If you have had your fair share of imperial palaces, museums and cafes, we suggest you go under water. Not literarily, but in the Haus des Meeres – Vienna aquarium, where you can see everything from hammerhead sharks to lizards to monkeys.
There is not much you can use a World War II air defence tower for. Nonetheless, in Vienna they have managed to make something sensible out of at least one of the six crude concrete towers that the German army left behind. “The house of the sea”, as it is called in English (Haus des Meeres) is actually not only an aquarium, as it also houses a mini zoo. The idea is to show nature in interaction, from the fish in the water to the birds in the trees. Don’t like bein under water? Well, take a look up at the ceiling when you buy your ticket at the entrance!
11 floors with fish and land animals
Haus des Meeres has 11 floors where they display fish from both salt and fresh water. In addition, a small tropical zoo has been added. In the zoo you can observe nature, right from the forest floor and the alligator pond and right up to the tree canopies. Birds fly to your head and little monkeys are swinging in the trees. This is the closest you can get to the jungle without actually going there. Furthermore, the large glass enclosures on either side of the concrete tower houses the tropical zoo and the crocodile park respectively.
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1 million litres of water
One of the advantages of using a concrete bunker is that the building is designed to withstand heavy weight, or in this case the weight of over 1 million litres of water. On the fifth floor you will find the second largest aquarium where you can observe sharks, sea turtles, rocks, corals, anemones and lots of other marine life. It’s not just the kids who get big eyes where they admire the amazing sea life – behind the thick glass wall. Even someone who actually has dived on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, can have a wonderful reunion with reef sharks, sea turtles and not least Nemo. In addition to the many small aquariums spread-out over-all floors, you will find the largest, the hammerhead shark tank at the very top. Moreover, walking along the displays knowledge it’s made easy to soak up knowledge, since everything is signposted in both German and English.
More than just an aquarium
Over the years, Haus des Meeres has become far more than an aquarium, as they have also invested in terrariums where you can see reptiles, insects and snakes. Along with the ticket you will also receive a brochure with info, as well as a map of Haus des Meeres. This also allows you to choose what you want to see most, in case you are running out of time or if any of the little ones are getting tired. Because, you can quickly spend hours watching all the exhibits, and there can be a lot of kids. Fortunately, there is a lift through the entire tower, which makes it a little less tiring. We started at the bottom and used the stairs to access all the floors. Hence, it was nice to sit down and just enjoy “life in the sea” in the large aquarium at the top floor, before heading over to the last stop and learn about the history of the flak tower.
A little WWII history
If you are interested in the history of the tower itself, they offer two daily guided tours in a small museum behind the large aquarium at the top. Here you will find out a little about the history behind this tower, and some general war history from Vienna. It takes around 20 minutes including a short movie. The guided tour and the movie are initially only in German, but the guides speak a little English. Moreover, much of what you are shown is quite self-explanatory. With a little history in the bag, it’s time to relax a bit, enjoy the view and chew on all the impressions – or a bite to eat.
Best view in town
Although the views are far from bad from neither the Danube Towe (Donauturm) nor the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Nevertheless, I think you get the most interesting view of Vienna from Haus des Meeres. On the 9th floor you can go out on the protrusions, clearly seen from the ground. Even better when you reach a few meters up, to Ocean´sky Café on the 11th floor, where you have a phenomenal 360° view of Vienna. Furthermore, it is a lovely place to grab a snack or coffee. You do not need to redeem a ticket to the aquarium in order to visit the café, but simply take the elevator straight up.
For more info: Haus des Meeres – Aqua Terra Zoo
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