31 Strange & Amazing Museums Everyone Should Visit
What do most of the great cities have in common? Aside from the swarms of tourists and various Starbucks and McDonald's restaurants, they have many great museums that house some of the world's most prized artifacts and paintings.
In short, museums are among some of the great cultural cornerstones of big city life. They give cities an esoteric clout that other places in the world just can't match, and this is evident in some of the world's greatest cities, from London and New York right the way through to Tokoyo and St Petersburg.
Of course, while it can be tempting sometimes to veer off the beaten track and look at things that aren't on most tourist's checklists, monuments and landmarks are usually extremely popular for a reason. And when it comes to the world's best museums, it is more often than not because they house unique - and sometimes strange- artifacts.
So without further ado, here is a mix of both incredible and bizarre museums everyone should visit in their lifetime.
1. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum - Osaka, Japan
After years of failed culinary experiments in the modest surroundings of his back shed, Momofuku Ando finally caught his break in 1958 when he successfully produced the world’s first instant noodles recipe: Chicken Ramen.
Sixty years on and a museum honors Ando's contribution to one of the world's most consumed dishes. The cool exhibits on display include noodle packets from around the world, while customers can also taste limited-edition snacks and perhaps with children in mind, design their very own soup packaging at the My CUPNOODLES Factory, pictured above.
2. The Museum of Bad Art - Massachusetts, USA
Yes, you read that correctly; a museum that isn't pretentious. In fact, MOBA, as it is known for short, sells itself as “the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms.”
So why spend your hard-earned wages viewing art that makes you feel artistically inept when you can laugh at art that is worse than your own? And don't worry about being shown up by lousy art as well. The museum assures guests that the works “range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush.”
3. The Museum of Broken Relationships- Zagreb, Croatia
"A traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins," is certainly an intriguing and relatable premise for an exhibition. We all wonder what could have been in relationships that didn't go the distance, so a visit to this unique museum in the Croatian capital of Zagreb would undoubtedly be an interesting experience.
Visitors are also asked to donate any possessions from their own broken relationships for “a chance to overcome an emotional collapse.” A touching tribute to broken love if anything else, customers walk around rooms decorated with semblances of past relationships such as rings, clothing, and a wide assortment of birthday and Valentine's Day gifts.
There are even more intimate possessions, such as furry pink handcuffs.
4. International Cryptozoology Museum- Maine, USA
Ever wondered if all those mythical creatures you read religiously about as a child might actually exist? If you're still obsessed with the likes of Bigfoot, then the International CryptozoologyMuseumm may just provide some answers.
Cryptozoology, defined as “the study of hidden animals”, has a whole museum dedicated to exhibiting specimens and artifacts supposedly linked to these unverified creatures. These include hair samples and native art right the way through to suspicious poo. Depending on your interests in these kinds of things, you'll either find this place fascinating or incredibly weird.
5. The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum
While people have specific interests and niches, you can't get any more extreme than a museum dedicated to barbed wire. However strange this may sound, the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum is home to more than 2,400 types of wire and explores the role it has played in the establishment of the United States.
So, if prisons, mental health hospitals, and anywhere else with barbed wire is your thing, then this museum will probably pique your interest.
6. National Gallery of Art- Washington, DC, USA
Established in 1937, this classical art museum resides in the American capital where it showcases some of the best artwork known to man. Predominantly housing renaissance art from Europe and America, it consists of two buildings with the West building holding historical works and the East being the showing of contemporary and more modern pieces.
Artists including da Vinci, Jackson Pollock, Monet, and Manet all feature amongst its walls as well as having exhibition space for visiting works. In 2014 it recorded an attendance of 3.9 million people throughout the year.
7. National Museum of American History- Washington, DC, USA
Another museum in the American capital, this one attracted marginally more than its near neighbor the National Gallery of Art as it saw 4.0 million people through its doors in 2014.
A Smithsonian Institute museum, it is free to enter and holds items of social, historical and political importance to the country such as Civil War artifacts and the original flag that inspired the national anthem. If you want to get your jingoistic juices flowing, then a visit to this sight is a must.
8. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum- Shanghai, China
One of the relatively newer museums on this list, having opened in 2001, it is dedicated to Science and contains Asia's most extensive educational science cinema with around 10,000 showings per year.
With exhibitions ranging from the technological side of science, including space and robotics, right through to the more natural, such as spiders and human biology, it is little wonder that this has become a huge hit with tourists and locals alike.
