Travel black book: Vibrant city close to nature

Travel black book: Vibrant city close to nature

Who: American Kristin Intress, 43, is chief executive of Worldhotels, an exclusive group of independent hotels.

Favourite destination: Innsbruck, Austria

Why: Innsbruck has a fascinating blend of the old and modern architecture, set against the stunning backdrop of the Nordkette mountains.

Here, you can enjoy the vibrancy of city life and be up the mountain within minutes if you want to get close to nature.

I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptional culture, shops, restaurants and entertainment options in a small city. There is a festival or cultural event happening almost every week and the people are very friendly and sincere.

Favourite hotel

The Grand Hotel Europa (Sudtiroler Platz 2, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria; tel: +43-512-5931; www.grandhoteleuropa.at). It is just opposite the main railway station, which makes exploring very easy.

It is also within walking distance to many museums around, such as the Alpenverein-Museum, Tyrolean Provincial Museum and Galerie im Taxispalais.

The hotel is very cosy and captures the region's Tyrolean decor and atmosphere.

I felt like I was staying in a country house. Rooms start at 128 euro (S$207) a night.

Favourite restaurant

I love the Grand Hotel Europa's Europa Stuberl (www.grandhoteleuropa.at) restaurant the most. It is one of the best restaurants in the city.

The chef prepares his favourite dishes as menu options each night and it is really a very interesting experience savouring one dish after another.

I particularly like the ones made from game meats such as deer and rabbit, which are very rich and comforting and give you a taste of the area.

But one of my favourite meals there is the Austrian speciality tafelspitz (20 euro), boiled prime beef with creamy spinach and roast potatoes, served with an apple, horseradish and chive sauce. It is delicious.

The restaurant's cosy ambience and traditional Tyrolean architecture with walls and ceilings lined in carved wood, are simply the cherry on top.

A meal here costs about 35 euro a person.

Favourite museum

The Tyrolean Folk Art Museum (Universitatsstrasse 2, 6020; tel: +43-512-5948- 9510; www.tiroler- landesmuseen.at) is interesting because it has handicraft that are unique to the area.

I especially liked the Tyrolean carnival masks, its magnificent collection of furniture and the costumes from different eras and for different classes of society.

The museum perfectly showcases the Tyrolean culture and its history.

Favourite tourist site

I love the Nordkette mountain. Venturing up the mountain is a must.

We took the Hungerburgbahn, a hybrid railway-funicular, and it brought us up a steep incline to the small ski resort of Hungerburg.

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