Innsbruck located in the Tyrol region of Austria is known as the ‘Capital of the Alps’. Back in the nineties I visited this spectacular city on a school ski trip. This time around I was one of the responsible adults with two kids in tow.
A city nestled within an Alpine valley- it’s well worth nabbing the window seat on the flight for the descent into Innsbruck airport through the breathtaking mountain range.
It’s a city where nature meets culture and historic and futuristic architecture lie side by side harmoniously.
The obvious starting point for any trip to Innsbruck is the famous shining landmark the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) in the Old Town.
A 16th Century balcony featuring 2657 copper tiles gilded with six kilos of gold, surrounded by colourful facades, elaborately decorated baroque buildings and charming arcades.
Once you’ve ticked the Old Town off your list here is my pick of top five ‘things to do’ with kids:
1. Up to the clouds
It’s a city hemmed in by the Austrian Alps – unlike other cities you don’t have to drive an hour to be in the mountains. They’re on your doorstep! The highest peak is Hafelekarspitze, at 2,334 metres. To reach these heady heights your first stop is the spaceship-like shelter of the Hungerburg Funicular.
The stations were designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the architect behind the Olympic Aquatic Centre in London and Riverside Museum in Glasgow. The funicular will whizz you up to the Nordketten cable car, which you catch from the last stop.
The first stop on the cable car is Seegrube, which is also home to a fantastic restaurant with panoramic views of the city and a small playground. You can read my review here.
Once at the top the options are endless. You can either stay around the mountain station for little strolls or tighten your boots and head to climb or hike some of the many trails into the mountain.
Whichever you decide you’re in for some amazing all-encompassing views of the area.
Alpenzoo is the highest zoo in Europe (750 metres above sea level) and houses more than 2000 animals and 150 species all indigenous to the Alpine region. It’s nestled up against the Nordkette mountain range and peppered with looping pathways linking the enclosures.
The paths are mostly paved and suitable for strollers but some are steep. To be expected I suppose when climbing a mountain whilst animal watching.
You can easily access the open-air zoo by the Hungerburgbahn funicular another fun experience for the kids.
We saw brown bears, eagles, wildcats, vultures, moose and many more. The wolves apparently howl in unison with the church bells when rung in Innsbruck. We didn’t catch it, but it would have made a great Instastory. And when you need a break from the animals the kids can enjoy the playground and you can savour the amazing views.
3. Hofburg Palace and Imperial Gardens
For a relaxing day head to the Imperial Hofburg Palace. Wandering around the halls and apartments you’ll get your fill of rococo design.
There is a brilliant English audio guide, which takes you through the ages of the Palace. The girls really enjoyed the extravagant decor and had questions galore about the life of a non Disney princess.
The recently refurbished Giant Hall is stunning with it’s impressive life-size portraits. It’s a unique room which breaks tradition of displaying long-lost ancestors, but instead focuses on Maria Theresa’s living family at the time. She was also the only female ruler of the Habsburg family – Girl power!
Mother to 16 children, she was a busy lady. To occupy her brood she had a garden built for her children to play opposite the Palace. Of course, this was no ordinary garden more of a lavish park.
Built in the early 15th century, today the Imperial Gardens house a pavilion, open-air chess boards, children’s playground and café.
4. Swarovski Crystal World
Dazzle your kids with the sparkling crystals at Swarovski Crystal World (Swarovski Kristallwelten) in Wattens on the outskirts of Innsbruck. Most are aware of the famous brand, but you may not know that Daniel Swarovski founded the company back in 1895 in Tyrol.
Recently re-opened after a major revamp in 2015, it’s a world of mesmerising fun for both kids and adults. On entry you’re greeted by a giants face in a manmade hill spouting a waterfall, where you walk into a fantasy world designed by Viennese artist Andrew Heller. It’s made up of a number of exhibits you can explore, the first being a large wall with twelve tons of crystals. This is followed by crystal works of art by many including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be inside a crystal? Well step into the Crystal Dome which uses 596 mirrors to show you.
Wander underneath the outdoor Crystal Cloud made from 800,000 hand-mounted and enchanted floating crystals. This mystical masterpiece is the largest of its kind worldwide.
Immerse yourself in the white room named Transparent Opacity by Arik Levy.
It’s an homage to the diversity of crystal through the use of glass, marble, steel and synthetic 3D prints.
If that wasn’t enough you have the beautiful gardens, a maze and a mighty tall playtower where the kids can go crazy.
To end those hunger pangs there is a fantastic onsite café/restaurant called Daniels serving international and regional culinary delights. Plus you can’t forget the gigantic Swarovski store where you can purchase a bauble of two. Making it a recipe for a great day out. I think you’ll agree!
5. Horse and Cart ride
Who can resist being whisked around in a majestic horse and cart? It was one of the best ways to see the city. We took a 50 minute tour which included the city sights and the residential areas on the outskirts.
The buildings are so grand and ornate Mr S and I relaxed with our feet up in the back whilst the girls sat up front.
They were lucky enough to have a go at steering Johnnie (the horse) too once we were off the busy city streets. It was the perfect ending to our three-day break in the wonderful city of Innsbruck
Buy the Innsbruck Pass! This card really will save you money. It gives you a free ride on the cable car, free public transport, completely free entry to a number of top attraction including the ones I’ve mentioned above like the Hofburg, Alpenzoo, The Crystal World and many more.
You can buy it for 24 hours (€39), 48 hours (€48) and 72 hours (€55). Children age 6 – 15 get a 50% discount.
Have you ever been to Austria? Would you consider Innsbruck for your next city break? Let me know in the comments box below.