Lunch boxes, dodo bones, and parasites: these places are way weirder than your average art museum.
Museums are an integral part of the travel experience, giving travelers an opportunity to experience new aspects of culture, art, and history. There are dozens of famous collections around the world, and sometimes smaller museums get overlooked in favor more popular options like the Met or the Tate Modern. But if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path, these unusual museums will surprise and delight you.
Museum of Bad Art
WHERE: Boston, Massachusetts
Art is subjective, so it’s refreshing to see a collection that emphasizes the types of art that you may not find in other museums. The pieces in the Museum of Bad Art, which opened in 1994, may not be Monet-quality, but it’s still interesting to see how lesser known artists take on portraits and landscapes. The museum owns over 600 works, but displays 60-70 at a time, emphasizing the “special quality” that sets each one apart.
WHERE: Paris, France
Paris is filled with popular museums, but on your next trip consider the Musee Fragonard instead of the Louvre. This collection, located in a suburb east of the city center, is dedicated to anatomical oddities and has existed since 1766. There are some strange and possibly disgusting displays, but it’s a fascinating learning experience for anyone who wants to know more about human and animal bodies (the dissection of a human arm is especially compelling).
Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
WHERE: London, United Kingdom
The Last Tuesday Society operates this intimate cabinet of wonders, situated in east London. It collects everything from dodo bones to McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, emphasizing both the strange and the beautiful in its displays. The exhibitions shift occasionally, and there are frequent events and talks offered in the space. Admission to the museum includes a free cup of tea.
Museum of Bread Culture
WHERE: Ulm, Germany
A museum centering on the history of grain and bread may seem dull, but this museum in Ulm takes a fascinating look at how bread has shaped human civilization throughout time. There are 18,000 objects, including sculptures, paintings, and artifacts, and the museum examines both how bread has been depicted over time and how humans relate to it via culture and religion. There are even pieces by Picasso and Dali in the mix.
WHERE: Columbus, Georgia
Lunchboxes are an important part of any childhood, and that’s what Columbus, Georgia’s Lunchbox Museum pays homage to. Located inside the Rivermarket Antique Mall, the museum features dozens of metal lunchboxes that reveal our pop obsessions in decades past. Visitors can even purchase replica boxes if one piques your nostalgia. The museum also notes that the entrance fee is refundable if you’re not “fully satisfied” (which you likely will be).
Meguro Parasitological Museum
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
A museum dedicated to parasites may seem strange, but it’s actually quite interesting to visit this small collection in Tokyo’s Meguro district. It offers an educational look at the science of parasitology, revealing how parasites interact with the natural world and with the human body. There is even a 29-foot-long tapeworm, which is sure to instill both fear and awe in the viewer.
Museum of Broken Relationships
WHERE: Zagreb, Croatia and Los Angeles, CA
The Museum of Broken Relationships started in Croatia, inspired by the artifacts left behind after a breakup. It’s since expanded to LA, as well as into a virtual collection of objects offered up by broken-hearted people around the world. It’s a true example of crowd-sourcing, as all of the displays are donated by real people dealing with real heartbreak. Some of it is bizarre, some depressing, and all of it really relatable.
Museum of Food and Drink
WHERE: Brooklyn, New York
There are actual edible exhibitions in this museum, the world’s first large-scale museum dedicated to food and beverage consumption. The displays encourage you to use all your senses and to participate in the learning experience. It’s all about understanding better how we relate to the food we eat, and the museum offers events and special exhibits that expand on that idea. Tickets include unlimited fortune cookies (and a food tasting) in the price, so you’ll want to go hungry.
WHERE: St. Petersburg, Russia
The Kunstkamera was Russia’s first museum, built back in 1727 by Peter the Great. The ethnographical museum collects an incredible amount of natural objects and historical items, and it’s housed in a massive, beautiful building that’s worth the price of admission alone. The “First Scientific Collections of the Kunstkamera” is a highlight, revealing animal and plant specimens from the 18th century (which include an amazing two-headed calf).
Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum
WHERE: Thal, Austria
Terminator fans should head to Thal, a small town outside Graz, where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s childhood home has been transformed into a museum. The museum, which opened in 2011, is filled with artifacts and photos from Schwarzenegger’s life—and it even includes some of his first dumbbells and the bed he slept in a kid. The former governor of California has even given the museum his blessing, which means you can be sure of its authenticity.
American Visionary Art Museum
WHERE: Baltimore, Maryland
The American Visionary Art Museum believes that an artist doesn’t have to be famous or trained in a fancy art school to get their work displayed. This collection emphasizes people who are self-taught and amateur, but who have an “innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” That means that the collection of 4,000 over pieces is truly unusual, with artwork unlike any you’ve ever seen. And it should give you the encouragement you need to go home and paint something.