Mar­ket re­search

SIAN ELVIN dis­cov­ers the beauty of Inns­bruck, Aus­tria, and its fan­tas­tic Christ­mas mar­kets

Stockport Express - - Travel -

HAV­ING break­fast then be­ing up the moun­tains in time for lunch – that’s the motto the peo­ple of Aus­tria live by. And who can blame them? I thought, sip­ping a warm mug of mulled wine and eat­ing dumplings at the Christ­mas mar­kets un­der the Golden Roof, when just a few hours ear­lier I had been at home in Kent.

A quick plane jour­ney away from the UK, Inns­bruck is the cap­i­tal of Aus­tria’s west­ern state of Ty­rol, fondly re­ferred to as the heart of the Alps, and just a stone’s throw from the Ital­ian bor­der.

Yet, un­usu­ally, it is not of­ten the first win­ter hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for Brits, with Ice­land, with Nor­way and Switzer­land at the front of most peo­ple’s minds.

But I found Inns­bruck to be one of the most mag­i­cal hol­i­days I’ve ever had. Of course, the main at­trac­tion over win­ter is to the world-fa­mous Christ­mas mar­kets.

If there are any spe­cial dec­o­ra­tions or fes­tive trin­kets you’re look­ing for, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find it there.

There is a huge se­lec­tion of mar­kets in the city to wind your way through while sip­ping mulled wine or hot choco­late.

You can lose your­self for hours among the painted baubles, wooden tree dec­o­ra­tions, hand­made stock­ings and fra­grant can­dles. Oh, and the food, of course.

The great thing about the mar­kets is you can find what­ever price range you like. Hang­ing tree dec­o­ra­tions, for ex­am­ple, could cost as lit­tle as €1– rang­ing up to €25 for the hand-carved wooden ones. There are stalls sell­ing al­co­holic win­ter bev­er­ages such as red or white mulled wine, warm punch or mulled cider, and plenty of snacks to go round, in­clud­ing raclette, sweet and savoury dumplings and fruit dipped in choco­late.

The drinks stalls al­low you to pay a small de­posit for a re­us­able mug to go around the mar­kets with and re­turn it at the end of your visit – or keep as a sou­venir.

Food­ies cer­tainly won’t be dis­ap­pointed by a visit to Inns­bruck. Aside from the drinks stalls, some of my ed­i­ble high­lights of the city in­cluded:

SCHNITZEL: A thin cut­let of pork or veal, breaded and then pan-fried, is an in­stant win­ner, usu­ally served with fries or but­tered pota­toes.

Where to eat it: Pi­ano Bar KNöDEL: Tra­di­tional Aus­trian dumplings, made with bread and served ei­ther with cheese or ba­con in­side and drenched in gravy broth.

Where to eat it: See­grube restau­rant, up the Alpine moun­tains.

RACLETTE: You can get this in most Euro­pean coun­tries, but there’s some­thing about eat­ing hot pota­toes slathered in melt­ing cheese sur­rounded by Christ­mas fes­tiv­i­ties.

Where to eat it: Street ven­dors in the Christ­mas mar­kets

KASSPATZLN: Soft egg noo­dles coated in spinach and ba­con and baked, sprin­kled with crispy onions.

Where to eat it: Street ven­dors in the Christ­mas mar­kets

SACHERTORTE: One of the most fa­mous choco­late cakes in the world, sand­wiched with apri­cot jam and cov­ered in choco­late fon­dant.

Where to eat it: Café Sacher, in the Hof­burg Im­pe­rial Palace

STRUDEL: Thin crispy pas­try with savoury or sweet fill­ings.

Where to eat it: Strudel Café Kröll

WURSTEL: Tra­di­tional sausages made from a mix­ture of beef and pork. Can be eaten on their own or served with curry sauce or mus­tard. Where to eat it: Street ven­dors in the Christ­mas mar­kets.

Aside from the mar­kets and the glo­ri­ous food, there is plenty to do around the city. I stayed at the Stage 12 Ho­tel in the cen­tre, which of­fers in­cred­i­ble views of the Alps from its win­dows and has the Christ­mas mar­kets right on its doorstep. The hearty break­fast in the morn­ings is per­fect to set you up for a day in the moun­tains and the bar is also lively in the evenings. Prices start at €100 a night with most ho­tels in the area cost­ing around the same.

For fans of win­ter sports, of course you can go ski­ing in the Alps, with the sea­son start­ing in De­cem­ber and end­ing around March. If, like me, you just pre­fer to watch, you can head up the Ber­gisel ski jump and check out the spec­tac­u­lar views from the panoramic café.

The moun­tains aren’t just for adren­a­line junkies – you can take the Nord­kette ca­ble car up to the peak of the Alps and en­joy the breath­tak­ing views. Once you’ve had your fill you can visit the See­grube restau­rant for com­fort food, then toast marsh­mal­lows over a bon­fire while tak­ing in the moun­tain air. Swarovski Crys­tal World is a short trip away from Inns­bruck by bus. The mu­seum was built in 1995 to cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Aus­trian com­pany. There are jaw-drop­ping ex­hibits full of glit­ter­ing crys­tals and a huge shop at the end for sou­venir hun­ters.

Back in Inns­bruck there are many places of his­tor­i­cal in­ter­est, in par­tic­u­lar the Hof­burg Im­pe­rial Palace which is built in a gothic style and is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant cul­tural build­ings in Aus­tria.

You can also climb the city tower and en­joy in­cred­i­ble views over Inns­bruck, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Golden Roof and a visit to the Grass­mayr Bell Foundry – the old­est fam­ily busi­ness in Aus­tria – is a must.

An all-in­clu­sive ticket – the Inns­bruck Card – gives you en­trance to the main at­trac­tions in the area and in­cludes pub­lic trans­port too.

And for a glit­ter­ing fi­nale to your trip, the Max 500 light­show runs un­til Jan­uary 20, 2019 out­side the palace and marks the 500th an­niver­sary of the death of Holy Ro­man Em­peror Max­i­m­il­ian I – revered for build­ing the Golden Roof.

It is an in­cred­i­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion of vis­ual and sound ef­fects which is worth see­ing, de­spite it only be­ing in Ger­man.

The stalls at Inns­bruck’s Christ­mas mar­kets over­flow with ev­ery­thing from dec­o­ra­tions to food

The mys­te­ri­ous en­trance to Swarovski Kristall­wel­ten (Crys­tal Worlds) Stage12 Ho­tel is per­fectly placed to en­joy the mar­kets

The view over Inns­bruck

The al­most leg­endary sachertorte

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