Visiting Hafelekar, Top of Innsbruck, in Nordkette (A Guide)

Blog Design Upper Separator

Visiting Innsbruck involves a variety of new experiences and discoveries, but the time spent in the mountains is undoubtedly the best part of the trip. As someone who has witnessed the beauty of the mountains, I can assure you it’s an experience you won’t forget — weather permitting!

With Innsbruck literally surrounded by mountains, you might be asking yourself, ‘Where should I go from Innsbruck?’ There are numerous choices. You’ve got Seefeld and Mayrhofen in Tirol, Karwendel near Mittenwald, and even Zugspitze near Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany. But if you’re looking for a simple, easy day trip, Nordkette is your best bet.

Nordkette is the nearest mountain range to Innsbruck; the one you can see north of the city, and also the closest to the city. In fact, you can go straight to Nordkette from Old Town Innsbruck! Its funicular station is within walking distance from the landmarks of Old Town Innsbruck like the Hofburg (Imperial Palace), Hofkirche (Court Church), and Innsbruck Cathedral. If you climb the Stadtturm (City Tower), Nordkette is the mountain range in the backdrop of the city as you look towards Innsbruck’s iconic Golden Roof.

Given its close proximity to Innsbruck and easy accessibility, much like Ambras Castle and the Tirol Panorama Museum, it’s a no-brainer to include Nordkette in your Innsbruck visit itinerary. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a two-day stay, Nordkette is worth considering. So, let’s dive into how you can make the most of your trip to Nordkette!

Expectations

9
10

When I first planned a day trip to Nordkette from Innsbruck, I was confused by three names: Hafelekar, Top of Innsbruck, and Nordkette. To save you from the same confusion, let me clarify:

  1. Nordkette refers to a group of mountains in Austria, located north of Innsbruck. You can reach these mountains by taking a funicular and then a cable car from the city center of Innsbruck.
  2. Hafelekar, on the other hand, is the final stop on the cable car ride up Nordkette and represents the highest point you can reach via the cable car.
  3. Lastly, the term ‘Top of Innsbruck’ is simply another name for Hafelekar.

All in all, if there’s one thing that’s truly worth it when visiting Nordkette, it’s the view from Hafelekar. The sight of the Austrian Alps is simply breathtaking. I believe it’s the best part, and everyone, especially first-time visitors to the Alps, should experience it.

What makes visiting Nordkette even more exciting is that Nordkette has so much more to offer. If you’re staying in Innsbruck for a few days and have a day to explore the mountains, there are other things in Nordkette that you might enjoy. Besides sightseeing in Hafelekar, hiking in the summer, and skiing in the winter, Nordkette is where you’ll find Alpenzoo Innsbruck, the Little Cable Car Museum, and Restaurant Seegrube — the three other highlights of Nordkette.

As a wanderer, I didn’t find the zoo and museum that interesting. But they might be fun for families.

Alpenzoo Innsbruck has thousands of alpine animals from about 150 species. Kids will probably love seeing the Alpine Ibex with their cool curvy horns, cute otters, and mysterious-looking wolves. The zoo is really big and has great views from the trails. You could spend a couple of hours exploring it all.

The Little Cable Car Museum shows how Nordkettenbahn has changed over the years. It’s like a trip down memory lane. The most interesting thing there is a copy of the first gondola that was used on the Nordkettenbahn. If you have extra time, it’s a good place to visit, mainly because it’s free.

For everyone, the fancy Seegrube Restaurant is a great place to enjoy Tyrolean Cuisine while taking in the mountain scenery. I’m not a food expert, so I can’t comment much on the meals offered at this restaurant. But as far as the scenery is concerned, this is my take: The views are wonderful but not as spectacular as what you can see from different mountaintop restaurants in the Swiss Alps, particularly in the Jungfrau Region. One worth mentioning is the charming restaurant in Harder Kulm, which is one of the beautiful places near Interlaken.

Note: Yet, this doesn’t mean that Seegrube Restaurant is a hard pass! They have special offers for a memorable visit to Nordkette, such as “Panoramic Breakfast” and “Fondue Night.” You can seize these opportunities to make your trip to Innsbruck unique and memorable. More information at the resources section of this post.

Getting to Hafelekar

When it comes to complexity, getting from Old Town Innsbruck to Hafelekar in Nordkette is pretty straightforward. There’s no need to navigate a web of public transport connections. It’s a simple three-step journey involving one funicular ride and two cable car rides, all on a single line of transportation.

There are six stations in total, starting from the Old City and ending at Hafelekar: Congress, Löwenhaus, Alpenzoo, Hungerburg, Seegrube, and Hafelekar.

