You don’t have to be a history buff or art lover to appreciate museum collections. Let’s be honest, looking at surviving ancient artifacts stirs at something profound. But not all museums are big ticket affairs and that’s ok too. The ones that will forever be eclipsed by the priceless art housed in the Louvre (world’s most visited) still have engaging objects and thought-provoking exhibitions for us to digest and muse over.
On International Museum Day we put together a list of our top ten offbeat museums. A visit to a museum will no doubt feature at some point during a holiday. Why not head over to one of these the next time you take a trip abroad?
1 – Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum – Osaka, Japan
A homage to the humble pack of instant noodles – the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum welcomes curious visitors on a quest for knowledge of all things instant noodle related. If you were wondering how Momofuku Ando came up with the idea of turning ramen into a fast, convenient and any-time meal (watershed moment for humanity, I might add), this museum holds the key.
2 – Froggyland – Split, Croatia
Once you’ve queued to see Diocletian’s Palace, walked around Split’s old town. Snap some pictures of Kliss Fortress and before you hit the beach, head to Froggyland. This is where you can cast your eyes in wonder over the 500-strong collection of taxidermied amphibians ‘doing people things’. These dioramas represent more than 10 years of meticulous work by Hungarian taxidermist Ference Mere. A brilliantly odd museum that earns its place on this list for precisely that reason. If you have ever asked yourself what frogs would look like playing tennis or hard at work at a sewing machine, a trip to Froggyland is all you need.
3. Cancún Underwater Museum – Cancún, Mexico
In and around Cancún there are already many activities and heritage sites to explore such as Tulum, Uxmal and Coba which are all a bus ride away. Cenotes like Ik Kil are also a big draw, but don’t miss out on the Underwater Museum it’s an unusual experience you won’t forget. If you are interested in conservation and the underwater world, consider making the excursion. Here you can snorkel or dive around sculptures by the British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The museum features more than 400 life-sized sculptures which are made from ecological materials, actively promoting the growth of coral.
4. Phallological Museum – Reykjavik, Iceland
This museum houses a truly unique collection, probably the only one in the world. Visitors can witness a collection of over 200 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland, including whale, walrus and seal. Plus you can visit the phallus store and take home weird and wonderful souvenirs.
5. Plastic Bottle Village – Bocas del Toro, Panama
In this plastic-conscious age, there’s no getting away from the environmental responsibility we face. So make sure you take a look around Plastic Bottle Village. Set on the paradise archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Plastic Bottle Village is the brainchild of Robert Bezeau. Bezeau began the Bocas recycling program in 2012 after he noticed the staggering amount of rubbish that was generated on the islands thanks to the high number of visitors. Bezeau started building structures out of plastic bottles he had amassed and eventually Plastic Bottle Village was born. It may not sound appealing, but taking up residence in a plastic home can neutralise your plastic bottle footprint! Food for thought.
If you’re not heading to Panama any time soon take a look at their website, it’s an interesting read.
6. Malacca Museum of Enduring Beauty – Malacca, Malaysia
The Museum of Enduring Beauty in Malacca showcases how societies throughout history have each defined their own cultural beauty norms. The museum documents how beauty has been defined from early human history to the present day, revealing a common factor which only reinforces the modern day mantra ‘beauty is pain’.
How did we come up with the idea of lip plates or tattoos and why have many isolated cultures been drawn to similar practises? From feet binding in China to corsets in Europe and scarification in Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea, it’s interesting to observe that we strive to ‘improve’ or distinguish ourselves and will endure painful practices to achieve this. On a trip to Malacca, its beautiful mosque and old town, you should definitely squeeze in a visit to this off-beat museum along the way.
7. Museo de la Ciudad – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is incredible. A cultural hub, where the contrast between Boca and Palermo or Recoleta already illustrate the city’s complex, distinct and idiosyncratic nature. Buenos Aires’ fading decadence sets the tone of a city that no-longer takes itself too seriously. With its emergence from a violent dictatorship to a catastrophic financial crash, it shouldn’t be any surprise that this city knows how to be alternative and thrive in adverse circumstances. Once you have been totally seduced by the Argentine capital, take a walk around el Museo de la Ciudad. It shows a nostalgic collection of everyday objects and their evolution over the decades. This paints a tangible and human picture of Buenos Aires in recent decades.
8. District 6 Museum – Cape Town, South Africa
If you want to learn about the system of institutionalised racial segregation, you can and should visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. In Cape Town though, for something a bit more grassroots, you can visit District 6. The district used to be multicultural and home to a diverse and vibrant community that co-existed harmoniously before its residents were segregated and displaced under Apartheid. More than just an archive, the museum’s goal is to bring people together, re-creating the strong, open-minded and supportive community that was destroyed.
9 – The Mummification Museum – Luxor, Egypt
Spend 30 minutes immersed in the ancient practise of mummification. At the Mummification Museum it’s not about the beauty of coffin carvings or the messages being sent from the grave inscribed in hieroglyphics. Learn all about the bandages, ointments, knives and tools Egyptian mummifiers used to do their work.
10. The Torture Museum – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Delve into the medieval mindset, take a trip around the Torture Museum. It wasn’t that long ago that every European city had its own gallows field and punishment was brutal and agonising. Suitably atmospheric, the museum is dark and the rooms cramped. A sensory experience.
Integral to tourism, education and national identity or simple meeting places, museums are many things to us. International Museum Day is celebrated on 18th May each year. Many of the world’s most prestigious and valuable national collections offer free entry or host events to mark the day. Make sure you find out what’s going on near you!
Inspired to go and see some of these offbeat museums? You can visit many of the destinations featured with us, head to our website for further information and tour listings.