The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) became one of the most recognized symbols in Innsbruck, Austria when it was completed in 1500 as a monument to Emperor Maximilan I’s marriage to his second wife. It sits at one end of Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse in Innsbruck’s Old Town, with glorious mountain peaks at its back. Unless you’re walking through Old Town with your eyes closed, you can’t miss it!
When we walked through Innsbruck on the morning of our first day, it was cloudy and a bit foggy, so not only were the mountains completely hidden, but the roof just didn’t really shine for us. I was a bit disappointed, of course, because without the sun, the Goldenes Dachl is just another colorful building among the many others lining the streets of Old Town. But the next morning when the cloud cover had moved on and the sun came out to say hi, I was like…okay, now I get it. It’s a beautiful sight to see the sun glinting off all 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles lining the Goldenes Dachl, not to mention a tad blinding if you’re standing in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Underneath the roof is a small balcony where Emperor Maximilian and the other royals could sit and watch the goings-on in the city square. (Can’t you just see them sitting up there, placing their bets on the tournaments taking place in the street below?) The frescoes inside the balcony are replicas of those painted in 1500, but the sculpted reliefs are original to the structure. The relief third from the left shows Emperor Maximilian with both of his wives. (The first died in a tragic horseback riding accident. Yikes.)
The frescoes painted beneath the balcony depict two knights, one bearing a flag for the Holy Roman Empire and the other for Tyrol. Beneath the knights, the coats of arms represent Emperor Maximilian’s territories, many earned through his clever choices in marriage partners.
If you’re looking to get decent photos of the Goldenes Dachl, the best time of day to visit would be before noon. When the sun is shining directly overhead, the roof is almost too bright, and in the afternoon, the buildings around the Goldenes Dachl cast dark shadows across its colorful facade. (Most of the photos above were taken on our cloudy day in Innsbruck, hence the lack of gold on the Golden Roof!)
The building behind the Goldenes Dachl’s decorative facade was once the residence of the Tyrolean sovereigns, but is now a museum dedicated to Emperor Maximilian I and Innsbruck’s history during the reign of the Habsburgs. It was fairly cheap to get in (€4 for adults, €2 for kids), but honestly, unless you’re really, really interested in Innsbruck’s history, I’d probably skip it. This was the first thing we’ve done while traveling in Europe that we didn’t like. Besides the part where we got to look out onto the street from the royal balcony, we were completely bored. I’d suggest saving your money for a cup of tea at one of the outdoor cafes in the square and admiring the outside of the Goldenes Dachl from the comfort of your fuzzy chair instead!
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