Field Guide: Innsbruck

Surrounded by towering mountains, historic Innsbruck is the bustling capital city of Austria's Tyrol region, a perfectly situated urban launchpad for mountain sports and outdoor adventures.

13th May 2019 | Words by Hayley Maguire

Innsbruck is a true alpine city - an internationally renowned winter sports centre, attracting top athletes and sporting events from around the world.

Nestled in a valley between the Karwendel Alps and the Patscherkofel and Serles mountains, Innsbruck is a true alpine city - an internationally renowned winter sports centre, attracting top athletes and sporting events from around the world. Locals embrace an alpine lifestyle within this metropolitan of settings. Adventure seekers and active sport enthusiasts flock to the region, whether summer or winter, come snow or sunshine.

Innsbruck ski and snowboard competition

As the capital of the Austrian Alps in Tyrol, Innsbruck is a world-class base for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking and countless other outdoor activities. Here the benefits of urban life are wedded with the active pursuits offered by striking mountains and alpine adventures.

Kuhtai ski area, Innsbruck, Austria

Skiing & Snowboarding

The high altitude at Kühtai promises deep snow and plenty of winter sun.

Downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice sports are all on offer in abundance in and around Innsbruck during the winter months. Just thirty minutes drive from Innsbruck, Kühtai is the highest winter village in Austria (elev. 2,000 m). The high altitude at Kühtai promises deep snow and plenty of winter sun. It has more than 40 km of slopes with regular night skiing and KPark for freestyle riders.

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View from Patscherkofel over Innsbruck, Austria

Patscherkofel is Innsbruck’s home mountain. Accessed from Igls, a holiday village 5 km from Innsbruck, Patscherkofel features challenging slopes for experienced skiers and snowboarders. With only 18 km of well-groomed trails and 8 lifts it is not the biggest of ski areas, but in terms of convenience from your Innsbruck base, this is a strong option. Claim to fame: Patscherkofel ski area hosted the 1964 and 1976 Olympic downhill races.

Stubai Glacier is widely considered the top glacial skiing area in Europe.

The Stubai Glacier (Stubaier Gletscher) ski area offers 60 km of slopes and 26 lifts, and is widely considered the top glacial skiing area in Europe. For freeriding snowboarders and off-piste skiers, there are specifically designed off-piste areas and an accompanying map covering more than a dozen runs. Download the Stubai App for maps and further info.

Stubai Glacier ski area, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria

Families with young children or new skiers should consider the small ski area at Serlesbahnen Mieders, which overlooks the Stubai Valley. With only 6 km of slopes and a designated children’s park, it is ideal for young families. The five toboggan runs and 75 km of winter hiking paths add allure to this often overlooked ski area.

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Further afield, the popular St Anton am Arlberg ski area is just over an hour drive to the west. With over 300 km of slopes and 87 lift facilities, it is the largest ski area in Austria and since 2001, plays host to the World Championships in alpine skiing.

Hiking in the Tyrolean Alps, Blaue Lacke, Stubaital, Tyrol, Austria

Hiking & Trekking

The Alps were made for hiking and trekking as much as they were for skiing and snowboarding.

With incredible panoramic views over towering mountains and down stunning valleys, the Alps were made for hiking and trekking as much as they were for skiing and snowboarding. For a challenging multi-day hike, the Stubai High Trail is a seven stage, 100 km route with over 8,000 m in vertical climbs and descents. It is classified as a ‘black’ mountain route, i.e. for experienced and prepared hikers. The trail links Innsbrucker Hut and Starkenburger Hut with overnight stays along the way.

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The region offers many shorter hikes at lower altitudes for those with less time. The two-day Stubai Alps trek starts at the Kreuzjochbahn Gondola, takes in Starkenburger Hut and ends at Milders. The 22 km trail is rated as difficult but with a shorter 10-hour hiking time and an altitude of 2,611 m, it is more accessible for hikers still seeking a challenge.

Mountain biking in the Reutte District, Tyrol, Austria

Mountain Biking

During the summer months, Innsbruck is surrounded by bike parks and trails winding through the mountains. The 4.4 km Achselwald trail conveniently starts at Innsbruck Downtown Centre and ends at Achselkopf (elevation 1,280 m). For an easy mountain bike route, popular with locals, the 3 km Arzler Alm trail starts in Hungerburg (an Innsbruck suburb) and ends at a mountain restaurant famous for its delicious cakes. More adventurous riders can continue up the trail to Höttinger Alm for another pit stop.

For downhill riders, the Nordkette Singletrail is a challenging route in high-alpine terrain, overlooking Innsbruck. Starting at 1,905 m and covering 4.2 km, the trail provides incredibly stunning panoramic views. Catch the Nordkette Gondola to Seegrube to access the trailhead.

