This selection of weird and wonderful museums ranges from bizarre to macabre and all the way to silly - are you brave enough to set foot in any of them?
1. The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
Started by two artists, this museum displays the sentimental objects left over from broken relationships. The accompanying stories of betrayal or loss lift these often everyday objects from mundane to heart-rending.
Exhibits can be anything from bizarre to tragic, ranging from a toaster (taken by a partner as vindication) to an axe (used by a guy to chop up the furniture belonging to a lost love).
The museum has a second branch in Los Angeles – fittingly in Hollywood, the hometown of broken dreams.
2. Chez Galip Hair Museum, Avanos, Turkey
Chez Galip is a renowned potter but it is the display of over 16,000 locks of hair in a cave under his pottery shop that gains worldwide attention. Each lock has the name and contact details of the woman who left them. The story goes that the cave owner’s friend left the first lock when she said goodbye, and others who have enjoyed the story have added their own locks to make it what it is today.
For women who look to donate their hair, scissors are provided, along with paper and pen for you to write down your contact information.
3. International Spy Museum, Washington DC, USA
The International Spy Museum has over 750 espionage artefacts including items used by the KGB during the Cold War. Wannabe 007s can also take part in the Undercover Mission experience – you’ll be tested and tracked as you travel through the museums, and you’ll receive a debrief afterwards to see how you’ve done.
Moving with the times, the museum also has a Cyber Command Simulation which you can participate in and assess how accurate the intel portrayed in the films is.
If you’re looking for more spy-related attractions, check out these Top 5 destinations fit for spies.
4. Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, Hólmavík, Iceland
Set in a small town on the Westfjords peninsula, this tiny museum explores a chilling period in the 17th century when over 100 convicted witches – the vast majority men – were burned at the stake. The big draw is “necropants”, a pair of trousers made from human skin, with other artefacts including runes, spells and skulls. On a serious note, this museum has important things to say about the human inclination, as seen throughout history, to persecute those they see as ‘other’.
5. The Museum of Bad Art, Massachusetts, USA
Located in a basement of a 1912 movie theatre, this glorious museum celebrates bad art and the sincerity and enthusiasm of those who ‘persevered despite things going horribly wrong’.
Starting with an oil canvas by an unknown artist found in the trash, the museum began to collect and exhibit ‘quality bad art’. It became an instant success and even attracted two thefts – thankfully the items were recovered later.
The museum is known for its rigorous entry standards, with many potential applicants simply being not ‘genuinely bad’ enough. The works in here are without a doubt compellingly terrible.
6. The Bunny Museum, California, USA
Yes, you’re invited to ‘hop on over’ to the Bunny Museum, home to over 35,000 collectables, ranging from an ancient Roman ring featuring a bunny design to an adorable bunny clock that chimes and spins on every hour.
Run by a couple who gift each other bunnies, it initially began as a joke before eventually becoming a registered museum, run more out of love than a desire for profit. Besides exploring the prevalence of rabbits in popular media, the museum also touches on what poor bunnies have suffered at the hands of humanity.
7. Cup Noodle Museum, Yokohama, Japan
Do you prefer hot and spicy or chicken flavour? If you can’t decide, you can create your own Cup Noodle and a unique soup flavour (from 5,460 possible combinations) in this weirdly wonderful museum.
The museum also has a replica of the shed where Momofuku Ando invented the world’s first instant noodles. Mr Ando went on to create the company which became Nissin, the brand that introduced the phenomenon of Cup Noodles to the world.
8. Cancún Underwater Museum, Cancun, Mexico
In the waters between Cancún and the beautiful Isla Mujeres, an island 13km (8 miles) off the coast from Cancún, lie 473 sculptures, including one modelled after a Volkswagen Beetle. The museum conducts daily diving tours taking visitors to explore these sculptures set between 8 to 10m (26 to 32ft) deep.
If you aren’t a keen diver, you can snorkel or take a glass-bottom boat to visit the smaller underwater gallery in Punta Nizuc, at the southern tip of Cancún’s hotel zone. There are 33 sculptures in this area including The Gardener of Hope where new corals are growing from concrete flower pots anchored on the ocean floors.
The museum has successfully attracted the attention of tourists visiting Cancún and with that, it manages to keep people away from the surrounding reefs which are deteriorating fast. It is a win-win strategy that we highly recommend.
9. Museum of Miniature Books, Baku, Azerbaijan
With some 5,500 tiny books from over 60 countries on display, the Guinness Book of Records has proclaimed this museum as the ‘largest private collection of miniature books in the world’.
The subjects are wide, ranging from children’s books to a book of Beatles song lyrics. The most valuable items in the museum include a miniature copy of the Koran published in 1672, and the edition of Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin published in 1837.
10. Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick, England
When a large deposit of graphite was discovered in the Borrowdale Valley in the 1500s, the local farmers were the first group of people to use this natural material to mark their livestock. Slowly but surely, the use of graphite was extended into pencil making and the nearby town Keswick became a thriving pencil-making town by the 1800s.
In 1916, the Cumberland Pencil was created and the first Derwent colour pencil was introduced in 1938. Today, the site is a museum charting the fascinating story of the industry.
11. Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok, Thailand
Nicknamed “The Museum of Death”, this macabre collection of six small museums is not for the faint-hearted. Originally intended as a valuable resource for medical professionals, this collection of gruesomely fascinating anatomical oddities has since been opened to the public. Expect to see the preserved remains of babies with genetic disorders, preserved organs (including an ultra-large scrotum removed from a man suffering from elephantiasis), row upon row of skulls and even the mummified body of See Uey (or Si Quey), a serial killer who ate six children in the 1950s.
12. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India
Grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour a long room filled with some of the most unusual chamber pots and flush toilets found around the world. Highlights include a two-storey toilet used in the 1920s in the US and a replica of Louis XIV’s throne (which is also a toilet).
The museum is the brainchild of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International. Sulabh is a charity dedicated to addressing the problems of sanitation in India and other parts of the world. The organisation and Dr Pathak have been working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t afford toilets, as well as those who work as manual scavengers (referring to workers who manually process human excreta from dry latrines and sewers in India).
You may also like:
- 16 lesser-known but Instagram-worthy European cities
- The 10 most scenic self-guided walking holidays in England
- How to cycle around the world
Updated in October 2020