Dining is never a problem in Innsbruck, as this alpine town has more than 200 restaurants, inns, and cafes, some of which offer evening entertainment. If you're going to be in Austria for only a short time, we suggest that you stick to original Tyrolean specialties. However, if that doesn't suit you, there are restaurants serving international cuisine.
The 6 Best Restaurants in Innsbruck
Lichtblick (Maria-Theresienstrasse 18; www.restaurant-lichtblick.at; tel. 0512/566550; Mon-Sat noon-2:30pm and 6:30-10pm). This, a chic dining spot on the seventh floor of the Rathausgalerie takes its name "bright spot" from its location, but also from the dining experience. The vistas over the Altstadt are without precedent in Innsbruck and are especially dramatic at night. The restaurant overflows into the panoramic Café Bar Lounge 360, which you can visit even if you're not having dinner in the main restaurant. Chef Andreas Zeindlinger is a whiz, using market-fresh ingredients to concoct sublime dishes on his constantly changing menu. Fixed-price menus go from 39€-52€, but diners are allowed to pick part of the menu, and mix-and-match between different menus. Whether he's making such risotto with veal or creamy potato soup, he gives each dish an original touch—and often uses luxe ingredients (like caviar or goose liver). Guaranteed to be one of your finest meals in town.
Schöneck (Weiherburggasse 6; www.wirtshaus-schoeneck.com; tel. 0512/272728l; Thurs-Sat noon-2pm; Tues-Sat 5pm-midnight) The cozy premises of this restaurant were once devoted to cheap but cheerful old-fashioned food that was usually consumed by students and youth hostelers. All of that changed, however, when culinary entrepreneur Alfred Miller shut the place down for almost a year of painstaking renovations, inserted a new kitchen, and reconfigured the place into tastefully gemütlich and upscale enclave of elegant Tyrolean dining. Today, within a quartet of wood-paneled dining rooms, he serves arguably the finest cuisine in Innsbruck. From at least one of these, diners appreciate a view that sweeps out over the town, bringing in views of the nearby peaks as well. Menu items change with the season and the inspiration of the chef, but might include a carpaccio of salmon; grilled octopus with fish roe and fresh noodles; filet of Tyrolean venison with juniper-berry sauce and pepper-laced polenta; a tantalizing dish of braised scallops with fresh lobster and risotto flavored with squid ink; and grilled sea bass with an herb-flavored vinaigrette. Dessert? Consider the chocolate-stuffed cannelloni with fresh strawberries and house-made mango sorbet.
Restaurant Bierwirt (Bichlweg 2; tel. 0512/342143; Mon-Fri noon-2pm; Mon-Sat 5-11pm). Antique-looking, with an architectural pedigree that goes back 300 years, this cozy alpine-style restaurant has lots of Tyrolean artifacts, carefully oiled paneling, and an excellent reputation for good food. Menu items include most of the traditional Tyrolean specialties, rib-sticking fare that goes down well in chilly weather. Examples include ragout of venison in a port-wine sauce, a savory version of kasfarfeln (thick consommé with cheese, onions, chives, and dumplings), savory stews, Wiener schnitzels, tafelspitz, roasts, and sausages.
Restaurant Goldener Adler (Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse 6; tel. 0512/5711110; daily noon-10:30pm in summer; otherwise noon-2:30pm and 6-10:30pm). Richly Teutonic and steeped in the decorative traditions of alpine Tyrol, this restaurant has a deeply entrenched reputation and a loyal following among local residents. The menu includes hearty fare based on cold-weather outdoor life -- the chefs aren't into delicate subtleties. Examples include Tyrolean bacon served with horseradish and farmer's bread, cream of cheese soup with croutons, and Tyroler Zopfebraten, a flavorful age-old specialty consisting of strips of veal steak served with herb-enriched cream sauce and spinach dumplings. A well-regarded specialty is a platter known as Adler Tres, containing spinach dumplings, stuffed noodles, and cheese dumplings, all flavorfully tied together with a brown butter sauce and a gratin of mountain cheese.
Ottoburg Restaurant (1 Herzog Friedrich Strasse; www.ottoburg.at; daily noon–3pm and 6pm–midnight). The food here is as traditional as the setting, and that's saying a lot, as you'll be dining in an evocative, 900-year-old watch tower. Dining rooms vary from floor to floor, some containing dark wood panneling and stone arches, others with cofferred ceilings and stained glass windows. All are lovely. As is the food, whether you start with a plate of speck and tasty pickles, or go for the traditional soupls, like the bouillon with pancake strips. For mains go meaty: the goulash is excellent here, as is the weiner schnitzle. The perfect special occassion restaurant, Ottoburg is loved by the locals as much as the tourists (when last here, we sat next to a table of men in lederhosen, one of whom petted a quiet dog on his lap throughout the meal). A hearty lunch will run €20, dinner between €30 and €40.
