Brennerradroute: Part 1 Brenner to Brixen (Bressanone)

Published on:  | Last updated: 8 May 2018

Section of cycleway on the Brennerradroute near Brenner

Section of cycleway on the Brennerradroute near Brenner

At a glance

Distance

55 kms

Difficulty/​terrain

Easy. If you are heading north to south the route is predom­in­antly downhill with the occasional small climb.

Traffic

Almost entirely on traffic-free cycleways or quiet roads. However, there is a section, just before Franzensfeste Fortezza where the cycleway has been closed and you have to ride on the main road.

Surfaces

Almost all of the cycleway is asphalt surfaced, the excep­tions are a short section through a nature reserve near the Vahrner See, and north of Brixen and on the approach to Brixen itself.

Signs

Well signposted and easy to follow

Connections

The cycleway connects with the Fahrradroute Pustertal at Fortezza Franzensfeste.

Also known as …

The cycleway is also known as the Eisacktal Radweg (because it follows the Eisack river).

The Neustadt in Sterzing (Vipiteno) leading to the Zwölferturm

The Neustadt in Sterzing (Vipiteno) leading to the Zwölferturm

Map and altitude profile

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Distances
Brenner - Sterzing (Vipiteno) 22 kms
Sterzing (Vipiteno) - Fortezza Franzensfeste 23 kms
Fortezza Franzensfeste - Brixen (Bressanone) 10 kms
Cyclists on the Brennerradroute near Sterzing

Cyclists on the Brennerradroute near Sterzing

Route description

Brennerradroute

The cycleway follows a section of what was once the rail line to Brenner, made redundant by the rerouting and upgrading of the line.

Just after the six-kilometre marker, you come to a short (illuminated) tunnel. From here, the cycleway starts to separate from the autobahn and the main road. The cycleway follows the opposite side of the valley from the autobahn, and down below, you can see the village of Gossensaß (Colle Isarco). In the distance, you can see the snow on the mountains of what must be the Stelvio. As I descended all I could hear was the sound the cicalas (crickets), and a church bell in the distance.

When I passed this way in 2017 they were building a bridge over the river, so they had built a new road where, according to the map, there had previ­ously been a path. You have to take the road, and then pick up the cycleway again just before the 5-kilometre mark.

At a certain point, the section of decom­mis­sioned railway line comes to an end, and the cycleway turns toward Gossensaß, following the rail line. The even gradient gives way to more up and down. The route comes down to Gossensaß (Colle Isarco).

After Gossensaß the cycle route crosses over the autobahn and, makes a short climb up the valley side, following country lanes into the little hamlet of Oberried (Novale di Sopra). The short uphill enables you to avoid a series of three tunnels on the main road.

After Oberried the route descends again towards the river. You cross over the Eisack and continue beside the main road (SS 12) into Sterzing (Vipiteno).

The final stretch into Sterzing is pretty uninter­esting, but Sterzing itself more than makes up for it. The radroute takes you down the town's medieval altstadt and the stadtplatz (town square) with the iconic Zwölferturm (tower of the twelve) — the fifteenth-century tower that separates the Altstadt from the neustadt (New Town).

Sterzing is one of the most attractive towns in the region, and the section of the route through the Altstadt and Neustadt is a definite highlight, so take your time. If they are open, take a few minutes to see the 15th-century frescoes in the Heilig Geist Spitalkirche on the corner of the stadtplatz opposite the Zwölferturm. The Pfarrkirche Unsere Liebe Frau im Moos (the parish church of Our Lady in the Moss) is also worth a short detour. It has some beautiful wooden pews — each one individually carved for the family, but the together they add up to a harmo­nious whole.

Sterzing to Franzensfeste Fortezza

Coming out of Sterzing you need to follow the signs for the Radroute Brixen-Bozen (Percorso Ciclabile Bressanone-Bolzano). There are blue signs for the MV route and also for the Südtirol Radweg.

As you pass the landing strip, you should be able to see the Burg Reifenstein on your left. The castle is claimed to be one of the best-preserved castles in the Südtirol. It is visitable, but check the opening times on sterzing.com: Burg Reifenstein.

After Sterzing there's a stretch of where the route runs beside the autobahn for nearly four kilometres. It's not unpleasant, but it is a little dull. This section comes to an end as you cross over the bridge and the route arrives at the charming village of Stilfs (Stilves). Look out for the water fountain in the little square.

From Stilfs you take a gorgeous, quiet road that skirts the edge of woodland. The section of quiet lanes takes you through a couple of small villages and is one of my favourite parts of the route.

The countryside near Freienfeld (Campo di Trens)

The countryside near Freienfeld (Campo di Trens)

The next section, of traffic-free cycleway, is less scenic, but still, a lovely cruisey ride that comes to an end when you turn left and go under the railway line and ride into the pretty village of Mittewald on the banks of the Eisack. There's a nice little gasthof just before you get to the bridge over the river.

After the bridge there is then a roadside cycleway which takes you for 700 metres and at that point, there should be another bridge to take you over the main road and on to Fortezza Franzensfeste. Unfortunately, the bridge and cycleway are closed due to work on the Brenner Base Tunnel. I was told that this is a permanent closure and the cycleway will be rerouted. In the meantime, you have to take the main road (the SS12) for a couple of kilometres. Fortunately, the SS 12 at this point is quite wide, and if you are heading north-south, it is downhill.

There's a short section of roadside cycleway then the route crosses over the river and comes to the station at Franzensfeste Fortezza.

