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Innsbruck: All That Shines

Jingling bells are everywhere. Glittering lights and baubles shine from cutesy storefronts.

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View of the Alps and Goldenes Dachl from the Old Town square

It isn’t Christmas time. It isn’t even December – this is Innsbruck, where Christmas happens every day of the year (even in the middle of summer). Innsbruck has long been a destination for winter sports – it’s enclosed within the chain of the Alps and it has also hosted the Winter Olympic Games three times – but take off those boards and skis, and you’ll see the city’s chintzy side.

Innsbruck became the capital of Tyrol in Austria in 1429, and was the cultural capital of Europe in the fifteenth century, bestowing it with a rich deposit of Renaissance art and architecture. Most of these well-preserved buildings are centred in the Old Town area, and as the city is surrounded by mountains, there’s always a peak within view. When it snows, it feels like you’re inside a snowglobe.

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Al Fresco Dining; see the painted walls?

When it’s the festive season, Innsbruck sets up its famous Christmas Market (from mid November to mid December) in the heart of its picturesque Medieval Old Town. But, someone must have decided that this setting can be put to good use year-round as well.

At any given time of the year, take a stroll through the labyrinth of alleyways with pastel-coloured Medieval houses and you’ll find storefronts with spangly decorations, trinkets, carvings and yet more glittery objects. When they say all that glitters isn’t gold, it doesn’t apply to Innsbruck. Take a walk through the Old town, and you’ll find that many buildings seem to be glittering with gold. Gold tiles. Gold frames. Gold accents. Gold baubles. The roof of the Goldenes Dachl (Gold Roof) building alone has around 3,000 gold-plated tiles. (Strangely enough, one of the tiles is forever missing and locals would be glad to tell you the story behind it.)

Once dinnertime rolls around, tuck yourself into one of many traditional Tyrolean restaurants dotted around the Old Town. There may not be a Christmas tree inside, but the heavy wooden chairs and tables look festive enough, as do the equally heavy meals which will fill you up like a stuffed turkey.

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Bakery in the morning

The only thing that doesn’t fit with this indulgent lifestyle is the locals, who all look like poster models for healthy living. With the Alps at their doorstep, they’re forever out there cycling, hiking or skiing. Remember, they’ve hosted the Winter Olympics. Three times.

If you’re in the mood for Christmas, forget Finland or the North Pole. Innsbruck has all the chintz, the glitters and the cute little shopfronts – and we’re not just talking about the Swarovski shop – plus, it isn’t freezing cold all the time.

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