9. International Spy Museum - Washington D.C
We've all seen the sort of ludicrous gadgets often lauded as genuine spy equipment in Hollywood movies where the technology is supposedly so advanced that it isn't available to the general public yet.
Most of these are little more than pure fantasy, but the fact that these quirky gadgets are a trope in spy films are a testament to the fact that some of these weird, wonderful and clever contraptions do genuinely exist. If you visit, you can take a look at a few of these that are all part of the International Spy Museum's collection in Washington D.C.
10. The Mummy Museum - Guanajuato, Mexico
Guanajuato is a small mining town in Mexico but it is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its many archaeological sites including the Santa Paula Pantheon’s crypts where hundreds of bodies were buried during the mid-19th century.
Part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, the Mexican Plateau, and the Sierra Madre Oriental, its climatic conditions are unique and so when families couldn't afford to pay burial taxes for these bodies, they were exhumed. It was later found that the conditions had perfectly mummified them. These are now on display at the museum.
11. Cancun Underwater Museum - Cancun, Mexico
With over 500 life-sized sculptures fixed to the sea floor, this museum can only be visited by those who know how to dive. A sort of oceanic art gallery, it also doubles as an artificial reef to promote the growth of coral.
As such it is both environmentally conscious and artistically impressive. Great stuff!
12. The Iceland Phallological Museum - Reykjavik, Iceland
Displaying over 215 penises and penile parts of land and sea mammals, this museum is dedicated to the study of phallology and also includes a collection of eclectic phallic art.
Why is this necessary? Well, you can tell a lot about an animal by its genitalia. Some are used for other things such as a pizzle (bull’s penis), a device to whip farm animals.
13. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets - New Delhi, India
Detailing the history of hygiene and sanitation from 2500 B.C. onward, this museum in India's capital also has a collection of toilet poetry.
From gold-plated toilets of Roman emperors to medieval commodes, the evolution of hygiene may seem like a strange one to commemorate, but it is also a significant one.
14. Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum - Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, USA
Displaying more than 800 dummies, photos, playbills, and historical books, on ventriloquism, that started out as a private collection, this renovated garage is now a full-blown museum.
It also hosts an annual ConVENTion, a ventriloquist meeting that attracts professionals and enthusiasts from around the world.
15. Meguro Parasitological Museum- Tokyo, Japan
Okay, this one is weird. Tapeworms kind of weird, to be precise. Well, that and head lice and loads of other parasites you probably wish never existed. For those who aren't afraid of such things, however, you'll be in for a treat.
The museum houses 300 specimens, the standout being a colossal, 29-foot tapeworm.
16. Avanos Hair Museum
We've already covered toilets, a phallic museum in Iceland and one in Boston dedicated to bad art, so how can we possibly top that? Well, perhaps this creepy hair museum in Turkey might be the answer.
The brainchild of Chez Galip, the abnormal museum is located in the rural Turkish town of Avanos and exhibits a collection of hairs from more than 16,000 women. It's also found in a small, dark cave...
17. American Museum of Natural History- New York, NY, USA
One of the largest museums in the world, consisting of 27 interconnected buildings that have 45 permanent exhibition spaces, this is truly an impressive spectacle even if it isn't as weird as the others mentioned above!
Just across from Central Park, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, 5.0 million people went to see its collection of dinosaur bones (including an awesome T-Rex), the Hayden Planetarium and its shows on Ocean life in 2014.
18. Natural History Museum- London, UK
An iconic Romanesque building that opened in 1881, it has long been one of the world's most popular museums and has the bones of elephants, dinosaurs, and whales all within its walls. The legendary diplodocus 'Dippy' has stood in its main entrance hall since 1979 but has been in the museum for over 100 years until last year when it was sent on tour. Today, an equally magnificent blue whale welcomes visitors.
In 2009 it opened working laboratory's for scientists to further understand the exhibits.
19. National Palace Museum (Taiwan) -Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan has a vivid and thrilling historical legacy after its split from mainland China, and this is represented in the near 700,000 works of Chinese art and artifacts held in the National Palace.
Because of this political split, it shares a history with the Palace Museum in Beijing but holds paintings, jades, ceramics, bronzes, rare books, and calligraphy untouched by The Cultural Revolution that affected much of China's pieces in the 1960s.
20. Tate Modern — London UK
A seven-floor gallery that overlooks the River Thames, the Tate Modern building was originally the Bankside Power Station until it went out of use in 1981.
