Vienna's Haus der Musik

This fun museum lets you try your hand at conducting a virtual orchestra.
By Rick Steves

You can visit scores of apartments where Vienna's scores of composers worked on their scores, but none of these places does justice to the city's rich musical heritage. A more lively introduction to Vienna's music scene is the interactive Haus der Musik ("House of Music") museum.

The Haus der Musik has a small first-floor exhibit on the Vienna Philharmonic, and upstairs you'll enjoy fine audiovisual exhibits on each of the famous hometown boys (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Mahler). It's unique for its effective use of interactive touch-screen computers and headphones to literally put you in the musical driving seat.

Of the many computerized museums I've visited, this is the first in which the actual computers are a joy rather than a frustration. You can twist, dissect, and bend sounds to make your own musical language. Merge your voice with a duck or a traffic jam. Wander through the "sonosphere" and marvel at the amazing acoustics — I could actually hear what I thought only a piano tuner could hear.

Pick up a virtual baton to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (each time you screw up, the orchestra stops and ridicules you). A computer will help you compose your own waltz by throwing dice. Really seeing the place takes time. It's open late and makes a good evening activity.