7 Unmissable Things To Do In Innsbruck, Austria

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As a wanderer, I’d never say no to a destination like Innsbruck. Similar to other alpine cities like Thun and Lucerne in Switzerland, this historical city offers the kind of experiences we’re looking for, from breathtaking picture-perfect sceneries to interesting beautiful discoveries! Innsbruck is a wander-worthy destination that’s simply hard to resist.

Sure, Innsbruck might not have as many attractions as Vienna or Salzburg. But hey, don’t let that fool you into thinking planning your trip is a piece of cake! When I explored Innsbruck, I discovered a variety of attractions and activities that could easily fill three to four days with fun and adventure. Especially if you’re just popping into Innsbruck for a quick visit, you might find yourself wondering which attractions to fit into your schedule and which ones to save for a future trip.

Truth be told, a single day isn’t sufficient to take in all the highlights of the city, both within and beyond the Old Town. If you’re only in town for a day, there could be a few ways to make the most of your time in Innsbruck. However, if you really want to experience all the must-see attractions and experiences, a minimum stay of two days in Innsbruck is recommended. The city’s breathtaking scenery, adventurous activities, beautiful architecture, and intriguing history are all part of the quintessential Innsbruck experience.

Curious about the must-visit spots and must-do activities in Innsbruck? Here are my top 7 recommendations.

Good to know: these must-see attractions are located within Old Town Innsbruck; others are just a stone’s throw away at the city outskirts. Visiting each attraction is very convenient with the Innsbruck City Card, a single pass that grants you access to these attractions. It also includes unlimited use of all sorts of public transportation within and beyond the city. We’ll discuss more details about this later on.

1. The Golden Roof and the Streets of Old Town Innsbruck

Among the landmarks in Old Town Innsbruck, which, by the way, you can easily explore on foot, the Golden Roof is one you simply can’t miss. It’s the most iconic landmark of the city. Make sure to drop by and take a selfie for a memorable photo souvenir! But don’t just snap a picture and leave. Take time to marvel at the Golden Roof’s intricate design and visit its museum to gain insights about this place.

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Golden Roof in Innsbruck, Austria
Golden Roof
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Check out my mini guide about the Golden Roof for more ideas about this iconic landmark, or you can take a look at its summary below.

Read: Summary of the Golden Roof + How to get there.

Golden Roof — this remarkable 16th-century oriel with a balcony is renowned for its 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles, making it a true gem and an iconic symbol of Innsbruck. Beyond its symbolic significance, the Golden Roof is a must-see attraction because it serves as both a masterpiece of architectural artistry and a direct connection to Innsbruck’s rich history.

The vibrant reliefs and murals adorning the Golden Roof intricately depict various aspects of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as scenes from the lives of Maximilian I and his wife, Bianca Maria Sforza. These stunning artworks were meticulously crafted to commemorate their wedding, and they beautifully portray the royal couple on the face of the Golden Roof. During special events in the city, you can even imagine the presence of Maximilian I and Bianca as they would sit atop the Golden Roof, overseeing the festivities below.

Within the Golden Roof, you’ll also discover a small museum that offers fascinating insights into the life and legacy of Maximilian I, providing a deeper understanding of this historical figure. If you’re interested, you can step inside the Golden Roof and ascend to the balcony, where you can enjoy a similar view that Maximilian I and Bianca once cherished while visiting the museum.

Artifacts inside the Museum of the Golden Roof in Innsbruck, Austria
Artifacts inside the Museum of the Golden Roof

You can find the Golden Roof at the northern corner of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße, which is one of the liveliest streets in Innsbruck, along with Maria-Theresien-Straße. If you’re heading to the Golden Roof from the train station, the best route to take is along these charming streets. Not only are they lined with colorful and stunning buildings on both sides, but they also lead you to two other famous landmarks in Innsbruck: Annasäule and Triumphpforte.

2. Stadtturm and The Overlooking View of Old Town Innsbruck

If you’ve made it to Herzog-Friedrich-Straße to see the Golden Roof, you’re in luck because you’re already on the same street where you can find the entrance to Stadtturm, also known as Innsbruck’s City Tower. It’s a must-visit landmark in Innsbruck for the 360-degree panoramic views of the Old City and that time-transporting feeling of being a medieval guard watching over the city for its safety. The view from the observation deck of this tower also provides an amazing opportunity to gain a unique perspective of the iconic Golden Roof.

