Nestled amidst the Alps in the western part of Austria is a beautiful city called Innsbruck. Due to its mountainous landscape, it is abundant with cable cars, funiculars, and ski lifts to transport people up and down the mountains.
The Hungerburg funicular, which runs from the Innsbruck city center to the Hungerburg district, is said to be one of the most impressive of the lot. It’s a futuristic carriage that takes you to a height of 860 meters above sea level, where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the central Inn Valley and even across to the Italian border if the weather is good.
First thing first — what is a funicular?
A funicular is a special type of railway that travels up and down steep slopes with the carriages being pulled by a strong metal rope.
The Hungerburg Funicular (Hungerburgbahn) boasts a modern monorail-style carriage that uses a special hydraulic tilting system that allows the carriages to remain horizontal even when traversing steep gradients.
If you think that’s impressive enough, wait till you see the stations along the railway. Considered the most modern architecture in the region, they often draw as many visitors as the railway itself.
Each station has a unique glacier-inspired design with flowing curves and gleaming white panels. The roofs are made of double curved glass that has been thermoformed into various shapes. In winter, they would blend right in with the snow-covered Alps in the background.
The stations were designed by the esteemed British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who was fondly known as ‘The Queen of the Curve’. She was also responsible for Innsbruck’s world-famous Bergisel Ski Jump Stadium.
What to Expect on the Hungerburg Funicular
You will begin your journey at 560 meters above sea level at the Congress Underground station, not too far from the heart of Innsbruck’s Old Town.
The route will take you over a bridge, through a tunnel, and up a steep incline to reach Hungerburg station at 857 meters (2,811 feet) above sea level. Along the way, the train will stop at two other stations, namely Lowenhouse and Alpenzoo (Alpine Zoo).
The journey from Congress station to Hungerburg takes only 8 minutes, but during the 8 minutes, you’ll have ample time to take in great views of Innsbruck.
At Hungerburg station, the funicular links to the Nordkette Cable Railway (Nordkettenbahnen), where visitors can continue on one of two cable car routes — to the summit of Seegrube at 1,905 meters (6,250 feet), or to the 2,300-meter (7,546-foot) summit of Hafelekar, which is part of the Karwendel Nature Park.
Both of these summits are perfect for skiing in winter and hiking or mountaineering in warmer months. But even if you’re not into any of these activities, you’ll still get to enjoy the panoramic vista of the town and the Alps.
The total journey time from the base to the top of Hafelekar takes approximately 20 minutes.
What to Do in Hungerburg
Due to time and budget constraints, I didn’t continue to any of the summits and instead only stopped in Hungerburg.
Hungerburg is a picturesque mountain suburb with a population of just over 1,000 (as of 2014). Upon exiting the station, you’ll step onto the observation deck, where you can indulge in the fresh mountain air, as well as the magnificent views of Innsbruck from above.
If you have some extra time to spare, you could take a leisurely stroll around the small town, admiring the houses, and wondering how much you’d have to earn to be able to afford living there.
Despite its name, you won’t go hungry in Hungerburg, as there is a range of culinary treats available, including traditional Tyrolean meals at Cafe Pension Alpina, to be finished off with coffee and cake at the trendy Café Hitt & Söhne.
If you visit between mid-November till 23rd December, you’ll get to experience the annual Christmas Market right next to the station. Here, market stands selling hot punch, snacks, and all manners of Christmas memorabilia await you.
The market is normally open every day from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Monday – Friday), and from 12 noon to 7 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays). However, this may change due to the pandemic. Be sure to check before you go.
Is the Hungerburg Funicular worth it?
I’d say that apart from exploring the Old Town, taking the funicular to Hungerburg is another must-do activity in Innsbruck.
Riding in the carriages is an adventure in itself, during which you will experience breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains, as you make your ascent. On top of that, you’ll get to marvel at the out-of-this-world architectural masterpiece, designed by a star architect.
There is also the Alpine Zoo, if you’re so inclined. Popular among families, this zoo houses a variety of alpine animals, such as the Alpine Ibex, the Chamois, and the Alpine Marmot.
As it only costs 10.40€ for a round-trip ticket, and takes only 8 minutes to get from the base to Hungerburg, riding on the funicular is the perfect activity for those who have limited time and/or budget.
How to Book
The Hungerburg Funicular can get very busy at peak times, so it is wise to pre-book your tickets to avoid waiting in line.
I booked using the Klook app, which was a convenient, paperless process. All I had to do was show the payment voucher (on my phone) at the ticketing counter, and I was immediately issued the funicular ticket.
Not sure what Klook is? Click here to find out.
If you have the Innsbruck Card, you are entitled to one round-trip ticket on the funicular.
The Hungerburg Funicular runs every 15 minutes daily.
Monday – Friday: 7.15 a.m. to 7.15 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday, & public holidays: 8 a.m. to 7.15 p.m.
Do visit their official website for more information and updates.
How to Get There
The base of the Hungerburg Funicular is the Congress Underground station in Innsbruck, which is a walkable distance from anywhere in the Old Town. From Innsbruck train station, it is about a 15-minute walk, or a 5-minute ride. If you’re driving, there is plenty of parking space at the station.
Best Time to Go
The Hungerburg Funicular operates all year round with daily service every 15 minutes from early morning to evening.
When to visit largely depends on what activities you wish to partake in. Summer is the best time for hiking, mountaineering, and a visit to the Alpine Zoo, while winter (from December to March) is perfect for skiing.
I went in September, arriving at Hungerburg station at around midday. And while the weather was good, my only complaint was that it was too cloudy to get a good view of the Alps.
Have you been on a funicular before? Share your experience in the comment section below.