One of the best ways to learn more about a destination you’re travelling to is by visiting a local museum. Museums offer a fascinating insight into various histories, cultures and lifestyles. They’re educational, relaxing and often incredibly important in regards to preserving cultural heritage. However, we’re not here to tell you about large National History or hoity-toity art museums. This list is dedicated to the fun, quirky and occasionally bizarre museums around the world!
In honour of International Museum Day on 18 May 2022, Expat Explore has put together a list of some of the world’s best quirky museums!
Location: Toruń, Poland
Gingerbread has been a favourite sweet, spicy treat in Europe for hundreds of years! There are various types of gingerbread and plenty of ways to enjoy it. One of the oldest recorded types of gingerbread is Toruń gingerbread from the city of the same name in Poland. Toruń gingerbread dates back to the 13th century. Historically, it has been gifted to notable Polish politicians, royals, artists and dignitaries. The sweet treat has been mentioned in poetry, moulded into unique shapes and exported all over the world since the middle ages.
Learn more about this fascinating and delicious gingerbread at Toruń’s gingerbread museum! Housed in a former gingerbread factory, this museum features interactive exhibits, gingerbread making workshops and the opportunity to taste its famous creations!
Related: Visit Toruń and enjoy a gingerbread making workshop when you join our Helsinki to Warsaw tour!
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Before you visit the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, be sure to read the book of the same name. The Museum of Innocence was written by Orhan Pamuk, a celebrated Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. It tells the fictional story of Kamal, a wealthy, engaged businessman who falls in love with his distant cousin Füsun, a shop girl of a lower social status. Set in Istanbul between 1975 and 1984, the Museum of Innocence is a beautiful novel that explores the differences between Eastern and Western culture, female identity in Turkey in addition to the obsessive nature of museums and collections.
Orhan Pamuk created the physical Museum of Innocence in tandem with the novel. This incredibly unique museum acts as a visual counterpart to the novel. It houses various objects relating to the chapters of the book. The narrative tells us that these objects belonged to Füsun and that Kamal lived in the 19th-century house where the museum is housed (you can see his bedroom on the top floor). Some of the objects include 4, 213 cigarette butts (smoked by Füsun), maps and paintings of Istanbul (in areas where the story takes place), articles and photographs depicting female identity in Istanbul in the 1970s and 80s and many interesting trinkets that add to the narrative. With its captivating story and unique insight into Turkish culture and recent history, it’s no wonder that the Museum of Innocence won the European Museum of the Year award in 2014!
Travel tip: Buy a copy of the Museum of Innocence novel to get into the museum for free! There is an entrance ticket printed on page 574 of the book.
Location: Bruges, Belgium
Along with chocolate, waffles and beer, frites are a quintessential Belgian dish! No trip to Belgium is complete without a healthy serving of fried potatoes. If you consider yourself a fry connoisseur, then a visit to Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium is an absolute must! The Frietmuseum is proudly the first and only museum dedicated to French fries. The museum explores the history of the potato in depth, dating back over 10,000 years! Discover how potatoes came to Belgium, learn about historical fry-making techniques and machinery and find out how to make perfect Belgian fries!
The Frietmuseum is located within a 14th century Saaihalle (wool hall). This striking piece of Gothic architecture is one of the oldest buildings in Bruges’ historic centre. It’s certainly worth a visit even if you forgo the delicious french fry exhibits – although, why would you?
Related: Visit the historic city of Bruges when you join our Europe Taster tour!
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague certainly has its fair share of impressive museums. From the historical and the political, such as the KGB Museum and Jewish Museum, to the artsy Kafka Museum and delicious Beer and Chocolate museums. This endlessly charming city houses a fair few quirky collections and it’s hard to pick a favourite but we have a special place in our hearts for the Museum of Miniatures!
There is truly something magical about seeing grand-scale art pieces housed in renowned museums such as the Prado in Madrid, Spain or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The experience of looking at artwork through a magnifying glass at the Museum of Miniatures in Prague, is nothing like this – but that’s part of the fun! The tiny works of Anatolij Konenko range from miniature replicas of famous artworks to a minuscule golden bicycle, camels travelling through the eye of a needle and an Eiffel Tower in a cherry stone! These artworks are not just absolutely adorable, they’re also incredible pieces of detailed, laborious craftsmanship.
