Daniel Swarovski was born in northern Bohemia in 1862. It was here that he served as an apprentice in his father’s glass factory. However, it was in Austria where Swarovski turned his glass cutting into an art form that was to become world famous. In 1892, Swarovski had invented a machine that revolutionalized the cutting of crystal but it was an energy intensive process. So in 1895 he moved to Wattens, in Tyrol near Innsbruck, to utilize the plentiful local hydroelectricity. Here he founded the Swarovski crystal cutting factory.
While shopping for luxury crystal may not be on your list, a visit to the company’s crystal-themed exhibition museum, Swarovski Kristallwelten (Crystal Worlds), in Wattens is well worthwhile. Crystal Worlds houses an array of exhibitions about and inspired by crystals. The museum includes the largest cut crystal in the world, at 300,000 carets, and the Crystoloscope, which is the biggest kaleidoscope in the world. Many of the exhibits are cutting edge experimental art. The Ice Passage for example, by Tyrolean artist Oliver Irschitz, interacts with the viewers who pass through it as their footsteps leave crystalline traces on the floor. Musician and conceptual artist Brian Eno is also featured at the museum. He created both the Crystal Dome and, more recently, “55 Million Crystals”, which incorporates hand-painted art, ambient music, light, and advance computer technology. Eno has described his work as “music for the eyes, as paintings of time, as an experience of the fourth dimension.”
If you are visiting Wattens and looking for a hotel Innsbruck is likely a better option since the city is nearby and offers more accommodation and dining options. Innsbruck also hosts its own crystalline art. Swarovski Innsbruck in the old town, near the famous Golden Roof, displays some fascinating and innovative artwork. Many Innsbruck hotels will leave you nearby both Swarovski Innsbruck and Crystal Worlds. Even once you have seen both, there is plenty of other crystal in this city.