My first introduction to Swarovski crystal came on a Contiki tour of Europe way back in 1988. As part of our tour, we were taken to the Swarovski crystal factory in Wattens, just outside of Innsbruck, to have a look at the gorgeous products, and of course, like many on the tour, I came away with my very own piece of Swarovski crystal. A couple of years, and a few purchases later, I joined the Swarovski Collector's Society (now called the Crystal Society) and I'm still a member today. Over the years, I have added to my Swarovski collection and have been lucky enough to return to Wattens on a number of occasions.
These days, the Swarovski headquarters at Wattens are vastly different to what they were back in 1988. Visitors can now explore the Swarovski Crystal Worlds which were opened in 1995 to celebrate 100 years of Swarovski crystal. Visitors enter the complex through the mouth of a 'giant', built into the side of a hill, and inside you'll find displays of art and crystal, the history of Swarovski crystal and the piece de resistance, the magnificent gift shop.
Members of the Crystal Society not only receive free entry to the Crystal Worlds but they, (and those travelling with them), are also entitlted to VIP treatment in the VIP lounge which includes a complimentary drink and a special memento of their visit.
After you've made all those must-have purchases in the gift shop, there's a cafe where you can grab a bite to eat and a great playground for younger children to burn off some steam in the park area outside.
On each occasion, we've really enjoyed our visit and even our teenage boys found it interesting.
You can find out more about the Swarovski Crystal Worlds and check opening hours at their website.