Guidebooks love guilting travellers into visiting museums. There’s not a destination on earth that doesn’t have some rare collection of medieval bronze coins or long-lost Baroque masterpieces. The reality, of course, is that most museums are about as interesting as a dinner date with a tax accountant — so we’ve pulled together a list of weird museums that aren’t a total snoozefest. From condoms and Cup Noodles to bunkers and broken relationships… Here are 16 weird museums around the world.
1. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, Japan
The planet chows down on an estimated 100 billion servings of Cup Noodles every year — the majority of them prepared in hostel kitchens. And this budget-friendly backpacker fuel has a whole museum dedicated to it in Osaka, where Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen to feed Japan after World War Two. Taste limited-edition flavours, create your bespoke Cup Noodles packet, and gaze at 800 different packages that line the Instant Noodles Tunnel. And fittingly for a museum about the world’s ultimate cheapskate meal, admission is free.
2. Museum of Bad Art, USA
You know how some things are so bad, they’re good? Well, the artwork hanging on the walls of this gallery aren’t like that – they’re just plain bad. Really, really bad. Curating a collection of 800 pieces across three galleries around the Boston area, MOBA is a craptacular orgy of art that looks like it belongs in a first-grade classroom rather than an actual museum. But, hey, it’s not boring and it doesn’t cost a dime.
3. Iceland Phallological Museum
From a 1.7-metre-long blue whale willy to a tiny two-millimetre hamster pecker, Reykjavík’s Phallological Museum brings together almost 300 penises under one roof. Former teacher Sigurður Hjartarson opened the exhibition in 1997 but had to wait until 2011 for his first human submission, courtesy of a 95-year-old local man (after he passed away, of course). Don’t miss the 15 silver sculptures of the Icelandic national handball team that won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, accompanied by the players’ photos and signatures. Entry ISK 1700 (€12.50 or $14).
4. Condom Museum, Thailand
Logically, this one should sit next door to Iceland’s Phallological Museum. Instead, the Condom Museum is found more than 10,000 kilometres away in Bangkok, where the Thai Ministry of Health demonstrates the strength of the humble prophylactic in a lab loaded with condoms that are filled to bursting point with water, like an arsenal of erotic water balloons. This safe sex lesson is completely free of charge.
5. David Hasselhoff Museum, Berlin
If a room full of bulging condoms doesn’t get your motor running, then a shrine to ‘The Hoff’ might. Berlin’s highly rated Circus Hostel features a free museum dedicated to David Hasselhoff, the man better known in Germany for performing on the Berlin Wall in 1989 than for galloping down the sand in red board shorts on Baywatch. The piece de resistance is a mural of the Hoff himself, complete with an unnervingly realistic crop of chest hair.
6. Beijing Tap Water Museum
Unless you feel like a trip to the emergency room, you shouldn’t drink the tap water in the Chinese capital. But that didn’t stop Beijing building a museum about it. Occupying the site of the city’s first water works, the Beijing Tap Water Museum explores the monumental task of supplying running H20 to the 20 million residents squished into one of the most water-scarce cities on earth. Entry ¥5 (Less than €1 and $1).
7. Bunk’Art, Albania
Paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha built more than 170,000 bunkers across Albania during the Cold War – seriously, you’ll spot them everywhere – but the swankiest of all was his own personal nuclear fallout shelter on the outskirts of the capital Tirana. Hoxha never used his below-ground five-star facilities: A, because no one ever nuked his country, and B, because he died before the bunker was completed. So, his hillside hideaway was in mint condition when it was converted into an eerie art museum in 2014, giving visitors a taste of Cold War Communism alongside their cutting-edge contemporary art. Tickets 500 Leke (€4 or $5).
8. Torture Museum, Amsterdam
It says a lot about the human race that we’ve got torture museums in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Prague, Croatia and probably a whole stack of other places that aren’t listed in the dedicated Wikipedia page. But Amsterdam is home to the world’s most famous, displaying dozens of devices used to ‘interrogate’ suspected criminals in the Middle Ages. There’s the inquisition chair, the Judas cradle, and even the ‘Skullcracker’ – no mystery what that bad boy does. Adults are €7.50 ($8.50) and children €4 ($4.50), if you want to subject the kiddies to a lifetime of nightmares.
