Innsbruck & Tyrol Sightseeing & Travel Guide
Tyrol is among Austria′s most touristy areas, because this is where many of the big ski resorts are. The high-society′s choice is Kitzbühel, which is also famous for its ski races. The Arlberg area with legendary ski resorts like St Anton, St. Christoph or Pettneu is famous for more serious skiing. The Tyroleans have a strong sense of regional identity, which is expressed in many distinct features: their accent, cuisine and life-style. Many ancient traditions were preserved in the mountain valleys, which turned into important trade routes between Italy and Central Europe as early as at the time of the Roman Empire.
In terms of sightseeing, there are several places of interest in the county. Because of the mountains, it might be difficult to see them all, so it might be a good idea to stick with those attractions that are by the highways. Just for the sake of efficient sightseeing. There is Kufstein, with its beautiful castle in the centre of a valley, just after entering Tyrol from the East.
The Ötztal down to Sölden provides dramatic vistas. This is also where Ötzi, the Bronze Age mummy of a 5,300 years was found (you can visit him in a museum in Bozen, South Tyrol). Nearby in the Upper Inn Valley are the pretty towns of Landeck and Paznaun. Keep on going and you will get to Tyrol′s capital Innsbruck.
Top-10: Best Attractions of Tyrol (Tirol)
1.) Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) & Altstadt of Innsbruck
2.) Zillertal Valley: Quintessential Tyrol
3.) Kitzbühel: The jet-set skiing town
4.) Lienz: Capital of Eastern Tyrol, access from Carinthia
5.) Lake Achensee, the sea of Tyrol
6.) Rattenberg, Alpbach & Alpbachtal Valley
7.) Schwaz & Hall, rich Renaissance mining towns
8.) Kufstein: Picturesque town with mighty fortress
9.) Reutte & Ehrwald: Hiking & skiing off the beaten track
10.) Stubaital Valley, Neustift ski resort & glaciers
Mountains, Monasteries & More to See in Tyrol
Innsbruck has a late medieval city centre. In the 15th century, it was made a "Residenzstadt", a centre for representation and administration, by Emperor Maximilian I. He built a balcony with a golden roof called "Goldenes Dachl", which is still the main attraction of the town. Explore the narrow alleys and ancient courts for a while, go down to the river and the triumph arch ("Triumphbogen") that Empress Maria Theresia built in 1655. Austria′s "mother of the nation" was very fond of Innsbruck.
A little later, around 1800, Napoleon gave the Tyrolians a hard time fighting him; in this "finest hour", the Tyrolian freedom fighter Andreas Hofer resisted the French and Bavarians in a guerrilla war as sort of a Bravehart in Lederhosen. His army, consisting mostly of local farmers, peasants and some regular troops of Austria that helped them out, fought viciously even when Austria itself had already surrendered.
Andreas Hofer was eventually found through a traitor and shot. Today, a museum in Innsbruck will tell you more about these events - don′t ignore them, they are key to Tyrolean patriotism and you will find references to Hofer and his men on every corner in the province.
Touristy impressions straight from Tyrol's capital Innsbruck: Mountains, Medieval buildings and lanes alongside with a lot of local pride and tradition. Simply Tyrol.
To learn more about the legendary Imperial army regiment of the "Kaiserschützen" ("Emperor′s Rifles"), go to the south of Innsbruck. There′s a museum dedicated to this other generation of non-pacifist Tyroleans. Just next to the museum, there′s a ski jump. If there are no sport events, you can go up and enjoy a great view on Innsbruck and the Inn Valley. For an even better view, try the Hafelekar on the opposite side of the valley (you can either walk for a few hours, or take a cable car for a few minutes - I did the latter).
Day-trips out of Innsbruck & more Tyrol
For suggestions for excursions into the surrounding Tyrol, please see my separate list of day-trips from Innsbruck. Nearby Schloss Ambras Castle near Innsbruck is probably Austria′s finest Renaissance palace. Being used to this style from Italy, it is fascinating to explore an alpine variation of the theme. In the other direction, the pretty town of Stams makes a good day-trip destination. The "Swarovski Kristallwelten" in Wattens will be good fun for crystal lovers. Tyrol also has access to the National Park Hohe Tauern and a few monasteries worth a visit.Ö
Further from the capital, you will find plenty of pretty market towns, such as Schwaz or Hall. The Lake Achensee is an important recreational centre and considered to be the "Sea of Tyrol", with towns such as Eben being among the most popular in all of Austria. In the other direction, Imst is a good base for exploring the Eastern mountains of Tyrol. South of Innsbruck you find the dramatic Stubaital and the popular town Neustift - ideal for glacial summer skiing. Other important valleys of Tyrol incldue the Pitztal, Ötztal, Lechtal, Brixental and the Kaisergebirge mountain range.
The villages in remote areas of Tyrol can be very scenic, as long as they are not too much transformed by hiking and skiing tourism - at worst visible in towns like Ischgl. Rattenberg and Alpbach (where the famous European Forum takes place every year), Reutte and Ehrwald are such villages.
In Eastern Tyrol, Lienz is
probably the most attractive town. Seefeld
claims to be the Austrian capital of hiking and mountaineering. Even just
outside Innsbruck you can find charming mountain
huts. The Zillertal is an entire
valley full of pretty places, most prominently
Mayrhofen. Note the towns of Wörgl and
Tannheim im Tannheimertal. See also my list of
communities in Tyrol and my Innsbruck
Webcams, as well as my article on
festivals and events in Tyrol and
the advice on
"Tyrol with Children".
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