STAY in Innsbruck:
Alp Art Hotel
The central station in Innsbruck is around ten kilometres away from the sun plateau in Götzens. The sun is shining in this area almost unconditionally; hence you don't even want to go inside the hotel. But the interior is as bright and welcoming with lots of warm wood and a cosy and elegant ambience. Contemporary art hanging at the right spots prevent the place from becoming too rustic. The perfect mixture are the superior double bedrooms equipped with design baths, glassed balconies and whirlpool. In this way you can marvel at the mountain setting for hours while sitting in the hot water. In the kitchen they cook traditionally but think modern and only use high quality ingredients that are locally grown. Especially recommendable to satisfy your thirst: the in-house bar and art lounge Binis.
You can't really go wrong when you check into a Innsbruck hotel that features an animal in its name. Or a colour. Or even better, both of them together. The Adler (eagle) and Bär (bear) are particularly the most beloved in the Tyrolean hotel branch, but don't worry - you won't find any bears lurking around at the Schwarzen Bär, as the last grizzly in Tyrol was spotted in 2008 and everybody was on high alert. But let's get back to the animal names. Colours and animals often feature in the names of traditional Tyrolean parlours, hotels and restaurants. The Schwarzer Bär (Black Bear), with its ten rustic and supremely comfortable rooms, stays true to this concept. With amenities like LCD, W-LAN and safes, the hotel meets all the modern standards, yet the past is to be felt everywhere, for example in the kitchen, where traditional dishes are served in a cosy setting. Maybe it's the excellent wine, it could even be the unique ambience, but those who take a seat here won't be leaving their table too quickly. The upholstered benches are simply too comfortable, the food is great and the service is friendly. Shame that the old town is waiting just outside, along with the 'Goldene Dachl' and the mountains. Double rooms are available from ?95 per night.
The motto in Penz Hotel reads 'It's all here in all its beauty'. And with good reason. This designer hotel has ditched the alpine kitsch and instead offers pure, clean lines. Where the floorboards would normally creek under the weight of the ages, wireless internet and satellite TV channels shown on LCD screens pave the way to the future. There are a couple of other nice modern touches that really impress, such as the safe with an integrated power outlet for laptops and the Nespresso machine in the Junior suite. But those who never make it out of the hotel room are also missing out on something. For instance theres breakfast on the roof terrace with that amazing view of Innsbruck. Or you can enjoy the sunset from the American Bar whilst sipping on a cocktail. You can also indulge in the culinary delights on the fifth floor and take in the supreme view of the mountains. We really recommend a glass of whisky and a cigar to celebrate the evening appropriately. Double rooms are available from ?180 per night.
SIGHTS in Innsbruck:
Schloss Ambras has everything that you would expect to find in a museum: portraits, suits of armour, godly sculptures and... a shark! Archduke Ferdinand is the one to thank for the museum's extensive and somewhat bizarre collection. Next to pieces of armour, there's also lifesize artworks by Tizian, chapel treasures and the duke's own chest of goodies: little gems such as money boxes, centrepieces, stationery and a shark that hangs from the ceiling. And those who aren't yet surprised may like to know that next to the shark is a portrait of a human being covered in hair. And he was no fictional character: the scraggly contemporary was a favoured piece of research for doctors in the 16th century. Those who cry out something blasphemous when viewing the haired beast should confess their sins in the St. Nikolaus chapel, You can still celebrate a christening, partake in mass or light a candle for the hairy one in the museum for letters of indulgences and Augsburger church silver .
The history of this church is full of contradictions: The emperor may have built the church, but he was never buried here and the bronze statues that were built for that very purpose are called 'Schwarzmander', of which a few are even women. But let's get back to the beginning: the emperor wanted 40 larger-than-life bronze statues for his tomb, but when he finally got them, he decided for something else. As he was on his deathbed he named Wiener Neustadt as his place of rest. The statues were too heavy for the chapel there, so they were left were they were, in the Innsbruck Hofkirche. So that the church was not left too empty, emperor Ferdinand II and Andreas Hofer with his comrades-in-arms were buried here. The emperor's tomb sans corpse is still worth a visit, with its marble reliefs and holy statues it is the biggest emperor's tomb in Europe. The bronzefigures are worth their own tour, as only the professionals know who is who.
World of Crystals
It may not be in the centre of Innsbruck, but all jewellery lovers should make the trip to Wattens: the Swarovski 'Kristallwelten' is a glittering world of its own. Those who have looked into the eye of the green giant that enchants visitors with its waterfall aren't likely to make a quick exit. The world of crystals is a kaleidoskope for the senses, an underground chest of treasures full of colours, light and magic. Have you ever asked yourself what it's like to look out from the inside of a crystal? Then you will be at home in the crystal cathedral: 590 mirrors disperse light and convey the feeeling that you are standing in the middle of a piece of jewellery. There are thousands of crystals hanging from the branches of a polished steel tree: boontje's artistic work accomplishes a fairytale-like winterland beautiful enough to make every christmas tree jealous. The world's biggest kaleidoskope and crystal theatre round off the world of crystals and bring us to the most crucial attraction: the biggest swarovski shop in the world. A small tip: keep a firm grip on your credit card, as you will struggle to resist the temptation brought on by the glittering and twinkling wonders around you.
