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Corpses, torture, primeval forests – the darker side of Vienna awaits you. Yes, this is also a great place wander off the beaten path to discover the unexpected.
You have visited Schönbrunn, you’re suffering from a caffeine overdose from all those fancy coffee houses, and you really cannot look at another painting or listen to another Mozart aria? No need to despair. Vienna is full of famous museums, palaces and other historic landmarks that draw thousands of visitors each year. But is also a great place wander off the beaten path to discover the unexpected. It has a glorious past, a modern present and lots of things in between that add to the quirky and sometimes morbid image of the city.
The places below might not have a prominent spot in your guidebook or maybe they aren’t in them at all.
You might have noticed by now that the Habsburg family is a pretty big deal in Vienna’s sightseeing scene – only problem with them is that they are dead. While you won’t be able to talk to them or see them in action you can still give them a visit and pay your respects. There are 143 members of the legendary Austrian family buried within the Imperial Crypt and to add an extra touch to it, their hearts are all stored away in a separate room. The coffins are beautifully decorated and while the whole place has an eerie feeling to it (it is a mass grave after all), it holds a certain magical aura as well.
Books might be a dying art form but in Vienna they are certainly being put to rest in style. In enormous wooden shelves, endless arrays of books are on display in the Austrian National Library. The whole collection consists of more than two million books so hopefully you cancelled your afternoon plans. The ornate reading room the building is a very popular study hall for students who want to soak in the old-world atmosphere.
Speaking of the Aqua Terra Zoo, this museum is already worth a visit because it is housed inside one of the few remaining old flak towers in the city. Today’s use is a much more peaceful one and the whole experience is just that – very calm and relaxing and it will make you feel like being inside the ocean without getting your feet wet. Special recommendation is to go all the way up and enjoy the view over the whole city.
Hidden below is the easier-to-spot Aqua Terra Zoo while towering above is the torture museum. Discovering the dark side of humanity might not sound like a nice afternoon pastime, and we won’t pretend that the visit is all that pleasant. But unfortunately torture and gore have played an important part in the city’s history and the museum delivers an experience that will get under your skin.
This wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of the city is part of the Vienna woods that dominate the area to the west of the capital. As it is a bit remote and not that easy to reach, many tourists would never know to go there. They will miss out on the primeval forest within and all the wildlife running around. The animals are used to the human visitors, so you might be able to see a deer, a rabbit or other animals very close-up. There is no cover charge and if you need a break from urban sightseeing, there is no better place to go to.