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6 Interesting (& Sometimes Strange) Museums To Visit Around The World

In celebration of International Museum Day, we take a look at some of the world’s grandest galleries, from the impressive to the strange

By Pamela Chow

You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate a good museum. After all, history has a long-standing record of all things weird and wonderful.

Planning a visit to museum soon? Here are some amazing — and quirky — picks around the world.

The Art Institute of Chicago is home to numerous famous works, such as Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom” (1889). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

USA: Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most-visited art museums in the world, and the second-largest art museum in the United States.

The Institute, which was founded as a free art school and gallery in 1866, features a remarkable collection of famous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. These include works by famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Rembrandt and Georges Seurat.

There are also activities like art-making, self-guides and games for families. Children under 14 years old can enter for free.

Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, Illinois, USA

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm has preserved the colossal 17th century warship Vasa. (Photo: J. Lekavicius / Shutterstock.com)

Sweden: Vasa Museum

In 1628, the mighty warship Vasa was struck by disaster and sank in the waters of Stockholm, Sweden. After 333 years lying on the grimy seabed, the ship was salvaged and became the world’s only preserved vessel from the 17th century.

Touted as the most-visited museum in Scandinavia, the Vasa Museum is centred around the grandiose ship and its every detail, from intricate carvings to the life of its crew.

At the fore is Vasa’s striking figurehead, a 3m-long lion that holds the Vasa dynasty coat of arms. This so-called Folkunga lion has been a symbol of Swedish monarchy since the Middle Ages.

The museum houses 13 exhibits telling the story of Vasa and her time, as well as other roving showcases.Children and youths up to 18 years of age can enjoy free admission to Vasa Museum.

Vasa Museum, Galärvarvsvägen 14, Djurgården, Stockholm, Sweden

Every detail of the Ghibli Museum reflects the world of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, and was lovingly hand-crafted for the museum. (Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com)

Japan: Ghibli Museum

Fans of the celebrated films by Hayao Miyazaki will be thrilled by the wonderland blooming within Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo.

Nestled inside Inokashira Park, Ghibli (pronounced “jee-blee”) Museum is easily recognisable by the enormous Totoro character at the entrance and soot-black Dust Bunnies peering out curiously from behind portholes.

Every detail within Ghibli — from stained glass windows to lamps — was lovingly hand-crafted for the museum, and features characters from Miyazaki’s films. Tickets issued to visitors are made of pieces of the actual 35mm film used in the movies, and if you hold your ticket against the light, you can spot a scene from a Ghibli film.

This marvellous space of spiral stairways, bridged passages and terraces transports you straight into the fantastical world of Miyazaki and its strange buildings. Visitors are encouraged to take their time exploring the museum and finding their favourite corners.

Entry tickets are given to visitors in exchange for reservation coupons, which must be purchased some five months in advance. Children under four years old can enter for free.

Ghibli Museum, 1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo, Japan

Also read: Here’s where you can find the bathhouse that appears in Spirited Away


Acropolis Museum displays findings from the Acropolis of Athens, with artefacts dating from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. (Photo: SIAATH / Shutterstock.com)

Greece: Acropolis Museum

The archaeological Acropolis Museum documents and displays findings from the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel. Its artefacts date as far back as the Greek Bronze Age, and also cover Roman and Byzantine Greece.

Besides its magnificent sculptures and collections of famous Greek philosophers, deities and war heroes, such as the colossal head of goddess Artemis Brauronia carved by Praxiteles in 330 BC, Acropolis Museum is known for its dramatic opening gallery.

This area houses finds from sanctuaries on the slopes of the Acropolis, with an upward-sloping glass floor that offers peeks at the archaeological excavations underground. As you make your way up the slope here, you mimic the ancient Greeks’ ascent to the Acropolis.

The museum is particularly attractive for families with young children, as it will provide backpacks filled with activities free of charge. Visitors can choose a quick booklet trail or a more intricate pack filled with games that families can solve together.

Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens, Greece

Artworks in the Museum of Bad Art are so popular that, in 1996, the painting “Eileen” (right) was stolen with a ransom of US$5,000. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

USA: The Museum of Bad Art

If you’ve ever produced an art piece that was criticised, you may feel a lot better after visiting this strange museum in Massachusetts. The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) is dedicated to the celebration of all forms of art that is “too bad to ignore”.

Among its collection — which is exquisitely divided into specific categories like “Unlikely Landscapes” and “Unseen Forces” — are oddly-executed artworks such as “Sunday on the Pot with George” and “Bone Juggling Dog In Hula Skirt”. MOBA is so popular that, in 1996, the painting “Eileen” was stolen with a ransom of US$5,000.

One MOBA alone sounds amusing enough but guess what? MOBA has three outposts in Boston, with its main campus in Dedham.

Museum of Bad Art, 580 High Street, Basement of Dedham Community Theatre, USA

“Anthropocene”, a real-life Beetle car statue that can be seen in the Salon Manchones section of the Cancun Underwater Museum. (Photo: Snackariah / flickr.com)

Mexico: Cancun Underwater Museum

Snorkelling and scuba diving just got even more exciting. The Cancun Underwater Museum in Mexico features more than 500 life-size sculptures, which are made from specialised materials that promote coral growth.

Also read: The dreamiest diving destinations in the region

The museum is divided into two galleries: Salon Punta Nizuc is 4m deep and suitable for snorkelling, and Salon Manchones, 8m deep, is permitted for scuba diving only.

Salon Punta Nizuc is located at the southern tip of Cancun’s hotel zone and, here, visitors can spot interesting sculptures like “The Gardener of Hope” — a human figure with a watering can laying on a coral bed — and the intriguing “Inertia” where an oversized male lazes before a coral-crusted television.

Divers who visit Salon Manchones can see the iconic Beetle car sculpture “Anthropocene” and the giant structure “Bacab”, where marine life flits through its gridlock, among many other exhibits.

If you’re not able to swim or don’t wish to get wet, certain structures can also be seen from a glass bottom boat tour. Look out for the haunting “Anchors” exhibit, which features five human heads rising from a bed of seaweed.

Cancun Underwater Museum, Cancun, Mexico

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 152, May 13 – May 26, 2016, with the headline ‘6 Fascinating museums to visit’.