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Eight unique Austrian museums you need to visit

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
Eight unique Austrian museums you need to visit
Burg Riergersburg, home of one of Austria's most colourful characters - 'Bad Lisl'. Photo: Leonhard Niederwimmer / Pixabay

Austria—especially Vienna—is world-renowned for its museums, each exploring thousands of years of art, history, culture, nature, or science.


However, where do you go after you've done the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Albertina, and the other 'big names'? 

Here are eight wonderfully unique museums across Austria that are well worth visiting and offer a unique perspective on Austria and Austrians. 


Crime Museum, Vienna

Buried deep in Vienna's Leopoldstadt, in one of its oldest houses, visitors can submerge themselves in centuries of the capital's seedy underworld at the Vienna Crime Museum

Amidst printed murder ballads, weapons that took the lives of innocents and other rather gruesome displays, the story of how law and order developed within the Austrian capital is told - with a bit of dry caustic wit and humour. 

One particularly morbid highlight is the skeleton of Theresia Kandl, a 19th-century murderess who was the first woman to be hanged at the city's gallows. 

Funeral Museum, Vienna

Spend any time in Vienna, and you'll realise that death is a part of life. 

That's not to say that it's hazardous - just that the Viennese have a particular relevance and fondness for the business of death, including funerals.

Therefore, it's no surprise that Vienna has a museum dedicated to funerary culture at the city's central cemetery.


A lively, interactive series of displays informs the visitor about how funerals and mourning have evolved over the centuries. There are also loads of interesting headstones, mourning gowns, and other trinkets on display. 

The museum is also known for its gift shop, full of delightfully morbid gifts—a Playmobil funeral hearse and skeleton mourners, for example! 

Dom Museum, Salzburg

Tucked within the cathedral museum in Salzburg is the 'Cabinet of Curiosities', first established by Prince Bishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau and greatly expanded by one of his successors, Max Gandolf von Kuenburg, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

A collection of artworks and 'oddities' was essential to reputation building for Early Modern rulers, and the Prince Bishops of Salzburg were some of the most powerful around. Therefore, the treasures on display needed to be second to none. 

The collection includes the relics of various saints (sometimes multiples of the same body parts), beautifully preserved coral, automata, and other weird and wonderful things. 

Knappenwelt Gurgtal, Tarrenz, Tyrol

A lot of Tyrol and Austria's wealth originated from beneath the ground. Evidence of mining occurring over three thousand years ago has been uncovered in some areas.

Knappenwelt Gurgtal is an open-air museum that aims to show how silver, zinc, and other metals were mined in the Middle Ages. 

That's not the museum's star attraction, however. That would be the 'Healer of Gurgtal', found nearby in 2008. 

This is the grave of a woman around forty years old who showed evidence of being a 'wise woman' who supplied remedies and cures. 

She may have aided the miners before her death during the Thirty Years' War.

Schloss Eggenberg, Graz, Styria

This one almost feels like cheating. Schloss Eggenberg is more than one museum—it's three, at least. 

The castle has been preserved as a fantastic example of how Austrian nobility embraced growing scientific knowledge in the sixteenth century, embedding it into their homes' very art and fabric. 

Nothing is by accident; everything is planned and usually has an astronomical significance. 

The castle also houses the art gallery and coin collections of the Universalmuseum Joanneum, Styria's central museum authority.  

The state's archaeological museum is constructed beneath the beautiful gardens. You can find several unique ancient treasures there, such as the 'Cult Wagon of Strettweg'. 

Burg Riegersburg, Riegersburg, Styria

Another castle, the imposing Burg Riegenburg, was once home to one of the most colourful characters in Austria's history: Katharina Elisabeth von Galler, or 'Bad Lisl'. 

At a time when women were not permitted the same rights as men, the seventeenth-century noblewoman refused to submit. She married three times and proved a terror to her husbands if they so much as lifted a finger to prevent her from ruling in her own right. 

Today, the castle's museum is divided into three sections. 

The first tells the story of the castle and its rulers over the centuries, while the second deals with Burg Riegersburg's role in witch trials during the lifetime of 'Bad Lisl'. 

The third section is devoted to a display of weaponry and armour that would humble some state museums. 


Archaeological Park Carnuntum, Bruck an der Leitha, Lower Austria

Once upon a time, Austria was an integral part of the Roman Empire, known as the province of Pannonia - and the capital wasn't Vienna, but the thriving city of Carnuntum

Once home to 50,000 inhabitants, the city was destroyed in the fourth century, only to be really excavated in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

Now, a vivid picture of life is displayed in locations across Bruck an der Leitha, including a dedicated museum and recreations of several buildings found there. 

An innovative aspect of the experience is the 'Carnuntium' App, which allows users to see the ruins as they would have appeared at the city's height. 

Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, Innsbruck, Tyrol

Austrian folklore is a wild mix of magic, nature, and Christian belief, expressed through traditional handicrafts, songs, and dance. 

These traditions are showcased in the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum in central Innsbruck, a Tyrolean State Museum collection. 

Don't go in thinking you'll just be looking at cosy domestic artefacts; you're far more likely to encounter ghosts, goblins, witches, and saints doing extraordinary deeds. 

Definitely one to spend hours enjoying - especially the rather creepy masks and costumes used in traditional festivals!

Is there a museum we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below. 



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Julian Miller 2024/03/28 22:26
The Josephinum Medical History Museum with its collection of 18th century wax anatomical models. Works of art in themselves. Unique experience.

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