When the swathes of modern and contemporary art moved in in 2000, the chimney stacks and exterior were kept as they were in the 20th century and have now become closely associated with the gallery.
21. British Lawnmower Museum- Southport, UK
Go to the quaint Northern town of Southport, and you'll find a sprawling blue ocean with white sands decorating a beautiful coast that is only a 40-minute drive from Liverpool but is the British Lawnmower Museum the small town's best attraction?
Owned by the same guy for over three decades, visitors are welcomed every day except Sundays and bank holidays to this charming if highly niche museum of lawnmowers. Some have even been owned by the rich and famous, including the late Princess Diana.
22. Paris Sewer Museum, Paris, France
Located deep in the sewers below the Quai d’Orsay in Central Paris, the Paris Sewer Museum made famous by Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables is a surprising treat.
While it may sound rather unremarkable if you were to omit Hugo's history from it and the musical that it inspired, tours of the sewer are highly informative for those interested in city planning and public engineering.
23. Glore Psychiatric Museum- St. Joseph, Missouri
A stark insight into the history of the US mental health system, the Glore Psychiatric Museum explores the 130-year history of the St. Joseph hospital. Various macabre treatment tools are displayed, all of which- however inhumane they appear- were administered before mental health was considered a condition rather than a disease.
Built on the exact site of the now-defunct hospital, the museum displays medical tools, handling equipment, furnishings, nurse uniforms, private notes from patients and even some of their artwork, making for an informative but highly distrubing experience.
24. Torture Musem - Amsterdam, Netherlands
In the capital of the Netherlands sits a museum that remembers all the worst things humanity can do to one another with spike-covered inquisition chairs and decapitation swords.
There is a point to it all though as the museum also educates students on modern torture that is still practiced in nearly 100 countries, and pledges its support for the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
25. MuseumOfSex - New York City, USA
Opening in 2002, the idea behind this museum was not just a gratuitous act but rather the preservation of the history, evolution, and cultural significance of human sexuality and if you put it like that, it sounds a lot less weird.
15,000 artifacts, works of art, photography, costumes, and historical memorabilia make up the collection including a bouncy castle of breasts.
26. Vatican Museums - Vatican City
A complex of museums and galleries, the Vatican Museums date back to the 1700s and hold religious artifacts, art, and sculptures from across the globe including pieces from Egypt, sculptures from the Roman Era, a collection of 15th-17th-century tapestries and the world-renowned Sistine Chapel.
In 2014, 6.2 million people visited the Vatican Museums, a sharp increase from 2013.
27. The Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY, USA
The largest art gallery in the United States, The Met has over 2 million pieces of art spanning some 5000 years.
The museum displays work from Egypt, Europe, and America in what is one of the most impressive collections of work the world has to offer. If there's one museum you visit in America before you're too old, it's this one.
28. National Air and Space Museum — Washington, DC, USA
Focused on human aviation, this museum houses the most extensive collection of aircraft-related artifacts. It also has a sister site in Virginia.
A free museum that holds images of the first aircraft as well as the actual Discovery space shuttle. 6.7 million went to the DC sight in 2014, but if you combine it with its Virginia site as well, that figure goes up to 8 million.
29. National Museum of Natural History- Washington, DC, USA
Natural science specimens galore are what the Nation Museum of Natural History is known for, and with 30 million pinned insects, 4.5 million pressed plants, 7 million fish, and 400,000 photographs, you can see why. Opened in 1910, the museum is America's most visited with 7.3 million visitors in 2014.
30. National Museum of China- Beijing, China
The youngest of the museums on this list, the National Museum of China came about when the pre-existing National Museum of Chinese History and the National Museum of Chinese Revolution merged to form just the one museum.
Spanning ancient Chinese history, from Mao's revolution to the present day, it contains artifacts such as the jade dragon from 6000-5000 BC, and the flag raised by Mao Zedong at the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
31. The Louvre — Paris, France
We couldn't write an article about world-famous museums without mentioning one of France's most famed and popular cultural attractions. The Louvre, as you may or may not know, is a glass pyramid that punctures the sky, and is the most visited museum in the world with annual attendances hitting around the 9.3 million mark.
With around 70,000 pieces of art in its 650,000 square feet of gallery space, it is one of the largest museums in the world and holds many artistic masterpieces, including the famed Mona Lisa, a masterpiece both art lovers and casual admirers of the craft typically wish to view at least once in their lifetime.