As my job is a live in position and I also support the students I work with, even when I am not scheduled to do so, it can sometimes be very hard to find time for myself. The girls know they can come to me if they need help or support and I feel respected because of this, but sometimes I really do just need a break away. About three weeks I ago I was sat in my room trying to work out what I was going to do for my full weekend off in January. I knew that if I did not plan anything I would end up just staying in which would make me miserable. So after a lot of deliberation I decided to be adventurous and book a weekend away to Innsbruck.
Innsbruck seemed like a great location that was not too far to travel to from Vienna. Plus I found Hotel Barenwirth which was located a short bus journey outside of the centre and what felt like half the way up a mountain. It was a decent price for the two nights and I had a bathroom all to myself in my room! (For anyone that knows the traditional Austrian Gasthäuser (Guest houses) well, you’ll know the fun of carting your toiletries to the shared bathroom or trying to ‘nip’ to the loo in the night and navigating the wooden the floor boards to avoid making any noise.) I figured this was my best option so I booked it and two weeks later was on the train heading to Tyrol’s capital.
Day 1: Friday
I caught the train from Vienna at around 9am. The journey lasts approximately four hours and gives passengers the chance to see some of Austria’s incredible countryside (made even better by the fact that my view was entirely covered in snow).
When I reached Innsbruck, I hauled my bag onto my back and headed for the city centre. By this point it was around 1pm. I decided to make the most of the sunlight and wander around. I walked down Mariatheresen Strasse and gazed at the beauty of the buildings. In the old town, I found the Golden Roof, a major tourist attraction in Innsbruck and what has become the symbol of the city. Built by Emperor Maximillian I in 1500AD, the balcony’s roof has been completed with 2,657 fire-gilded copper shingles, which glimmer in the sunshine and is a must-see sight for any visitor. Today there is also a museum, however considering I was making the most of the light and could see the mountains ahead, I chose not to go in but to get some snaps of the incredible views instead. Running through the city is the Inn River, a tributary of the Danube. Innsbruck is the most heavily populated town through which the river flows and is where the city gets it’s name from; Innsbruck = ‘Bridge over the Inn’.
By this point it was already about 3pm and so I decided to head to my hotel. I took the bus from the station to a little place called Patsch. The bus stop itself was called Patsch Dorf and the hotel was located right next to the stop. It was positively adorable and very Tyrolean looking.
My room was complete with a bed, sofa, wardrobe and bathroom; what else would I need? As the night was setting in, I decided to chill for the evening in the hotel and headed downstairs for dinner. Wow! The food was amazing! There’s a common joke about the Austrian food that typical dishes consist solely of meat and potatoes (which doesn’t particularly bother me!) but the steak was cooked to perfection and came with a side of steaming fresh vegetables; the dream! Now perfectly full of protein, carbs and nutrients, I headed to bed. The next day was going to be FULL ON.
Day 2: Saturday
I woke up feeling great (having woken up naturally for the first time in a long time, without the need for an alarm clock or being woken up by teenagers heading to school!) and headed down to breakfast for another typical Austrian meal. I have grown to really love the classic meats, cheese and bread breakfast they have here. It’s the middle ground between healthy, ie fruits, granola and oatmeal which quite frankly can’t even last me until elevenses, and the full English, which is known to be dripping in fat and oil; give me a European breakfast any day! The view from the breakfast room was incredible; it overlooked the mountains and the Patsch parish church. It was here I started to plan my day and consider realistically how much I could fit in. I decided to head for the Nordkette mountains.
It is not hard to see why Nordkette is known as the mountain in the heart of the city. I took the bus from the centre to the Hungerberg which is also home to the Hungerberg funicular station. It takes 8 minutes to get there on the funicular from the centre and makes a stop at the Alpine Zoo. When visitors reach the station, tickets can be bought for the Seegrube cable car, which ascends to 6,250 ft and has some of the best views from a cable car I have ever seen. Within a matter of minutes I was sitting in a deck chair next to the Seegrube restaurant with a glass of Aperol Sprtiz in hand, bliss!
It was amazing weather making the views over the city even clearer. It was also the chance to watch in awe as the skiers made their way down the mountain wishing I was one of them. Not for the faint-hearted however, the Nordkette is also home to one of the steepest ski runs in Europe at a 70% incline. Hmm maybe observing the skiers from the restaurant really is more my thing! Realising I couldn’t spend all day up a mountain (although I really wanted too!) I caught the cable car back down the mountain and then took the Hungerberg funicular to the city centre.
