The late-medieval town of Innsbruck stands proudly at the base of the imposing Nordkette mountain range in Austria. It was once home to the imperial Habsburg family, and it still has monumental reminders of their time here. This is a city where you can make the most of the great outdoors during the day and catch a play or festival event in the evening. History buffs and extreme sports fans mix with the sizeable student population, keeping Austria's mountain city diverse and culturally animated.
There are hostels in Innsbruck where you can have dinner on the outdoor terrace of a traditional Alpine lodge or in the restaurant of a wooden Tyrolese home. Gather your dorm mates for a barbecue outside a city centre hostel or have a cook off in the communal kitchens. Free Wi-Fi is available in most places, and many have storage for skis or bikes. Pick an Innsbruck hostel with free breakfast to help your budget stretch further.
The centre of Innsbruck is the Altstadt, the compact and car-free old town. Here the imperial legacy remains in its palaces, churches and Baroque streets. To the south west is the university district, where 30,000 students support a lively creative scene. The main nightlife in the city is in clubs under the viaducts east of the old town. Boutique shopping is best on Herzog-Friedrich-Straße (street), but head to Maria-Theresien-Straße for food and fashion. North of Innsbruck, the village of Hoch-Hungerburg has views over the city and is the entry point for Karwendel Alpine Park.
Innsbruck's main attractions are a mix of history and nature. The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) dominates the old town, and it's worth spending a few hours roaming its gilded rooms. To the south of the old town is the Bergisel ski jump, a major landmark with a restaurant and viewing deck. Ski-jumping was actually born in the mountains here, and you can take the Nordkette cable car to hike or bike the terrain yourself. For an unusual experience, try summer skiing in the resorts on the Stubai Glacier (a 50-minute drive away).
Innsbruck Airport is a 20-minute bus ride from the centre. The main railway station is Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof and trains arrive from Salzburg (about 2 hours) and Munich (about 2.5 hours), as well as other major cities. You can use the tram and bus service to get around – a day ticket is the best value. To get into the mountains, take the Nordkette cable car from Congress station.