The Tirol is a wonderful place for family holidays and breaks, with kids able to run free amidst the open countryside, and seemingly endless valleys full of waterfalls, lakes and forests, offering masses of scope for biking, hiking and other outdoor adventures. This is classic Alpine Austria, with craggy mountains, lush pastures, timeless villages and a sense of peaceful grandeur. The capital Innsbruck is a sophisticated city (ideal for low-key city breaks with children) affording easy access to the surrounding peaks, and there are several major year-round mountain resorts (including the glitzy town of Kitzbühel, rugged St Anton and the family-friendly delight Mayrhofen) plus many other scenic villages.
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The possibilities are virtually endless, and all family holidays and breaks will end up with the kids red-cheeked from all the outdoor excitement. In winter this is Austria’s ski hub. St Anton is one of the world’s most challenging areas, with some of the best walking. Kitzbühel (famed for its Hahnenkamm downhill course and including the resort of St Johann) is a much more accessible region for children, and the medieval walled town itself is a delight (particularly for parents wanting to treat themselves to smart clothes). Mayrhofen is excellent, as is the specialist family resort of Serfaus and Ellmau, a gentle family place with placid slopes, plus connections to SkiWelt, Austria’s largest linked area, if the youngsters get the hang of it. But there are many more options.
Most resorts open their cable-cars in summer, allowing you to stroll atop the mountains with little effort and be rewarded by many wonderful and historic mountain huts for lunch. There are plenty of other places to visit, including Ischgl, Solden and Langenfeld in the Otztal Valley, with its huge waterpark and spa with outdoor hot tubs on stilts. Obergurgl in the Otztal Valley – runner-up in our Best Ever Family Ski Resort Award in the Over-7s category – is a high, pretty resort, with beginner areas at village level, easy blues to move on to, and intermediate runs across three connected areas.
Also on offer are rafting (of the whitewater variety for adults and older kids), canyoning, high-ropes courses, canoeing, rock-climbing, swimming and cycling (there are 800km of bike paths). The Eagle’s Way (Adlerweg) is a mountain walk meandering 280km across the Tirol; many of its stages can be accomplished by children (although there are also plenty of simpler routes along rivers and through meadows).
Innsbruck is full of fun, from the baroque Imperial Palace to gothic treasures to the underground-overground funicular (with its space-age stations by London architect Zaha Hadid), whisking you to the bottom of Nordpark, a summer mountain paradise/winter ski area where two modern cable-cars complete the half-hour city-to-peak journey.
The Tirol prides itself on its local produce, with the rich pastures producing exceptional cheese and beef, butchers excelling in cured meats, and mountain streams supplying trout. Particularly worth trying are the bacon dumplings, the game soup and the huge cream-filled doughnuts – as well as a new wave of gourmet fare in a string of smart restaurants.
For more on local food and eating out on family holidays, see our Austria page.
Late November to April is the ski season in the Tirol, offering excellent snow. From June to August the Tirol can be as hot as the Med, meaning you can revel in the clear air on a mountain walk before swimming in a lake or open-air pool, for blissful summer family holidays or breaks.
There are daily low-cost flights into Innsbruck throughout the winter season, plus standard flights year-round. For trains to the region, see our Austria page.
The Tirol is an easy place to negotiate with a hire car – Innsbruck is in the centre, with the A12 autobahn running east-west the length of the valley with mountains rising on either side.
Austria is not the cheapest of destinations for family holidays and breaks. For those skiing, package deals usually represent the best value.
A package holiday can be the easiest option for skiers, or KinderHotels embraces several family-friendly properties in the Tirol.
There are splendid hotels across the region, but the Zillertal is particularly recommended, with its narrow-gauge valley train and other attractions, not least the year-round snow-covered Hintertux glacier, where you can ski and tube.
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