Reaching the centre, I was suddenly much, much colder than I had been at the top of the mountain and so I needed to get inside somewhere quick! I happened upon the Tyrol folk art museum, for which a combined ticket can also be bought for the court church. Upon entering the museum an audio guide is provided to give information on many of the objects. It is all very interesting, but what I would say is that there are A LOT of items for which each of the audio guide descriptions is about three minutes long. It’s not somewhere you can get around in a hurry. If you have also bought a ticket for the Hofkirche (court church), this takes slightly less time and provides a lot more general information. (If you are not completely fascinated by Tyrolean folk art, then the museum has slightly too much to learn about). The church was completely worth the entrance fee to see the tomb of Emperor Maximillian I was surrounded by 28 magnificent bronze statues, all of whom represent “his (actual and longed for) ancestors, predecessors and role models” (The world of the Habsburgs), one of whom is King Arthur. Make sure you have your camera ready as the church is beautiful, but it is also well worth a selfie with a group of terrifyingly overpowering statues (especially when there’s no one else in the room and you have a funny feeling you’re being watched…)
After about an hour and a half, exploring both the church and the museum, it was finally time for some kaffee und kuchen and where better to go than the Sacher café?
After warming up in style, it was now time to head back out into the cold to catch the bus back to the hotel.
Written down, it doesn’t look as if I did that much on Saturday, but there was A LOT of walking involved (I had achieved my step count target twofold) so I was particularly grateful of my hotel bath (I only have a shower at home) and the Lush bath bomb I had picked up on the way home. All my plans to read a good portion of my book went out the window, as before I knew it I was out for the count.
Day 3: Sunday
Time to check out of the hotel, but not before another Austrian breakfast to keep me going for the day! I checked out of the hotel at 11am and caught the bus to the city centre, this time with a lot more time to kill before my 6pm train and an extremely heavy bag on my back containing everything I had brought with me.
I had heard that another popular attraction is the Bergisel Ski Jump which has been featured in two Winter Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976. The brochures talk of top of the tower being easily reachable by two lifts or walking up 455 steps and give directions of how to get there via the motorway. However, if like me, you are walking from the city centre, you’ll be surprised to find it’s a bit of a hike to get to the bottom of the tower itself, especially if you are hauling what feels like the weight of a small child on your back. Nevertheless, the views of the city centre from the viewing platform at 50 metres high are so worth it. Top tip though; the views from the Bergisel Sky panoramic restaurant are just as good, especially because it means you get to sit down after the walk it took to get there and you can treat yourself to some apfel strudel at the same time!
By the time I left the Bergisel ski jump, walked back down the hill and back into town I was exhausted! I wanted to do was just chill and get a few things from the gift shops, but of course hardly anything is open because it’s a Sunday. Eventually I made the decision to head to the train station where I caught an earlier train back to Vienna. This turned out to be wise as the train was practically empty for the majority of the journey. As I start work at 7am on Monday mornings, I was actually pretty glad I came back at a reasonable time, rather than getting back late.
All in all, the weekend turned out to be the perfect break away. I saw a lot and did as much as I could in the time I had, but at the same time I made sure not to take any work with me or do any work whilst I was away. I read a book, watched multiple Netflix episodes and allowed myself to sleep in and unlike usual; doing so actually felt like productive relaxation!
If anyone is heading to Innsbruck for a weekend here are my tips to make your trip as worthwhile as possible:
- If you’re going in winter, pack ski trousers. It might not be deep snow in the town itself, but if you head up the Nordkette they are essential. You can sit right down in the snow to enjoy the view and not get soaked or freezing!
- Plan what is best to do on certain days and in the right weather. Realistically, if the weather had been good on Sunday, I could have headed up to the top and spent the day there until my train, but I am so glad I didn’t hold off as Saturday was the perfect weather for it. Research the museums and what is close together before you go and if you want to get postcards and gifts, go on Saturday!
- If you’re looking for a fun evening why not head up the Seegrube cable car and go to a party in the Igloo located right next to the restaurant (which I happened upon by walking in and was amazed to realise I was in a club!) Every Friday evening between January and April. Cloud 9 also happens to be highest club in the alps, and if that’s not a reason to go, then I don’t know what is!
- If you decide to visit the Hofkirche, wear your jacket and scarf in because it is freezing! I was pre-warned, but I figured I was a pretty hardy due to living in Scotland and I was wearing a hoodie so how cold could it really be? Really, really, really cold as it turns out. As I left with purple knuckles and my hoodie zipped up as far as it could go, the woman at the ticket counter gave me a look that said “I told you so!”
- The Innsbruck Cards for 24, 48 or 72 hours can seriously save you money. I got the 24 hour one and managed to save a good few euros, so look at the discount list on their website and figure out if it’s worth purchasing.
- Lastly, bring sunglasses! I don’t know why it did not occur to me to bring them as I’ve been skiing multiple times and know that they are essential. Up the Nordkette mountain, the sun shining off the snow was so bright, I spent most of the time with one hand sheltering my eyes; not fun!
There you have it. 3 days (well more like 2 as two were half days) in Innsbruck. I am super proud that I just decided to book something and take myself away for the weekend. I was much happier when I returned on Sunday evening and was ready for work on Monday morning, feeling refreshed.
I know not everyone has the money to always go away when they have time off, but if like me you struggle to fill free time with anything other than work, have a look around at what you can do in the time you have. There are lots of free things to do, or museums that do not cost a lot, or just go for coffee. Do not take the work with you. Get up and get out and see somewhere new. I did, and I felt 1000% times better for it.