It may be somewhat small, but that doesn't make Innsbruck's list of things to do any less mighty. Being smack bang in the middle of the mountains means that once you've explored the city streets then there's only one way after that: up. With less than 12 hours to spare to experience all the city had to offer, I had to be brutal in my selection. Here are my top things to do in Innsbruck, both on the ground and in the clouds:
1. HUNGERBURG FUNICULAR
The name Zaha Hadid is synonymous with stunning architecture, and Innsbruck can proudly boast of not just one, but two pieces of architectural brilliance designed by Hadid's deft hand. The first is the Hungerburgbahn, a century-old furnicular railway around Innsbruck's hills, was revitalised by Hadid in 2007 and now people from all over the world come to admire its futuristic brilliance. 10 minutes is all you need to whiz from Innsbruck's centre, past 4 stations, to the top of Hungerburg. Don't make the mistake I did and wander by the entrances to the bahn in city – the first can be found at the Congress. Having said that, I enjoyed my walk in the sunshine, and starting my journey at the Alpenzoo station instead meant that I was to take the opportunity to gaze directly across Innsbruck to Hadid's other otherworldly wonder: the Bergisel Ski Jump.
2. NORDKETTE MOUNTAIN
Once you've journeyed to the top of the Hungerberg with Zaha Hadid's stylish rail, the top of the Nordkette mountain range is only another 10-minute gondala ride away – and the view from the top (2000 metres above sea level) is more than worth it. Get off at Seegrube and, if you have timed it right, grab some lunch from the restaurant's ground floor self-service area. If the weather's nice then opt to eat on one of the tables outside, where you can admire the impressive panorama while nibbling on your pretzel. Not hungry? Then pull up a pew in one of the free deckchairs. If visiting outside of the snowy winter months, take yourself off on the short panoramic walk just off from the restaurant – just make sure to have one of the free Nordkette maps with you so that you don't accidentally wander off on one of the more difficult trails which require a head for heights and a little more expertise (which of course I didn't do...*cough*).
3. MEDIEVAL CITY TOWER
No time to get up to the Nordkette but still in search of a good view? Then look no further than the medieval City Tower, which is also located conveniently close to the Golden Roof (see more on that here). It requires a little more effort that railways and gondolas – 148 steps to be exact – but offers a wonderful alternative view of Innsbruck and its colourful rooftops. A little tip: the tower fee also includes use of their clean toilets, which is an added bonus when pretty much all others in the city cost 50 cents (yes, I do love a good toilet trip bargain).
4. INN RIVER
Running right through the city centre is the river Inn (no guesses about the naming convention here). With all of the other things to see and do, it could be that you neglect to spend time admiring this stretch of water, one of Innsbruck's best features. Make sure to set aside time to wander along its picturesque banks, which are scattered with colourful buildings sitting in the shadow of the impressive mountain range behind. With multiple benches along the way, when the sun is shining its easy to pleasantly while away time by simply sitting with a book and a market-bought snack (the Markthalle is conveniently situated right next to the riverbanks).