One of the perks of travelling is discovering the art, history and culture of various cities – and beyond – by visiting museums, which can tell stories about quirky topics or pay tribute to exceptional people. From the weird and macabre to an intriguing look into the lives of famous people, here are five unique museums to visit on your travels.
1. Mr. Toilet House, Suwon, South Korea
It might not have the word “museum” in its name but this is – in every sense of the word – a museum. Except that it’s filled with toilets! Sim Jae-duck was the mayor of Suwon City – some 30km from Seoul and a popular day trip destination – when he started a campaign to improve toilets in South Korea. He founded the World Toilet Association in 2007 and, to celebrate this achievement, he tore down the house he’d lived in for 30 years to build a new one in the shape of a toilet. He left the building to the city when he died in 2009 and it became Mr. Toilet House, Suwon’s Toilet Culture Exhibit Hall. Visitors get to check out different toilets from around the world, learn how toilet culture has evolved, and discover how sanitation is being improved in the developing world.
2. Torture Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands
Until several centuries ago, torturing people and executions were common in every European city. Over 40 instruments of punishment from various parts of Europe are displayed in the exhibition “Punishments and Verdicts in the Middle Ages” in this Amsterdam institution. They range from decapitation swords and the inquisition chair to the guillotine. For the inquisitive, it’s a fascinating journey into Europe’s painful past and exhibits are illustrated with historical engravings and background information, giving visitors insights into the when, how and where they were used. You also get to learn about human rights treaties, as well as the actions of the Amnesty International.
3. Cupnoodles Museum, Osaka, Japan
We all love sinful, oh-so-delicious cup noodles from time to time. If you’re interested in finding out the origins of this food and how it has grown over the years, this is the place to go. The world’s first instant noodles – Chicken Ramen – was invented in 1958 by Nissin Foods founder Momofuku Ando in his backyard shed in Ikeda-city, Osaka Prefecture. Of course, it’s fitting that Cupnoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda be built here, too. Find out how cup noodles evolved from instant noodles, visit a recreation of the shed where the first instant noodles was invented, and enjoy the opportunity to create the packaging and flavour of your personal cup noodles. And don’t miss the fascinating Instant Noodles Tunnel with approximately 600 product packages on display.
4. The Bunny Museum, California, USA
Not recommended for pre-schoolers and bunny lovers looking forward to petting the furry creatures, this museum in Altadena – about a half-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles – claims to be “the hoppiest place in the world”. Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski inadvertently started the museum in 1993 when he gave her a plush bunny because she called him her “Honey Bunny”. This turned out to be the first of many bunny gifts the couple gave each other. They married and, in 1998, opened their home in Pasadena to the public, with around 8,000 items. When they first moved to the Altadena location in 2017, they had about 34,000 items. Today, it’s home to more than 36,000 and showcases the history of bunnies in art, entertainment, fashion, film and advertising. There’s even The Chamber of Hop Horrors that educates visitors on the abuse of bunnies through experimentation, and highlights the role bunnies have played in horror movies.
5. Freud Museum, London, England
There are several brilliant museums in London, such as the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, and then there are some considerably quirky ones. The Freud Museum is one such example and is located in the final home of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and his daughter Anna Freud, a pioneering child psychoanalyst, in Maresfield Gardens, London. The Freuds fled to England as refugees in 1938, following the Nazi annexation of Vienna, and Sigmund spent the last year of his life here, while Anna lived in the house until she died in 1982. The aim of this museum is to highlight the relevance of their work in the contemporary world. On display are 2,500 antiques from Freud’s personal collection, an extensive archive of documents, and a library featuring over 1,600 books that belonged to him. Oh, and there’s also his original psychoanalytic couch in the study, where patients famously shared anything and everything that came to mind.
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