9. Museum of Sex, New York
Sex has even more museums dedicated to it than torture, which again says a lot about our priorities. There are erotic museums in Paris, Seoul, Moscow, Mumbai, Prague, Shanghai and, of course, Amsterdam. But, the biggest of them all is found in the Big Apple. New York Magazine described their city’s Museum of Sex as a “Willy Wonka sex dream”, right down to the bouncy castle made from inflatable boobs. Admission $18.50, and over-65’s get a $2 discount if you feel like bringing your Nan!
10. Avanos Hair Museum, Turkey
Sitting beneath a pottery studio in Turkey’s otherworldly Cappadocia region, the walls of this dark cave are blanketed in 16,000 samples of female hair, each carrying the name and address of their donor. Yep, it’s as creepy as it sounds, but the backstory is actually quite sweet – a woman left a local potter a lock of her hair as a memento in 1979, and visitors to his shop have continued the tradition for the four decades since. Entry is free, but donations, of both a follicle and financial nature, are appreciated.
11. Cancun Underwater Museum, Mexico
If you’re not too hungover from smashing Cancun’s legendary clubs the night before, strap on some scuba gear to explore this real-life Atlantis. Known as Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) in Spanish, this insane underwater museum features 500 sculptures plunged into the azure Caribbean waters of the Cancun National Marine Park. The pieces are even made of a special clay that encourages coral to grow on the surface. Snorkel and scuba tours start at $70, and there’s a glass-bottom boat for $47.
12. Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia
When Zagreb couple Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić broke up in 2003, they joked about sticking all the stuff that reminded them of each other in a museum. Seven years later, when they opened the Museum of Broken Relationships in the Croatian capital’s Kulmer Palace, it wasn’t such a joke any more. And there’s more than just Olinka and Dražen’s shattered dreams on display; the museum presents hundreds of everyday objects from every corner of the globe that former lovers have submitted after a split, covering everything from a furniture-destroying axe to a disfigured garden gnome. Tickets 40 HRK ($6).
13. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, India
Probably not one to visit if you’re suffering from Delhi Belly! This museum traces the history of the toilet from the gold-plated bogs of Roman Emperors to Queen Victoria’s elegant floral-themed throne. Besides all the toilet humour, this New Delhi museum does have a serious side – it was founded by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the human rights activist who also set up sanitation non-profit Sulabh International, to raise awareness of a grave health issue that affects hundreds of millions of Indian people.
14. Museum of Death, USA
Beginning life (or death?) in a San Diego mortuary in 1995, this macabre museum now has two locations: Hollywood ($17) and New Orleans ($15). They proudly boast the world’s largest collection of serial killer artwork that curators JD Healy and Cathee Schultz procured from pen pals in prison. The Museum of Death also houses pet taxidermy, original photos of Manson crime scenes and the severed head of French murderer Henri Landru. Yep, it’s intense!
15. Neon Museum, Poland
If there’s a more photogenic museum on earth, then tag @hostelworld on Instagram, with evidence. Located in Warsaw’s industrial-chic Soho Factory complex, illuminated with old-school neon signs, this glam gallery stockpiles the buzzing neon creations that once lit-up the restaurants, cinemas, bars, shops and businesses of Communist-era Eastern Europe. Entry 13 zł ($3.50).
16. Museum of Failure, Sweden
Founded by American Samuel West in the Swedish city of Helsingborg, the Museum of Failure displays the most spectacular stuff-ups in business history, from Heinz’s purple-coloured ketchup to Donald Trump’s own board game. While the exhibit tours the globe as a pop-up, its founder declared bankruptcy earlier this year, in a twist that the word ‘irony’ doesn’t even begin to describe. “I’m up shit creek now,” he said. ” But, I can’t help laughing that it’s so absurd.”
About the author:
Tom Smith is an Australian writer living in Manchester. Obsessed with sport and travel, Tom has watched cricket in Cardiff, football in Fortaleza, baseball in the Bay Area, and there’s still plenty more to tick off the bucket list yet. Read more of his work here.