Vienna had to deal with a lot of problems post WWII, including what to do with the huge flak towers. Fortunately for us, one turned into a giant aquarium center: the Haus des Meeres.
- Over 10,000 fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals
- Diverse range of displays, including some pretty mammoth fish tanks
- Highlights are the sharks and the multi-level tropical house with its free-spirited monkeys
- The roof terrace has outstanding views of Vienna (also accessible separately)
- See also: Vienna zoo | Vienna with children
Inside the Haus des Meeres
Vienna’s flak towers formed giant concrete blockhouses with 3.5m thick walls, built to house air defences to counter bombing raids by the allied forces.
Too big to easily demolish, the flak tower in Esterhazy Park now houses the Haus des Meeres; 12 floors of watery entertainment. The literal translation is House of the Sea, which gives you an idea of what to expect.
Essentially, you have an aquarium and vivarium, with numerous glassed displays. But that description undersells it.
The Haus des Meeres is not just row after row of identikit tanks. Instead, these tanks come in all sizes and shapes, from tunnels to giant, two-storey showpieces.
The contents of each display cover themes rather than just different types of animal. So you might have a tank with a coral reef ecosystem or one illustrating symbiosis.
Added to that are the walkthrough enclosures and displays. For example:
- A small crocodile park and a multi-level tropical house with rope bridges and free-roaming bats, birds and monkeys
- An exhibition on environmental protection of the oceans with some eye-opening videos
(I’ve put the fish and animal highlights from my last visit in a separate article.)
And the dollop of whipped cream on the aquarium pie is the top floor Ocean Sky restaurant and terrace with a 360° panorama across the entire city – one of the best places to get views of Vienna:
A lot of love clearly goes into the facility. It’s full of bright colours, well-maintained displays, and friendly staff. You’d expect a flak tower to be dingy, but it’s quite the opposite.
The Haus des Meeres does a marvellous job with the space available, and nowhere feels as cramped as you might imagine. Recent extensions have even added airy glass-walled areas that also offer views of Vienna. Some of the floors do have only a very few displays, with the rest of the space given over to offices, storage rooms and similar.
All in all, consider it an excellent way to spend an hour or three, particularly in wet weather and particularly if you have kids. The location just off one of Vienna’s major shopping streets (Mariahilfer Straße) means you can combine a trip with a retail expedition.
Tickets & visitor tips
(The old rooftop design of the flak tower)
Get your tickets direct from the Haus des Meeres. At the time of writing, a standard adult entrance ticket cost €20.90, with various concessions.
A few tips and notes:
- The tower has two places to eat and drink inside:
- Ocean Sky: a bar and restaurant with table service on the very top floor. This is the place with the views (I had coffee there recently and enjoyed the experience immensely)
- Cafe Sharky: a small, self-service café (also with views)
You don’t need a ticket to the actual Haus des Meeres to visit the Ocean Sky restaurant and viewing terrace. A separate Panorama Lift in the entrance foyer takes you up there.
At the time of my visit, there was no charge for the lift, but the plan was to make it ticketed at some point (with the cost of the ticket taken off your restaurant bill).
- Almost all information is in both English and German
- Don’t be shocked, but the Haus des Meeres ground floor shop sells…wait for it…quite a lot of toy animals, mostly stuffed or plastic. So see your shark, then take one home with you.
- Lifts take you everywhere. My tip: take a lift once up to the top, then walk down the stairs visiting each level as you go.
- You can leave coats and bags on free-standing racks behind the shop on the ground floor. Or get a smallish locker with a 50 cent coin and a larger one with a €1 coin.
- Don’t rush to the lift and stairs once through the ticket barrier – the ground floor already has some memorable exhibits: an aquarium tunnel and fish to stroke, for example.
- An ongoing expansion project will add more animal displays and improved visitor facilities, so expect to see even more over the next year or two.
- If you enjoy animals, or need more furry (or scaly) friends to entertain the family, then another stop on your Vienna stay should be the zoo.
How to get to the Haus des Meeres
Subway: the Haus des Meeres is just a short walk from the Neubaugasse station on the U3 line
Tram/bus: if you want to be dropped off a little closer, then take a 13A, 14A or 57A bus to the appropriately-titled Haus des Meeres stop
Address: Esterhazypark, Fritz-Grünbaumplatz 1, 1060 Vienna | Website