Motorcycling, Timmelsjoch, Otztal valley, Tyrol, Austria


With expansive valleys and charming villages - stunning motorcycle rides and amazing scenery are guaranteed in Tyrol.

With over 500 mountains above 3000 m, expansive valleys, and charming villages - stunning rides and amazing scenery are guaranteed in Tyrol. Motorcycle routes and tours stretch out over a well-developed network of roads across the Lechtal and Paznauntal valleys, and from Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in the west through to Zillertal, Kaiserwinkl, and Kitzbühel in the east of the region.

Innsbruck Old Town

Eat, Drink, Sleep

Innsbruck is a happening city - its streets are lined with bars, restaurants and live music venues. The Old Town dates back 800 years and the surrounding landscape is dotted with traditional mountain huts offering a taste of Austrian culture.

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EatSixtyTwenty offers coffee, snacks, cool decor and an outdoor seating area ideal for people watching. It’s a hidden gem on Universitätsstrasse with a mixed crowd of locals, students and young professionals. Speckeria is a quaint deli on Hofgasse in the Old Town indulging in Austria’s love for smoked bacon. Speck is a huge part of Tyrolean cuisine and customers can either take away or grab a table in the intimate seating area.

Drink – The Bögen is a stretch of archways on Ingenieur-Etzel-Strasse known as Innsbruck’s partymeile (or party-mile). Local Tyrolean beer and live music are both in good supply here. Highly recommend.

SleepNala is a stylish, boutique hotel in the city centre for visitors after a dose of culture alongside their adventure. The Old Town is a short walk from the hotel’s central location and the surrounding nature is on your doorstep. Buzihütte is a rustic mountain hut with a terrace overlooking Innsbruck. The hut does not have accommodation but is worth the visit to sample alpine culture and local cuisine. Try the knödel (Austrian style dumplings), Buzihütte’s specialty.

Railroad tunnel, Innsbruck, Austria

How To Get There

By Car: Innsbruck is easily accessible by car from neighbouring Bavaria in Germany and South Tyrol in Italy. It is a roughly two-hour drive from Munich with the quickest route passing through Rosenheim in Germany and Kufstein in Austria. The drive from Bolzano in South Tyrol is about one hour and thirty minutes. For those travelling from Kitzbühel in Tyrol, the Austrian ski resort town famous for the Hahnenkamm Race, the drive is around one hour and fifteen minutes, passing through Wörgl.

By Air: Innsbruck Flughafen (airport) is located on the outskirts of the city with good public transport links and car rental outlets. EasyJet runs daily direct flights from London in the winter months, with non-daily service available from Bristol and during the summer from London. British Airways, Austrian Airlines, Monarch and Thomas Cook also operate direct flights.

By Train" Hauptbahnhof is Innsbruck’s large, modern and centrally located main train station. It is one of the busiest train stations in the country with domestic and international arrivals. ÖBB operates domestic routes and offers saver rates for travellers in Austria. If flying into Munich, 31 trains depart Munich Hauptbahnhof to Innsbruck on an average weekday, a journey of around two hours and thirty minutes.

Good To Know: July is the wettest month; February is the driest. Expect temperatures around 20°C in the summer and below 0°C in the winter, Innsbruck was named the Best European Winter Sports Destination at the 2016 Luxury Travel Awards. And with 30,000 students on top of a population of 130,000, it is a young, lively city.

Golden Eagle over the Alps, Tyrol, Austria

Fauna and Flora of Tyrol

The Tyrol region is famous for its birds of prey. There are regular Golden Eagle sightings in the mountains and valleys, as well as harriers, falcons and mountain jackdaw. Deer are a common feature on the landscape with chamois, ibex, badgers and foxes all inhabiting the region. Although rarely spotted in the wild, brown bears recently migrated from neighboring Slovenia.

Innsbruck is home to Alpenzoo, one of Europe’s highest zoos and a dedicated space for native species of the Alps. The zoo oversaw the reintroduction of endangered species including bearded vulture, Alpine ibex, and northern bald ibis into the wild.

The protected edelweiss is a famous white alpine flower and the alpine rose is common across the landscape during the summer months.

Hayley Maguire is a travel and lifestyle writer with a love for the mountains.

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Images: 1: Thomas Zagler/Adobe; 2: Alex Berger/Flickr; 3: thawizard/Adobe; 4: marculpa/Adobe; 5: tarczas/Adobe; 6: pic3d/Adobe; 7: Francois Schnell/Flickr; 8: Hannes Mauerer / Flickr; 9: Mihai-Bogdan Lazar/Adobe; 10: mia_maria/Adobe; 11: Manfred Karisch/Adobe

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