Commentary

Innsbruck

Updated: May 15, 2008, 7:06 PM ET
By Nick Bidwell | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


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Back in 1976, Austrian downhill skier Franz Klammer became a national icon after striking gold with a memorable run at the Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Some 32 years on, the capital of the Tirol region is once again serving as stage for top-class international sport, this time featuring the likes of Fernando Torres of Spain, Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Russia's Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Appropriately for such a winter-sport paradise, fans without tickets will be able to watch the action on a big screen erected at the famous Bergisel ski-jumping stadium to the south of town, the venue for the annual Four Hills event.

Buses will connect this spectacular Bergisel site with the railway station (Hauptbahnhof) 24 hours a day during the tournament. In central Innsbruck, the place for supporters to congregate and let their hair down will be the Fan Mile on Maria-Theresien Strasse, the city's main thoroughfare, which arguably offers the best views of the surrounding mountains.

Innsbruck's compact size means that virtually every point of interest can be reached on foot. But should you need someone else to take the strain, there is an excellent network of buses and trams that travel in circuits around the city. For Euro 2008, their frequency will be increased and the night-time service is to be beefed up considerably.

The best way to get to Innsbruck's Tivoli Neu stadium is by bus. From the Hauptbahnhof on Sudtirolerplatz take either line A (getting off at the Stadion stop) or line F (Landessportcenter stop), followed by a five-minute walk. It's about a 10-minute walk from the railway station to the Maria-Theresien Strasse.

The Tivoli Neu Stadium, home to local club FC Wacker Tirol, seats 30,000 and was built in 2000. It forms part of the Olympiaworld complex, also home to an ice hall, a multi-purpose sports center and a music venue.

Tiroler cuisine is hearty, filling and tasty, with cheese of one variety or another usually the staple ingredient. You can't go wrong with homemade noodles covered in cheese, while dumplings made of goat cheese and cream of cheese soup are equally delicious. Another must try is the Tiroler Grostl, a fry up of pork, beef, onions and potatoes crowned by a fried egg and eaten straight from the pan.

A wonderful place to eat is the rustic Ottoburg restaurant on Herzog-Friedrich Strasse, located in the gothic towers close to the Inn-Brucke bridge. A choice of great noodles, steaks, chicken, venison and fish go hand in hand with a superb atmosphere; you will not be disappointed by a visit.

Then there is the 16th century Goldener Adler Inn (Golden Eagle Inn), which can be a little touristy, yet no one could complain about the quality of its food. For a more international flavor, check the China Restaurant Canton on Maria-Theresienstrasse or Al Dente on Meranestrasse, an Italian joint low on space but which more than compensates with its heavenly pasta.

One of the leisure-time focal points here is the Hofgarten Cafe and Restaurant in the park of the same name to the north of the university. Those whose pulses race at a good DJ session, live-music aficionados and foodies are in luck, with the pasta dishes, the schnitzel, ribs and baguettes all top notch.

For fans looking for a cheap, late-night pizza or kebab, head for Viaduktbogen and Leopoldstrasse fanning out from the railway station, with the first of those destinations a home to many bars, clubs and beer gardens.

There are several decent pubs in central Innsbruck, many with reasonably priced menus. One of the best is Elferhaus on Herzog-Friedrich Strasse, which serves the outstanding Franziskaner Bavarian wheat beer and Stiegl-Brau on Wilhelm-Greil Strasse. Zappa (Rechengasse) hits the right notes as a music pub and sells ales from the superlative Fuhrenburg brewery.

Speciality shops, department stores and designer boutiques proliferate in Maria-Theresienstrasse, Leopoldstrasse and Herzog-Friedrich Strasse. The Markthalle at the junction of Innrain and Marktgraben is the setting for a farmer's market six days a week.

Innsbruck may be famous for being a home for winter sports, but its beauty is set to be a key feature of the Euro 2008 story.

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