First-time visitors to Innsbruck are struck by the majestic Hofburg imperial palace, invigorating Alpine views and the history that seeps through the Old Town's cobbled lanes. And there's always a reason to return to the Tyrolean capital to explore the fortified Schloss Ambras and the ski slopes of Hafelekar.
The jagged Nordkette Alps tower above Innsbruck and the turquoise Inn River. Innsbruck's major sights cluster in the pedestrianised Old Town on the south bank. Here, cobbled lanes twist to the shining Golden Roof, the grand Hofburg palace and arcaded Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, where the Christmas market twinkles in December. North of the river, Hafelekar's ski slopes and the brown bears at the Alpenzoo sit above the leafy St Nikolaus district. Schloss Ambras castle and the Bergisel ski jump lie south of the Old Town.
Rise early to see the first rays spotlight the Golden Roof's 2657 gilded tiles then spend a regal morning roaming the Hofburg's lavishly frescoed apartments. Step across to the Hofgarten's greenery or peek inside the gothic Hofkirche church to contemplate Emperor Maximilian's marble tomb. The nearby Tyrolean Folk Art Museum provides insight into time-honoured local crafts. Board the futuristic Hungerburgbahn funicular to 2300m-high Hafelekar for winter skiing and summer hiking. After dark, indulge on cheese-rich Tyrolean dishes in the Old Town's low-ceilinged inns.
South of Innsbruck, Zaha Hadid's space-age Bergisel ski jump rises like a vision - zoom to the top for giddy views over Innsbruck to the Nordkette massif. Just east is fortress-turned Renaissance palace Schloss Ambras, where the Hapsburg Portrait Gallery showcases Velzquez paintings. Speed demons go further south to race 100km/h down Igls' adrenaline-loaded Olympic Bobsled Run. Marmot squirrels and ibex mountain goats are kid magnets at the Alpenzoo. Find gifts from crystals to creamy Alpine cheese in the Old Town's boutique-lined lanes.