by Karen, Sep 16 2018
A bold statement I know but if there is just one thing you need to do when visiting Innsbruck with kids it’s a trip up the Nordkette by cable car. Whether you’re visiting Innsbuck in the heat of Summer or snowy Winter the views (summer, sometimes winter) and the snowy fun (mainly winter) make the time and price totally worth it.
We were visiting in Summer so didn’t see any snow although we passed plenty of avalanche guards and ski shacks so it was easy to imagine the place dressed for winter.
This is everything you need to know about taking a cable car up the Nordkette with kids. The photos don’t do it justice, read this then go and experience for yourself!
Known as the Jewel of the Alps, the Nordkette is actually a range of mountains to the North of Innsbruck. It’s what you see on arrival and why, in town you’ll feel like you’re in a city cut off from everywhere – heaven!
Nordkette, Congress Station
The journey starts 560m above sea level at Congress Station, easy to walk to from the centre of town. You can’t miss its futuristic shiny design which somehow marries perfectly to the surrounding mountains. The stations were designed by the late British Architect, Zaha Hadid and opened in 2007. This one is manned, meaning you can buy your tickets in person or ask any questions you need to. If you’re using an Innsbruck card, this is probably the best place to start, most other stations just have a ticket machine accepting credit cards only.
You’ll only have to wait up to 15 mins for the next funicular train to take you on your first leg. We were lucky and only stood for around 5 mins. It definitely wasn’t quiet on the day we visited but the train still didn’t feel busy. It’s mainly standing room only but it doesn’t take too long.
The ride starts by going through a tunnel, I think Piper felt a bit like she was at a theme park and then emerges with fantastic views back out to Innsbruck and the Inn river. There are just three more stops, Lowenhaus, Alpenzoo (for, you guessed it, the Alpine Zoo) and Hungerburg where we departed for the next leg.
Again the station is stunning and at 860m gives some beautiful views back to the city. It also gives you a great idea of just how high you’re about to travel.
Hungerburg is a very pretty little town, there are some look out points, a cute café and a walking trail back down to the Alpen Zoo (Europes highest zoo, about 20mins easy walk). If you have time, you can visit the small Cable Car Museum or the pretty Theresien Church.
The station has some interesting information about the build.
The Seegrube station, Nordkette
We headed straight to the next station, waited a short while in the waiting area whilst enjoying the views of some quaint Austrian hotels then scanned our tickets to get on the cable car to Seegrube.
This station is 1,905m above sea level and a lovely place to stop and explore if you have time, we didn’t as we were hungry to get to the top but there are plenty of places to admire the view, a restaurant with a sundeck and an Igloo bar over the winter months, how cool!
The top of Norkette, Hafelekar
And finally another cable car, this one a little smaller up the last leg of your journey to Hafelekar, 2,256m above sea level. Gulp! You will see Innsbruck on one side and the vastness of the Karwendel Nation Park on the other, the views are jawdropping.
This is it you think, I made it, time for a quick look and head back down but really don’t do that, you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring the top and trying out some of the short, recommended trails. It’s only a 15 min, pretty easy hike up to the actual summit, most kids should be fine but you’ll need to keep a very close eye on all of them. Everyone will feel a real sense of achievement if they do, you actually reached the summit of an Alp!
The place feels totally otherworldly, like you’ve landed on Mars, the rock’s grey and unforgiving in stark contrast to the greens of the journey up. We had fun heading out to the little ski shacks and striking some catalogue poses.
I have to admit this was the first time my stomach felt a little queasy as I really took in how high we were.
Everything is well signposted from the various trails to what you are seeing from the viewpoints, have a wander and pick what you fancy.
There’s a nice little traditional restaurant at the top, dodge the mountain goats and sit outside but be wary of the crows swooping in to steal your sandwiches.
If it’s too cold you can opt for a hot drink inside and enjoy the views back down to Innsbruck.
This place is popular with hikers and as you go up in the cable cars you may see some (totally crazy) mountain bikers making use of the summer trails. Having seen the ski runs stripped of their snowy covering, I don’t think I would attempt them but I am totally in awe of the people that do!