EAT in Innsbruck:
The word Taminda derives from the Esperanto language and stands for Tamara Putz' high ecological and ethical values - in her ModeCafé she does not only serve coffee and healthy dishes but also fashion. In Taminda, Putz sells organic, regional and fair trade food as well as fashion to her clients. She shows limited trend pieces by national and international designers like Alexandra Jeller from Innsbruck or Rodriguez Gomez Gonzales from Columbia. Important prerequisite: the fashion is produced in the family business and made by hand. Concerning food, Taminda focusses on multiculture. On the menu, you find self-made specialties such as potato dumplings and turkey rissoles next to classics from the whole world (Jerusalem artichoke, humus crêpe). And fair trade coffee. All made of natural ingredients and in a well-balanced composition. Yin and Yang may be delighted.
When you think about Sacher cakes, then you're likely to think about Sissy, Austrian emperors and K&K moustaches. You are less likely to associate the mountains and Tyroler hats with Sacher, but it doesn't matter : the offerings at the Sacher in Innsbruck are just as good as what you will find in Vienna. That's probably because everybody endeavours to offer the orignal Sacher experience: In classic ambience, classically dressed waitresses serve the original Sacher sausage with original Sacher mustard or Eduard Sachers patented Tafelspitz (sour boiled rump), salonbeuschel and Wiener Backhendl (roast chicken). You are often seated at heavy marble tables that are too small for a roast chicken and just about always have a wobbly leg, even if you tried propping it up with numerous beer coasters. But a great alternative is the restaurant garden in the inner courtyard, where you can enjoy your Melange in peace, with a slice of Wiener Sachertorte (cake).
It's the light at the end of the tunnel: those who take a seat here will be sated, but you could never get enough of the panorama views. The upper floor of the city hall galleries has a unique position that boasts an unbelievable view of the city, the mountains and almost the entire region of Tyrol, as it appears. It may be easy to look past your plate, but don't look too far as what is served on plates here is truly a feast for the eyes. You can expect artfully arranged buffalo mozzarella, colourful baby leaf salads and carefully decorated tomato tagliatelle. It's all mouth-watering stuff that harmonises with the view. The farmer's dumplings won 14 points whilst being tested and were one of the many reasons why this restaurant has a 'Haube' - Austria's equivalent of the Michelin Star. The noble wines from Austria and Italy put the icing on the cake, but aren't the only sources of shining light to be seen in the 360°wine bar.
SHOPPING in Innsbruck:
Gleis 4 is the right store for everyone who likes to wear their pants low and wide. The sloppy streetwear look simply won't go out of fashion, and new brands are still coming out, offereing comfort in oversize trainers that wearers never really train in, but simply wear to look cool in. One of the latest brands is the house brand, Gleis 4, with so many casual shirts, wide jackets and caps that it is setting itself up as the big daddy of the scene. Their range spreads so wide, that there are even a few cool top for chicks, too. The first Gleis 4 shop opened in Bregenz, but the Innsbruck branch can hold its head high - with it's tunneled walls, it boasts the biggest 59fifty wall in Austria and features heaps of gear imported from the US. So come here and wear it wide with pride, baby.
So the words Ninja Tunes and Slow Cosmic Disco don't mean anything to you? Then you should take a look around in the Soundstation Record Store, where they serve everything that comes stamped on black gold - yes, vinyl records. The store isn't that big, but the ?1 bargain box is worth the trip alone. Here you will find the right tune for the right price. Those who are willing to dish out a little more should entrust the specialists; Klaus, the electro-junkie is behind the counter on Wednesdays and Fridays, Albi is there for all your hip hop, reggae and break beat requests on Mondays and Saturdays, on Tuesdays Stefan is your man for all things afro & cosmic and Gregor is the guy in the know for drum'n'bass music. Along with the professional advice, there's a couple of CDs available and some equipment for DJs of all levels, not to forget snazzy Pioneer cases for the trip between the bedroom and the nightclub.
The Golden Path
It's all about the colour of gold in the old town. But don't go and blow your savings straight away! The products called "Schindeln vom Goldenen Dachl" or "Goldschindeln" (golden shindles) should not be taken literally when found at the Konditorei Mundig (Kiebachgasse 16) and the Konditorei Zimt & Zucker (Herzog-Friedrich-Gasse 9), as sweet nibblies lay beneath the golden beauty. If you are disappointed, then maybe Vinothek's Culinarium (Pfarrgasse 1) would be the place for you, where you can find wines, liquors, marmelades and the "Goldenes Dachl" sparkling wine, which contains golden leaves. Are you already inebriated? Then let's part ways with gold fever and go where it gleams in a much different way: at Speckschwemme (Stiftgasse 4), the fat of Tyrolean Speck (cured bacon) gleams in all it's glory and it's wonderous scent makes your mouth water. And since we are pretty much there, drop in at the Tiroler Wachszieher und Lebzelter (Pfarrgasse 3) for an equally crucial cornerstone of the Tyrolean culinary platter: the Lebkuchen. Now we've mapped it out for you, it's up to you to follow the golden path.