It may be January, with Christmas now a dim and distant memory, but I thought I’d tell you about my recent trip to the Christmas markets in Innsbruck, Austria.
My mum and I visited our first Christmas market together in December 2016 when we hopped over to Salzburg (also in Austria and best known as the setting for ‘The Sound of Music’), and it was so brilliant that we thought we’d do it all over again.
We were staying for two nights just before Christmas and caught an early flight to maximise our time there. As the plane descended beneath the clouds, there was an audible gasp as the snowy mountains came in to view on either side of the cabin.
We got a taxi from the airport, and within 15 minutes had reached our destination - Hotel Innsbruck, a centrally located spa hotel just on the edge of the Old Town and perfectly positioned as a base to explore all of the Christmas markets Innsbruck had to offer. We left our bags with reception and headed straight out for a bite to eat, which in our case was a hot chocolate and Nutella donut each! We pride ourselves on our healthy meal choices!
There are six Christmas markets in Innsbruck, but during our time there we only managed to see four. Our hotel was just around the corner from the markets in the Old Town and at Maria-Theresien Straße, and just across the road from the one at Marktplatz.
Each market had an array of stalls selling gifts from handmade wooden tree decorations to natural beauty products, and the most mouth-watering selection of sweet treats. The atmosphere is so festive and the snow on the ground only added to this - it was pure Christmas heaven.
A gorgeous food cart that we saw in the Old Town Christmas Market
It’s not just the Christmas markets that make Innsbruck a fun place to visit. There are so many other things to do to, and we tried to cram in as much as possible during our stay. We bought an Innsbruck Card each, which allows you to use the public transport and sightseeing bus for free all the time the card is valid, and provides free entry to many of the main attractions.
We caught the bus from outside the hotel and went straight to Schloss Ambras, a castle in the hills above Innsbruck. We didn’t have a lot of time so we decided to walk through the castle grounds instead of going inside. It was so peaceful and much of the snow was untouched, making it feel like a secret winter wonderland.
Our next stop was the Bergisel Ski Jump, designed by architect, Zaha Hadid. We caught the funicular to the top and got a stunning panoramic view of Innsbruck from the observation deck. We also stood at the top of the jumping platform, where I very quickly decided that ski jumping was not a sport I’d ever get involved in! None of the photos I took gave a true sense of the height or steepness of the jump!
Finally, after having a drink in the panoramic cafe at Bergisel, we hopped back on to the bus and headed back into town to the Congress station, where we caught the Hungerburgbahn - a funicular railway that stops at an alpine zoo before arriving at Hungerburg, 2,800ft above Innsbruck. There, we had a look at the small Christmas market and had a bite to eat before getting on a panoramic gondola which takes you to Seegrube, 6,250ft up in the Nordkette mountain range.
The view from Hungerburg
Before we headed for the mountains, we were skeptical as to whether we’d actually see anything from the top. The sky was so cloudy and it looked like more snow was imminent so we almost didn’t bother going. But we were so glad we did, as we emerged from the clouds to find the most breathtaking view and glorious sunshine.
From Seegrube, we caught another gondola to Hafelekar and joined the many skiers and snowboarders at 7,400ft.
For me, this was probably the highlight of the whole trip. I hadn’t been that high up a mountain since I visited Canada with my parents 10 years ago, and to think this incredible scenery can be reached in an hour and a half by plane is just crazy!
If you’re after a festive break with lots to see or do, you should definitely consider going to Innsbruck. And if you do, have a Nutella crepe for me!