Spending a day in Innsbruck in Winter. With Christmas market, spa and beautiful museums, Tyrol’s capital is always an excellent idea.
Innsbruck really feels like my second home. I’ve been to Tyrol’s capital so often that I really lost count. There are so many reasons to visit and so many things to do, yet I never wrote about it. Last weekend I decided to take along my camera and fill that void once and for all!
I really prayed for lots of snow and extra pretty pictures. I even had the weather forecast on my side. Sadly the snow hardly stuck and melted in the lower regions by noon. Ah well I still had a fun time. Plus it really proofs that Innsbruck is worth a visit all around the year – no matter the weather. But let’s get right into it:
The Christmas Market in Innsbruck
I started out with Innsbruck’s wonderful Christmas market right after I arrived. There are very few Christmas markets in Europe that can compare. All the booths and stalls nuzzle against the historic buildings from the medieval times. So enchanting! And the best part – the Christmas Market in Innsbruck is actually open from late November to February.
Actually, all the streets are richly decorated and illuminated with lights and even candles. Everything felt so cozy and beyond breathtaking.
Around the corner I even found this little witch hut selling gingerbread and cookies. Such a spectacular sight, wouldn’t you agree?
But Innsbruck doesn’t shy the modern things either. Tyrol’s capital is famous for its Swarovski crystals, so the Christmas Market also features a huge Christmas tree made from these super sparkling crystals. What a sight really!
Also do not discount the authentic street food either. I had these deep fried bowls filled with sauerkraut – yumminess guaranteed!
And for those of you with a sweet tooth: Sample them all! Above you can see a freshly baked dough roll glazed with nuts and sugar. Steaming warm and right onto your hips, but oh so delicious!
Innsbruck at night
The Christmas market usually starts around the beginning of December and ends in February. Even if you plan to visit Innsbruck in March, visiting the city at night is a must. All the buildings are beautifully illuminated.
Walking around the many highlights at night actually gives you this fairy tale kind of feeling. Just like famous Austrian queen, Sissi would step out of her castle at any time! It all reminded me a lot of Vienna, where obviously grander buildings line the famous ring road. If you want to see it for yourself, check out this wonderful guide to Vienna.
The so called Triumphpforte, built in 1765, looks extra neat at night. Few of the buildings in Innsbruck are particularly big, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t spectacular.
Also don’t forget to walk the banks of the river running right through the city. It’s called Inn and gave the city its name (Innsbruck meaning bridge over the river Inn).
Swarovski crystal world
The next day I went to visit the Swarovski crystal world. The so called Kristallwelten are built directly next to the factory producing the sparkling stones. It’s something in between a museum, an art installation and a shop – and everything is made with Swarovski crystals.
Surprisingly it’s not even all that kitschy. For example, there is a huge dome lined with crystal panels, creating a unique acoustic. I abused it for special selfie ;-)
But I’d be lying if the Swarovski crystal world wouldn’t be about all things sparkling. There is, for example, a gigantic toy train all set with crystals.
In recent years they also installed a spectacular park around the actual museum. It’s some kind of cloud forest featuring millions of tiny crystals. All I could think of when walking through it was: this is an instagrammer’s wet dream! Here is the offical Website of the Swarovski Crystal World.
The historic city of Hall
After visiting the Swarovski museum I decided to visit Hall. Hall is famous for its historic city center and one of the most important (historic) market places in Austria. There is also an exceptional museum on numismatics (remember, the original Dollars/Thalers were minted here). I mainly visited to see its Christmas market.
On a whim I decided to check out one of the many historic churches. Inside I found a couple of nuns attending a mass. Their beautiful choir, little as the group was, really took my breath away. It was just such a wonderful spiritual moment and I literally spent almost an hour watching and listening.
In the evening it was time for some relaxation. Close to Innsbruck you will find one of the most spectacular spas in Europe: The Aquadome. Located in a secluded valley about 30 minutes away from Innsbruck, the experience is more than stellar.
The Aquadome is, despite its fame, not too crowded. What makes this spa so spectacular, is certainly its setting. Wherever you look there are mountains. Soaking away the sores of the day in the many outdoor pools really feels like a part of heaven.
A hotel is attached to the spa, as well as a huge sauna area – so it really is worth a consideration (or two) to spend a night at the Aquadome. Hotel guests get access to VIP areas! Here’s a link for booking-opportunities.
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
The best bars in Innsbruck
I returned back to Innsbruck feeling a bit waterlogged, still I didn’t want to call it a day. Instead I went to check out two bars. Both of them are located on the rooftops. One is called 360° and offers you just that – a 360 degree view over Innsbruck. Here’s their website
The other bar you really should check out to enjoy a lovely cocktail before bedtime is found inside the Adler’s Hotel near the train station. It’s quite the posh place with a wonderful bar menu, and again the most beautiful view! There’s also a restaurant here, in case you are looking for some food.
Other attractions in Innsbruck in Winter
There really is no way around visiting the Hofkirche. Inside you will find a remarkable collection of Renaissance sculptures. The church was built in 1553 and is located right in the Alstadt section of Innsbruck. Do visit!
Castle Ambras and its beautiful park might also be a good choice. I particularly loved the little outhouses of the castles. It was a bit cold, and not that much snow, but from experience I know that the park is super beautiful once snowy white is decorating its many hedges.
Quite obviously skiing is also a must do in Innsbruck in winter. Sölden, for example, is just 45 minutes away and one of the top ski resorts in Austria. But it’s also not very far to Italy and Bozen, where a couple of more amazing ski resorts can be found (usually a bit cheaper than the Austrian ones).
Also there are literally hundreds of beautiful castles and churches to be found around Innsbruck. I really can’t list them all here (and the weather had been not all too good for taking pictures anyway). Visiting the castles of Tyrol is a good idea on a rainy day. Here’s an official list of the castle highlights.
Authentic Austrian food
If you are looking for some authentic Austrian food then Innsbruck really is an excellent place to start. Inside the historic Ottoburg (castle of Otto) you fill probably find the most spectacular one.
The whole restaurant has the feeling of a medieval castle (which it is). Super cozy, super historic. Best rooms are located on the 2nd floor (Frundsbergstube; on the picture). Might be a good ideato reserve a table.
Oh…and of course the food is quite excellent. Nothing in the way of Michelin star cuisine (Innsbruck is a little short on that) but very lovely authentic Austrian food. Here is the website of the Ottoburg.
And before I go on: Here is a lovely breakfast/brunch recommendation from me. Café Immerland has a wonderful authentic Austrian breakfast buffet, with a focus on healthy an organic food. Here is there facebook fanpage (no website afaik).
The best hotel in Innsbruck
I already mentioned the Adler’s hotel. This hotel almost feels like a second home to me. It might not be the best hotel in Innsbruck in terms of stars (that’s probably the Grand Hotel Europa), but it certainly has the best view! Also the rooms are super neat and all of them have these spectacular windows.
I always reserve here via booking.com (like all my city trips), simply because I usually get the best prices + from being a loyal member some extra discount. Check out prices and more pictures here.
So that’s it. Thank you for reading my insider tips for visiting Innsbruck in Winter. I did not squeeze everything into this article, so if you got any questions feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you!