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June 26, 2022

The Best of Innsbruck for Kids: Your 3 Day Itinerary

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Wondering what you'll find in Innsbruck for kids? We loved our time in this mountain fresh city in Tirol. Enjoy this three day Innsbruck itinerary and inside travel guide. 

Also, don't miss our video on things to do in Innsbruck with kids here.

Austria - Schloss Ambras interior for Innsbruck with kids

So many things to do around and in Innsbruck with kids...

Innsbruck for Kids

Innsbruck is a city and a playground all in one. The snowy mountains ridge and rise and peak and pine up out of the earth to create a glorious backdrop and ever present reminder that nature's sense of fun and adventure is always waiting for you to join in. 

The city itself is as modern as any in Austria but its Old Town serves up a platter of medieval houses and inns in soft pink and ochre, combined with gargoyles, stone saints and sinners and a beautiful collection of boutique shops that specialise ,among other things, in chocolate.

All of which sounds great for adults. But what about Innsbruck for kids?

Not to worry. You will find plenty to amuse all the family with this three day Innsbruck itinerary. We travelled there when baby Lab was five. I'd visited several times before for work so this was a real joy to get out and explore Innsbruck and around through the eyes of a child. 

And, as is often the case, I discovered sights I'd overlooked the first few times, which razzle dazzled me even as an adult. 

So without further ado, let me introduce you to this three day itinerary for Innsbruck and guide for Innsbruck with kids. 

Disclosure: I travelled to Innsbruck as a guest of Visit Austria. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?

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Your 3 Day Innsbruck Itinerary

We spent two nights in Innsbruck on this trip as part of a wider road trip through the mountains of Tirol (in case you're wondering, it's a great plan to visit Austria for summer.)

However, this three day Innsbruck itinerary also works well as a weekend break. 

  • Day One - Arrival and riverside walk. Dine in one of the traditional taverns. 
  • Day Two - Head to the Nordkette mountains and go hiking, snowball fighting (yes, even in summer) and enjoy a traditional picnic. Visit the Alpenzoo on the way up or down and plan to spend half a day there. 
  • Day Three - Take a short day trip outside the city to either the Swarovski Kristallwelten or the Schloss Ambras. You can do both in a day, with lunch at Daniels in the Kristallwelten, but it will be a bit of a squeeze. 

Check out the more in-depth descriptions further down to work out which decision makes the best sense for you and your family.

Austria - Innsbruck with kids - Kristallwelten ca ANgel pose with Abigail King

Have YOU been to Kristallwelten yet?

Why you should visit Innsbruck

As Austria's fifth largest city, Innsbruck stands out not only for its rainbow coloured riverside scenery but also for its position. 

Sure, Austria is a mountainous country but Innsbruck is a mountainous city. You can be at your office desk in the morning and be heading for the Bergisel ski jump by the afternoon. 

Innsbruck is also a great place to visit with young children. It's safe, it's pretty and you'll find plenty of things to do with kids in Innsbruck.

Did you know?

Not all commercial pilots can land here, only those especially trained, on account of the surrounding mountains.

Where is Innsbruck?

Surrounded by mountains, Innsbruck sits to the west in Austria, feeling far from Vienna and the gentle Buschenshanks of Graz. It's an easy drive or train ride from the nearby hub of Munich and, at more of a stretch, Venice to the south. 

How to get to Innsbruck

Innsbruck has its own airport (INN) which is served by a number of airlines. However, for planning reasons, it often makes more sense to fly into Munich and hire a car or take the train. 

Innsbruck is well connected by rail to nearby main cities like Munich and Salzburg. It is around 4.5 hours by train from Vienna. Austria is a long, thin country, so it's often best to look at the map and plan to focus on a specific region, overlapping with neighbouring countries, rather than thinking you'll "go to Austria" and travel around from there.

Austria - Innsbruck with kids - Congress station

Getting around Innsbruck with kids is fun with the funicular and cable cars

How to get around Innsbruck

The centre of Innsbruck's Old Town is extremely walkable, even for little legs, and the city is well connected by funicular and cable car to the mountains. In fact, it's something of a nuisance to have a car in the city due to parking costs and tight corners. 

That said, to visit some of the attractions close by, it is easier to have a car. So, it depends upon your plans. Only staying in Innsbruck and heading up into the mountains? You don't need a car. Planning to venture furhter afield? Yes, there are other options on public transport but your trip will run more smoothly with your own wheels.

Amazing things to do in Innsbruck for Kids

Right, now we can get on to the fun stuff! All the incredible things you can do in Innsbruck with kids!