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View of the Stadtturm during Christmas time in Innsbruck, Austria
View of the Stadtturm during Christmas time
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Check out my virtual tour of Stadtturm in my article, which provides everything you need to know about Stadtturm. If you’re in a hurry, feel free to glance at the summary below.

Quick summary: Stadtturm + panorama shot of Innsbruck from the tower’s obeservation deck

Stadtturm is a medieval building that stands tall above the street, shaping the skyline of Old Town Innsbruck. With a height of 51 meters, Stadtturm is a sight to behold from most parts of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. Its Renaissance onion-shaped roof adds a touch of timeless charm. Of course, the highlight of a visit to Stadtturm is the breathtaking view it offers from its viewing deck. After climbing the 133-step staircase, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent 360-degree panorama of Innsbruck.

The panoramic view of Nordkette and overlooking view of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße (Christmas time) from Stadtturm, Old Town Innsbruck, Austria
The panoramic view of Nordkette and overlooking view of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße (Christmas time) from Stadtturm

Aside from what I’ve mentioned, from the view deck of Stadtturm, you’ll be treated to more than just a breathtaking view of the Golden Roof. You’ll also have the opportunity to spot three other must-see tourist attractions in Innsbruck: Hofkirche, Innsbruck Cathedral, and, of course, Nordkette. However, if you’ve just finished exploring the Golden Roof Museum and Stadtturm, I highly recommend making your next stop at Hofkirche. Visiting this remarkable place next will provide you with a seamless discovery of Maximilian I.

3. Hofkirche, the Cenotaph of Maximilian I, and the Black Men

Innsbruck, in its own way, is a city full of surprises. The one that caught me off guard the most was Hofkirche, or the Court Church of Innsbruck. This church, despite its modest exterior, is home to some of Tyrol’s most exquisite and significant treasures: the Black Men and the cenotaph of Maximilian I. Trust me, your eyes will feast on these masterpieces the moment they come into view. It’s an experience you simply can’t miss, especially if you’re a traveler on the hunt for hidden gems.

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Breathtaking interior inside Hofkirche, Old Town Innsbruck, Austria
Breathtaking interior inside Hofkirche
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Don’t forget to check out my other post on Hofkirche. It’s got more snapshots of the beautiful interiors and a detailed look at the hidden gems in Hofkirche. If you’re in a bit of a hurry, no worries, just breeze through the summary below.

Summary: More details about Hofkirche + how to get there

Did you know that Emperor Ferdinand I built Hofkirche as a memorial to his grandfather, Maximilian I? That’s why inside Hofkirche, you’ll find the ornate Cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I.

Encircling the cenotaph, you’ll find the extraordinary Bronze statues, also known as the Black Men. These aren’t just statues, they’re masterpieces of historical art that are truly awe-inspiring. Trust me, it’s a sight you don’t want to miss, perhaps, the highlight of visiting Hofkirche? I mean, I was so captivated by the intricate details that I found myself marveling at them for a good half hour! I have a hunch they’ll have the same mesmerizing effect on you too!

The cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I (Hofkirche’s first unique treasure), Old Town Innsbruck, Austria
The cenotaph of Emperor Maximilian I (Hofkirche’s first unique treasure)

While pictures might not do them justice, in person, you’ll be able to appreciate the incredible intricacy of their armor, clothes, and hair. Overall, there are 28 statues of the Black Men. They depict kings and queens from all across Europe, such as Philip I (King of Castile), Arthur (King of Britain), and Elizabeth of Luxembourg (Queen of Germany), these statues bring Maximilian’s relatives and notable historical figures to life.

Looking at the Black Men, you might feel like you’ve been introduced to them personally. But imagine if these statues, which stand a lofty 200 to 250 centimeters tall, were a smidge smaller and colorized. It would be like meeting characters from a history book! Oh, how I wish they were crafted that way!

