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Cup Noodles Museum
Photograph: Supachai Panyaviwat / Shutterstock.com

The 15 best weird and alternative museums around the world

From a subaquatic statue graveyard to a gallery dedicated to Cup Noodles, these are the best weird and wonderful days out worldwide

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson
Contributor
Ed Cunningham
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What would you put in your museum? Soviet stamps, football stickers, grunge-rock memorabilia? Those are the best kinds of gallery: the ones where an all-consuming passion for something random gets the same treatment (glass cabinets, spotlights and all) that museums across the globe give historic artefacts and world-renowned masterpieces.

And let’s be honest: the weirder, the better. Sometimes when you want a cultural day out, places like the Louvre and Prado don’t quite cut it – they’re good, obviously, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to tell everyone you know about a trip there straightaway. Not weird enough. But do a little research, and you’ll find plenty of places out there that will make you immediately reach for your camera to photograph everything you see.

The Avanos Hair Museum in Turkey, the Bread Museum in Germany, the Cup Noodles Museum in Japan: all very bizarre, and all the product of an individual’s passion for a particular subject. Those are just three of the 15 brilliant weird and alternative museums we’ve included in this world-spanning round-up. Read on to discover more – and plan your next freaky AF day out.

Best weird and alternative museums around the world

Sure, the Museum of Broken Relationships sounds pretty bleak. Endless stories of heartbreak, told through a small note alongside a single object, from wedding rings to an axe used to destroy a partner’s furniture; there are certainly cheerier museums. But the tales of the MBR are also totally transfixing. And while some exhibits may be downbeat, others are fond reflections on love lost. Do you have anything you might like to add to the collection?

Ikeda, a small city on the edge of Osaka, prides itself on being the birthplace of the fastest of fast foods – instant ramen, which was invented here in 1958. The galleries at its dedicated Cup Noodles Museum chronicle the journey from chicken ramen to ‘space ramen’ (you read that right). It’s a charming, singular homage, where you can make your own noodles, create your own packaging and walk through an ‘instant noodle tunnel’. 

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There’s something extremely disarming about entering a room and seeing a crowd of ventriloquist dummies staring back at you. That’s what you get at Vent Haven Museum, which houses more than 900 of the dolls. It started as one man’s private collection, and it’s still semi-private (you’ve got to book a tour 48 hours before arriving). The staff who run the place are, of course, extremely passionate about the wooden puppets – so if you’ve ever wanted to acquire your own Charlie McCarthy, this is the ideal place to find out how to get into the ventriloquism game.

You can’t help but wonder how the archaeologists of the future will interpret the MUSA. At first glance, the underwater gallery looks like a rediscovered ancient city, or an accidentally submerged port. It’s neither. The curious ‘enchanted wood’ has been placed on the ocean floor for snorkelling tourists (and schools of impassive fish). A stone sculpture, titled ‘Inertia’, shows a man staring at his boxy TV; another relies on blooming seaweed to create living, watery flames. It’s all very mysterious. 

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Ever looked at something arty-farty in a gallery (no doubt with accompanying spiel printed on the wall) and thought: What’s so special about that? I could do that. In fact, I could do better. Well, the American Visionary Art Museum is for you. Grounded in the idea that not all great artists go to art school, this is a museum dedicated to self-taught artistry, and the result is some of the most inspirational art you’ll ever see.

All art could do with being a bit more erotic and twisted (ideally with a hint of death thrown in too). That’s why the Bosc de Can Ginebreda is on this list. This odd attraction holds more than 100 erotic sculptures, crafted and collected by Catalan sculptor Xicu Cabanyes, which have been installed throughout a very beautiful forest. Expect to come across everything from phallic skulls to big stone bums.

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Museum of Bread Culture, Germany
Photograph: Museum Brot und Kunst / Foto Bernhard Friese, Pforzheim

10. Museum of Bread Culture, Germany

Where would we be without bread? This museum, in the German city of Ulm, reckons we’d be nowhere. Rather ambitiously, it claims that loaves are the key to human civilisation. (We’d make an argument for cheese.) But maybe the weirdest thing of all is the fact that there isn’t actually any bread on display – so if you were hoping for some educational snacking, you’re out of luck. You can still find out all about 6,000 years of human bread culture, though, and we must say it’s pretty fascinating.

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This spooky museum, in Lithuania’s second city of Kaunas, holds an ever-changing collection of all things Satan. It was set up by artist Antanas Žmuidzinavičius at a time when religious iconography was banned in the Soviet Union. Bold move. His collection ranges from folksy statuettes to controv political statements (via a heckload of Beelzebub-themed objects including paperweights and pipes). Visit if you dare.

No one really knows why the Museum of Jurassic Technology has ‘Jurassic’ in the name, because no one really knows much about it at all. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Throughout its narrow, dimly lit halls, you’ll find cabinets of curiosities, containing everything from mini models of Napoleon and Daffy Duck to oil portraits of the Soviet space programme dogs. It’s rather baffling and chaotic – but all the more wonderful for it.

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Cryptozoology does not have anything to do with blockchain – though we’re sure someone out there is working on a cryptocurrency museum. It actually concerns the study of ‘hidden or unknown animals’ (read: made-up beasts), and the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland is the only gallery in the world dedicated to it. Giving you the chance to learn all you need to know about bigfoot, mermaids and Santa Claus, it’s a marvellous (and ever-so-slightly ridiculous) collection.

Not one for the faint at heart, the Dermatology Museum in Lisbon’s Capuchos Hospital is filled with painted wax casts taken from IRL patients, then painted to look like actual wounds. All life-size, 3D and pretty damn gross, the moulds were originally used to teach medical students (lucky them!) These days, there’s a huge breadth of skin diseases on display, but the main one is syphilis. Lots and lots of syphilis.

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So the story goes, a friend of Turkish potter Galip Körükçü was leaving him to live elsewhere. As a keepsake, she chopped off a lock of hair and gave it to him. Each time Körükçü subsequently told a woman her story, they would snip off some of their own and give it to him. Forty years later, Körükçü now presides over his Hair Museum, a grotto that contains 16,000 locks of hair, all labelled with the name and contact info of their supplier. Kooky and just a little bit spooky.

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