After the village, the route heads for the fortress itself. This is one of the narrowest points in the Eisack valley and the railway line, autobahn and the Staatsstraße squeeze into a narrow strip of land between the valley side and a reservoir — with the cycleway threading its way through the gaps.

The Brennerradroute near Pfulters (Fuldres)

The Brennerradroute near Pfulters (Fuldres)

The Festung Franzensfeste (Forte di Fortezza)

The Festung Franzensfeste was constructed by the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is one of many military follies built in the nineteenth and twentieth century across the arc of the Alps.

The fortress was built of blocks of granite brought here from Pfalzen five hours away by horse-drawn cart. A stone­cutter needed four days to create a perfect block by hand. Not surpris­ingly the fortress cost a huge amount of money to build (the equivalent of 400 million euros), and the Kaiser Ferdinand I is alleged to have said at the opening ceremony that, given the cost, he had been expecting a fortress of pure silver.

Today the building has been converted into a series of atmospheric exhib­ition spaces and is well worth the short detour to get to it.

The permanent exhib­ition about the history of the fortress itself is in three languages. There is then an exhib­ition dedicated to the history of the railways in the area which is in Italian and German only. There's also an InfoPoint dedicated to the Brenner Base tunnel project. If you're inter­ested, they offer visits to the tunnel itself on Fridays at 10:00 and 14:00 (reser­vation required). For inform­ation and reser­va­tions see bbtinfo.eu.

Visitors to the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte Fortezza)

Visitors to the Festung Franzensfeste (Forte Fortezza)

Franzensfeste Fortezza to Brixen

The Brennerradroute continues south beside the autobahn, although the route is well landscaped, and the sound­proofing is effective.

This section comes to an end close to the Vahrner See, where it turns right under the rail line, and then continues on an aggregate surfaced track through a nature reserve. It's a beautiful stretch through woodland, but you may find it tricky if you have narrow tyres. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid this bit would be to take to the main Brennerstraße at Franzensfeste Fortezza.

The route leads to a bridge over the motorway (and the railway line and the main road), and you can then pick up a cycleway which runs beside the SS12. I took the most direct option which involved a short section of unsur­faced track, but you could avoid this by following Bahnhofstraße.

The cycleway then turns away from the road, and becomes a quiet country lane, and comes out on the riverside beside the Löwenhof hotel and campsite. It crosses over the river and continues through a park towards the centre of Brixen. At the bridge, there's a junction with a cycleway that leads you to the Kloster Neustift (Abbazia Novacella) a kilometre away.

Cyclist on the Brennerradroute  near Vahrn (Varna)

Cyclist on the Brennerradroute near Vahrn (Varna)

Brixen (Bressanone)

Brixen is a definite don't-miss, even if it's only to explore the streets around the Cathedral (Dom/​Duomo). There is a beautiful, peaceful section of riverside cycleway which is a definite highlight – although as get further from Brixen it skirts the city's industrial/​commercial hinterland.

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and other accommodation

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Sterzing (Vipiteno) is the main tourist destin­ation in the area. There's lots of accom­mod­ation in and around the town, but not much after it until you get to Muhlbach (Rio di Pusteria).

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:

Gossensass (Colle Isarco) | Sterzing (Vipiteno) | Mühlbach (Rio di Pusteria) | Brixen (Bressanone)

About these links

If you use these links to book accom­mod­ation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.

I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirm­ation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accom­mod­ation.

I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the oppor­tunity to let me know if there’s a problem.

Many properties offer free cancel­lation but it’s a good idea to check the condi­tions as these vary from property to property.

Hostels

There is a hostel at Brixen: the Jugendherberge Brixen.

  Map:  Südtirol-hostels-map - show Südtirol hostels map in overlay    |    Südtirol-hostels-map - show map in new window   

Campsites

The only campsite on the northern part of this section is the Camping Gilfenklamm, a couple of kilometres on from Sterzing. It has a pleasant area for tents and is very reasonably priced for the area — it's been a long time since I paid less than €10 for a night at a campsite (although once the tourist tax was added on it came to €10.20).

There are a couple of campsites a little way north of Brixen:

The Löwenhof is a nice site, and convenient for sight­seeing, but it is close to a busy road, so during the day there is some traffic noise. The Camping Vahrner See looks the more rural of the two.

  Map:  Südtirol-hostels-map - show Südtirol campsites map in overlay    |    Südtirol-campsites-map - show map in new window   

Transport and services

Trains

The line between Brenner and Fortezza Franzensfeste/​Brixen is served by three train companies:

  • Trenitalia regional services to Bologna (via Bozen, Trento, and Verona)
  • the SAD regional train company operates services to Bozen, Meran and Lienz in Austria.
  • the Deutsche Bahn-ÖBB Eurocity services to Innsbruck and München in the north and Bozen, Trento, Bologna, Verona and Venezia to the south.

Note that you must have a bike ticket to travel on the Trenitalia and SAD services, and sadly the tickets for one company aren't valid on the others' services. To travel on the Eurocity services you need to reserve a bike place (cost 10€) in advance.

Bike shops

If you know of other bike shops, or you spot a mistake, please let me know.

  Map:  Südtirol-bike-shops-map - show Südtirol bike shops map in overlay    |  Südtirol-bike-shops-map - show Südtirol bike shops map in new window   

Resources

Tourist information websites

Cycling-related websites

Guest cards

  • BrixenCard (one free admission to the swimming pool)

Places and attractions

Articles in this series


Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.

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