcams before visiting. On my mid-morning visit in July, the view from Hungerburg was beautiful, but any further up, we were limited in visibility. It was still a worthy trip for the surrealness of being immersed in a cloud, but there were limited glimpses of the city from Seegrube.
2. Visit the Alpine Zoo
Another stop on the Nordkette cable car route is the Alpine Zoo, a family-friendly attraction with over 150 different species of animals. As the highest-altitude zoo in Europe, you can expect a range of alpine creatures including brown bears, otters and eagles.
With its own station, it’s very easy to reach using the Hungerburg Funicular. You can also take the bus or enjoy a short walk from the city on a summer’s day.
3. Check out the Golden Roof
The Golden Roof, or Goldenes Dachl, is one of Innsbruck’s top attractions. Stroll into the Old Town and you won’t miss it. There’s plenty of people taking photographs to draw your attention.
Built between 1497 and 1500, its 2,657 copper shingles and golden decoration shine in the sunlight. Whilst a museum tells the story of the building’s unique history.
The Golden Roof is open and free to view from the outside. The museum is €5.30 for adults, and is open Monday – Sunday 10am – 5pm (closed on Mondays from October until April)
4. Gaze at the St. James Cathedral
The majestic Innsbruck Cathedral towers over the city’s coloured terraces and is a sight to behold inside and out. You’ll first experience the sound of the bells that ring daily at noon, but make sure to step within to witness the high baroque ceiling frescoes that depict the life of St. James.
Entrance to the Cathedral is free but it costs €1 for a photo pass. There are vending machines for photo tickets inside the main entrance.
Opening hours depend on the season. In summer the Cathedral is open 10.15am – 6.30pm Monday to Saturday, and 12.30pm – 6.30pm on Sundays.
5. Bergisel Ski Jump
If you want to experience Innsbruck’s skiing culture in summer, the Bergisel Ski Jump is a must visit. The architectural masterpiece combines a ski jump tower, panoramic elevator and restaurant with 360 degree views of the city. Here you can catch international athletes in training as well as the annual Four Hills Tournament.
Open during summer from June until October, Monday to Saturday 9am – 6pm. Entrance fees are €11 for adults or take advantage of the Bergisel Sky Breakfast deal which includes entrance for €21.50.
6. Visit the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace in Innsbruck, otherwise known as the Hofburg, is a famed museum and former 18th century residence. Wander the state rooms, Hall of Giants, chapel and imperial apartments for a unique glimpse into the royal lavish lifestyle of the former Habsburg Dynasty.
An adult ticket costs €9.50 available online or at the Palace entrance. It’s open daily from 9am – 5pm.
7. Stroll along the Maria-Theresien-Strasse
The Maria-Theresien-Strasse is Innsbruck’s most famous street with a 700 year history. Here you can shop, dine and drink among the striking Baroque architecture whilst stopping to admire key historic monuments such as St. Anne’s Column and the Triumphal Arch.
a personal note...
We paused for a sunny afternoon on one of the street’s alfresco cafés to read, drink wine spritzers and people watch in the city. A delightful way to spend a few hours in Innsbruck.
8. Shop for spirits and souvenirs
As you reach the end of Maria-Theresien-Strasse, you’ll enter a narrower maze of cobbled streets packed with shops, restaurants and bars. Here’s a great place to stock up on presents and souvenirs such as sheepskin slippers, cow bells and cuckoo clocks.
Don’t miss a trip to Tirol Geniessen where you can sample a number of regional spirits that decorate the walls. Simply tell them your favourite flavours and you’ll be presented with a shot to sample before picking a chosen one to be hand-bottled.
9. Visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds
Located 20 km outside the centre of Innsbruck is one of the region’s most popular attractions. Perfect for jewellery lovers and rainy days, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds is an immersive exhibition, with 18 Chambers of Wonder, a famed grass giant and turning carousel.
The museum is open daily from 9am – 7pm. Adult tickets cost €23, available online or at the museum. Shuttle buses are available five times per day from Innsbruck city centre to the museum and back for €11.
Outdoor activities to do in Innsbruck
The dramatic mountains and green valley surrounding Innsbruck is abundant with space to get out in the open. Hikes are an obvious choice, with plenty of trails ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days. The city also offers a free summer active programme for guided hikes and e-bike tours.
Where to eat and drink in Innsbruck
Gasthaus Goldenes Dachl
Nextdoor to the famous Golden Roof is a traditional Tyrolean guesthouse serving classic dishes and excellent beer. It’s a popular tourist spot, so the food isn’t necessarily the best in the city, but it’s a great spot to sip a drink after a day on your feet.
Stiftskeller beer garden
An Austrian beer garden is a must-try experience. It helps if you like beer (you can drink from a ginormous tankard if you’re feeling thirsty) but no problem if you don’t. Order a traditional meal of Wiener Schnitzel or Käsespätzle (a sort of macaroni and cheese) and get stuck into Austrian culture.
The beer garden is packed on weekends. Get there early to avoid queuing, particularly for larger groups. The staff will be rushed off their feet but service is fast and the food delicious!
Ever eaten on top of a mountain? How about a jazz brunch? Dining at Seegrube is definitely one of the more unique things to do in Innsbruck.
The cosy Tyrolean restaurant is open year-round and offers incredible views over the city on clear days from 1,905m above sea level. Dine inside or out on the terrace for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are also various events including live-music brunches on Sundays in July and August.
seegrube live jazz brunch: mini review...
The live music brought a lively vibe to a buffet breakfast in the clouds. Quite literally – it was a cloudy day and the visibility was limited, so we didn’t exactly experience the alfresco brunch with a view that we’d hoped for. Part of me was glad as the table we were seated at was furthest from the windows, but closer to the selection of food which was varied and pretty good. 10/10 in terms of expectations, 7/10 in reality.
With Italy as a neighbour, it’s not surprising to find a vast collection of Italian restaurants across Austria. So if you fancy something other than schnitzel and strudel, make sure to pull up a chair for pasta or pizza.
Mamma Mia is just one of the Italian eateries in Innsbruck, but it’s the one I dined at. The burrata sourdough was excellent and a Hugo cocktail even better. Accompanied by an alfresco setting near the river.
Austrian meat and carbs but in burger form. Ludwig is the place to grab a burger in Innsbruck. Made using Tyrolean meat and tons of exciting toppers from cranberries to pulled pork.
As a party of 2, we had no luck getting a table on a Saturday evening so make sure to book ahead.