The long night of the Museums (Lange Nacht der Museen) is an annual event allowing people to visit all the museums in Innsbruck, as well as the surrounding area, on a single ticket. It’s from 6pm until 1am, although some museums do shut at midnight. Now in its 20th year, I thought that after a decade in Innsbruck, it was time for me to give it a go. Finding a few spare hours to do anything by myself is difficult, having two young children. The simple pleasure of museum browsing for example. Heading out at 8:45 to lose myself in antiquities was a peculiar but thoroughly enjoyable experience. Here’s how my night went.
My first stop was the (deep breath) Tyrolean State Museum Fernandeum, often shortened to ‘Landesmuseum’. It’s the imposing building in the middle of Museumstrasse, built in the 1840s to house local treasures. I purchased my ‘Lange Nacht Der Museen’ ticket at the desk, excellent value at €15 considering adult entry for the Landesmuseum alone is €11.
Starting at the bottom, floor -1 houses the archeology. It’s full of fascinating trinkets, all locally excavated. There are bronze age, iron age and Roman delights galore – I could have spent hours down there. However, aware of being pushed for time, I headed back up to ground level. Here you can find the paintings of Tyrolean artist Albin Egger-Lienz and his German contemporary Otto Dix. Their work inspired by World War I was particularly striking.
Then it was time to head up to the first floor to view the paintings of the medieval renaissance, mainly Italian and Dutch. However, it was a stylish southern German wooden crucifix, circa 1200, that really caught my eye. After passing the stained glass and tiptoeing over the squeaky floor I reached the Baroque artefacts: iron work and early musical instruments. There’s also a fine dome you can stand under on the second floor.
The 1900-1960 art is a real joy, featuring the work of local Tyrolean artists. For instance, Frank Richard Unterberger and Alfons Walde. Obviously, you would expect one of Innsbruck’s flagship museums to house some of the most impressive Tyrolean art. By the time I got to the small section of modern art at the top floor there were far, far less people around so I decided to move a bit more quickly to get a couple more museums in.
Next up was another venue that was new to me. The city archive (Stadtarchiv) is at Badgasse 2, on the edge of the old town. It’s an unassuming building which is nevertheless full of charm. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour finding out more about the city I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the past ten years. It felt as if I wasn’t the only one, good vibes abounded from the other visitors.
The ground floor has three rooms. One displays a variety of fantastic photography, the other two explain the history of Innsbruck. They are full of interesting titbits. For instance, despite the city being founded in the late 12th century, Saggen, the area where I live, just to the north east of the old town, was nothing but fields and trees until as late as the 1880s. Also displayed is the most beautiful public transport timetable I’ve ever seen.
The stairs lead up to the Lesesaal (reading room). I spent a satisfying twenty minutes scanning old newspaper clippings and looking up my wife’s Grandparents in old address books. Sure, not everyones idea of a good time, but I’m an unashamed geek so I loved it!
By then it was pushing midnight so I decided if I wanted to hit another museum it was time to head back out.
The Hofburg is a building I had entered before. This huge imperial palace was built over several centuries but was expanded several times under the reign of the Habsburg Empire. The family used it as one of their main residences for over 450 years. I was particularly interested in the Kaiser Maximilian exhibits as 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of his death. The city has been celebrating his legacy for the past year. Also, the Hofburg has suits of armour and, frankly, it wouldn’t be right to spend several hours museum hopping without seeing a single suit of armour!
After racing around the first floor I have to admit that I had no desire to drag myself up another flight of stairs so decided to call it a night. At quarter to one in the morning. It felt slightly surreal to be the only person in the Hofburg courtyard, an area usually buzzing with activity. But it was time to get back on my bike before I got locked in.
In conclusion, the Long Night of the Museums is a fantastic idea and it was great to get a taste of what the city has to offer on this night.