Nested in the heart of the Alps is Wattens, a manufacturing city home to Swarovski’s ‘Kristallwelten’. Expanding over 10 acres, the Crystal Worlds feature not only a stunning museum but decorative gardens, an expansive gift shop, a cafe, and several elaborate play-spaces for children, including a four story playground full of interactive art. Wattens is only a 20 minute train ride from the Austrian city of Innsbruck, making a visit to the museum a perfect afternoon activity, and if timed right, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking alpine sunset in the ethereal gardens.
The Crystal Worlds were opened in 1995 in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Swarovski’s founding. The stunning grounds have seen over 13 million visitors in the two decades since its creation. The giant is the centerpiece of c, arguably the face of the museum, the shrub with crystalline eyes is recognizable from the billboards seen on the streets of Innsbruck. André Heller, Kristallwelten’s designer, created a story about a giant who was determined to find all the treasures and wonders of the world and settled down in Tyrol to guard the hidden beauties of the museum.
Kristallwelten’s primary attraction is their museum, featuring 16 ‘chambers of wonder’, inspired by a 16th century attempt to assemble a universal collection of all known knowledge in Schloss Ambras, by the same name. Visitors enter the chambers by passing behind the green giant, who carefully guards the priceless treasures that lie within. The museum isn’t visible from the exterior, only the hill it hides in, which adds to the surreal experience. The first chamber, Blue Hall, introduces visitors to the world of Swarovski, featuring famous crystal artworks as well as a stunning wall filled with dazzling jewels. The black walls of the museum accentuate the radiant beauty of the crystals, and the velvet curtains that separate each chamber leave visitors in awe each time they pass through to a new room.
Some chambers are certainly more captivating and elaborate than others, but the museum’s highlights certainly compensate for the less entertaining exhibitions. Inspired by Sir Richard Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, the third chamber is a wonder to behold. Visitors find themselves in a dome, the walls lined by reflective triangles, some serving as cases for crystal masterpieces. Color-changing lights shine from the floor of the room, illuminating the dome in soft rainbow hues. A truly magnificent experience, the dome provides stunning visual stimulation regardless of where one looks, accompanied by an ethereal aural experience from the dome’s resonant properties.
The chamber that immediately follows hosts a towering 15 foot Christmas tree constructed completely from crystals. Originally designed for the foyer of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2003 by Tord Boontje and Alexander McQueen, the tree was transferred to the Crystal Worlds as a permanent installment. The room is low lit, but the little light that does shine brings out the brilliance of the tree’s crystals as it slowly rotates centerstage. The equally shiny snowflakes that dangle from the ceiling truly make their audience feel as if they’re in a winter wonderland, surrounded by glittering beauty and the hushed voice of the cold.
The Studio Job Wunderkammer is a small room hosting colorful, ornate walls and a crystal-studded city with many of the world’s landmarks, including London’s Big Ben, our Lady Liberty, and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral. A train with three tiers of tracks circles through the structure, its magnificent sheen captivating every spectator, young and old. The 11th exhibition is a permanent installment created by Fredrikson Stallard, combining some of Swarovski’s largest crystals, shining brass bars, and colorful lights to create a sparkling Garden of Eden. Visitors are entranced as they move through the installment, immersed in a crystalline world.
After the museum and the gift shop, visitors have a choice of grabbing a bite to eat at Daniel’s Cafe & Restaurant, or exploring more of the museum grounds. In the winter, the grounds are decorated with various wire critters adorned in twinkling lights, the Garden of the Giant is warmed by holiday cheer. The largest art installation is the crystal cloud, a 16,000 square foot masterpiece home to over 800,000 hand mounted crystals, created by artists Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. The piece also features a black pool whose beauty often goes unnoticed; the chilly alpine air causes the pool to freeze over frequently, masking its reflective properties. Even without the pool, the twinkling lights found throughout the crystal cloud still make for a wondrous experience.
The Garden of the Giant is littered with countless other art installments, including an expansive maze, but two pieces stand out: Prologue III and Glittering Wind. Prologue 3 features countless, identical crystals contained in a circular metal frame, and towers over its onlookers. Glittering Wind features 200 rods pointing out of the ground decorated in 250 pounds of crystal, in 30 different colors. Both works are backed by the stunning alps, only adding to the beauty.
Visiting the Crystal Worlds was an unforgettable experience, especially witnessing a magnificent alpine sunset in the gardens. Around each corner, there are new wonders to behold. The Crystal-Worlds are a must-see for anyone in the Tyrol area.