INNSBRUCK, Austria (Reuters) - Next time you are in The Alps for your skiing holidays or on your way from Germany to Italy, spend some time in Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian province of Tyrol and host city of two Olympic Winter Games.
While it has to compete for tourists with famous cities in its own country such as Vienna and Salzburg, the picturesque alpine setting and a beautiful historic city centre make Innsbruck a place worth visiting for a long weekend, both in winter and in summer.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.
6 p.m. - Stroll from the station to the city centre. Head down Salurnerstrasse, at the end of which you will find your first sight, the Triumphpforte, an arch built in the 18th century to commemorate the wedding of the second son of powerful Habsburg Empress Maria Theresia.
Then head for the historic city centre with the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), an ornate balcony with a roof covered with more than 2,600 gilded tiles, at the very end. Another famed sight is the St. Jacob cathedral.
7:30 p.m. - Tucked away behind the cathedral in Herrengasse you will find the Fischerhaeusl restaurant which serves regional specialties such as “Tiroler Groestl”, a dish with baked potatoes and beef.
8:30 p.m. - With a large student population, Innsbruck night life is better than its 120,000 inhabitants would suggest.
You will find several bars and clubs a short stroll from the cathedral. For a more quiet drink there is Pavillon, a cube shaped bar next to the theatre. On the other side of the theatre there is Stadtcafe which often has live DJs spinning the decks on weekends. In the summer you can head to Hofgarten, located in the eponymous large park just opposite of the congress centre.
9:00 a.m. - Start the day at the Hofburg, the imperial court located at the entrance to the historic city centre, just opposite of the theatre. If you haven’t had breakfast yet you may want to consider Cafe Sacher - yes, there is one in Innsbruck too - at the entrance of the palace.
10:30 a.m. - Find the station for the Hungerburgbahn funicular. It’s time to discover the surrounding mountains!
The funicular, with futuristic stations designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, takes you to Hungerburg, a swish part of town located some 300 metres above the city. From the funicular you change to the cable car which will take you up to 1,900 metres to the Seegrube, where you will also find a large restaurant.
In the winter, this is a skiing resort. In the summer it can be the starting point for a hike to nearby mountain huts such as the Hoettinger Alm, about one hour away.
But if you really want to find out what is behind these mountains - some more mountains - you have to take another short cable car up to Hafelekar, some 2,300 metres above sea level.
3:00 p.m. - As you leave the mountain and take the funicular towards the city centre, get off one stop after Hungerburg from where you will have a short walk towards Innsbruck’s Alpine Zoo, a sight especially recommended for families.
You can take the funicular back to town or you can walk downhill back into the city centre along clearly signposted paths, which shouldn’t take more than half an hour. Take the route along the river Inn and make sure to pay attention to the colorful houses on the southern bank of the river.
6:30 p.m. - If dinner with a view is your thing, head to Lichtblick in the city centre. You can access the restaurant from the shopping centre underneath the new municipal building just off Maria Theresienstrasse.
Take a lift to the top floor and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the entire city centre. The restaurant serves a three course dinner for about 40 euros.
8:00 p.m. - Innsbruck boasts an casino just next to the Hilton hotel, near Triumphpforte, which could also serve as an alternative venue for dinner. If gambling is not your passion, try the home brewed beer at Theresienbraeu across the road.
9:00 a.m. - The gothic Hofkirche (court church) just opposite the imperial court is a memorial for emperor Maximilian I. The remains of Andreas Hofer, a local hero from the time of the Napoleonic wars, are buried in this church.
10:30 a.m. - Take a bus named The Sightseer, from the congress centre to Bergisel, a small hill in the south of the city. At the top you are once again greeted by Andreas Hofer, this time in the form of an imposing statue.
Hofer’s legacy still holds considerable symbolic value in local politics and defaming the Andreas Hofer Song, the anthem of the Tyrol, could land you a hefty fine.
Even if reminiscing about 19th century rebels does not sound appealing to you, the Tirol Panorama is definitely worth a visit. It is a 1,000 square meter oil painting depicting a 360 degree view of the Bergisel battle.
1:00 p.m. - A battle arena of another kind is located just behind the museum, Innsbruck’s modern ski jumping arena. The centre piece of the 1964 and 1976 Olympic winter games, which was completely refurbished in 2003, still draws capacity crowds every year when it is the third stop of the annual Four Hills tournament.
3:00 p.m. - Continue your bus journey to Castle Ambras, which will take less than ten minutes. Located in a park overlooking the city, this beautiful Renaissance castle was constructed by Archduke Ferdinand II in the 16th century.
Make sure to see the armory and the collection of arts and curiosities which Ferdinand himself started here. The sometimes bizarre paintings include a depiction of Gregor Baci, a Hungarian who apparently survived a joust with a lance sticking out of his eye, and the famous portrait of Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula.
Reporting By Robert-Jan Bartunek