Related: Discover Prague in a completely unique way when you join our Prague to Budapest Rail Express!
Location: Osaka, Japan
Celebrate your go-to broke food at the Cup Noodles Museum in Osaka. Not only is this one of the quirkiest museums on the list, it’s also one of the best! See colourful, instagrammable exhibits and go on a historical journey. Learn about the creation of cup noodles which contributed to ending hunger in Japan after WWII. Enjoy tastings of unique noodle flavours, make chicken ramen by hand in a factory and create your very own packaging!
Learn how creator Momofuku Ando founded Nissin Food Products, came up with the idea for Cup Noodles and sparked a food culture revolution around the world! There is also a Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama with a few fun exhibits that sets itself apart from the Osaka museum. However, Osaka is the birthplace of instant noodles!
Related: If you would like something a little more hearty than instant noodles, try these must-eat dishes when visiting Japan!
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
Have you ever had a heartbreak that you just couldn’t get over? If you’re human, chances are the answer is yes! Heartbreak is all part of the human experience, although sometimes we may wish it wasn’t. Break up songs and weepy romantic movies tug at our heartstrings. Likewise, this very unique museum is sure to do the same. The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb is a collection of mementos from love lost. The collection is ever-growing and all donations are anonymous. Wander through objects like wedding dresses and rings, letters and photographs. Each object is accompanied by a short description of the relationship and breakup. While some stories are truly heart wrenching, others are inspiring and hopeful. However, all the stories are completely captivating.
The Museum of Broken Relationships was started by two artists who broke up after 4 years together and joked about starting a museum to showcase their left-over shared personal items. In 2006, they did just that! While the permanent museum is in Croatia’s capital city, the museum has travelled around the world and housed exhibitions everywhere from Cape Town, South Africa to Shanghai, China!
Related: Visit Zagreb, Croatia’s beautiful capital on our Best of Eastern Europe and Best of Europe tours.
Location: Boston, USA
You know that terrible “artwork” your mom still has on her fridge that you drew when you were 4? What if you could see a whole museum of bad art just like this? Well, when you travel to Boston, Massachusetts, you can! The Museum of Bad Art’s slogan is “art too bad to be ignored” and it is proud to be the only collection of its kind in the world! The wide range of cringe-worthy art is categorised into sections with fun names like “Oozing my Religion”, “Poor Traits” and “In the Nood”.
Unfortunately, MOBA (a play on the renowned MOMA – Museum of Modern Art) is currently closed and seeking a new exhibition space. However, their collection can be viewed online. Browse through the many poorly drawn pictures of famous figures, disturbing landscapes in neon colours, unfortunate-looking animals and many more artworks too bizarre to even attempt to explain! We guarantee it will brighten your day.
Related: Explore the vibrant city of Boston on our Eastern USA and Canada tour!
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Take a chance on this museum and learn all about everyone’s favourite Swedish pop sensation! ABBA took the world by storm when they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their soon-to-be massive hit Waterloo. With extremely catchy chart toppers like Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia that still get played in clubs today, ABBA is certainly one of the world’s most beloved musical acts. The ABBA Museum is located in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, and offers an interactive look at this iconic band.
The ABBA Museum promises that you will “walk in, dance out” as it gives you an opportunity to become the fifth member of the band! You can virtually try on their fabulous disco costumes, sing and mix original music! You’ll also learn more about the band, their musical journey and admire priceless memorabilia.
Related: Enjoy a free day to explore Stockholm on our Scandinavian Escape tour!
Location: London, United Kingdom
This next entry is not for the faint of heart! However, if you’re not squeamish or just fascinated by medical history, the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret in London is a must-visit! A bit of a hidden gem, you’ll find this museum tucked away in London Bridge, in the attic of an old church! To get to the museum from the foyer of St Thomas’ Church, you’ll have to wander up a narrow, spiral staircase. There is no lift so keep this in mind if you have trouble with stairs!
Once you’ve navigated your way up the stairs, you’ll discover Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre! Learn about the fascinating, and occasionally disturbing, history of medicine and surgery – much of which predates antiseptics and anaesthesia. You can also explore the old Herb Garret which was used to store patients’ medicine!
Ready to explore the weird and wonderful world of quirky museums? Book your next adventure with Expat Explore and add one of these fabulous museums to your to-do list on one of your free days!
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