Innsbruck, Austria: In the Heart of the Alps

When we traveled to Alpbach for our ski holiday, we had to go through Innsbruck to get there. Since that’s how we were returning to London as well, we decided to tack an extra day onto our vacation and spend some time in Innsbruck before heading home. Boy, am I glad we did, because I loved Innsbruck even more than Alpbach – partly because there was no skiing involved, and partly because Innsbruck is one freaking awesome city!

Innsbruck is located in western Austria in the heart of the Alps. It’s the capital of the federal state of Tyrol and a major ski town due to the surrounding Nordkette mountain range. The Olympics have been held twice in Innsbruck, in 1964 and 1976. Besides being an ideal spot for winter sports fanatics, Innsbruck also has a colorful, historic Old Town that’s definitely worth a visit, and one of the most stunning river views in the world. Purely my own opinion, but I’ll let you judge for yourself after you see the pictures.

Our hotel was located just a stone’s throw from Old Town which made it extremely easy to get out and see the sights on foot. Most of the city’s most popular sights, like the Hofburg Imperial Palace, the Hofkirche (Court Church), and the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), are all within walking distance of each other, so we did ourselves a favor by staying where we did. With its cobblestone streets, quirky shops, and lively atmosphere, Old Town completely stole our hearts.

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

See what I mean? Innsbruck is perfect. Walking through Old Town is like taking a trip back in time. Instead of cars, the cobblestone streets are filled with people on foot and riding bicycles. The city was exceptionally clean, even free from graffiti. People were genuinely friendly and never once made me feel bad for my lack of knowledge of the German language. Innsbruck, at least the side I experienced, is like an Austrian Mayberry. (If you didn’t watch The Andy Griffith Show growing up, you’ll have to look that up.) We say this often when we travel, but both Cory and I agreed that we would be very comfortable and happy living here.

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

As if the buildings in Old Town weren’t already colorful enough, many of them also have been decorated with baroque stuccos and have vivid characters and scenes painted on their exteriors. I didn’t realize it until I got home and used Google Translate, but the German words painted on some of the buildings were actually describing the sorts of services that had once been offered within their walls. We found a holzschnitzer (wood carver), a brillenmacher (glasses maker), and I wasn’t able to figure out what a doglsanger is. (Was I the only one who glanced at that and saw dog-slayer?)

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from off the floor. That view – the colorful houses along the Inn River with the mountains as a gorgeous natural backdrop – is going to be hard to beat. I know I’ve only traveled to like .000001% of the world so far, so there’s almost 100% of the world that I haven’t seen, but I don’t know if I’ll ever find a place whose beauty speaks to me the way Innsbruck’s does. (Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments. I love pretty pictures!) It’s a postcard city, by which I mean practically everywhere you look, a postcard-worthy scene is waiting there to greet you. I’m so anxious to return again someday!


Innsbruck, translated, means the bridge over the Inn. The name dates as far back as the 1100’s when there was an important bridge here allowing access to either side of the Inn River.

Innsbruck has been populated since the early Stone Age, but it really flourished under the reign of the Habsburgs, beginning in 1363. Many of the architectural marvels built during this time remain, like the Golden Roof and the Hofkirche.

There are 2,657 tiles on the Golden Roof, but they’re not made of gold, much to the chagrin of the fellow who once stole one. He later, anonymously, returned it when he realized it was made of fire-gilded copper.

Only three places have had the honor of hosting the Olympics more than once – Innsbruck is one of them.

Tourism in Innsbruck is a year-round affair, attracting skiers and snowboarders from December to early April, and mountaineering enthusiasts the rest of the year.

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Innsbruck, Austria: In The Heart Of The Alps

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  • Tanya
    January 24, 2019 at 8:04 AM

    Beautiful article! I loved Innsbruck too, it’s the prettiest little city!

  • Kristall Spaces
    November 13, 2018 at 5:09 AM

    The colorful houses just add to the atmosphere of the city. Innsbruck is a gorgeous city in Tirol surrounded by the Alps. Your photos are stunning, thank you for sharing.

  • Lukas
    April 17, 2018 at 5:12 PM

    It’s “Voglsanger”, not “Doglsanger” ;-)
    If I’m not mistaken, it’s written in Kurrent/German cursive. And it’s a family name. (In the picture, you can also see their coat of arms. Some of the letters below the name are illegible but they indicate that the family has owned this house since 1630)

    • Sarah Shumate
      April 17, 2018 at 7:41 PM

      Four years later, we finally have an answer! Thanks so much for the explanation! :)

  • Monica Sharma
    March 24, 2018 at 7:36 AM

    Amazing place, it got the highest priority on my bucket list.Your photos are just fantastic and beautiful writing.You made me plan my trip to Austria next and excited to visit those ski villages and colorful houses.Thanks for the beautiful destination with stunning photos.Worth reading.

  • Erika
    March 31, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Wow. So beautiful AND charming! I want to go back to Innsbruck now! And just Austria in general — I love that little country!

  • Erin
    March 31, 2014 at 5:43 AM

    Wow, this is absolutly beautiful! I have only been to Austria once and was mostly in a very small ski village. I love the Dutch style skinny houses in all those colours!

