Summer in the city: culture, hiking and biking in Innsbruck, Tirol
Urban life meets the great outdoors in the city of Innsbruck, Austria, home to a gorgeous medieval Altstadt and an Olympic ski jump, and just a stone's throw from the majestic Nordkette mountain range
When you arrive in Innsbruck, Austria, the first thing you'll notice is the stunning medieval architecture. The historic city is packed with beautiful museums and churches, and just one of the unmissable jewels in its crown is the building known as the Goldenes Dachl, or Golden Roof, which was built by Emperor Maximilian I in the 15th century as his main place of residence.
The second thing you'll notice are the peaks of the Nordkette mountain chain, which lend the city its alpine character. And that's Innsbruck in a nutshell: a unique city rammed with 800 years of culture and heritage that still maintains a close link to its surrounding landscapes.
To explore Innsbruck's great outdoors, all you need to do is hop on one of the Nordkette cable cars in the city centre. In 20 minutes, you can travel all the way from the Old Town to a whopping 2,000m above sea level. The cable cars give you access to Austria's biggest nature park, as well as the Alpine Zoo – Europe's highest-altitude zoo.
Or you could take the cable car to the Götheweg and hike along the tops of the mountains. Another popular walk is the Zirbenweg – stone pine trail – that starts from Igls village and takes you through 800-year-old stone pine woods. One of the best ways to discover this natural beauty is through Innsbruck's free mountain hiking programme that runs from June to October, with different hikes taking place every day that are free for guests staying in a hotel in Innsbruck.
If you'd rather explore on two wheels than with your feet, hop on a bike to the cycle paths that line Innsbruck's river, while those wanting more of a challenge should head to the hills to explore the villages on the surrounding plateaus.
Innsbruck is a city that's set up for exploring the natural landscape while keeping active, hosting events like Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival. This year, the city will be holding the Road Cycling World Championship and the Climbing World Championship, which means the area is all geared up for those wanting to combine a sporting challenge with stunning alpine scenery and a generous dose of culture.
Elsewhere, the Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump Tower and its iconic silhouette have become associated with Innsbruck and its role in the Winter Olympic Games. Built by acclaimed studio Zaha Hadid Archtects, it's open for live ski jumping from March until October, while there's a restaurant and viewing platform at its top open all year 'round.
For a structure that's equally legendary, look to Ambras Castle, a 16th century renaissance castle that sits in the hills above the city, with extensive, beautiful garden parks and forest. It's home to a chamber of curiosities that's also one of the first and oldest museums in Europe – complete with an original painting of Count Dracula.
Whether you're after an outdoors adventure, a historic hideaway or a cultural city break, make sure Innsbruck is on your must-visit list this summer.