Weird Tyrol: Five Best Unusual Historic Hikes from Innsbruck
By: MarcellinaSay you’re living in Innsbruck. You’d like to get out of the city and into the wooded hills, but you’re not up for another vertical climb, the ski lifts are kind of expensive and you’d like to visit something besides another mountain Gasthaus. You’re a little intrigued by the fact that you are in a place with so much history, you want to do something off the beaten path, but… you don’t have a car. What to do?
If that’s your situation then this post is for you. After years of exploring the areas surrounding Innsbruck for interesting and unusual things to see, I have compiled a list of five of the most interesting day excursions to some nearby historical sights. They all involve some hiking (but for normal fitness levels; I’m certainly no athlete and I’ve done them all), unusual historic (and pre-historic!) sights that are free or low-priced, and best of all, they all can be reached using public transportation.
What you’ll need:
Not much, really! Sturdy, comfortable shoes, and a bottle of water is recommended for the longer hikes (2 & 5).
Bring along a hiking map of the area you’ll be in. For the area around Innsbruck I use a Mayr Wander- und Tourenkarte Innsbruck und Umgebung, 1:30,000. However, a friend once gave me a set of hiking maps for the whole of Austria 1:100,000, from Hofer Supermarket of all places, and these have worked really well for those times when I am further afield. But in a real pinch you can just take a printout from Google or Bing maps, as I have also done.
Advance research is very important here, but you can do much of it online. As with anything else, Google is your friend. The IVB (Innsbrucker Verkehrsbetrieb) and OEBB (Österreichische Bundesbahn) websites will give you bus, tram and rail times.
Some basic knowledge of German is necessary, as much of the posted information anywhere will be in German. If you can’t understand an historical information sign, you can photograph it and then decipher it back home. Many indoor museums don’t allow photography, however, so always ask first.
Grab some Euros, your OEBB VorteilsCard if train travel is involved, your ATM card just in case, phone, camera, and you’re all set to go!
5) Georgenberg. Train to Stans - Wolfksklamm - St. Georgenberg church - Schloss Tratzberg - shuttle/train to Innsbruck.
The Wolfklamm is a dark, narrow gorge with massive stone cliffs and waterfalls just above the village of Stans, between Schwaz and Jenbach. While the paths and footbridges are all pretty secure, the photos you take will have the folks back home impressed that you made it through.
There is one pitch-black tunnel to walk through, so I don’t recommend this walk for anyone with severe claustrophobia, or fear of heights. Any mobile phone works well as an emergency flashlight.
When you emerge from the gorge, continue up the hill and over an impressive bridge to the monastery and pilgrimage site St. Georgenberg. Here you can admire the church and have lunch on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace. There is also the possibility to book ahead for a spiritual escape, as the monastery lets single rooms to people who need to get away and think.
(Schloss Tratzberg is neither little-known nor inexpensive, but since it’s nearly on the way, you might want to hike over there after lunch.This is a lovely a 16th-century castle on the mountain slopes overlooking the Inn Valley (this is the large white castle, visible from the valley, above Jenbach). After a tour of the grounds, you can take the Tratzberg Express shuttle down to the castle’s inn, and walk from there to the Jenbach train station.
This in an all-day affair and you might even want to take a taxi from the castle to the train if you’ve no energy left for the last hike. On the other hand, it’s all downhill. The Wolfsklamm is only open from May to October, check online for opening hours at Georgenberg and Schloss Tratzberg.
4) Himmelreich. Train to Wattens - walk to Himmelreich (search “Himmelreichweg” via online maps - return the same way)
This is an open-air museum featuring a 2,500-yr-old “Raetian" settlement on a small, wooded hill on the south side of Wattens. The artefacts found here are all in the local museums but the terraced stone floors are still accessible, with signs explaining who lived here and what was found. Wattens has its share of tourists (being home of the Swarovski Crystal World factory and museum), so there are plenty of places in town to grab a bite to eat before you head back. This is a pretty interesting and well-maintained sight, and the beautiful mountain views it offers are certainly impressive.
