Published on: 12 February 2018 | Last updated: 13 February 2018
Maurach to Schwaz
It's well worth setting aside a day for sightseeing in Innsbruck, but there's a lot to see and do before you get there.
Between Jenbach and nearby Stans is the Schloss Tratzberg.
If you're up for a hike, then there's the Wolfsklamm Gorge a bit further on from Stans. According to the website, a visit takes three hours (there's an elevation gain of 350 metres and a distance of 6 kilometres).
In 1500 the mines at Schwaz accounted for 85 percent of the silver traded in the world. Its success was due to the combination of new mining techniques and the introduction of a new silver coin (the guldengroschen), which was the forerunner of the thaler and the silver dollar.
Wattens to Hall in Tirol
Further on at Wattens, is the Swarovski Crystal Worlds - claimed to be Austria's most-visited tourist attraction.
At Vomperbach there's the Haus Steht Kopf. The name literally translates as House Standing on Its Head - and it is a house that's been built upside down.
Between Volders and Hall in Tirol there's the Karlskirche (de.wikipedia.org: Karlskirche (Volders)) and adjoining monastery. The church is said to be the finest example of rococo (late baroque) in the Tirol. The cupola is decorated with a glorious fresco by local artist Martin Knoller. From the map it looks like, there's a path that takes you under the autobahn and brings you out onto the road (the Volderwaldstraße) that leads to the church.
Hall in Tirol
Hall's altstadt (old town) is claimed to be the the largest and best-preserved in western Austria. The tourist office in Hall offer guided tours on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings (see: hall-wattens.at: guided tours).
In the Middle Ages Hall grew rich mining and trading salt, which was hugely profitable (salt was known as white gold). Salt was discovered in the mountains 9 kilometres north of Hall in the 13th century, and the mine continued producing salt for eight centuries until it closed in 1967. In Hall itself you can visit the Bergbaumuseum (mining museum), which, according to the
tyrol.com tourist information website:
Tours are given of the reconstructed salt mine, complete with pits, shafts, drills, tools, and — the climax of any salt mine tour — the slippery wooden slide. It feels like a real mine.
As you approach Hall you'll see the Burg Hasegg. Work on the castle was completed soon after 1300. The castle reflects not just the importance of the newly-discovered salt, but also Hall's location on the Inn and on the old Roman road —the Via Raetia, which lead from Hall to Matrei am Brenner and on from there into what is now Italy.
The castle went on to house the mint that produced coins for the Habsburgs. In the Münze Hall (mint museum) there's a replica of the first machine for minting coins, which could produce 4,000 coins per day. Visitors to the museum also get to climb to the top of the Münzerturm tower with views over Hall and the Inn valley.
There are impressive outdoor swimming pools complexes at Jenbach, Schwaz, Hall and Innsbruck. My impression is that these are relatively expensive because people tend to go for the whole day rather than pop in for a quick dip.
If you don't do anything else …
Even if you are determined to speed through in your hurry to get to Venezia, don't miss Innsbruck's Altstadt (old town). The star sight is the Goldenes Dachl a balcony with a roof of golden tiles that overlooks the Herzog-Friedrich Straße, opposite the extraordinary Helblinghaus.
If you have the time, there's also the Hofkirche (Court Church). The Church is also known as the Schwarzmanderkirche (literally “Black Men Church”) because of the 28 larger-than--life-sized Renaissance bronze statues of important historical figures that flank the marble tomb of Emperor Maximilian I. Maximilian himself is not buried there — but Andreas Hofer is. For a detailed guide to the church see: en.wikipedia.org: Court Church.
Rebuilt in 2009, with stations designed by the architect Zaha Hadid the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway is a complete contrast. It takes you up to Hungerburg overlooking the city. The journey takes about 10 minutes, and you could just go to the Hungerburg station, enjoy the views and then come back, or you could take the Nordkette cable car to the Hafelkarspitze (altitude 2300m), high above the city.
The funicular also stops at the Alpenzoo.
Zaha Hadid also designed another Innsbruck landmark, the Bergisel Schanze (ski jump). It's a dramatic building, but it's probably best seen from a distance. If you're an engineer, or if even if you're not, you can admire the engineering of the run itself which has no supports along its length (credit goes to Dr Christian Aste, a stress analyst at Innsbruck University).
The ski-jump has an artificial surface, so it is used during the summer for training. Seeing the ski jump close up you have to admire the courage of the ski jumpers. Or wonder how anyone would be mad enough to hurl themselves at speed off a very high place. Or both.
I found the Bergisel Schanze a bit of a disappointment, but the nearby Tirol Panorama and Kaiserjäger museum was an unexpected pleasure. The panorama is a 1,000 square metre painting giving a 360º view of the third battle of Bergisel which took place around the place where the museum was built. The panorama is housed in a modern museum about the history and culture or the Tirol. Be sure to get an audioguide.
There's also a nice restaurant/bar at the museum.
The Innsbruck Card
If you plan on spending a day in Innsbruck, then it's almost certainly worth getting an Innsbruck card. The card costs €39 for 24 hours (under-15s half price) and includes travel on the buses and the cable cars around the area, including the Hungerburgbahn/Nordkette cable car, as well as admission to museums etc.
Tourist information websites
- tyrol.com (de/en/it/nl/fr/di/ro/pl/ck/ru) is probably the most useful tourist information site for the Austrian section. There's also an excellent iOS/Android app
- silberregion-karwendel.com/ — tourist information for Schwaz area
- hall-wattens.at: home page
- innsbruck.info (de/em/it/fr/es/nl/ru/cn/pl)