Which City Is Better Innsbruck or Salzburg Austria?

The first night we spent in Innsbruck was unexpected. Our train arrived too late to make it to Lienz. This meant we had to spend the night in Innsbruck. Immediately I was enchanted. After spending three days in Salzburg I was anxious to compare which city is better Innsbruck or Salzburg. The three days in Salzburg and in Lienz made it obvious Austria was going to exceed every expectation I had. How would Innsbruck stack up?

The Landscape

The city of Innsbruck sits nestled in a valley surrounded by Alps. Every building in the city seems so small in comparison to the rugged ridge line surrounding the city. The mountains vary from jagged grey mountains to green sloping ridge lines. The effect is absolutely beyond belief.

Our first night in Innsbruck was spent at the Adler Hotel where we had dinner and drinks on the rooftop deck. Sitting in the natural surrounding of these glorious mountains we watched planes navigate into the small valley to land at the local airport. There is a beautiful contrast between the mountains, the old and new architecture, the funicular and the modern train lines all coming together in a natural paradise. We just couldn’t get enough of it.

The most important thing to J. was riding the Hungerberg funicular and the Nordkette cable car. So, on our first day that is exactly what we did. The ride up was spectacular. We rode through grass covered mountains where hikers and bikers pushed their physical limits to reach the unbelievable peaks. From there the cable car took us to the top peaks where we stood in snow, passing mountain goats along the way. Unfortunately for J. I did break into a rendition of The Lonely Goatherd multiple times. How could I resist with the adorable mountain goats of Austria watching our ascent?

Which city is better Innsbruck or Salzburg Austria

As we stood in Hafelekar Peak I grew quiet, reflecting on how far I have come in my life, how lucky I am to experience these gobsmacking places, and how small I am in the scope of the world. Standing in shorts, shivering in the snow, avoiding goat poop, I was completely humbled by the beauty that exists in this world and the pure joy that comes from experiencing it.

The Architecture

I definitely had this image of the grandeur of the architecture in Austria. It was based on what I had seen in movies and photos over the years. I didn’t associate Austria with the quaint buildings, incredible iron signs, and gothic style. In fact, no matter how beautiful the buildings are, how charming the small streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants are on their own they become more so due to the location inside the gorgeous valley.

We spent many of our days wandering the streets admiring the ironwork of the signs, the colorful buildings and picturesque neighborhoods. There is a real contrast in Innsbruck of small streets winding through the historic downtown and then a wide open promenade. The Maria-Theresien Strasse, transitions from the historic downtown to the newer downtown area. The buildings on the promenade are larger with colorfully painted ceramic details.

Old Town is dotted with Gothic mansions, beautiful church spires that rise up to meet the mountain peaks and small details left over from the reign of the Habsburgs. In Old Town it is all about the quaint little details like old signs, wood work and stone work. I loved the contrast! Everything in Innsbruck is within walking distance. We stayed in a great Airbnb across the river. It was wonderful to walk over the river and through the park everyday to get into the Old Town.

In Old Town you can’t miss the Golden Roof. It was built in the 1600’s for the marriage of Maximillian I to Bianca Maria Sforza. The roof is comprised of 2, 657 gold gilded ceramic tiles on the roof. It is quite stunning sitting at the end of one of the longest streets in Old Town. J. was less impressed than I thought he would be given his love for anything gilded.

What To Do

We never ran out of things to do in Innsbruck. For a small city it can definitely keep you entertained.

By far our favorite thing to do was ride the Hungerberg Funicular and the Nordkette cable car. After you have arrived, wander around the mountain peak. Trust me the majesty of the alps is humbling, moving and absolutely breathtaking.

We have definitely seen our fair share of Imperial Palaces in our travels. The one in Innsbruck was just as beautiful as others we have seen around Europe. It was a great way to spend a few hours walking among the Baroque architecture.

Have dinner or drinks at the Adler hotel on their roof top terrace. Truly, the view is stunning-in fact we never found a better spot to take in the whole city. The food and beer are pretty good and the service was great.

Everyday we would walk through the Innsbrucker Hofgarten park. It was full of beautiful trees, providing much needed shade in July. There are tons of activities in the park if you need a reprieve from the bustle of Old Town. J. and I liked to sit in the shade and watch the people come and go as we made our way back to our Airbnb every night.

Walk the river. Along the rivers banks are colorful houses, linked together in the most romantic way. Their bright yellows, peaches, pinks and greens create a beautiful reflection in the flowing river below. If you are lucky you will catch people who tie themselves to the bridges and “surf” the river.

Traveling full time has its drawbacks, one of which is that we aren’t prepared for every situation. Becuase of this we didn’t have the gear to take advantage of the hiking in Innsbruck, or the biking. If you can pack some shoes, a jacket, water bottle and food and get into the mountains on foot or bike. It really is a marvelous way to enjoy this incredible city. For us we had to admire the outdoor enthusiasts from afar and promise each other we would return one day.

The Verdict

So, which city is better Innsbruck or Salzburg? Honestly, I can’t decide. They are a completely different vibe. Salzburg is more of a refined city. The buildings are grander, the history is better known, and it is much larger. Innsbruck has this quaint small town charm that captures your heart. It is a preserved jewel in a world where that is getting harder and harder to find. In my opinion the majesty of the mountains providing this small haven in the valley below, where the character of the city has been perfectly preserved, was so unique that it will forever hold a special place in my heart.

In J’s opinion Innsbruck wins over Salzburg. While he loved Salzburg, he will never forget the cable cars and standing in the Alps surrounded by nothing but the magical glory of our planet. He loved the views, the river and the feeling of nature that surrounds Innsbruck.

One warning though for you vegetarians-eating wasn’t easy for me in Innsbruck. Usually, we cooked dinner in our Airbnb due to the lack of vegetarian options. Except for the pizza-we found some pretty great pizza in Innsbruck.

We loved our Airbnb in Innsbruck! If you decide to go-check it out. The location was great, the decor was fantastic and there are markets and fantastic coffee close by. If you have never used Airbnb before you can save if you use this code when you book. It helps us and you!

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