  • The first four stations (Congress, Löwenhaus, Alpenzoo, and Hungerburg) are serviced by a funicular train, the Hungerburgbahn.
  • The Hungerburg, which is at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level, and Seegrube, at 1905 meters above sea level, are connected by the cable car line Seegrubebahn.
  • Finally, the Hafelekarbahn connects Seegrube to Hafelekar, which is at an altitude of 2,256 meters above sea level.

Below is the step by step instructions to get to Hafelekar from Old Town Innsbruck:

  1. Begin your journey in Old Town Innsbruck and head to the Hungerburgbahn Congress Station. There, you can catch a funicular ride to Hungerburg. Good to know: it is a modern funicular railway service which quickly whisks you away to the closest attractions in Nordkette in under 10 minutes. Located on Rennweg, this station is just a short five-minute stroll from the Golden Roof or a stone’s throw away from Hofburg. If you like to visit Alpenzoo, you got to disembark at its own station before you reach Hungerburg.
  2. When you get to Hungerburg, you can keep going to Hafelekar by taking the Seegrubebahn cable car to Seegrube. While in this station, you can visit the Cable Car Museum and a panoramic terrace that already provides a sweeping view of Innsbruck. You’ll also find cafes here, like Cafe/Bar Hungerburg and Cafe/Pension Alpina.
  3. Once you reach Seegrube, you might want to take a break from your journey to Hafelekar to check out some side attractions (availability may vary by season). While you’re in this part of Nordkette, there are a few viewpoints like Sonnenterrasse that are worth a quick stop. You’ll also find the Zauberteppich Kid’s Area (also known as the “magic carpet”), the Nordkette souvenir shop, the Nordkette Skyline Park (a snow park), the Cloud 9 Iglu Bar, and a ski & snowboard school with ski rentals. Of course, Seegrube Restaurant is quickly accessible from this station.
  4. Finally, after you’ve finished at Seegrube, take the Hafelekarbahn up to Hafelekar and soak in the stunning view! Remember, there are hiking trails connecting Seegrube and Hafelekar. If you have ample time to explore Nordkette, these trails offer a great way to travel between the two stations.

In total, a non-stop journey from Innsbruck to Hafelekar would take approximately 45 minutes — one way. By the way, when you hear the term Nordkettenbahnen from someone, it’s just referring to the combination of the Seegrubenbahn and Hafelekarbahn.

Good to know: If you have an Innsbruck City Card, you don’t have to worry about individual tickets for each cable car and funicular ride. This golden pass covers them, as well as other museums, attractions, and transportation services in the city. However, if you prefer not to use the Innsbruck City Card and you just want to visit certain parts of Nordkette or a few attractions there, you have the option to buy separate/combo tickets like the Hungerburg funicular roundtrip ticket, Nordkette roundtrip cable car tickets, or the Alpenzoo + Top of Innsbruck Combo ticket. Alpine Zoo admission tickets can be bought separately.

Great tip: Planning to stay in Innsbruck for a few days and visit as many city attractions as possible? Consider the Innsbruck City Card instead of individual tickets. It’s a great way to achieve significant savings.

Is It Worth Visiting?

Before you set off for Nordkette, there’s an important thing to keep in mind. Nordkette is truly worth the visit only if the weather forecast predicts clear skies. This means there are no clouds obscuring the viewpoints in Nordkette. If clouds envelop Hafelekar, it’s not worth the trip up there. The view would be nothing more than a wall of fog if the weather isn’t favorable. However, if it’s a sunny day, make Nordkette your top priority! It’s your opportunity to witness truly awe-inspiring views, and that’s a guarantee!

Here’s a handy tip: Nordkette has a live camera that lets you check out the current view from various viewpoints on the mountain. This broadcast will help you decide whether it’s worth heading to Nordkette on the day of your visit to Innsbruck. See the link in the resources section.

Get a sneak peek of the stunning scenery from various viewpoints in Nordkette during ideal weather conditions! Have a look.

9
10

While the view from Nordkette might not rival the breathtaking vistas of Switzerland, such as the Lauterbrunnen Valley seen from Wengen or the 360-degree panorama from Mount Pilatus near Lucerne, it’s undeniably still a sight to behold. Especially when you catch sight of the sea of clouds blanketing the valley where Innsbruck lies, it’s like stepping into heaven! It’s a moment you won’t forget.