Austria - Innsbruck River View-2

The river view of Innsbruck, one of Austria's fascinating cities...

Stroll along the river Inn

Yeah... So whose kids were ever excited about just going on a walk? A riverside walk along the River Inn is a different kettle of fish. The buildings are rainbow coloured. The water is glacial and that's not a figure of speech. The mountains rise up in the background with snow on their crowns like new grandparents who are incredibly pleased with themselves. 

In short, don't miss the free and gorgeous walk along the river as one of the easiest things to do in Innsbruck with kids. 

Austria - Innsbruck - Abigail King looking at the Golden Roof

Looking up at the Golden Roof in Innsbruck...

Visit the Old Town & The Golden Roof

Innsbruck's Old Town is simply gorgeous. Its most famous attraction, the Golden Roof, seems subtle when compared to, say, the Eiffel Tower. But subtle isn't a bad thing.

The Goldenes Dachl, as it's called in Innsbruck, was completed in 1500. It is home to 2657 fire-gilded copper tiles that glitter and glimmer in the morning and evening light. The soft chocolate tones of the frescoes that rise up the walls give a comforting sense of age to the glinting tiles on top. 

But what is it all about?

The suitably grand sounding Emperor Maximilian I commissioned the building to mark his marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza. The couple would stand on the balcony and watch the feasting, tournaments and dancing that took place below. 

Today, you can stand below and watch almost everyone who walks past... stop and look up.

Austria - Innsbruck - Alpenzoo mountain cat lynx

The Alpenzoo: finding local wildlilfe in one place

Search for wildlife at the Alpenzoo

The Innsbruck Alpenzoo balances on the steep sides of the Nordkette mountain range like a watchful owl in a daytime slumber. Even the journey there, via the futuristic funicular, is an adventure and kids will love the name of the station: the Hungerburgbahn.

Now, truth be told, I'm wary of a lot of zoos. I'm not keen on the idea of animals kept in captivity for our entertainment. There's a whole debate to be had about that.

However. For me, the Alpenzoo or Alpine Zoo stands out on the educational and animal welfare front on a number of points. 

First, the animals, from the beavers and marmots to the bears (yes, bears) are all from the local region.

Second, all animals can follow their normal, natural rhythms. What does that mean? 

It means that the lynx, which are native to this area, are allowed to sleep in the day. They are not poked and prodded and produced for showtime extravaganzas. 

So, in short. I see the Alpenzoo as a place that promotes education and conservation and, while not being perfect (who among us is?) deserves its place on any Innsbruck itinerary that is designed for kids. 

Austria - Seegrube - Man with child hiking

You will find hiking routes for all ages (and cable bars for tired legs...)

Hike in the Nordkette mountains

As I believe I've mentioned many a time in this article on what to do in Innsbruck with kids, you are close to the moutnains. 

But seriously, guys. Really close. 

As in, twenty minutes from the city centre close. 

Allow me to explain. 

Accessing the Nordkette mountains

To actually get up the Nordkette mountains is easy. To understand the route can be confusing at first. 

Let me straighten things out. 

Start at the station Congress and take a funicular (fancy train) to the Hungerburgbahn (this is also the stop for the Alpenzoo - although, be warned, there is a steep ascent from the station if you're travelling with a pushchair.)

From the Alpenzoo stop, you take one cable car to Seegrube. This is where we picked up our picnic (find the juicy details here.) It's also a great place for hiking -  and hang-gliding and paragliding for the older and more adventurous. 

From there, there is another cable car (the third step in the journey) to reach the summit at Hafelekar. 

From Hafelekar, you can see the "Top of Innsbruck." Although, be warned. Even in summertime, when you would normally wear shorts and T shirts in the city, by the time you reach Hafelekar, the air will be fresh and you will feel cold.

Properly cold.

Wear layers and pack accordingly! And then enjoy the views over Innsbruck.

Austria - Innsbruck - Tyrolean cuisine picnic

Tyrolean cuisine in the mountains...

Austria - Innsbruck - Local Burgerbrau beer

Local Innsbruck beer

Picnic in the Nordkette mountains

One absolutely lovely thing to do in Innsbruck with kids is to stop off at the Seegrube cable car and pick up a picnic. The restaurant (there's only one) offers a meal of local, traditional Tyrolean cuisine and lends you a backpack while you complete your hike. 

Even with the littlest of legs, you can follow a fairly flat trail to reach a secluded spot. Then, you have your food and the whole of the mountains and the splendour of Innsbruck beneath you.

