Riding railways and bikes in Innsbruck
Ticking off Innsbruck on the way home...
After producing a flyer in February to promote cycling holidays for the Innsbruck tourist board, I wanted to visit the city myself to see if the wonderful images shown in the promotional material were genuinely as nice in real life as they looked in print.
I couldn’t believe that a relatively small city could offer so much and as I was going to Salzburg to visit a cycling holiday supplier, it made sense to stop-off overnight in Innsbruck on the way back to Manchester.
Innsbruck is unique as you can go up to 2000 metres in altitude in under 30 minutes directly from the city centre. There is a long-distance cycle path that starts in St. Moritz and passes through the city to Germany. The region is also hosting the 2018 UCI World Cycling Championships that will put the international spotlight back onto Innsbruck.
The city has a rich sporting heritage and hosted the Winter Olympic Games in both 1964 and 1976.
As capital of the Tyrol region in western Austria and a popular choice for university students from around the country, there is a real vibrancy to the city centre.
Due to its location, Innsbruck is also a great overnight stop for onward travel to Italy, Switzerland and other parts of Austria. Unlike other cities in Europe situated in Alpine regions, Innsbruck’s spectacular mountain backdrop is almost unrivalled.
Up the Hungerburgbahn Mountain Railway...
I arrived in Innsbruck after spending an enjoyable couple of days in the Salzburg area. I stayed at the Austria Trend Congress hotel with superb facilities and a modern business-orientated offering. I went down for breakfast and enjoyed the great choice of hot and cold foods on offer. I do like the fact that in most German and Austrian hotels, there is generally a good breakfast spread with an assortment of pretzels, muesli and juices to choose from.
Situated next to the hotel was one of my main reasons to visit the city - the Hungerburgbahn mountain railway network.
Built-in 2007 and designed by the late Zaha Hadid; the mountain railway climbs up to 850 metres through the Nordkette (North Park) and connects with the cable car station for downhill skiing and walks along the higher peak trails.
Each station is a pearlescent, mollusc-like sculpture and despite being only a ten-minute journey from the Congress centre at river level to the upper stations, there is a futuristic feel to the railway system with spectacular views over the city.
I left early in the morning to go to the top including the cable car and had the whole mountain range to myself with only a few early morning skiers for company. The round trip cost around €30 and was a great place to start the day before collecting a rental bike from the hotel to ride around Innsbruck city centre.
Hired a bike from the hotel and rode around the city...
I hired a bike at the hotel reception from the public hire NextBike scheme that operates in the city for just €1 per 30 minutes. This is not the cheapest bike hire option available in the city as a 24 hour rental from a local bike shop is more cost-effective, but for ease and convenience, there was no better alternative available to me that day.
The NextBike has 7 gears, Schwalbe Marathon tyres and a sturdy build. I rode from the hotel and out towards the Tivoli football stadium that was a host venue for the excellent Euro 2008 tournament, but now home to lowly Wacker Innsbruck F.C.
I cycled passed the Olympic Park complex and climbed up the roads approaching the 50-metre high alien-like Bergsiel ski jump by Zaha Hadid that rises above the city.
Exploring the modernist Olympic Village...
As the cost of hiring the bike was racking up by the minute, I only had time to tick-off a few more locations on my itinerary.
The famous ‘Swarovski World’ in Wattens located about 20 km from Innsbruck was unfortunately too far away, so I decided to cycle along the Inn Cycle Path to the outskirts of the city and spent an hour riding around the brutalist Olympic Village.
Built for the first Winter Olympics held in the city, the athletes' village is now a suburban high rise housing estate, but there are some modernist gems including a concrete memorial to the games and church.
I even found a flea market shop along the way and brought home a lovely 'Salzburger Stiegel' brewery tankard in the colours of the Austrian flag that I’ve used every day since (for green tea!)
Hiring a city bike through the hotel...
After a few hours of enjoyable and leisurely riding in the cool sun, I dropped the bike off at the docking station and handed the key back to the girl on Reception. The hire cost was only €12 and was ideal for a tour around the city including some of the hillier areas.
Back to the mountain railway...
I still had a few hours in Innsbruck to walk around, so ticked off the major sights including the Golden Roof that is a magnet for tourists and the pretty old town. I wasn't in the mood for shopping or doing general tourist things and wanted to make the most of my time in the city.