Himal (Universitätsstr. 13; http://himal.at; tel. 43 512 588588; daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:00pm-10:30pm). When you tire of Tyrolean food, trade one mountain range for another, and head to this cozy restaurant devoted to the cuisine of the Himalayas. What does that taste like? Much like Indian cuisine, with an assortment curries and dishes roasted in the tandoori oven, plus naan and roti breads, and momos (dumplings). While all the food is flavorful, the chicken with coconut, turmeric and chile will have you licking the plate—it's that toothsome. The restaurant is one of the few in town to have a good range of choices for vegetarians and vegans. Important: Bring cash. Himal does not accept credit cards.
Within a Bordeaux-red decor that closely emulates the rich cafe life of its mother-lode original in Vienna, you can visit the Innsbruck branch of the Café Sacher, Rennweg 1 (tel. 0512/565626; www.sacher.com; tram: 1 or 3; bus: H or Y). Rip-offs and unauthorized copies of this chain's most famous pastry, the Sachertorte, have cost millions in litigation over the years, and the holders of the original 19th-century recipes (the owners of the Hotel Sacher in Vienna) have clung ferociously to their property. You can order coffee, priced around 3.50€ ($5.60), and the famous pastry, at 4.95€ ($7.90) per slice. And if you're in the gift-giving mode, you can haul a Sachertorte, attractively boxed in a wooden container, away with you for between 10€ ($16) and 42€ ($67), depending on the size. Any of these carries a "certificate of authenticity," adding to the experience's somewhat pompous charm. The place is open daily 8:30am to midnight.
If you're tired of too-constant a diet of Austrian pastries, or if you want an insight into the way other countries create fattening between-meal treats, head for the Café Valier, Maximilianstrasse 27 (tel. 0512/586180; tram: 1). Here, within a pink, mostly Jugendstil decor, you'll choose from French and Italian (not Austrian) pastries that -- according to the owners -- are unique in Innsbruck. Forget about apfelstrudels and Salzburger Nockerl here, since they simply don't exist. Instead, look for French-inspired tarte aux framboises; tarte tatin, mousse à l'orange, or mousse au chocolat; a light and airy gâteau au chocolate avec mousse à l'orange; and chestnut creams and chestnut sauces that, while all the rage in France, aren't really understood (except here) within the rest of Austria. There's been a bakery on-site here for at least a century, but the sit-down cafe didn't get set up till 1964. Don't expect full-fledged meals here, as most of the menu is devoted to pastries, most of which sell for around 3€ ($4.80) each, and sandwiches, toasted or otherwise. It's open Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm and Saturday 8am to 1pm.
One of the best views of the exterior of the Goldenes Dachl is available from the front terrace of the Café Katzung, Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse 16 (tel. 0512/586183; www.cafe-katzung.at; tram: 1 or 3), a time-tested cafe whose interior was ripped apart and rebuilt during a 5-month period in 2002. The decor today is more streamlined and a bit more modern-looking than the cranky, faux-baroque decor it replaced, but the medley of international newspapers (at least 10 of them) is still available, suspended vertically on rods, in a style you'd associate with a library. Within a decor of wooden floors and a color scheme of pale green and cream with touches of red, you'll select from a full range of whiskeys, coffees, Austrian wine, and light platters that consist mostly of sandwiches, soups, and salads. More impressively, there's an in-house pastry chef who concocts tray after tray of strudels and tortes, all the Austrian staples, priced at 3.50€ to 5€ ($5.60-$8) each. It's open Monday to Saturday 8am to midnight and Sunday 9am to midnight.
On a quiet corner in the Old Town, Café Munding Kiebachgasse 16 (tel 0512/584118; www.munding.at) is in house built in 1720 that has baroque frescoes, carved bay windows and Tyrolean detailing. The interior of the cafe has been modernised (sadly), but its warren of rooms are still pleasant. The first thing you'll see is a pastry and chocolate shop. Food is served in the inner rooms, and the menu includes typical Tyrolean dishes, toasts (sandwiches), plus a vast selection of wines by the glass. Hours are from 8am to 11pm in summer (until 8pm in winter).
One of the most colorful and artfully ethnic cafes along Museumstrasse, Café Wilder Mann (tel. 0512/583295), was once part of a famous hotel that moved out of town, leaving only its cafe behind. The building that contains it is an antique in its own right, and the rustic and woodsy-looking decor seems to celebrate the alpine rusticity that such "Wild Men" (its English name) of the Tyrolean high Alps would have preferred. Come here for tea, coffee, ice creams, pastries, and such platters of rib-sticking food as crepes stuffed with filets of pork; Greek-style gyros with herb-flavored cream sauce; piccata of turkey with spaghetti; and such vegetarian dishes as all-vegetable strudel. Dessert crepes, especially the versions with strawberries and/or chocolate, or the concoction with walnut-flavored ice cream and caramel sauce, are especially popular. This cafe is not to be confused with the more elaborate restaurant and hotel in the nearby suburb of Lans with the same name. Snacks and platters cost from 7.20€ to 11€ ($12-$17). It's open Monday to Friday 7am to 8pm (tram: 3).
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.