Maria-Theresien-Strasse, Innsbruck's main street, cuts through the heart of the city from north to south, and it's a good place to begin your exploration. It's fascinating just to watch the passersby, especially when they're attired in Tyrolean regional dress. Once, this street was traversed by wayfarers heading over the Brenner Pass from Italy and on to Germany. Today many 17th- and 18th-century houses line the street.
On the south end of this wide street, a Triumphpforte (Triumphal Arch), modeled after those in Rome, spans the shopping street. Maria Theresia ordered it built in 1765 with a twofold purpose: to honor the marriage of her son, the Duke of Tuscany (later Emperor Leopold II), to a Spanish princess, and to mourn the death of her beloved husband, Emperor Franz I. From this arch southward, the street is called Leopoldstrasse.
Traveling north from the arch along Maria-Theresien-Strasse, you'll see Annasäule (St. Anna's Column), a much-photographed attraction. It enjoys the same renown in Innsbruck as the Eros statue does in London's Piccadilly Circus. A statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a crescent moon atop this Corinthian column, which has statues of saints Cassianus, Virgilius, George, and Anna surrounding the base. Standing in front of the 19th-century Rathaus (Town Hall), the column was erected in 1706 to celebrate the withdrawal, in 1703, of invading Bavarian armies during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Not far north of the Annasäule, the wide street narrows and becomes Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse, running through the heart of the Altstadt. This street is flanked by a number of well-maintained burghers' houses with their turrets and gables. Look for the dormer windows and oriels. Most buildings here are overhung with protective roofs to guard them against snowfalls.
Innsbruck's Open Sesame Card
To attract more visitors to Innsbruck, the city has come up with the Innsbruck Card (www.innsbruck-tourismus.com), granting you a number of discounts to attractions, including 18 museums and all city-operated public transportation. The card even entitles you to a visit to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, including transport on a shuttle bus specifically designed for cardholders. Free visits to the Alpenzoo are also included. The card costs 25€ ($40) for 1 day, 30€ ($48) for 2 days, or 35€ ($56) for 3 days. The card is half-price for children under 15.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.