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 31, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      I love little ski villages, too! That’s where we went before Innsbruck – I loved both places. They were so completely different that it made us feel like we’d taken two separate holidays!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    March 31, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    So amazing! I’m kicking myself that we didn’t get over there while we were in Vienna! Will just have to make it there again one day!

  • Cerebral Jurisprudent
    March 30, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I love your review of the city. I’ve been studying in Innsbruck for almost five years and I agree, it’s one of the most beautiful and probably one of the most “underrated” cities in the world. But sometimes, you get the feeling of having enough of the city, probably because I’m more of a “big city” person, meaning I hate to see myself residing in a small town like Innsbruck for the rest of my life.

    But one thing is for certain; my love for Innsbruck’s simplicity and uniqueness will never fade away and will always be a “must travel” for me.

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 31, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      Thanks for leaving such a great comment! I can completely understand what you’re saying about Innsbruck. We were only there for a short time, but still managed to do and see a good bit of what the city has to offer. I can see how someone looking for the constant change and hustle and bustle of a big city would tire of Innsbruck’s quiet simplicity after awhile. It’s this sort of setting that I crave now that we live in London. The grass is always greener on the other side, I suppose. :)

  • Melanie Fontaine
    March 26, 2014 at 6:28 PM

    Innsbruck looks beautiful! I just love that picture of the colorful houses at the river – reminds me of a mountaineering version of Bryggen in Bergen! ;) I think I have to pay Innsbruck a visit one day!

  • Emmymom
    March 26, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    LOVE LOVE the colorful buildings. That truly is such a beautiful place! That view definitely has to be one of the best ever. Oh this whole post totally makes me want to go there

  • Natalie
    March 26, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Wow I so want to go there now! :) Lovely photos as usual!

  • Alyx
    March 26, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    ahhhh I need to visit Austria!!

  • Jessica - Independent Travel Cats
    March 26, 2014 at 5:07 AM

    Such colorful pretty photos! We went through Innsbruk but never stopped when heading to the Swiss Alps. Such a lovely area and can’t wait to get back and really explore Switzerland and Austria!

  • Margo @ The Overseas Escape
    March 26, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    I was in Innsbruck a few years ago and completely agree – it’s a fantastic place to visit. I love that the mountains are RIGHT there… you can literally take a gondola from the city center up the mountainside for great views.

  • rorybore
    March 26, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    I was just thinking that these photos – especially the view of the mountains through the buildings/street and that river shot NEED to be a postcard! Gorgeous. I have seen even less of the world than you have — that’s just sad! Such beauty and history and culture that I am missing out on. But at least I have you to bring it alive for me :)

  • Alexandra @ Team Starnes
    March 25, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    We almost went there when we were planning a ski holiday, but we ended up scrapping it all together to go somewhere warmer… My parents loved skiing Austria, so I am desperate to get over there next winter! xx

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    March 25, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Oh Sarah, Oh… These buildings are breathtaking let alone the scenery hugging it.

  • Katrin
    March 25, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    I have never been to Innsbruck but it definitely looks like worth a travel. I did like Salzburg a lot! Your pictures are so beautiful! I have no idea what a doglsanger is either!

  • Stacie Stamper
    March 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    I love the colorful buildings and all of the architectural details, just stunning.

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    March 25, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    This is seriously straight out of a fairy tale. I love going places with coloured buildings.

  • Eolia Disler
    March 24, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    I hope I will visit Austria in the “near” future. Innsbrück was already on my To do list for this country… Now, you make me want to go asap!!!

  • Liz
    March 24, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    WOW! I don’t know that I even have words. Everything is so vibrant and beautiful. You captured it perfectly!!

  • Abby Rockwood
    March 25, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    Beautiful pictures! You make me want to jump on a plane and visit the town;)

  • Selena Jones
    March 24, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    I completely agree. One of my favorites, too. Your pictures are gorgeous!!!

  • Jo
    March 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    o wow! it is sooo pretty! I’m going to have to convince the husband that we should go there!

  • Miwa
    March 24, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    What a breathtaking place!!! The colors of those houses are just… perfect. I love walking through towns and cities where every single shot that you take looks like a page from a picture book. (Alsace, France and Lucerne, Switzerland were like that, too!)

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      Lucerne was recommended to us by my husband’s old boss! We’d love to take a trip there next winter. I’ve heard it’s so lovely! Is it colorful like Innsbruck?

      • Miwa
        March 25, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        It was really lovely! It isn’t colorful in the same was as Innsbruck is, but it still feels like you’re in a picture book. I especially loved the Chapel Bridge. And Lake Lucerne… everything, actually :) I definitely recommend it!

  • Jenn
    March 24, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Beautiful! Austria is definitely high on my list of places to go! :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 25, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      I’d still like to see the other side of the country – maybe do Vienna and Salzburg in the same trip. That would be awesome!

      • Jenn
        March 25, 2014 at 7:42 PM

        Salzburg is tippy top of my list! I’ve heard it’s beautiful! Plus, I’d have to be cheesy and do the sound of music tour :)

  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    March 24, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    those houses along the water are gorgeous!! I could spend hours walking up and down that area

  • Megan
    March 24, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Gorgeous photos! I was considering a trip to the Austrian Alps but had not heard much about it. You’ve just convinced me to make sure I go!

  • Allison
    March 24, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Innsbruck definitely just landed a spot on my bucket list! Boarding down those slopes would be amazing. Beautiful pictures!