How do you stay hydrated when you are out and about in summer? Even though Innsbruck sits in the Alpine mountains, it can still get really hot in summer. I have come across a lot of drinking fountains here just as I needed them. In fact, there are over 140 in Innsbruck!
The drinking fountains are well distributed alright, but do people use them? Absolutely! The key factor, I think, is that the water here is tasty and refreshing. It tastes simply neutral and its chilly temperature quenches the thirst fast. Their popularity is further backed up by people’s confidence in the water quality which is top-notch.
Many drinking fountains here provide constantly-running streams. Therefore, the water always feels fresh and the sound of the flow encourages the passersby to stop and replenish.
The network of drinking fountains supports the fairly active lifestyle in Innsbruck. Before the snow returns, whether people go biking, hiking, jogging, dog-walking or even shopping, there are revitalizing water fountains dotted along the route. Many people simply bring a handy bottle to refill. Of course, the beer at the mountain Alms is still irresistible especially after the climb, but it’s a good idea to replenish your bottle at their drinking fountains for the journey!
The convenience and the density of the drinking fountains help people develop the habit of using them. Many playgrounds are equipped with drinking fountains and I often see children actively using them instead of turning to sugary drinks. On the other hand, single-use plastic bottles are an environmental issue. I have regrettably bought too many bottles of water when I lived elsewhere. In Innsbruck, bringing and refilling my own bottle is my preferred and sole choice!
The Old Town was the first outlet in Innsbruck supplying spring water to the public. The water was originally directed from Hötting (in the west) but Mühlau (in the north) has become the main source for the city since the 16th century. Both areas are at the foot of the Nordkette, part of the Karwendel Nature Reserve. In the City Museum, there is a section focusing on the local history of water supply.
As there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars in the Old Town, you might not be looking for water on the street. However, there are a few interesting drinking fountains worth a look:
There is a term in German called “Dorfbrunnen” which means “village fountain” and most villages here seem to have one of their own. They are the “signature” fountains of their respective community and provide drinking water. (There are definitely more drinking fountains nearby though!)
The more elaborated and classic “Dorfbrunnen” share a common style. At the end or on the side of a long trough stands a decorated column where the water comes out. On top of the column is a sheltered figure which usually depicts the local patron saint.
There is a Christian saint whom you are most likely to encounter in Tyrol – Saint Florian (Der Heilige Florian). He was born in Linz actually. I find it very fitting when he appears on top of drinking fountains. Since he was martyred by drowning, he is associated closely with water and is the guardian of firefighters. His statues usually hold a bucket purring water and are therefore easy to recognize.
Apart from “Dorfbrunnen“, I also saw the term “Brunnendorf” (Fountain Village) when I visited Telfs, a market town 27 kilometres west to Innsbruck (about 20 minutes by train). It is famous for the traditional carnival “Telfer Schleicherlaufen” and used to have a lot of religion-themed drinking fountains. Several are still in use and you can simply follow this Culture Walk. Every January, there is a mass procession (Sebastianifeier) dedicated to their patron saint, St. Sebastian.
The first drinking fountain is next to the cable car station (towards Seegrube). This fountain has a second basin close to the floor. How animal-friendly!
The Photo on top of this page: © TVB Innsbruck / Mario Webhofer
Ichia Wu is a Taiwanese artist with broad experience in the tourism sector. Since relocating to Innsbruck, she has become an ardent enthusiast of the traditional carnival celebrations ("Fasnacht") in Tyrol.