Austria - Innsbruck - Kristallwelten Abigail King in snow

Step inside the whimsical world of Kristallwelten

Play and stare in wonder at the Swarovski Kristallwelten

The Swarovski Kristallwelten has to be seen to be believed.

Readers, dear readers, this is rather embarrassing. I've worked as an editor for Austrian material before. I've read articles about the Kristallwelten written by very talented folk... And while I thought, ach, that might be interesting to see one day, I never realised just quite how mind-blowing the experience would be. 

Guys, a grass giant fountain marks the entrance. Inside, crystals upon crystals illustrate not only modern art but pop culture and design and childish fantasies and serious philanthropic visions and more...

You will see Swarovski costumes worn by Elton John and Simone Biles, Marilyn Monroe and pop star Katie Perry. 

You can walk amid fake but real snow. See Gandhi. And watch children play in the most inventive and creative soft play system I have ever seen. 

It's incredible. It does, seriously, have to be seen to be believed.

Austria - Innsbruck - Schloss Ambras inner courtyard-1

Inside the Ambras Castle near Innsbruck...

Chase knights at the Schloss Ambras

The Schloss Ambras or Ambras Castle fulfils many of the classical Austrian icons and stereotypes. It includes great grandeur and great halls, classical architecture and high aristocracy. Manicured gardens and knights in shining armour. 

So, it comes as something of an interesting twist to learn that, while all of this is true, the story of the Schloss, or castle itself, is far less classical. 

Austria - Innsbruck - armour at Schloss Ambras

Kids will love the real armour at Castle Ambras

What Makes Schloss Ambras Different

Archduke Ferdinand II ordered the fortress at Ambras be converted into a Renaissance castle for his wife, Philippine Welser. As she was untitled, the aristocracy disapproved, he married her in secret and their children lost their rights to succession. But you'd never guess at all that cloak and dagger intrigue and secrecy amid the serene gardens of the castle today.

Swim

Sometimes, simple pleasures matter, whether for adults or kids in Innsbruck. We had the chance to swim at our hotel, the Hotel Innsbruck but you can also visit spectacular outdoor swimming pools like the Tivoli Innsbruck.

Relax

While Austria may have a reputation for outdoor exertion and activity, Austrians also know how to chill out and relax. Whether it's taking your time with a picnic in the sun or steaming up in a sauna or gazing at the stars from a rooftop terrace, you'll find plenty of pockets in Innsbruck to slow down and enjoy and appreciate nature. The City That Never Sleeps, this is not. The City That Knows How to Enjoy Nature, this is. 

Again, our hotel, the Hotel Innsbruck, had its own rooftop sauna and chill-out room but you can also easily find others in the city.

Austria - Innsbruck - Old Town statues

The Innsbruck Welcome Card

You will receive a free Innsbruck welcome card on checking in to your accommodation as long as you are staying for at least two nights. It includes free public transport and discounts on services like bicycle hire and swimming pools. You can pay to upgrade, or stay longer to upgrade. Find all the details about the Innsbruck Welcome Card here.

Austria - Tirol - Kaesespaetzle

Käsespätzle: cheesy paradise in the mountains

What to eat in Innsbruck

Look out for a full article on Tyrolean cuisine coming soon! In the meantime, check out these favourites:

  • Käsespätzle - a higher class Mac n Cheese dish with crispy onions on top
  • Gröstl - fried potatoes, bacon and egg. Perfect for loading up with energy. 
  • Alpine cheeses and cured meats
  • Speckknödel (or any kind of dumpling, really)
  • Zillertal Krapfen - a kind of gyoza
  • Kaiserschmarrn - a shredded pancake with berry jam
Austria - Innsbruck - Stiftskeller traditional restaurant

You'll find a great atmosphere inside this traditional spot

Where to eat in Innsbruck

We tried a number of places but when it comes to eating around and in Innsbruck with kids, would suggest:

  • The Stiftskeller in central Innsbruck - traditional decor, great atmosphere, kid friendly food
  • The cafe at Schloss Ambras - convenient and great strudel
  • Daniels Restaurant at Kristallwelten - upscale with a gorgeous view
  • A picnic on the Nordkette mountains - pick one up from the restaurant in Seegrube or make your owns

Where to stay in Innsbruck

We stayed at the 4 star Hotel Innsbruck. It has an excellent central location, just about a minute's walk to the riverfront with the coloured houses and around five minutes from the Golden Roof. The rooftop relaxation area was blissful. However, they were also undergoing construction work inside at the time we stayed, so be aware of that. 


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About the author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

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