Anyhow, Hofkirche is just a few minutes away on foot from the Golden Roof or Stadtturm. To get there, simply stroll down Hofgasse, the charming street located to the right of the Golden Roof. Once you reach the end of Hofgasse, continue straight onto Universitätsstraße. That’s where the entrance to the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum is, which serves as the passage to Hofkirche.

4. Cathedral of Saint James and Asam Brothers’ Masterpieces

For remarkable architecture and mesmerizing frescoes and stuccoes, the Cathedral of Saint James, also known as Innsbruck Cathedral, is the place to be. Interestingly, though, Innsbruck Cathedral bears a resemblance to Hofkirche. It also comes with an element of surprise! While the exteriors of this 18th-century Baroque Cathedral may appear simpler compared to other European churches, the true wonder awaits you inside: a marvelous late Baroque masterpiece. It’s an unmissable sight, especially since it was created by the famous Asam Brothers.

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Overwhelming Baroque elaboration inside Innsbruck Cathedral, Old Town Innsbruck, Austria
Overwhelming Baroque elaboration inside Innsbruck Cathedral
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In another post, I talk about the details of the beauty that awaits you inside Innsbruck Cathedral. Alternatively, if you’re in a hurry, the summary below provides a quick insight.

Summary of the things you can expect inside Innsbruck Cathedral + how to go there

Interested in visiting Innsbruck Cathedral? Well, prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking interior adorned with mesmerizing frescoes and intricate stucco works created by the renowned Asam Brothers from Bavaria. The frescoes crafted by Cosmas Damian Asam, the elder of the talented Asam Brothers, left me speechless. They create an optical illusion, ingeniously adding a sense of depth to the domes and ceilings they adorn.

Angels under the pulpit and the harmonious colors of the Innsbruck Cathedral, Old Town Innsbruck, Austria
Angels under the pulpit and the harmonious colors of the Innsbruck Cathedral

Innsbruck Cathedral, like Hofkirche, is a home of another two regional heritage treasures — the Maria Hilf and the tomb of Maximilian III.

The Maria Hilf is a revered religious painting depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and it’s gem for those of faith. Believe it or not, it is one of the most venerated images of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus throughout Christendom. Many love its accurate portrayal of the charm, gentleness, and above all, the regal dignity of the Queen of Heaven. This exquisite portrait can be found at the cathedral’s high altar.

Another point of interest in the cathedral is the tomb of Maximilian III, located in the left transept. Crafted mostly from black marble, it bears a striking resemblance to Hofkirche’s Black Men. And indeed, the tomb is a showcase of intricate details, especially the column supporting the canopy, which features a statue of Maximilian III and Saint George.

If you’re planning a visit, head to Herzog-Friedrich-Straße (parallel to the Golden Roof) and take a left onto Pfarrgasse. A short walk will lead you to Innsbruck Cathedral. By the way, if you’re a fan of architecture and you like visually stunning interiors like those in Innsbruck Cathedral, you’ll definitely want to visit Hofburg. Also known as the Imperial Palace, it’s conveniently located just behind the cathedral. Hofburg was the residence of Emperors and Dukes when Innsbruck held the prestigious position as the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.

5. Nordkette’s Cable Car and Innsbruck’s Panoramic Views

One of the factors that sets Innsbruck apart from other European cities is its beautiful location in the Alps. Nestled in the Inn valley of the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck offers breathtaking views of the mountains wherever you look. This is something other cities don’t have; it’s an opportunity for you to have a unique travel experience, especially if it’s your first time in the Alps… Did you know that Nordkette, Innsbruck’s very own mountain range, is just a funicular ride away from the city? Indeed, with its awe-inspiring views (weather permitting) and easy accessibility, Nordkette alone makes Innsbruck a destination you simply can’t miss.

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Scenery from Hafelekar, Nordkette, Innsbruck, Austria
Scenery from Hafelekar in Nordkette
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Have you already made up your mind to visit Nordkette? Here’s everything you need to know for your trip to Nordkette. Still on the fence? Take a look at the summary below.

Summary: What to expect in Nordkette

In just a few minutes, you can reach Nordkette’s mountain attractions using the efficient train and scenic cable car connections from the city center.

