This past week we have been on a city break to Innsbruck. Yes. you heard that right, a city break to Innsbruck. Earlier in 2019 husband and I decided we’d like to go somewhere with snow and I always love a mountain. A quick google search later and we discovered that Innsbruck is, in fact, one of the up and coming city break destinations. Add in ridiculously cheap flights, for some reason we never did work out, and we were good to go.
For me the main highlights included the trip up to the top of the Nordkette mountain This involved a ride on the Hungerburg funicular, from the centre of Innsbruck itself and two further cable car rides to take us up to the top of the mountain. The weather whilst we was there was just beautiful and the views at the top made the journey up well worth while. And it was quiet, so very quiet. I had assumed that once we’d left the city centre and hit the ski-ing areas it would become much busier, but it was beautifully serene, with barely a soul to be seen on the ski slopes. We weren’t there to ski, I love it but husband isn’t a fan. Either way, I’m not sure that my back would have been up to the challenge at the moment anyway, so it was best to stick to walking and admiring the views. The walk at the top of the mountain was quite challenging, but well worth it to experience the views across the Karwendal Nature park.
I also loved our train trip into Seefeld which we took on our last day. Just a 30 minute ride out of the centre of Innsbruck and it was like being in another world. I have always loved being up in the mountains since my first school holiday – a ski-ing trip to Italy. This, for me, was paradise. I’d passed through Seefeld once before. 30 years ago, my family went on a coach holiday to somewhere in Austria! After we’d been on the coach from London for about 60 million hours, the first stop was in Seefeld! It was more how I’d remembered Austria, with the Tyrolean chalets. We had a lovely walk around the Wildsee frozen lake and through the town. What I particularly loved about it was how active everyone was. Within the space of 100 yards we saw ice-skating on an outside rink (with real ice, obviously), curling and cross country ski-ing over the golf course. Everyone was there – older people just out to stretch their legs, right through to competitive skiers who were taking it very seriously. It made me sad that we have nothing similar in the UK. We don’t have that general outdoorsy attitude towards life. I appreciate rain soaked Bristol isn’t quite sunny Asutria, but I’m sure more could be make available to enable people to get fit and active. We had a fabulous lunch in a typical Tyrolean cafe, sitting out in the sunshine, surrounded by snow. Just perfect.
Innsbruck itself grew on us. Initially I think we were both a bit underwhelmed by it, not helped by less than perfect accommodation, but it’s definitely a grower. On our first morning we did the good old ‘hop on, hop off’ bus which gave us a great idea of the layout of the city. We stopped off at the Bergisel ski-jump and took the lift up to the very top. My dad was right with his memories of that trip, you do look straight down the jump into the cemetery of. Quite what possesses people to hoist themselves of a small metal seat down a slippery slope into oblivion is quite beyond me – certainly not for the faint-hearted! But well worth the visit just to get an idea of the insanity!
We stopped in a suburb of Innsbruck called Hotting which meant we had a good 20 minute walk or so into town, which we did for several days and provided us with great views of the River Inn and the original buildings of Mariahilf. Eventually we discovered just how easy the bus service was to use and that our Innsbruck Card included free travel on all public transport, which really opened up the city to us. If you do ever visit Innsbruck, I highly recommend getting the Innsbruck card as it is amazing value for money. There are also a number of useful apps, one ‘Innsbruck’ which is basically a tourist guide of the city, but also one for the buses and one for the trains, which were easy to use. My knowledge of the German language is nil, but I found that I was able to navigate my way around them to find out the information I needed.
As ever, we tried as much as we could to find smaller, less touristy places to eat and weren’t disappointed. We had been given to believe that Austria would be expensive when we got there, but we found that it was similarly priced to Bristol, if not a little cheaper, but much of that may be because we actively seek out places to eat that are a little off the beaten track. We ate a fabulous Turkish lunch in the Marktplatz, overlooking the river, which besides having traditional market stalls, also has a range of smaller eateries ranging from pizza to fish and more traditional Austrian food options. I was determined to eat as much authentic Austrian food as I could and wasn’t disappointed. Two restaurants that we particularly enjoyed were Weinhaus Happ and Stiftskeller, where both the service and atmosphere were great. Whilst both are in the more touristy area of the old city, there was a good mix of tourists and locals in both establishments!
Innsbruck has been the home of Swarovski Kristallwelton for 25 years. Swarovski has been producing crystals in Innsbruck since the late 19th century. I have to confess that I’d always assumed they were made in America as that’s where I’d seen most stores and to my mind that was the over the top, shiny market it mostly appealed to. We went along because we had the Innsbruck Card, so the shuttle to Kristallwelton and entrance were included. I wasn’t expecting much from the visit, but as it was included it seemed rude not to give it a try, and anyway, crystals are sparkly so what could go wrong? Like most modern art museums, some of the pieces I really loved. I didn’t quite understand what they meant, even after reading the information, but some were just lost on me. My favourite was walking through the forest – although it was a bit nerve-wracking as you really couldn’t tell where the pathway through was. The Chandelier of Grief of Yoyai Kusama, although lovely, is much like the Northern Lights, the photo I took looks far more dramatic than the reality! I also loved the ‘clouds’ outside. As we had such beautiful weather, they really did sparkle in the sunshine. As you would imagine, there is a shop, a very big shop. At which point I did remember why Swarovski is lost on me. I’m not a dazzly, jewellery sort of girl and it would be fair to say, nothing that they sell is understated! As it was included in the price of our Innsbruck Card, I’m glad that I went, however, I would have been disappointed had I paid full price for the entry tickets.
By the end of the 5 days we spent there, we had fallen in love with Innsbruck and would visit again, especially as there are still parts of the city we’d like to walk around. It was quiet, I’m not sure if that’s because it was January, it was relaxed, it was flat and so easy to walk around, the people were friendly and welcoming and eager to help out where they could. If you’re looking for a different place for a city break, with far fewer tourists than you’d expect, I’d highly recommend a visit. It doesn’t have any ‘wow’ monuments or museums like many other cities, but the overall experience and the atmosphere around the city more than makes up for it. Having said that, what more of a ‘wow’ do you really need than being surrounded by snow capped mountains in every direction that you look.