Must see attractions in Tyrol & Vorarlberg

  • Top ChoiceSights in Innsbruck

    Schloss Ambras

    Picturesquely perched on a hill and set among beautiful gardens, this Renaissance pile was acquired in 1564 by Archduke Ferdinand II, then ruler of Tyrol, who transformed it from a fortress into a palace. Don't miss the centrepiece Spanische Saal (Spanish Hall), the dazzling Armour Collection and the gallery's Velázquez and Van Dyck originals. The Spanische Saal is a 43m-long banquet hall with a wooden inlaid ceiling and Tyrolean nobles gazing from the walls. Also note the grisaille (grey relief) around the courtyard and the sunken bathtub where Ferdinand's beloved Philippine used to bathe. Ferdinand instigated the magnificent Ambras Collection, encompassing three elements. Highlights of the Rüstkammer (Armour Collection) include the archduke’s wedding armour – specially shaped to fit his bulging midriff! – and the 2.6m suit created for giant Bartlmä Bon. The Kunst und Wunderkammer (Art and Curiosity Cabinet) is crammed with fantastical objects, including a petrified shark, gravity-defying stilt shoes and the Fangstuhl – a chair designed to trap drunken guests at Ferdinand’s raucous parties. The Portraitgalerie features room upon room of Habsburg portraits, with paintings by Titian, Velázquez and Van Dyck. Maria Anna of Spain (No 126, Room 22) wins the prize for the most ludicrous hairstyle. When Habsburg portraits begin to pall, you can stroll or picnic in the extensive gardens, home to strutting peacocks. Schloss Ambras is 4.5km southeast of the centre. The Sightseer bus runs every half-hour between the castle and central stops including the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and Hofburg.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Innsbruck

    Hofburg

    Grabbing attention with its pearly white facade and cupolas, the Hofburg was built as a castle for Archduke Sigmund the Rich in the 15th century, expanded by Emperor Maximilian I in the 16th century and given a baroque makeover by Empress Maria Theresia in the 18th century. The centrepiece of the lavish rococo state apartments is the 31m-long Riesensaal (Giant’s Hall). This is adorned with frescoes and paintings of Maria Theresia and her 16 children (including Marie Antoinette), who look strangely identical – maybe the artist was intent on avoiding royal wrath arising from sibling rivalry in the beauty stakes.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Innsbruck

    Hofkirche

    Innsbruck’s pride and joy is the Gothic Hofkirche, one of Europe’s finest royal court churches. It was commissioned in 1553 by Ferdinand I, who enlisted top artists of the age such as Albrecht Dürer, Alexander Colin and Peter Vischer the Elder. Top billing goes to the empty sarcophagus of Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), a masterpiece of German Renaissance sculpture, elaborately carved from black marble. The tomb is embellished with Alexander Colins’ white marble reliefs based on Dürer’s Ehrenpforte (Triumphal Arch) woodcuts, depicting victorious scenes from Maximilian’s life such as the Siege of Kufstein (1504). The twin rows of 28 giant bronze figures that guard the sarcophagus include Dürer’s legendary King Arthur, who was apparently Emperor Maximilian’s biggest idol. You’re now forbidden to touch the statues, but numerous inquisitive hands have already polished parts of the dull bronze, including Kaiser Rudolf’s codpiece! Andreas Hofer (1767–1810), the Tyrolean patriot who led the rebellion against Napoleon’s forces, is entombed in the church. In the Silberkapelle, a dazzling silver Madonna keeps watch over the marble tomb of Archduke Ferdinand II and his first wife, Philippine Welser.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Innsbruck

    Goldenes Dachl

    Innsbruck's golden wonder and most distinctive landmark is this Gothic oriel, built for Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), lavishly festooned with murals and glittering with 2657 fire-gilt copper tiles. It is most impressive from the exterior, but the museum is worth a look – especially if you have the Innsbruck Card – with an audio guide whisking you through the history. Keep an eye out for the grotesque tournament helmets designed to resemble the Turks of the rival Ottoman Empire.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tyrol