3) Goldbichl. Postbus to Goldbühel stop near Patsch - return by bus (or walk to Igls for lunch and take the Nr. 6 tram back to town)
The Inn Vally has many hills which have been found to hold the remains of pre-Christian, pre-Roman burning altars. The most researched and documented of these is now an open-air museum on the Goldbichl. Here you can learn just how important this site was for the local inhabitants over centuries, and how the hill actually grew from the sediment deposits through continual use over the ages.
Take the postbus 4141 from the Innsbruck Bus Depot (in front of the train station, check bus routes online at the IVB website) to the Goldbühel stop (“Bühel” and “Bichl” both mean hill and are, as far as I can tell, nearly interchangeable). On the Römerstrasse you will see a small parking area at the side of the road — across from this (a few meters further) is a marked path up the hill.
2) The Roman Road. Train to Landeck - hike Via Claudia Augusta - Fliess Archaeology Museum - Schalensteine in Fliess (optional hike up to sacrificial burning site on the Piller Sattel) - bus/train back to Innsbruck.
Did you know that you can walk stretches of the actual original Via Claudia Augusta? This road was laid by the Romans in 46-47 BCE, and stretches from Venice to Donauwörth near Augsburg. Much of the original road is lost (buried under farmland, or hauled off for other uses in the Middle Ages, or maybe even under the current roads and railways in places, who knows) but it's still there in a hiking trail from Landeck to Fliess, over a plateau called the Fliesser Platte. In fact, at at least one section you can see the grooves made by hundreds of years’ worth of wagons rolling over the stones.
At the end of this trail is the village of Fliess, which may have been originally some sort of way station on the Roman road, because loads of Roman artefacts have been found in the vicinity. In fact it was settled well before the Romans even turned up — there are plenty of older Celtic artefacts, many of them sacred offerings found near the sacrificial burning altar on the mountaintop (Pillar Sattel). The Archaeology Museum at Fliess has all this on display, and friendly, helpful staff.
At the other end of town is a chapel built on the cliff overlooking the valley, and here you will find, at the chapel’s foundations, a very old, low rock surface with dozens of Neolithic cup markings.
The walk down to the main road takes longer than one expects — allow yourself plenty of time to get down there to catch the bus to Landeck, and from there back on the train to Innsbruck. The museum is closed in the winter months. I visited on Austria’s National Holiday — October 26th — and almost got stranded, as the buses were not running according to schedule. Although I have not tried it, this trip might work well by taking mountain bikes by train to Landeck and cycling from there.
1) Paschberg. Nr. 6 trams to Lanser See - Lanser Kopf - Tantegert Schalenstein - Tummelplatz - coffee at Schloß Ambras - Nr. 3 tram back into center of town.
This, I admit, is one of my favourite hikes, as it’s doable almost any time of the year (even in snow!), is easily reached, has lots of features, and doesn’t take the entire day. In part or whole it’s also a great walk when you have out-of-town guests. The Nr. 6 tram, officially known as the Innsbrucker Mittelgebirgsbahn and locally known as the Igler, is a streetcar which runs from Innsbruck (connect at the last Nr. 1 tram stop, Bergisel, in Wilten) up into the hills and through a Hansel-and-Gretel forest to the community of Igls. Get out one stop early at Lanser See, and follow the trail past the lake, following the signs to Lanser Kopf. This is the crest of a wooded hill and at the highest point you will find the ruins of World War Two flak circles — the concrete bases from which enemy aircraft were gunned down.
Continuing down the hill towards Innsbruck and Aldrans, you will occasionally cross the tram tracks that you rode up on and eventually you’ll come to the Tantegert station — just beyond this, continuing along the track for a perhaps 20 yards, is a large boulder with a park bench in front of it. If you scramble up onto this rock you will find cup markings which are undatable but which are very very old, possibly neolithic.
Continuing downhill on the forest road will bring you to the Tummelplatz memorial site. This is a clearing with war memorial chapels, and hundreds of wooden markers commemorating Innsbruck's fallen and missing soldiers from the two Wolrd Wars. Many of the markers have small photographs of the dead. Many of these pictures show very young men, almost boys still. It’s an eerie place but also quite lovely.
