15 of the world's weirdest museums

From quirky to downright deranged: say hello to the oddest rooms in the world

15 of the world's weirdest museums Iceland Phallological Museum, Reykjavík - © Elín Eydís Friðriksdóttir
By David Clack

As a means of broadening one’s cultural horizons, there’s nothing quite like hopping on a train or plane and checking out somewhere new. Trouble is, after a while high culture tends to get a bit stuffy, meaning there’s only so many war memorials, renaissance masterpieces and Jurassic fossils a person can take before launching themselves – audio guide and all – out of the nearest window. So if you’re sick of stifling yawns at big-ticket attractions, get these quirky alternatives on your radar, pronto.

Iceland Phallological Museum, Reykjavík

Okay, so it may not quite be the Natural History Museum in terms of size and grandeur, but this collection of more than 200 ‘penises and penile parts’ is just as big a deal in the Icelandic capital. Specimens include the private bits of shrews, walruses and even humans, but the undoubted star of the show is a 6ft blue whale cock, sealed in a glass case and casually propped up in the centre of the room. Classy stuff.
Open 11am-6pm daily. Admission IKr1000. Laugavagi 116, 105 Reykjavík (+354 561 6663)

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, Yokohama

There are many things that Japan doesn’t consider a big deal, like trains that travel at the speed of sound and robots that make kebabs. Another is museums dedicated to instant noodles, of which the country currently has two. And while Osaka’s Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is just as popular, this museum-slash-amusement park comes out on top thanks to its full-scale replica of part of downtown Tokyo, where instant ramen was invented back in 1958.
Open 11am-10pm daily. Admission ¥300 adults, ¥100 children and seniors. 2-14-21, Shinyokohama, Kohoku, Yokohama, Kanagawa (+81 454 71 0503)

Carrot Museum, Liège

While we’re not quite sure how Belgium earned its reputation as Europe’s dullest nation, what we do know is that this museum of pointy orange vegetables certainly isn’t helping matters. It’s a mercifully brief experience, at least – the room itself being inaccessibly tiny, visitors simply turn a wheel to make a series of exhibits move along a conveyor belt inside a cabinet. Gripping.
Open daily. Admission free. Berlotte, Eyantten, Liège

British Lawnmower Museum, Southport

Charting the thrilling history of man’s endless battle with overgrown garden foliage, this bizarrely niche visitor’s centre in Southport boasts everything from old-timey grass-choppers to a solar-powered, lawn-patrolling robot. Can’t be bothered trekking over to Merseyside? The museum’s official DVD can be ordered online for £13. Not bad at all, considering it also doubles as a cure for insomnia.
Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Sat. Admission £2 adults, £1 children. 106-114 Shakespeare Street, Southport (+44 01704 501336)

Museum of Bad Art, Massachusetts

Offering a glimmer of hope for cack-handed artists everywhere, this anti-aesthetic attraction in Boston is a tribute to art ‘too bad to be ignored’. Free from the pretentious air of a proper art gallery, visitors need never worry about interpreting post-modern statements or parental angst – simply gaze, snigger and move onto the next monstrosity.
Open 2pm-9pm Sun-Thu; 1pm-10pm Fri-Sat. Admission free. Dedham Community Theatre, 580 High Street, Deadham, Massachusetts (+1 781 444 6757)

Museum of Pez Memorabilia, California

Gastronomically speaking, confectionary has come a long way since Pez’s colourful, chalky brickettes hit shelves back in 1927. Still, there’s no denying the charm of their plastic, character-topped dispensers, of which you’ll find hundreds at this quirky Californian attraction. As well as a detailed history of the Pez company itself, there are hundreds of exhibits, including vintage dispensers from the 1950s and one as big as an actual human man.
Open 10am-6pm Tue-Sat. Admission $3 adults, $1 children and seniors. 214 California Drive, Burlingame, California (+1 650 347 2301)

The Lunchbox Museum, Georgia

Yup, you guessed it, a museum dedicated to lunchboxes – that primary school status symbol that determined just how heavily you got bullied by your peers. The collection includes over 1,500 exhibits that bear the likeness of everyone from Woody Woodpecker to Dr Spock, providing an unconventional perspective on 20th century American popular culture. Not into lunchboxes? There’s also a decent selection of flasks. Lucky you.
Open 10am-6pm Wed-Sat; 12noon-6pm Sun. Admission $5. 318 10th Ave. Columbus, Georgia (+1 706 332 6378)