    Festung Kufstein

    Lifted high on a rocky crag like an offering to the alpine peaks that surround it, Kufstein's turreted castle provides a fascinating insight into the town’s turbulent past. The fortress dates from 1205 (when Kufstein was part of Bavaria) and was a pivotal point of defence for both Bavaria and Tyrol during the struggles. The round Kaiserturm (Emperor’s Tower) is a 1522 addition. The lift to the top affords sweeping views over Kufstein and the mountains that rim it. Inside is the small but imaginatively presented Heimatmuseum (Heritage Museum), showcasing everything from Bronze Age urns to folk costumes and – drum roll please – Andreas Hofer’s shoe. Below the Kaiserturm is the Heldenorgel (Heroes Organ) with 4948 pipes, 46 organ stops and a 100m gap between the keyboard and the tip of the pipes; the delay in the sounding of the notes makes playing it a tricky business. Catch recitals at noon and, in July and August, 6pm. When the fortress is closed in the evening you can walk up the path in under 15 minutes and roam the ramparts and grounds free of charge.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tyrol

    Rosengartenschlucht

    An easygoing family hike is the 5km (approximately three-hour) loop through the dramatic 200m-high Rosengartenschlucht, where boarded walkways make for a gentle ascent and afford sterling views of a waterfall. At the top, the walk continues through forest and along a trail overlooking the Lechtaler Alps. You can't miss the Blaue Grotte, a cave pool that is a startling shade of blue. The trail starts and ends at the Johanneskirche (St John’s Church) opposite the tourist office, which stocks maps of the walk. From May to October you can hook onto the tourist office's guided hike at 2pm on Monday (reserve your place by 10am). It's free with the Imst Holiday Pass, or otherwise €10 per person. Wear sturdy shoes.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Angelika Kauffmann Museum

    This ultramodern museum houses rotating exhibitions in summer of Swiss-Austrian neoclassical painter Angelika Kauffmann’s works. The artist had strong connections to the village where her father was born. A ticket covers entry to the neighbouring Heimat Museum (Heritage Museum), a pristine alpine chalet. Displays of traditional painted furniture, extraordinary headwear, hunting paraphernalia and filigree iron crosses focus on rural 19th-century life.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Kunsthaus

    Designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, this giant glass and steel cube is said to resemble a lamp, reflecting the changing light of the sky and lake. The stark, open-plan interior is perfect for rotating exhibitions of contemporary art – the work of British artist Ed Atkins and the haunting, semi-abstract paintings of Swiss artist Miriam Cahn have recently featured. Check the website for details on everything from guided tours to kids’ workshops.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Vorarlberg Museum

    One of Bregenz' most striking landmarks is this white cuboid emblazoned with what appears to be 16,656 flowers (actually PET bottle bases imprinted in concrete). The gallery homes in on Vorarlberg's history, art and architecture in its permanent exhibitions, including one on the Roman archaeological finds of Brigantium. It also stages rotating exhibitions, such as recent ones spotlighting the Bregenzer Festspiele and mining in the Eastern Alps.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Schattenburg

    This 13th-century hilltop castle is storybook stuff with its red turrets and creeping vines. It’s a steep climb up to the ramparts, which command far-reaching views over Feldkirch’s rooftops. Once the seat of the counts of Montfort, the castle now houses a museum displaying religious art, costumes and weaponry.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Pfänder Cable Car

    A cable car whizzes to the 1064m peak of the Pfänder, a wooded mountain rearing above Bregenz and affording a breathtaking panorama of the Bodensee and the snowcapped summits of the not-so-distant Alps in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. At the top is the Alpine Game Park Pfänder.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tyrol

    Silberbergwerk

    You almost feel like breaking out into a rendition of ‘Heigh-Ho’ at Silberbergwerk Schwaz, as you board a mini train and venture deep into the bowels of the silver mine for a 90-minute trundle through Schwaz’ illustrious past. The mine is about 1.5km east of the centre.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vorarlberg

    Domkirche St Nikolaus

    Identified by a slender spire, Feldkirch’s cathedral has a large, forbidding interior complemented by late-Gothic features and dazzling stained glass. The painting on the side altar is by local lad Wolf Huber (1480–1539), a leading member of the Danube School.

