What do we do more than anything else when we travel? It’s not eating, although we do more than our fair share of that. We also do and see a lot when we travel, but there’s still something that monopolizes our time even more than these two things put together, and it’s walking. We walk a lot. I’m talking at least 5-10 miles every day we’re on vacation. We do this for a couple reasons, the first and most obvious being that it’s cheaper than taking public transportation, but we also spend so much time on foot because it is, without a doubt, the best way to see a city up close and personal.
Sometimes we walk just to explore, more often than not getting lost in the process. Then there are other times that we’re walking with a purpose, either to get from point A to B, or because we’ve decided to join an organized city walk like we did in Bath. While visiting Innsbruck, we had the opportunity to both wander aimlessly around town and take a planned walk visiting some of Innsbruck’s most famous historical monuments. This wasn’t a group walk, just something we did on our own, which in some ways was better because it meant we were able to linger at places as long as we liked and pop into bakeries along the way when the delicious aromas became too overwhelming!
While we personally didn’t take the most efficient route on our historical monuments walk in Innsbruck, I’ve organized them here a bit more logically. From the first monument to the last pictured here, it’s about a one mile walk. Easy peasy!
Standing tall at the intersection of Salurner Straße and Maria-Theresien-Straße is Innsbruck’s Triumphal Arch. It was built in 1765 to mark the wedding of Emperor Leopold II to Maria Ludovica. Sadly, Leopold’s father, Emperor Francis I, died during the wedding celebrations, so the plans for the arch were altered a bit to memorialize his death. One side of the arch now symbolizes the joyful occasion of the wedding, and the other side represents the grief at the loss of the emperor.
It’s not nearly as grand as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but it’s still beautiful nonetheless, especially being that it’s surrounded by many colorful shops and businesses and, of course, the mountains that rise majestically at its back. (It would be much lovelier in pictures without the intersecting cable wires for the trolley getting in the way. They were unavoidable from this direction.)
Walking down Maria-Theresien-Straße, about midway between the Triumphal Arch and the Golden Roof is St Anne’s Column commemorating the withdrawal of the Bavarian armies during the Spanish Wars of Succession on St Anne’s Day in 1703. At the top of the red marble column, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a crescent moon. Representations of St Anne and the Tyroleon patron saints, George, Virgilius, and Cassianus, surround the base of the column. St Anne’s Column stands in a very popular part of Maria-Theresien-Straße. Many shops and cafes line the street, and it’s a great place to stop and people watch if you’ve got the time!
Making our way into Old Town, the first monument we stopped to see was the Stadtturm, or City Tower, on Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. It rises high above the city, so it can be seen in the distance well before you actually reach it. Built in the 1440’s and once a prison, the tower is now open to visitors who are up for climbing the many steps to the top to enjoy beautiful, panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. Below the green cupola at the top of the tower is where the tower guards lived throughout the years up until the 1960’s. I think I’d take that job for the views alone!
On the same portion of the street as the Stadtturm is the decorative Helbling Haus, named after the building’s owner in the early 1800’s, Sebastian Helbling. Originally a Gothic townhouse built in the 15th century, over the years the exterior has changed quite a bit, most notably in 1730 when the front was adorned with the many bows, ribbons, and other ornamental Rococo stuccos seen on it today by artists from the Wessobrunn School, giving it a bit of a doll house look. The building is now made up of residences and businesses, but the outside still remains a piece of art.
It wouldn’t be a proper historical monuments walk if I left out the most important monument Innsbruck has claim to – the Golden Roof, located at the end of Herzog-Friedrich-Straße. I wrote a whole article about Innsbruck’s Golden Roof, so if you’d like to see this landmark a bit more in depth, just click on the link. Long story short, this building was once the residence of the Tyrolean sovereigns, but it got its name and landmark status when Emperor Maximilian I added frescoes, reliefs, and a balcony with a roof made up of 2,657 copper tiles to the front of the building. Today, the Golden Roof is Innsbruck’s most visited monument containing a museum inside chronicling the life of Emperor Maximilian and showcasing some of his treasures.
And last but not least, the most unusual monument in Innsbruck – Leopold’s Fountain. Located across the street from the Hofburg Imperial Palace and right next to the Tyrolean State Theater, it’s a bit more tucked away than the others, but not too difficult to find. This is one of the strangest fountains I’ve ever seen. Drunk-looking elves with leaf mustaches are carved into the base, and goddesses and sea deities line the edges of the fountain’s bowl. It’s not the gods and goddesses themselves that are weird, it’s what they’re doing – one goddess is using a (quite possibly dead) ox’s head to prop herself up, and another appears to be strangling a duck, while yet another attacks a fish with some sort of weapon. The only normal feature on this fountain is the depiction at the top of Archduke Leopold V, ruler of Tyrol from 1618-1632, astride a rearing horse. What Leopold V has to do with violent sea deities, I don’t know. Still, it’s an interesting spot to go visit, and while you’re there you can pop across the street to the Imperial Palace – that’s definitely worth a stop!
Address: Rennweg, 6020 Innsbruck
There may be organized group walking tours you can join in Innsbruck – those are always great if you don’t know much of the history surrounding a place – but if not, it’s pretty easy to take a self-guided walk by yourself. Innsbruck is not a large town and it’s fairly simple to find your way around. Our hotel provided us with a map denoting some of the major sites in Innsbruck, but if yours doesn’t, you can pick one up for a couple euros at any tourist shop. That’ll make it much easier to pick and choose the places you’d like to see!
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