A local’s guide to Innsbruck, Austria: from Christmas markets to clubbing and cable car rides

This gateway to the Alps offers panoramic walks and colourful neighbourhoods plus drinks and dancing late into the night, says climate expert and yoga teacher Suzanne Whitby

Food

Tirol is known for its hearty fare, but it’s not all about meat. For vegetarians and cheese lovers, Kaspressknödel (cheese dumplings in broth or with salad), and Kasspatzln (homemade pasta with melted cheese and crispy onions) are good winter fuel. Most restaurants also cater for vegans now, which wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

For local food with a view and a traditional atmosphere, try Buzihütte. Its Kasspatzln and Kaiserschmarrn (a pancake-like dish topped with fruit) are tasty and filling. In the mountains, Höttinger Alm is a picturesque spot with traditional food and at weekends, rotisserie chicken and crispy Eisbein (pork knuckle). In town, Restaurant Lichtblick offers great views of the Nordkette mountains and a menu that changes weekly. For lunchtime street food, head to Franziskanerplatz on weekdays and try vegan Kartoffel curry or a Malaysian meat pot from Futterkutter. It makes food fresh each day from local ingredients and travels from place to place by bicycle.

Inspiration

long gallery with coffered ceiling and paintings
The Spanish Hall at Schloss Ambras, in the hills above Innsbruck. Photograph: Roger Hollingsworth/Alamy

Innsbruck is a sports lover’s dream, but the city has a great deal to offer the rest of us. Aside from the museums and art galleries, Innsbruck has some beautiful architecture. The Helbling Haus in the old town has an elaborate baroque façade, but there are decorative touches everywhere, even on 1970s properties. Look up as you walk and you’ll see scenes of knights and medieval tournaments, Adam and Eve in their garden, and murals and mosaics of saints and sinners.

Schloss Ambras is a Renaissance castle in the hills above Innsbruck, and its Kunst- und Wunderkammer (Chamber of Art and Wonders) is full of curiosities from all over the world.

Neighbourhood

Innsbruck is a city of villages and districts each have their own character. Sankt Nikolaus is a hilly neighbourhood between the Inn River and the Nordkette peaks. Colourful houses line the river, and there are little restaurants and bars and galleries in medieval buildings. In summer, there are concerts in the Waltherpark, an annual street festival and the prettiest Christmas market in the city.

Wilten has seen significant investment in recent years and is now popular for its bars and restaurants, weekly farmers’ market, live music, dancing and open-air cinema.

Green space

cable car with snowy mountains above
The cable car from Innsbruck up to Hafelekar, in the Nordkette range. Photograph: Alamy

Innsbruck is in a valley flanked by mountains to the north and south that are easily accessible by foot, bicycle or bus. Cable cars run up to Hafelekar in the Nordkettes or up Patscherkofel mountain, for walks and restaurants such as Patscher Alm.

The Hofgarten is a park on the edge of the Altstadt (old town). It was laid out on the site of a river meadow under Archduke Ferdinand II in the 16th century. Two little-known nature spots not to miss are the Botanical Garden, which is open year-round and filled with alpine plants, and the art-filled rose garden accessible from Café im Hof off pedestrianised Maria-Theresien-Strasse.

Nightlife

In the old town, Café-Bar Moustache draws a mixed crowd with good music and food and is open until 2am most nights. Club Cubique is open later for clubbers, while the Bögen area boasts several late-night drinking, music and dancing spots, such as Cafe Bar Dinzler, a popular student hangout. The Bierstindl hosts blues evenings throughout the year and several live music events in its garden in summer.

Stay

For an oasis in the city, try Nala Individuellhotel (doubles from about €100 room-only). It’s five minutes’ walk from the old town and main shopping street and offers individually decorated rooms, a garden and a good restaurant. Basic Hotel (doubles from about €125 room-only) is a hop, skip and jump from the river, the indoor market and the old town. For a budget-conscious option, Pension Stoi (doubles from €88 room-only) is in easy walking distance of the city centre.

Suzanne Whitby lives in Innsbruck

Suzanne Whitby

The GuardianTramp

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