Innsbruck is a very nice Austrian town, compact and pleasant to visit with children. The historic center is ancient and full of buildings dating back to the 15th century; it is small and extremely child-friendly. Herzog-Friedrich Strasse is the place to go to see the most beautiful buildings.
48 hours in Innsbruck with children
Here are our child-proof tips, to help you spend 48 amazing hours in Innsbruck.
1. Admire the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl)
In the center, you can find a great number of houses dating back to the Middle Ages, all richly decorated. Among those, there’s the house with the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) with its 2657 gold plates. My son would have wanted to visit the attached small museum and learn all about it, but we found it closed for restoration (until 20 January 2019).
The best view over the Golden Roof, as well as over most roofs of the old town, is from the civic tower (Stadtturm). Buy the ticket and climb the 133 steps to the panoramic terrace at the top, the 360-degree view is breathtaking. This tower, in the past, was used both a prison and a watchtower; if a fire broke out in the area, the guardian would immediately notice it.
2. Discover the Alpine zoo (Alpenzoo)
This is a visit that you simply cannot miss if you are traveling with children. The Alpenzoo is beautiful, with all sorts of animals that live (or used to live) in the Alps. The animals are kept in large fences, and in some cases, there is an observation gallery to see them from close up. Our favorites include:
- two wolves (seen from very close, less than 5 meters away)
- a beautiful lynx resting on a tree in front of us
- many ibexes climbing onto rocks
- a really massive brown bear
- various cuddly farm animals.
There is also an aquarium with fish from alpine lakes and rivers (sturgeons included). The park is not very big but it is crisscrossed by rather steep paved paths, not ideal if you have a stroller. I would also like to point out a bear-themed playground near the bear enclosure. One way to get to the Alpenzoo is by funicular (Hungerburgbahn, leaving next to Congress Innsbruck) to the second station. The funicular, or better its stations, are a sight to behold, in fact, they were designed by the world-famous architect Zaha Hadid!
3. Go skating in Landhausplatz
A large square in Innsbruck, with a rather unappealing monument, has been turned into a huge bike and skate park. The square in question is Landhausplatz square, near the casino. Now that I have told you about it, you have no excuse NOT to bring a scooter, skateboard or mountain bike and let your children have fun. While you are watching your kids, you will be amazed by the stunts and tricks performed by some very young skaters. We spent many hours in awe!
4. Be amazed by the statues in the Hofkirche
Children may like to check out the Hofkirche chapel, inside the church where Emperor Maximilian I is buried. Entrance tickets can be bought in the adjoining Tiroler Volkskundemuseum, where the entrance to the chapel is located. It does not take long to visit but it is very charming. Surrounding the huge tomb, there are 28 large bronze statues of men and women: they were all relatives or people close to the emperor. Among them men of religion, knights, noblemen, and noblewomen. The fine details of the faces, clothes, and hats of these statues are truly impressive.
5. Visit the Audioversum Science Center
To find out how complex the auditory perception is, I recommend visiting the Audioversum Science Center, an interactive museum perfect for all ages. It is located across the road from Landhausplatz square, in a red building in Wilhelm-Greil-Strasse. There is a permanent exhibition, which teaches you all sorts of interesting facts about “hearing”, and above all, you will learn how important it is to listen. Without a visual association, you will discover how difficult it is to recognize sounds, however familiar. At the entrance, there is a small cabin where you are requested to shout out as loud as you can. A device then measures the decibels you have produced – and then compares them to the sound of an animal. The noisiest is the elephant, followed by the monkey; despite our efforts (we really screamed on top of our lungs), we barely reached the monkey stage.
In one of the rooms, you can find a voice changer machine, which alters your voice in many fun ways: do try the “helios” mode! We literally were rolling over the floor, laughing. For kids there is a special cabin with an interactive game to play: they have to guess the “sounds” of different animals and, in the end, they receive a printout of the points they have scored. What else? Do not miss the neon installation, which shows what the inside of your ear looks like. An assistant will tell you which “neon” to move to simulate what happens when you start to lose your hearing until you become completely deaf.
