The town of Innsbruck emerged as a small settlement around a bridge over the river Inn, which gave the city its name, literally meaning ‘a bridge over Inn.’ The earliest mention of the town comes from the 12th Century. With time, Innsbruck became an important point on the trade routes from Italy and Switzerland to Germany, and the city flourished. To this day, Innsbruck uses a seal and coat of arms adapted in 1267 and depicting a bird's-eye view of the ancient bridge over the Inn.
In 1363, Innsbruck became a Habsburg residence. Over a century later, Emperor Maximilian I moved the imperial court there, thus making the city Europe’s major centre of politics and culture. During the time of the Napoleonic wars, Innsbruck together with the entirety of Tyrol was ceded to Bavaria, an ally of France. A successful revolt led by Andreas Hofer recaptured the Tyrolean capital for a brief period of time.
The Vienna Congress brought the restoration of Austrian rule, after which the revolutionary leader Andreas Hofer was executed. His remains are located in the city’s Fransciscan church. In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria. Between 1943 and the spring of 1945, Innsbruck underwent 21 bomb attacks and suffered serious damage. The concentration camp of KZ Innsbruck-Reichenau was located outside of the city.
The varied history of the Tyrolean region is reflected in the topography and layout of Innsbruck. The city boasts a small but enchanting historical centre, the Altstadt. The impressive number of notable Medieval buildings includes the 16th-Century Franciscan Church and the Fürstenburg, a 15th-Century castle with a famous copper-roofed balcony known as the Goldenes Dachl (‘Golden Roof’), constructed in 1500 on the order of Emperor Maximillian. The imposing tomb of this Emperor is located beside the famous Hofkirche. Nearby is the interesting Museum of Tyrol Folklore Art, where one can gain insight into ancient Tyrolean architecture, costumes and traditions.
Even if you’re staying at an area resort, it’s highly recommended to spend a day or two in Innsbruck first, as it’ll give you a clearer perspective on the entire region. The city is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery of the high-rising snow-clad peaks of the Alps. You can take a cable railway up to the famous Hungerburg to admire a magnificent Alpine view. It was the view of star-studded Alpine sky one night in 1971 that inspired Douglas Adams to write his cult novel ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.’
Tyrol's location makes it an ideal place in which to enjoy the outdoor life all year round. Along with Lake Placid, NY (USA) and St. Moritz (Switzerland), Innsbruck is one of the three places in the world that have hosted the Winter Olympics twice; the Tyrolean capital played host to the event in 1964 and 1976. The available facilities for all kinds of winter sports are truly impressive, causing ski-crazy travelers to crowd into the resorts during the winter months. In the summer, when the mountains are awash with wildflowers, camping tents spring up in the valleys like mushrooms as hikers, cavers and mountain climbers take advantage of the palatial peaks.