Nordkette offers a variety of experiences, like the Alpine Zoo, the highest zoo in Europe, and restaurants that are a treat for the senses. In the summer, there are amazing hiking trails to explore, and in winter, you can enjoy extensive ski slopes and more. At Nordkette, you’ll also find the highest viewing point in Innsbruck: Hafelekar or Top of Innsbruck. On a clear day, the panoramic view of the Alps with Innsbruck nestled below is a sight you won’t forget. Sometimes, a sea of clouds blankets the Inn Valley, creating a truly magical scene that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

A sea of clouds over Innsbruck as seen from Hafelekar, Nordkette, Innsbruck, Austria
A sea of clouds over Innsbruck as seen from Hafelekar

6. Tirol Panorama Museum and Innsbruck Giant Panorama Painting

While the tranquil beauty of Nordkette is visible even from the streets of the Old Town, you might want to venture to the hilly outskirts of Innsbruck, south of the city, for even more panoramic scenery. This area is well worth exploring, as it’s home to two other must-see attractions in Innsbruck: the Tirol Panorama Museum and Ambras Castle. Of the two, the Tirol Panorama Museum offers an amazing immersive experience in Tyrolean history through a giant artwork, the Innsbruck Giant Panorama Painting, making the museum a destination not to be missed.

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The battle scene in Bergisel depicted by Tirol Panorama Museum, Innsbruck, Austria
The battle scene in Bergisel depicted by Tirol Panorama Museum
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There’s so much to uncover about the Tirol Panorama Museum, and I highly recommend checking out my detailed post about it. But if you’re short on time, you can get the gist from the summary below.

Summary: what to expect in Tirol Panorama Museum

The immersive experience awaits you at the centerpiece of the museum called Innsbruck Giant Panorama Painting — an extraordinary work of art depicting a crucial event in the history of Tyrol: the battle between Napoleonic troops and the Tyrolean rebels led by Andreas Hofer in 1809.

Fascinatingly, the museum is situated in Bergisel, the very same location where the historic battle took place. Seeing Innsbruck Giant Panorama Painting would feel like stepping back in time to the moment where the actual battle is taking place. 

The panorama painting itself spans an impressive 1,000 square meters and is filled with details, including the landscape of Bergisel and the war-torn terrain with bullet-riddled trees, cannons, and bloodshed.  That big of an artwork, you’ll be fully immersed in the scene that seem to evoke a range of emotions

Important: while the panorama is the centerpiece of the exhibits at the Tirol Panorama Museum, there is much more to discover inside. The museum also houses a permanent exhibition that tells the history and life of Tyrol, covering various topics such as religion, nature, and politics.

Cultural and religious exhibits in Tirol Panorama Museum, Innsbruck, Austria
Cultural and religious exhibits in Tirol Panorama Museum

Tip: After your visit to the Tirol Panorama Museum, you might be interested in exploring other tourist attractions in Bergisel. To find more information about these attractions and plan your visit, I recommend checking out the official website of Bergisel, which you can find in the resources section of this post. 

7. Ambras Castle and the First Museum In The World

Innsbruck’s tourist attractions beautifully connect various historical events and remarkable personalities spanning several centuries. However, there is a particular part of Innsbruck’s history that has not only intrigued historians but also inspired artists, writers, and even romantics from around the world. It revolves around the extraordinary love story of Archduke Ferdinand II and Philippine Welser—a tale of forbidden love between royalty and a commoner. This forbidden love ultimately led to the creation of Ambras Castle, which stands today as a must-visit destination in Innsbruck, and for several compelling reasons.

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View of the Spanish Hall and Upper Castle in Ambras Castle, Innsbruck, Austria
View of the Spanish Hall and Upper Castle in Ambras Castle
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Here are the highlights you can expect to see/experience when you visit Ambras Castle. The summary and the reasons why you must visit Ambras Castle are located below.

Summary: the most beautiful and interesting parts of Ambras Castle + tips

Among the various sections of the castle, two, in particular, left me absolutely awe-struck: the Spanish Hall and the upper castle’s courtyard. These two areas stand out as the epitome of artistic beauty within Ambras Castle.

If you visit the upper castle’s courtyard, prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing monochrome murals that beautifully unveil Ferdinand II’s personality. They’re eye-catching at almost every part! On the other hand, I cannot emphasize enough just how extraordinary the Spanish Hall is! Dating back to the 16th century, this hall stands as the grandest room in all of Ambras Castle, truly deserving of its special place.

