I could best describe Vienna’s Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) as a gargantuan cabinet of curiosities. When I say gargantuan, I mean it: the collection comprises more than 30 million objects. Not all are displayed, but you can get lost for several hours among marvels from space and depths of the earth.

Housed in a palace in the Museum Quarter, the Natural History Museum is one of the city’s top attractions. If ever you find yourself feeling weary and disappointed with the world, this is the place to restore your curiosity about our planet.

Dancing Venus of Willendorf by Nina Paley

The most famous artefact in the museum is the Venus of Willendorf, a tiny 30,000 year old statue (which Facebook believes to be porn). I saw no directions to find it in the museum, so unless you’re looking for it, it’s easy to miss the small wooden temple that houses it.

Like any natural history museum worth its salt, the NHM has a dinosaur room with enormous skeletons. One of the dinosaurs is a lifelike reproduction that roars, moves and generally scares visitors. We all wish dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct, but this room proves that our cohabitation would be terrifying for humans. GRRR!

Another highlight is the world’s largest and oldest public collection of meteorites. However, these rocks start to look the same after a while, and then you can move on to pretty minerals. So many fantastic colors and shapes!

Several rooms display taxidermy animals. Those you can never see in life (extinct and endangered animals) were interesting, but I liked other parts of the museum better.

Last but not least, the main staircase is quite something:

The museum was built in 1889 to house the Habsburgs’ collections, so that’s imperial Austria for you.

Tips

  • There are many loud children. If you want to observe meteorites in peace, visit on Wednesday evening when the museum is open until 9.
  • Just opposite is another major attraction, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History). The two buildings look identical, but exhibition posters on the facades should tell you which is which.
  • Address: Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Wien

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