The Rhinelanders celebrate Carnival, the Tyroleans Fasnacht. Some of the most famous and impressive carnivals, are to be found in the Innsbruck region, and their purpose is to expel winter and welcome spring. Every four years (2019 is the next occasion), strange figures in red skirts and white bulging shirts filled with hay challenge the spectators in Axams to a competition. The Axamer Wampelerreiten (from “wampert” = thick-bellied) is one of the great carnival traditions in the Innsbruck region and an intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Telfer Schleicherlaufen, which takes place every five years (2020 is the next occasion), is just as important. On the big day and following a complex choreography, the “sun”, the "wild men", the "bear" and, amongst other legendary figures, the “Schleicher” (creepers) with their one metre high hats and beautiful masks proceed through the market town of Telfs. But lots of the other villages in the Innsbruck region still very much influenced by country life preserve their traditions as winter comes to an end, and figures with names such as Muller, Türggeler, Maschgerer and Huttler and others put on fantastic disguises and wear beautiful costumes and masks, grotesque ones to banish winter and graceful ones to welcome spring.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, culminating in Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter. The consecration of the colourfully decorated bouquets made of palm branches and stems in the church is just as much a part of this as donkey rides, a custom revived, for example, in Thaur. The story of Jesus' suffering is commemorated with Easter graves like the one in Patsch, in which the painted backdrops and brightly coloured glass balls catch the eye. Easter cribs (Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art) are also very much part of keeping tradition alive. Anyone going into a church before Easter will notice that the splendour of the altars is hidden behind Lenten veils or, in Innsbruck Cathedral, behind a special altarpiece.

The annual Tyrol Easter Festival is also dedicated to turning our thoughts to Easter with concerts, (dance) performances, discussions and lectures. The happy, carefree side of Easter can be experienced in Innsbruck's inner city at the Easter Market, which gives you the chance to explore regional traditions amidst colourful giant Easter eggs and with folklore performances and stands with arts and craft products and speciality foods.

Summer full of art and culture

Every year the museums of the Innsbruck region - from the Tyrolean State Museum Ferdinandeum to the Arsenal to the gallery in Ambras Castle - put on summer exhibitions which often start early in the year. The Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, starting with the Ambras Castle Concerts in July and August, is one of the unmissable highlights in the summer cycle of cultural events. Faithful to the tradition of Regent Claudia de Medici, who brought opera to her new home in Innsbruck in the 17th century, the festival with internationally renowned performers and promising new talents transforms Innsbruck into a centre of Renaissance and Baroque music.

The courtyard of the Imperial Palace is filled with music under a starry sky throughout July, when the Innsbruck Promenade Concerts, one of the most famous brass music festivals in Europe, invite you to come and enjoy their playing every day. The New Orleans Jazz festival also gets the Landhausplatz swinging and grooving in July. Folk theatre with a contemporary twist is a combination to be enjoyed at the Tiroler Volksschauspiele Telfs in July and August, in some extraordinary locations and with outstanding actors and in new productions.

The colours of autumn

Autumn in the mountains is almost becoming a tradition. But what is certainly a well established tradition is the glorious bright weather, one of the features of many weeks from September to November, when we can enjoy sunshine, blue sky, fantastic visibility and, all around, the red and gold splendour of nature. This is the time for hiking, the convivial enjoyment of autumn festivals and the traditional Almabtriebe when the colourfully decorated animals are brought down from the mountain pastures to the local barns. This is not only a sight worth seeing, but for the locals also a reason for festive celebrations and merriment.

Time of expectation, time of festivity

The days are getting shorter, the festivals more numerous. In Advent, in the four weeks before Christmas, tradition is writ large. It’s worth having a look at the opulent Nativity Scene Exhibition in the Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art. Around 6 December, St. Nicholas Day, krampuses and devils get up to mischief in many places. The shaggy fellows who accompany St. Nicholas exercise their independence during the Krampus Races. Every year, on the evening of 5 December, the arrival of St. Nicholas in the centre of Innsbruck takes place in a festive and beautiful manner. And the annual arrival of the Christkindl brings a sparkle not only to children's eyes. People meet up to enjoy punch and kiachln (sweet or spicy pastries) at a stall, marvel at the magical crystal Christmas tree on the market square and the giant fairy tale characters in the Old Town. Each of the six Christmas markets in Innsbruck has its own special flair and unique atmosphere to attract visitors.

The year ends with the New Year celebrations which complete the annual cycle. The children look forward to the Zwergerlsilvester Kids’ New Year’s Eve party on 30 December. On New Year's Eve, Innsbruck’s city centre is transformed into a huge party area with stages, live bands, a wide range of food and drink and an exciting countdown that culminates in the midnight waltz. At the Innsbrucker Bergsilvester the New Year is celebrated in the city and on the sparkling, brightly lit mountains all around.

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An unique experience – the Innsbrucker Bergsilvester.

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