6. Have a slice of real Sacher Torte
Treat your kids to a real Sacher Torte, they will be happy. Yes, because even though the real Sacher torte was invented in Vienna, you can now have it in Innsbruck, too – luckily. In Rennweg 1 there is the Sacher Café, where you can also eat lunch or dinner. We were told that in the month of December, 3000 Sacher cakes are produced every day. My son is a Maths freak, so he wanted to figure out how many years it would take him to eat those 3000 cakes. He grabbed pen and paper and figured he would eat 5 cakes a month.: the result (50 years) seemed a real eternity, and he was not happy! So he envisaged 10 cakes a month, which means a cake every 3 days (I can manage it, he said!), bringing down the result to 25 years. With that, he was happy!
7. Stand at the top of an Olympic ski jump ramp
Have you ever wondered how a competitor would feel before jumping from an Olympic take-off table? I am obviously talking about ski jumping. Well, if your answer is yes, head to the Bergisel area. You can get there by tram or Sightseer bus. The landing hill is something to write home about. Looking up at modern tower above the jumping ramp (designed by Zaha Hadid) from the landing hill is definitely terrifying.
You access the top of the hill by funicular: once inside you need to push the start button yourself – but no one at the entrance will tell you that (we stood still for quite a while, before figuring it out). Once you reach the top, an elevator will take you to the top of the tower. The viewing platform over the ski jump ramp is next to the restaurant, hence not on the top floor terrace, but one floor below. Guess what? The perspective from above is not as terrifying as you may think. Until mid-October, you can marvel at athletes practicing this sport. Our visit, unfortunately, took place in November. What a pity!
8. Visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds (Swaroski Kristallenwelt)
The Swarovski Crystal Worlds, technically, are not located in Innsbruck but in the village of Wattens, about half an hour’s drive away. Five times a day a convenient shuttle bus leaves from the main train station and the Kongresshaus. Allow about three hours for the visit, which is simply amazing. As you enter the garden, you will see the head of a giant: it is the entrance to the 17 glittering rooms of the Swaroski experience. Each of them is stunning and will amaze your children greatly. There is also a huge playground in a separate building, which they will love.
The outdoor part of the playground includes a hand-shaped maze, a not so easy adventure trail, a slide, and a dozen marble runs – which were my son’s absolute favorites. Large wooden marbles cost 1 euro and can be purchased on the spot, from a machine. The indoor playground is a play tower arranged on four different levels. There are slides, trampolines, balance games and a climbing net which is 14 meters high. The minimum age is 4 years old and wearing non-skid socks is mandatory (they can be borrowed for free at the entrance).
Why you should buy the Innsbruck Card
The Innsbruck Information Centre kindly offered my son and I two Innsbruck Cards valid for 48 hours (50 € for adults, 25 € for children). This card grants you free access to almost everything there is to do and see in Innsbruck. In addition to free admission to most museums, you can use the area’s public transport system as well as funiculars and cable cars. The shuttle bus and the entrance to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds of Wattens, is included too – and so is the rental of city bikes (for 3 hours). And how about ice skating at Olympia World or riding the Sightseer Bus?
Purchasing an Innsbruck Card is definitely worth it, especially if you intend to visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds or travel to the top of the Hafekalar (2300 meters) by Nordkettebahnen cable cars (maybe in summer, certainly not in November). Without the card, I would have spent € 90 and my son € 37.50, so in total € 127.50 in total. You can buy the card online on this site (in English or German).
The only downside is that it is not always clear where you can use the card directly (Alpenzoo and Hungerbahn funicular, Sightseer Bus, Swaroski shuttle) and where you need to queue up to collect a ticket with a barcode instead (Swaroski, Bergisel, Stadtturm , Hofkirche). But maybe I just did not read the fine print well.
A postcard from the Alpenzoo
Click on the badge to see the postcard we sent to our friend Sage from Everydaywanderer. We are so honored to be featured on her website!
Thank you, Sage.