This sea of clouds phenomenon isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it’s typically present in the early morning. Here’s something to note: if there’s an overcast in Innsbruck or it’s foggy, don’t automatically rule out a trip to Hafelekar. Sometimes, the low elevation overcast is a sign that there’s a sea of clouds beneath Hafelekar. To be sure, check out the live camera broadcast. 🙂

Visiting Information

Nordkette is a stunning destination in Innsbruck that offers incredible experiences all year round. Whether you’re visiting during the vibrant spring season, the warm summer months, the colorful autumn foliage, or the serene winter wonderland, Nordkette never fails to captivate visitors with its natural beauty.

However, it’s essential to be aware of the closed inspection dates for Nordkettenbahnen and Hungerburgbahn. These dates are set aside for maintenance and typically occur during the last week of each visiting season. To ensure a seamless visit, it’s recommended to plan your trip accordingly, avoiding the maintenance periods that usually fall in the last week of April and the second week of November.

For updated schedules, please refer to the official website of Nordkette, which is linked in the resources section of this post.

If you’re interested in the regular operation of the funicular trains and cable cars, the Hungerburgbahn funicular trains run every 15 minutes. On weekdays, they operate from 07:15 am to 07:15 pm. On weekends and holidays, the schedule extends from 08:00 am to 07:15 pm. This frequent service provides convenient transportation to and from Nordkette.

In addition, the Seegrubenbahn and Hafelekarbahn cable cars also operate at 15-minute intervals, too. The Seegrubenbahn runs from 08:30 am to 05:30 pm, offering a breathtaking journey to the Seegrube station. From there, you can ascend further to the Hafelekar station via the Hafelekarbahn, which operates from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.

By familiarizing yourself with these operation hours and frequencies, you can optimize your visit to Nordkette and fully enjoy your time exploring this magnificent alpine destination.

How Much Time?

If you’re an adventurer at heart like me, I’m sure you’ll find yourself devoting a day to exploring Nordkette during your Innsbruck visit. After all, who could resist the allure of the stunning scenery while hiking the trails?

In fact, Hafelekar and Nordkette can serve as the starting point for more mountain adventures in the Karwendel Nature Park. However, it’s recommended for all visitors to set aside roughly half a day to fully immerse themselves in the Nordkette experience. This includes sightseeing at each station and an hour-long round trip that includes the Hungerburgbahn funicular ride, Seegrubenbahn, and Hafelekarbahn cable car rides, taking into account the time spent in queues.

More Tips

To make the most of your visit to Nordkette in Innsbruck, here are some helpful tips and reminders. 

  • First, check the weather forecast: Before heading up, it’s important to check the weather forecast. Clear days provide the best visibility, enhancing your overall experience. Plan your visit accordingly to avoid cloudy or unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Second, (and again) save with the Innsbruck City Card: Consider getting the Innsbruck City Card, which covers the fees for the funicular and cable car rides. This card offers a cost-effective way to enjoy Nordkette and other attractions in Innsbruck. Take advantage of the savings and make your trip even more enjoyable.
  • Third, dress appropriately: As you ascend to higher altitudes, the temperature can drop significantly. It’s essential to dress in layers and bring a jacket or coat to stay warm. Comfortable shoes are also recommended, as you may want to explore the area around the summit.
  • Fourth, avoid peak times for better views: The cable cars can get crowded, particularly during peak hours. To maximize your chances of enjoying unobstructed views, plan your visit during less busy times. Waiting for a less crowded car can make your journey more comfortable
  • Lastly, explore the amenities and activities: Take your time to explore the various amenities and activities available at Nordkette. Stop by the snow bar, Cloud 9, to savor a hot chocolate or other refreshments while marveling at the scenery. During winter, don’t miss the chance to visit the ice cave and the outdoor snow bar for a unique experience.

Resources

That wraps up the essential information you need to know before visiting Nordkette. If you’re interested in diving deeper into what Nordkette has to offer, you can begin with the resources provided below. In case you missed it, here’s where you can find the prices for various passes and combination tickets to visit Nordkette.

Planning to stay in Innsbruck for a few days or even longer? I’d like to recommend the platform I always use for finding and booking hotels, which is also a partner of mine. What I love about it are the fantastic accommodation deals it offers, such as free cancellation and membership points. Please note that this is an affiliate link. If you make a booking through it, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This greatly assists WanderInEurope in creating more useful content like this. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Blog Design Related Posts

For more ideas about Innsbruck, check out its unmissable attractions, the beautiful discoveries to be made here, and other scenic spots like Nordkette. These resources will help you make the most of your trip to Innsbruck.

Blog Design Save to Pinterest
Blog Design Curly Divider

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *