Even if you are not a huge art and history buff, chances are you will make time to visit a museum or two on your next vacation. We asked the world of travel bloggers to share some of the weird and wonderful museums that they have discovered, some of the most interesting and some of the most creative.
Have you visited any of the below? Do you have a favourite museum or gallery you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Arnette – RTW Girl
My few hours at the IMA or Indianapolis Museum of Art helped change my opinion about Indianapolis. I had this notion that the state is just about Nascar but this museum proved to me that culture does exist in Indy. Besides checking out an Ai Weiwei exhibit at the time (2013), the permanent collection is amazing. There are pieces by Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Gaugin, Cezanne, Pissaro, and Van Gogh. The contemporary area was impressive as well. I rushed through textile arts and African and Asian arts areas due to a lack of time, but could have easily spent several more hours there. The best part about the IMA is its cost of admission. Visiting exhibits charge a nominal fee but the permanent regular collection is free . Don’t forget to walk through the grounds and check out Robert Indiana’s iconic Love Sculpture.
New Museum – New York City
Carole – Travels with Carole
Located in a boxy silver futuristic building in NYC’s reimagined Bowery, this small museum is devoted to cutting-edge contemporary art. Start at the top and work your way down. When open, the 7th-floor Sky Room offers a don’t-miss panoramic city view.
Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Michael – Time Travel Turtle
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is notorious for its long queues but, even if you don’t buy one of the city passes that will let you skip the line, it’s still worth the wait. It is an incredible collection of the Dutch artist’s work with more than 200 paintings and 400 drawings. The reason it is able to have such a large and complete collection is because Vincent Van Gogh was actually not very famous during his lifetime and his family still owned many of his works by the time he became popular! The museum is well organised into sections that illustrate the different periods of his artistic life and show the other artists who influenced him. There are three floors and the highlights of his career are given prominent displays. Some of his letters are also shown within the museum and there is a lot of information about his career and personal life.
Dali Museum – Figueres, Spain
Lizzie – Wanderful World
The Dali Museum is tucked away in Figueres, an old Spanish town about an hour and a half outside of Barcelona – the perfect place for a day trip from the Catalan capital. Set inside a grand building, the museum showcases the thoughts, ideas, and the work of Dali himself, spanning his years as an artist and exhibiting the different styles he produced, from watercolour paintings to sculpture.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – Madrid, Spain
Olivia – Halfway Somewhere
Culture and History
The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix Arizona
Mary – Calculated Traveller
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), located on a 20-acre site in North Phoenix Arizona is a great place to explore all things music. There are over 6,000 instruments on display from all over the world. Not only do they have the instruments on display but they also include video and audio to enhance the entire experience. There are also Artist Galleries showcasing costumes, instruments and awards from famous musicians – you can even see the actual piano that John Lennon used to compose the song “ Imagine”.
Culture House – Reykjavik, Iceland
Shara – SKJ Travel
Step into The Culture House in the picturesque old town of Reykjavik, Iceland, for a glimpse at some of the most revered Icelandic treasures, particularly if you have any interest in ancient manuscripts. Icelandic sagas and eddas are legendary, and a source of intense national pride. The Culture House displays many pages from medieval manuscripts of sagas and eddas that most Icelanders know by heart through their fierce oral tradition. Even if you can’t read Icelandic text, the pictures alone are captivating, a work-out for the imagination to ponder what story plot they could be illustrating. There is also an exhibit on how the manuscripts themselves were created, all the way from how they made the paper (out of extremely thin slices of animal skin) and the inks, to the daily lives of the scribes. The museum also includes modern art exhibits, thereby giving visitors, as the name of it suggests, a broad cross-section of Icelandic culture.
National Civil Right Museum – Memphis, Tennessee
Chris – Amateur Traveler
One of my new favorite museums in the United Stats is the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis Tennessee. The struggle for civil rights is a fascinating story and this museum does a great job of telling that story. To add poignancy, the museum is located in the old Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was killed. The museum has quite a lot of video and audio as well as large props like a bus you can board with Rosa Parks as the voice of the bus driver is yelling at her to give up her seat.
The Royal Tombs and the Museo Regional Arqeologio Bruning – Lambayeque, Peru
Juergen – Dare 2 Go
Have you ever heard of Lambayeque? Near this town the oldest known pyramid (~4000 y/o) was discovered in 2007. There are over 250 of these structures in the “Valley of the Pyramids”; unfortunately all were constructed from mud blocks and have decayed more than their rock solid relatives, yet they reveal some fascinating treasures which are on display in two outstanding museums in the town of Lambayeque.
The most contemporary is the Royal Tombs Museum of Sipán, housed in a building which resembles the ancient Moche tombs. Inside the layout of the burial chambers is realistically reconstructed. You walk down through the layers as they were unearthed, each chamber arranged with all its artifacts and mummies as they were found on site. Unfortunately photography is not permitted inside (you are asked to hand in all equipment), so I only have an outside picture.
Fortunately for photographers there’s an enormous second collection on display in the Museo Regional Arqueológico Brüning in the same town. In 1916 the German Ethnologist Heinrich Brüning sold a large part of his collection to the government of Peru. Here you can admire hundreds of delicate pieces of pottery alongside a vast and impressive selection of gold treasures. Many pieces bear witness to the highly developed skills of the ancient metal workers and give a glimpse of the riches that the early conquistadores must have removed from this country, only to be melted down to fill the coffers of the Spanish royalty.
Both museums are among the most spectacular we have visited during our extensive travels.
Weird and Wonderful
Musee Mecanique – San Francisco
Adelina – Pack Me To
Look around too quickly and you can easily miss the entrance of Musée Mécanique in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Hidden inside a shed on Pier 45, lies this interactive arcade museum featuring vintage games from the 20th century. Home to a collection of over 300 vintage arcade games, the museum features fortune tellers, intricate dioramas, music boxes and a variety of penny arcade games. While the museum is free to explore, each game requires a small fee in order to be played. Take a step back in time and take a wander through this fascinating look at entertainment in the 20th century.
Museum of Bags and Purses – Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Evelyn – Journey Woman
This museum describes itself as the ‘world’s foremost bag collection.’ Housed in an historic canal house in the center of Amsterdam, it offers 500 years of history of the Western ladies bag. The museum began as the private collection of Hendrikje Ivo, who collected bags for over 35 years. Today, some of the ‘goodies’ displayed include a Versace evening bag (1997), a French goat’s leather bag (16 C.) plus a silk bridal purse (circa 1725. Whether you’re a historian or a fashionista, this museum would be a fun stop. P.S. You can also enjoy an afternoon cream tea in the museum’s cafe but you must remember to reserve your spot ahead of time.
The Pig Museum – Stuttgart, Germany
Laurel – Monkeys and Mountains
The world’s largest pig museum in Stuttgart, Germany features over 40,000 pigs in 28 pig-themed rooms. It’s kitsch at it’s best. One room alone has 2000 piggy banks! But it’s also surprisingly informative. For example, the history of the piggy bank! No one is sure where it originated,but it’s thought that the idea of pigs gaining weight quickly resembled to your savings growing quickly (if only that were true!). But the connection between pigs and money dates back to the 5th century B.C. when pigs were imprinted on coins. Piggy banks have been used in many different countries for thousands of years. Who knew! It’s a quirky museum that will make you think of pigs in a whole new light!
The Counterfeit Goods Museum – Bangkok, Thailand
Chris – One Weird Globe
You’d think a museum built by lawyers would be as dull or dreary as the paperwork. Complete with 4,000 exhibits (only a fraction of which are on display at any given time), the Tilleke and Gibbins Museum of Counterfeit Goods offers up a surprisingly broad view of the real versus the fake. The collection began in the early 1980’s, but didn’t open its doors to the public in 1989. The lawyers had to present their evidence, so you tend to collect these when you’re in the business of prosecuting counterfeiters. Note admission by appointment only – typically Monday afternoons after 2pm and Thursday mornings around 10am. Contact Pinta at 02-653-5555 or Pinta.P@tilleke.com to set up an appointment – the further in advance the better.
Museo Nicolis – Verona
Noel – Travel Photo Discovery
Museo Nicolis is a fun museum that showcases everything transport oriented along with quirky items like musical dioramas and instruments. The main attractions are the vintage European antique cars and rare motorcycles from various periods of European production. Its a real cool collection of amazing one of a kind transport vehicles and odd (or maybe interesting to you) electronic gear. Look for the flying jet on the roof if you are trying to locate the museum and you know your at the right place.