From the Tummelplatz it’s a short walk to Schloss Ambras to stroll the castle gardens and have Kaffee und Kuchen in the restaurant, or you can skip that and head down into Amras, to catch the Nr. 3 tram back into the center of town.
These are just five of dozens of beautiful and interesting hikes in the hills accessible from Innsbruck. I hope you decide to try a few of them, and then go on find some special places for yourself. Good luck and happy trails!
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Contest Comments » There are 44 comments
Marcellina, thank you for suggesting these thought-provoking and refreshingly non-consumerist hikes that are literally off the beaten path. You've revealed a truly low-cost, easy, environmentally friendly and intriguingly different way to explore the Innsbruk area.
As a descendant of Naturfreude, I love hiking, and I love even just reading about hiking. I wish I was in the Tyrol right now!
Thank you so much for this insightful guide, its a perfect fit for a guy like me. Wish you would do it for cities all over the world...
Love Marcellina's blog. Looks like there are some hikes I need to take on my trip to the Stubai in 2014.
If I was in Innsbruck, I would want Marcellina to be my tour guide. She finds all the best hidden treasures in the hills. Been reading her personal blog for years. She's my favorite ex-pat.
I often read Marcellinas Blog „Practiceroom“. I especially like the mixture of culture, geography and history giving an, in general, exterior, sometimes almost native view of my own home country. In addition I enjoy the occasionally travel-blog insets about heir home country and the similarities that can be found several thousand miles away. For the first reader I suggest entries like http://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/bruegels-hunters-in-the-snow-in-the-film-melancholia/ (history, culture, painting) http://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/forgotten-innsbruck-the-lake-on-the-hungerburg/ (local history) http://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/a-grave-of-an-amerikanerin/ (history, curiosity) http://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/4520/ (culture contemporary) They give an outline of the various topics Marcellinas blog deals with. P.S.: I will have to visit Himmelreich (suggested in Marcellinas Blog-Entry). Till now I have missed the occasion. That the sight there must be great is obvious, when look up to the viewing platform down from Wattens.
Beautifully written, informative, and entertaining. Every time I read Marcellina's blog I want to pack my bags and head for Austria.
I have seen quite a lot of Austria, but Marcellina's list of places sounds wonderful. I will keep a copy in case we get back to Austria.
These sound AMAZING! I would go to Austria just to do these hikes. Nice list! I love it!
Kristina has brought to her survey/list of doable hik,es in the Innsbruck area the same sort of exhaustive attention she brings to all her endeavors, and I believe she's certainly one of the leading candidates for this award.
These are really nice ones. I'am living nearby Innsbruck and did not know about #2 and #4. Bookmarked for next summer!
Marcellina has a wonderful perspective of living in Austria and was incredibly helpful when my son went to live in Vienna. I love seeing the countryside and the hikes she goes on, telling us about the historical significance of the places she visits. Makes me feel I've had an adventure, hiking the trails, having the refreshing mountain air blow through my hair... all without leaving my computer chair. It also is fun to hear about the performances she's been involved with, the music she loves. Austria is a beautiful place, drenched with the love of music. Marcellina brings it all.
I've been drooling over Marcellina's pictures and stories for a very long time and really want to go visit! We've had discussions about geoglyphs we've seen - hers in Europe, mine in the American Southwest and I've come to enjoy her musical adventures almost as much as the scenery in which they take place.
Marcellina, danke schön for the informative post! I'm in Vienna and keep a running list of interesting things to do in this beautiful adopted country, and your list has now been included. All I need now is the time to get away! :)
I hate walking but love History. This blog has definately given me a massive change of heart. i love the whole off the beaten track approach to this article and I can actually visualise myself, one who hates exercise, traveling to Innsbruck and doing all five treks. You know what they say.... When Rome, hang on, when in Innsbruck, take the Roman Road. And I will. Thank you M.
Reading these suggestions makes me long back to Innsbruck! I've spent some time there working and used my spare time exploring the mountain sides around town. Thanks Marcellina for making it vivid in my mind again with these great descriptions!
