The Mystery Makers challenge you to experience the KHM in a different light

Behind the ornate facade of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM), an ancient mystery awaits. As our team of intrepid explorers hurried down black and white marble-tiled halls and through elaborate gilded archways, we were issued a challenge: Solve the riddles of the Sphinx, and we would be allowed to escape with our lives.

Available since November, visitors to the KHM can participate in a Da Vinci Code- inspired treasure hunt, available in English and German and designed specifically for Austria’s largest art museum. Set in the KHM’s collections of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, “The Riddle of the Sphinx” is carefully tailored to the different sections, featuring brainteasers and teambuilding exercises that reference the exhibits around you. Forsaking smartphones and computers, groups journey back thousands of years through time – relying solely on their own intuition and observations to appease a vengeful deity.

CHILD’S PLAY

Developed by the Danish company Mystery Makers – who also runs escape rooms and similar hunts in Copenhagen and the former royal residence Kronborg – “The Riddle of the Sphinx” puts an interactive spin on the traditional museum tour, bringing people into the KHM’s oft-overlooked antiquities section by offering a fun way to enjoy the displays while learning more about them. With intriguing tidbits of art history added to the puzzles, it stays true to founder Mads Lind’s vision of “intelligent entertainment.” Open to groups of four to eight, the mystery hunt is perfect for friends, family and co-workers alike and can be booked at any time during the KHM’s opening hours. Although recommended for players 15 years and older, there’s something intangibly youthful about the experience. Featuring puzzles sealed in brown envelopes, a decoder wheel with astrological symbols and lofty titles to compete for such as “Master of Storytelling,” guests can tap into a childlike sense of magic, wonder and mystery – you’ll find yourself losing track of time as you wander past unseeing eyes of marble and sandstone faces.

The sense of excitement continues to build as teams move deeper into the collections, huddling in corners to whisper theories and muddle over clues. You’ll search for patterns in Egyptian murals and learn Greek mythology from ancient amphorae, following cryptic maps through the labyrinthine museum halls. The riddles range from moderately tricky to downright confounding – but don’t worry, the Sphinx has provided a set of emergency hints if you find yourself stuck. In addition to scouring statues, sarcophagi, and urns for hints, the hunt includes several games that test visitors’ knowledge of the other players in their group. Which ancient god do you most resemble? Can you tell when one of them is lying? Who can you trust to work well under pressure, and who will falter before the wrath of the Sphinx?

As closing time neared, the halls grew quiet. Voices echoed through the cavernous rooms, and it felt as though we were wandering the corridors of an ancient temple instead of a modern-day museum. Finally, we emerged triumphant into the night. Although the hunt was over, the sense of camaraderie and excitement lingered, infusing the world with just a little more magic and mystery than usual.