International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi

There are museums for just about every other common household appliance, so why not the humble loo? Here, artefacts range from ground-breaking 20th century models right back to primitive relics from 2500 BC. If nothing else, then, this somewhat surreal trip through the history of sanitation should at least make you appreciate just how marvellous your grubby office bog really is.
Open 10am-5pm Mon-Sat. Admission free. Sulabh Complex, Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Road, New Delhi (+91 11 2503151819)

Barbed Wire Museum, Kansas

‘Some say it was the six-gun that settled the west. Others know better.’ So goes the over-macho blurb from the folks behind a museum dedicated to what is – essentially – a jumped-up fencing material. Inside, over 2,000 varieties are on show and there’s even a diorama demonstrating early usage. Admission is free, though you might want to think about stopping off for a tetanus shot en route.
Open 10am-4.30pm Mon-Sat; 1pm-4.30pm, May-Sept. Admission free. 120 West 1st Street, LaCrosse, Kansas (+1 785 222 9900)

Iga-ryū Ninja Museum, Mie

A tad confusing this one – if ninjas are so stealthy and secretive, how did anyone ever manage to get hold of all their stuff and stick it in glass cases? However it came to be, there’s no doubting the coolness of this collection of over 400 ninja tools, which includes costumes, swords and shurikens, the latter of which you can fling at a target, for a few extra yen.
Open 9am-5pm daily. Admission ¥700 adults, ¥400 children. 1-1-7 Uenomarunouchi, Iga, Mie (+81 595 23 0311)

Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers, Tennessee

While most of us will absent-mindedly sprinkle seasoning over our evening pie without a moment’s thought for the little pots involved, for some, salt and pepper shakers are an all-out obsession. This husband-and-wife-run spot in the American south-east has compiled a collection of over 20,000 sets of shakers, as well as a fine and equally fascinating line in pepper mills.
Open 10am-4pm daily. Admission $3 adults, children free. Winery Square, Gatlinburg, Tennessee (+1 888 778 1802)

Museum of Enduring Beauty, Malacca

A fairly grotesque selection of the garments and tools used to pursue different cultures’ ideas of physical perfection, from shoes designed to bind feet to neck-elongating coils. In places, it’s stomach-turning stuff, but then again, it’s also hard not to recognise the connection between these body-altering implements and some of the unattainable physical ideals hurled into our faces by contemporary western society.
Open 9.30am-5pm Tue-Sun. Admission MYR2 adults, MYR0.50 children. Kota Road, Malacca (+60 6282 6526)

Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo

Ever wanted to know more about tapeworms? Itching to learn about the day-to-day lives of head lice? Whatever your curiosity, chances are this place has you covered – providing, of course, it relates to some sort of blood-sucking parasitic organism. As well as over 300 specimens, the museum also sports a library of over 6,000 books and journals on parasitology. Fascinating – if you’re into that sort of thing.
Open 10am-5pm Tue-Sun. Admission free. 4-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro, Tokyo (+81 337 16 1264)

The Dog Collar Museum, Kent

While human fashion seems to get gaudier by the day, the canine equivalent is far plainer than it used to be. At least, that’s the lasting impression upon visiting this permanent exhibition at Leeds Castle, where over 100 ancient collars – many sporting precious metals and stones – are yours to peruse. Ironically enough, though, no dogs are permitted to access the museum.
Open 11am-5pm daily, Apr-Oct; 11am-3pm daily Nov-Mar. Admission £18.50 adults, £11 children, £16 seniors (including access to Leeds Castle and grounds). Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent (+44 1622 765400)

Avanos Hair Museum, Cappadocia

Beneath a normal-looking pottery shop in rural Turkey, there’s a small, dark cave. On the ceiling of the cave are pinned samples of hair from over 16,000 women, each with a note attached. It sounds like something out of a particularly dark serial killer flick, but in fact, this is one of the region’s best-known attractions and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of human hair. Creepy? Just a tad.
Open 9am-7pm. Admission free. Chez Galip Pottery, Avanos, Cappadocia (+90 384 511 5758)