  • Sights in Tyrol

    Stift Stams

    One of Tyrol’s true architectural highlights is the ochre-and-white Zisterzienstift in Stams, founded in 1273 by Elizabeth of Bavaria, the mother of Konradin, the last of the Hohenstaufens. Set in pristine grounds, the monumental facade stretches 80m and is easily recognised by its pair of silver cupolas at the front, which were added as a final flourish when the abbey was revamped in baroque style in the 17th century. The exuberant church interior is dominated by the high altar: the inter­twining branches of this version of the ‘tree of life’ support 84 saintly figures surrounding an image of the Virgin. Near the entrance is the Rose Grille, an exquisite iron screen made in 1716. Crane your neck to admire the ceiling adorned with rich stuccowork, gold swirls and elaborate frescoes by Georg Wolker.

  • Sights in Tyrol

    Swarovski Kristallwelten

    Swarovski crystals sparkle in all their glory at the fantasy fairy-tale Kristallwelten. A giant’s head spewing water into a pond greets you in the park, where you will also find the attention-grabbing Crystal Cloud, embellished with 800,000 crystals and drifting above a mirrorlike pool and a crystalline-themed playground, tower and labyrinth for kids. In the Chambers of Wonder, you will find designer Alexander McQueen’s Silent Light, a crystal tree winterscape, the Eden crystal forest, and South Korean artist Lee Bul’s modernist architecture–inspired Into Lattice Sun, a kind of crystal utopia. There’s also a store selling crystal creations ranging from a few euros into the thousands, as well as a cafe-restaurant.

  • Sights in Tyrol

    Stubai Glacier

    It’s a bizarre feeling to slip out of sandals and into skis in midsummer, but that’s precisely what draws people to the Stubai Glacier. The glacier is a year-round skiing magnet with more than 110km of wide, snow-sure pistes that are great for cruising and intermediate skiing. Summer skiing is limited to between 2900m and 3300m. Walkers are attracted to the network of trails lower down in the valley; a good hiking map for the area is Kompass’ Stubaier Alpen (scale 1:50,000). The Stubaital branches off from the Brenner Pass route (A13/E45) a little south of the Europabrücke and runs southwest. From December to April a ski bus (free with a Stubai Guest Card; available for free when you stay overnight in the Stubaital) runs daily between Innsbruck and the Stubai Glacier.

  • Sights in Innsbruck

    Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum

    This treasure trove of Tyrolean history and art moves from Bronze Age artefacts to the original reliefs used to design the Goldenes Dachl. Alongside brooding Dutch masterpieces of the Rembrandt ilk, the gallery displays an astounding collection of Austrian art including Gothic altarpieces, a handful of Klimt and Kokoschka paintings, and some shocking Viennese Actionist works. More specific to Tyrol are the late-baroque works by fresco master Paul Troger, Alfons Walde's Kitzbühel winterscapes and Albin Egger-Lienz' sombre depictions of rural life in postwar Tyrol.

  • Sights in Tyrol

    Ötzi Dorf

    This small open-air museum cleverly brings to life the Neolithic world of Ötzi, the ice man. A visit takes in traditional thatched huts, herb gardens, craft displays and enclosures where wild horses, Mangalitza pigs, rare-breed Soay sheep and oxen roam. Multilingual audio guides are available. See the website for times of kid-pleasing activities (most costing between €5.90 and €7.90), which range from shooting with a yew bow to making a flint knife.

  • Sights in The Zillertal

    Penken

    Mayrhofen's 'action mountain', the Penken is where it is at in both winter and summer. Opened in 2015, the slick cable car affords panoramic views as it glides up to 1790m. Downhill mountain bikers are in heaven here, with numerous tours from easy-peasy to demanding. The website www.mayrhofen.at has a virtual bike map. It's also a magnet for hikers, paragliders and climbers, and skiers and freeriders in winter, with the Harakiri and Vans Penken Park.

  • Sights in Innsbruck

    Bergisel

    Rising above Innsbruck like a celestial staircase, this glass-and-steel ski jump was designed by much-lauded Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. It's 455 steps or a two-minute funicular ride to the 50m-high viewing platform, with a breathtaking panorama of the Nordkette range, Inntal and Innsbruck. Tram 1 trundles here from central Innsbruck. From May to July, fans pile in to see athletes train, while preparations step up a gear in early January for the World Cup Four Hills Tournament.