Marcellina, you are a wonderful writer with heart and soul. I love reading your articles about the arts, history and more...keep the blog up and running! Your perspective on Innnsruck and Austria always make me laugh or really think.
The Practice Room is one of my go to blogs when I want an intelligent read. Now I need to pack a bag and explore a Roman Road.....
Thank you, Marcellina, these are great hikes,really have to try them once, you have made it really easy now.....!!!!
I love this blog! I try to catch every installment, and each time there is something thought-provoking or new. This entry is a good example-now I have the chance to visit a Roman Road! Or at least dream of it! Thanks, Marcellana!
Practical and evocative, this blog is always well-written and captures the essence of Tirol from the viewpoint of an ex-pat immersed in the culture. Always a rewarding read.
Marcellina's descriptions of the beautiful Tyrolean countryside have me wishing I could go back ... soon! Her writing is both evocative and informative and I always enjoy (virtually) joining her on her journeys!
This is a great description of these 5 places! I'm also living near Innsbruck and I have already visited them all at least once! I really like your posts and think they are interesting, helpful and realistic! Thank you Marcellina! You did a great job!
I like hiking, and Marcellina makes me want to hop on a plane RIGHT NOW to try out the hikes she describes so well.
Great, thank you for this wonderful article. I hope you win.
Marcellina's descriptions leave me yearning for the grand old days of the walking tour and the cash to buy a plane ticket. Innsbruck is now on my bucket list. Where was all this hidden beauty the last time I was in Europe? Oh, yeah...not listed as options on the package tour. I'm brushing up my Deutsch even as I type....
I like everything Marcellina writes. She writes very beautiful. She has a deep understanding of Austria and Germany. And Marcellina is very authentic.
These attractions you will not find even in German-speaking guidebooks, in fact I would guess that even many Innsbruckers are not aware of all of these things. I enjoy reading Marcellina's blog for many years now, she always finds sonething new and interesting even for those of us who are not "expats".
Wonderful work, Marcellina. It's almost like being there, and now I have even more to do during my next trip to the Tirol. Cheers!
Whether she's writing about the lesser known aspects of her professional career or about the lesser known history and sites in the Austrian Alps, I enjoy Marcellina's stories. This one is no exception.
Love reading Marcellina's latest updates from different points of view from the beautifull tyrolian mountains.Sprinkled with historical hints and humor it's a regular read to me!
As an expat myself, I really enjoy reading Marcellina's blog. Always very witty, informative, and insightful.Keep it coming Marcellina!
Very nice - I love posts about sites that only locals really know about. That's kind of the point of a good expat blog.
As usual, Marcellina's stylish writing about the Tyrolean Alps is a treat for her readers!
I love to read about your hike suggestions. I'm sure many "Einheimische" don't know about all the places you write about. Please keep hiking and blogging about it.
Love reading Marcellina's posts about Austria. Keeps me dreaming about travel while learning about culture, history, geography.
The beautiful, historically accurate and witty 'Practice Room' chronicles are part of my regular literature. The author makes one marvel, wonder, and think. She's my virtual off-the-beaten-track Reiseführer to a region I've been several times to, but have never quite seen. A delightful and enriching read!
As a local, I can confirm the profound research on which this article is based. I really appreciate it.
Since I walked some of these ways I know that the descriptions are very good. I enjoy reading Marcellinas blog very much!
For a foreigner Marcellina is very interested in our nature and our ways of life, and I appreciate this very much. She's very accurate in the way she writes about our land.
Marcellina's blog provides me with pretty much 99% of my supply of knowledge about expat life, Austria, her realm of music and much more. I will most likely never get there myself in this life so a close up view is the next best thing.
Well i am Swiss living in Tirol over 30 years and happy to read Marccellinas blog. Shows me how easy it is to pack a back bag spontaneously and off to go for an exiting trip. Thank you for your motivation.
I really enjoy reading Marcellina's posts--they inform me, and make me want to visit Austria. More important--her writing is just so good.
This is the exactly the way I love to ramble on vacation. I think Innsbruck's just moved to the top of my list! Thanks, Marcellina!