Mesmerizing view of the Spanish Hall in Ambras Castle, Innsbruck, Austria
Mesmerizing view of the Spanish Hall

Like, every corner of the Spanish Hall treats your eyes to a visual feast. From the allegorical figures and mythological scenes from Antiquity adorning the socle to the magnificent full-body portraits of various Tyrolean Counts that grace the walls of this rectangular hall, there is an abundance of beautiful art to admire.

Apart from the upper castle’s courtyard and Spanish Hall, I’m sure you’ll also like Ambras Castle’s armory, which houses the oldest collection of armor worn by renowned knights. It’s often regarded as the oldest museum in the world. What makes it fascinating is the discovery that even the children of Archduke Ferdinand II and Philippine Welser had their own adorable suits of armor. It’s cool to see how even the little ones were involved in the knightly traditions of the time.

During your visit to Ambras Castle, I highly recommend downloading and using the castle’s smartphone app, which serves as an excellent audio guide. (See links in the resources section) With this app, you can virtually have Philippine Welser and Archduke Ferdinand II as your personal tour guides as they narrate their captivating story while guiding you through the castle.

Is Innsbruck City Card Worth It?

Earlier, I brought up the Innsbruck City Card as a fantastic means to explore the city’s must-see spots.

You might be wondering, what’s this all about? Simply put, the Innsbruck City Card is your golden ticket to the city’s remarkable adventures! As a cardholder, you get to enjoy numerous attractions in Innsbruck and nearby destinations for free or at a discounted rate. With this card, you’ll have complimentary access to Innsbruck’s museums and even get to embark on a thrilling journey up and down the lifts and cable cars in and around the city. In short, An Innsbruck City Card can save you money along your trip!

But, is Innsbruck City Card really worth it?

Before you make a purchase decision, it is important to plan ahead and assess whether the cumulative expenses, including admission fees and transportation fares, for the various attractions you intend to visit outweigh the cost of acquiring the Innsbruck City Card.

Only when the combined expenses of visiting these attractions in Innsbruck exceed the price of an Innsbruck City Card should you proceed with buying it. Typically, the greater the number of tourist attractions you explore in Innsbruck while your Innsbruck City Card is valid, the more potential savings you can enjoy.

You can buy an Innsbruck City Card that’s valid for either 24, 48, or 72 hours, depending on how long you’d stay in the city.

To make the most of Innsbruck City Card, I recommend including a round trip on the cable car to Nordkette and visit as many museums and landmarks in the city as possible. Or, simply, you can visit all the 7 tourist attractions in this list of unmissable things to do in Innsbruck.

Apparently, one day isn’t enough to visit all the unmissable tourist attractions in Innsbruck. So, you’ll need to stay for 2 days in the city and an Innsbruck City Card that’s valid for 2 days.

The last time I checked, an Innsbruck City Card that’s valid for 2 days (48 hours) costs 63 EUR. Let me show you how you can save 70 EUR using Innsbruck City Card for visiting Innsbruck’s must-visit attractions. The screenshots of the cost calculator are taken from the official website of Innsbruck Tourism.

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Savings using Innsbruck City Card
Savings using Innsbruck City Card
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Huge savings, right!? So, get your Innsbruck City Card now! 😀

Resources

And that concludes our list of must-do activities and must-visit places in Innsbruck. I hope you find this post both informative and beneficial for your upcoming trip to Innsbruck. As promised, I’ve included the links below to help you make the most of your visit.

If you’re still looking for a place to stay during your Innsbruck adventure, I’ve got you covered. Here’s where you can find the best hotel deals in Innsbruck. It’s my go-to tool for hotel search and booking. If you could use this affiliate link to secure your Innsbruck accommodation, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which will support me and this blog to continue to create valuable content like this. A huge thank you in advance for your support!

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Finished with Innsbruck and still hearing the call of the mountains? Consider other alpine gems in Austria and Germany. Salzburg is a great next stop, and from there, you can easily take day trips to places like Berchtesgaden. Don’t miss out on other day excursions from Salzburg too, such as the charming towns of Hallstatt and St. Gilgen.

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