If I had to choose a favorite location from the trip, Innsbruck would be it. Compared to Hallstatt, the city itself couldn’t compete in beauty, picturesque views etc. But overall, our experience there was so enjoyable I’d rate it No. 1.
From The Lonely Planet: “Tirol’s capital is a sight to behold. The mountains are so close that within 25 minutes it’s possible to travel from the heart of the city to over 2000m above sea level. Summer and winter outdoor activities abound, and it’s understandable why some visitors only take a peek at Innsbruck proper before heading for the hills. But to do so is a shame, for Innsbruck has its own share of gems, including an authentic medieval Altstadt (Old Town), inventive architecture and vibrant student-driven nightlife.”
In Innsbruck, I decided to do something different and not stay in the Old Town, aka center of it all. So we were the people described in the guidebook who only peeked at Innsbruck proper (to get groceries etc) and then headed for the hills. We stayed in a rental with an AMAZING view and an even better location. Right outside our door was the walking trail we took each day to hike in the beautiful Austrian Alps.
My AirBNB review: “The location and view from this rental was even better than I expected. Every meal was spent on the deck, and every evening we curled up on the couch and watched the sun set and city lights start to sparkle. It’s been my favorite location during our 2+ week trip through Austria. (We are a young American couple traveling with a 2 year old.) The place was clean, had free parking, was within walking distance of a children’s playground and a lift up to the cable car. Our time in Innsbruck was spent hiking; one day we took a trail that started right outside of the apartment up the mountain to Arlzer Alm, a traditional mountain restaurant and farm. The next we took the Nordkette to Hafelekar. We spent very little time in Old Town Innsbruck. We had our own car, so we drove there — after hiking all day a 30 minute walk up and back didn’t seem appealing. Our only faults with the rental were this: Finding it (even with GPS) was difficult and the layout of the apartment was odd. It was fine for our needs, but a bit odd use of space. Overall, I’d recommend! The hosts were great!”
Hiking and more hiking
As I wrote in the review, one day was spent hiking directly behind the apartment up the mountain to Arlzer Alm, a traditional mountain restaurant and farm. There were many ways to get there, but the trail we planned to take was closed so we had to improvise. Luckily Lance has unnaturally good navigation skills, so we made it just fine. There were a couple times I worried about trekking into uncharted territory, but I knew all along that if needed, we could easily get back to civilization by just going down, so there was no real concern there.
That hike took us all day — 5 or 6 hours at least. When we arrived at the restaurant the trees opened to a clearing and I thought we had reached heaven. I know I’ve written this several times already, but this meal and the one we’d have the following day were definitely among our favorite the entire trip. There’s just something about working hard and finally reaching your goal — aka the restaurant. Lance ordered a large bacon dumpling in soup and I had traditional pork, potatoes and sauerkraut. Lila loved running around looking at and petting the animals: there were ponies, bunnies, goats, sheep and chickens. I loved watching her, because it meant I could rest before heading down the mountain!
When we were almost home it started to rain, and we somewhat miserably power walked down switchbacks trying to find the rental. Once inside, we took a family bath upstairs to warm up and relax our aching muscles. It was only 4 or 5 p.m. but we decided to call it a night. After dinner, we curled up on the couch and watched “Frozen” on our computer. It was our first time watching the movie (though we’ve seen the live production many times at California Adventure). It was so fun to snuggle and relax and enjoy a well-earned break. Lila of course loved it (she always asks to “watch a show!”) and she deserved it too. Poor girl had been cooped up in the baby carrier most of the day, and she wanted to do something more toddler friendly.
The next day we took the funicular up the mountain and swallowed our disappointment at the incredibly dense fog that prevented us from having any sort of view. Still in high spirits, we walked for awhile on our first stop (Seegrube, half way up the mountain) and let Lila chase goats and get some wiggles out.
We then got back on the funicular and headed to the top of Hafelekar. The guidebook describes it like this: “The 2334m summit of Hafelekar affords tremendous views over Innsbruck to the snow-capped giants of the Austrian Alps, including 3798m Grossglockner.”
It was so cold that we decided to have a hot meal before hiking to the top viewpoint, which was only supposed to be 15 minutes or so. I ordered two bacon dumplings in soup (I loved Lance’s so much the day before I had to get my own) and he ordered goulash with sausage. Though we didn’t work for this meal like we had for the one the day before, it was still enjoyable to sit in a small, traditional, unassuming hilltop restaurant and eat a yummy, inexpensive meal. Occasionally the clouds would part and we’d get a partial view, which added to the experience!
After our meal, we set out on the 15 minute hike with no expectations. And that is why we were completely blown away that at the viewpoint we had clear blue skies and beautiful views! The geography was so varied, with dark, snow-capped mountains on one side, sharp, pointy rocks on another, and white gravel that looked like snow all around, plus city and valley views below. I could not stop taking pictures, and I love how each of them turned out. I’m so glad we decided to make that short trip up to the viewpoint, even though we didn’t think we’d see a thing. How disappointing if we’d turned around without trying!
That evening we walked through town to find Lance a souvenir for his collection at work. The city was prettier than we originally gave it credit — the buildings that lined the main strip were painted in pastel and each had unique flavor. While there we got gelato to share, and I immediately regretted not getting more! I’d never had it before and now I crave it. Yum! Lance eventually bought a small mug with Austria’s symbol printed on it. I bought an Austria magnet in the shape of a coo-coo clock that makes it seem more like it’s from Germany.