Nordkette Cable Cars
The cable cars themselves are big, each holding between 60 – 90 people. It’s mainly standing room only but there are plenty of bars to hold onto, and none of us felt in the least bit nervous, I think we would have happily gone up and down in them all day!
On our way back down, we stopped at the café at Seegrubebahn for an ice cream, unfortunately this one landed on the floor just minutes after this pic.
We managed a spot on the bottom most carriage on the funicular where I think the views were the most fun.
So have I convinced you? For us, after so many city trips on our European adventure, being surrounded by so much beauty and nature was a real treat but I still think our trip on the Nordkettenbahnen has been my favourite adventure so far.
Top tips on the Norkettenbahnen with kids
Take warm clothing.
It’s obviously colder at the top and even in summer you’ll need a few layers. It was a relief after the long hot summer of 2018 but we still needed jackets and cardigans.
Wear the right shoes.
Even if you don’t plan to hike, when you get to the top you’ll really want to make the 15 min trip to the summit. The right shoes are a must. Piper coped in Birkenstocks, (her feet where covered in rubs and blisters from all the city walking we’d been doing on this trip, it was the only footwear she could stand!) but I would recommend a sturdy pair of trainers at the very least. In winter don’t even consider anything but boots.
Take some water and snacks.
We turned up at congress station with literally no supplies, hoping to find a little shop. There’s nothing and you will need to walk all the way back to the old town to stock up. When you get to the various stops on the way there are restaurants and cafes but best to be prepared for waiting and the journeys.
Take plenty of time.
I recommend giving yourself a full day to visit. With time to wander from station to station and maybe having to wait for the next car each way will be about 45mins in total, add to that a couple of hikes at the top, a few restaurant stops and a trip to the Alpine zoo and you’ll be ready for an early night at the end. We only had an afternoon as we spent the morning hunting for a doctors in Innsbruck and really wished we had more time to enjoy this amazing place.
Check the forecast.
If you can, visit on a clear day to make the most of the views, this may be tricky in winter but just keep your eye on the forecast.
Essential info about the Norkettenbahnen
Tickets, book online before you go and save yourself time at the station.
Round trip tickets all the way to the top:
Youth (born between 1999 and 2001) €27.60
Child (born between 2002 and 2011) €20.70
Or opt to just go to Seegrubebahn
Youth (born between 1999 and 2001) €24.80
Child (born between 2002 and 2011) €18.60
Nordkette Opening Hours
Weekdays 07:15 – 19:15
Weekend + holidays 08:00 – 19:15
Departs every 15 minutes
Cable car to Seegrubebahn
Daily 08:30 – 17:30
Departs every 15 minutes
Friday-evening ride 18:00 – 23:30
Departs every 30 minutes
Cable Car to Hafelekarbahn
Daily 09:00 – 17:00
Departs every 15 minutes
Summer season 2018 14.04.2018 – 04.11.2018
Closed for inspection 05.11.2018 – 23.11.2018
Winter season 2018/19 24.11.2018 – 07.04.2019
Closed for inspection 08.04.2019 – 12.04.2019
Summer season 2019 13.04.2019 – 03.11.2019
If you’re looking to combine your visit up the Nordkette with some other fantastic things to do in Innsbruck then an Innsbruck pass can save you heaps of money. Options range from 24, 48 and 72 hours with prices starting at just €21.50 for kids and €43 for adults. The pass includes the Norkette, Alpine Zoo, Ski Jump, City Museum, Hop On, Hop Off bus tour and many more. Buy your Innsbruck card online so you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive.
You might also like our review of the family friendly Hotel Sailer, a great hotel in central Innsbruck.
If you’re visiting Innsbruck with kids, you may also be interested in these prebookable activities from Get Your Guide
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This post may contain affiliate links which means we will receive a tiny fee if you book via this post at no extra cost to you. We were guests of the Norkettenbahnen for this review, as always, all opinions are my own.