Europe’s Top 10 Funky Museums for Backpackers

Featuring some of the world’s top tourist destinations, Europe boasts outstanding museums, displaying some of the world’s greatest artistic, technological, scientific, and architectural achievements. To put a funky twist on the traditional Europe sightseeing plan, though, consider the following top specialty museums, ranging from an homage to a famous punk-rock band and the home of the original gummy bears, to must-see-to-believe illusions and spy tricks.

1. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions by: Wendy (CC)

Offering visitors an unrivalled view of Edinburgh‘s skyline, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions provides a weird and unique optical experience. Located just footsteps from the city’s emblematic castle, this amusing attraction includes five floors of optical illusions in existence since the 1880s. The camera obscura itself sits on the roof and contains a set of mirrors and lenses projecting moving images of the city onto a screen.

2. Haribo Museum

To satisfy your sweet tooth and take part in the process of making the world’s original gummy bears, include Haribo Museum on your itinerary for Uzes, France. The museum offers a close look the history, production, and sale of Haribo Gold Bears, licorice, and other popular treats. You’ll have hundreds of exhibits at your disposal, including old machines and posters used to advertise the gummies in the 19th century.

3. Ramones Museum Berlin

Ramones Museum display by Chiara Alchimia (CC)
Ramones Museum display by Chiara Alchimia (CC)

Hugely popular with music lovers, Ramones Museum Berlin remains the first and only museum dedicated to an iconic punk-rock band. The exhibits display over 300 items from 1975 to 1996, organized in chronological order. Follow the Ramones’ evolution and see previously unpublished photographs, posters, and band members’ clothing. Then stop by the on-site cafe for a cold beer and a quick snack.

4. The Puzzling Place

The Puzzling Place in Keswick, England is just what the name suggests: a puzzling house filled with brain-twisting optical illusions, holograms, and other reality-bending exhibits. The bewildering museum’s main attraction is the World of Illusion, containing an “anti-gravity” room sure to make you doubt your own eyes. Stop by the Puzzle Area to test your mental alacrity with a few entertaining brain teasers.

5. Sherlock Holmes Museum

Sherlock Holmes Museum entrance by: Elliot Brown (CC)
Sherlock Holmes Museum entrance by: Elliot Brown (CC)

London‘s Sherlock Holmes Museum occupies a 221 B Baker Street townhouse virtually unchanged since Arthur Conan Doyle described it in his Victorian-era bestsellers. As you explore the home of a celebrated fictional detective, take a moment to pose for a photograph in Holmes’ fireside armchair. Step into the bedroom to see the sleuth’s private papers, and be sure to check out the wax models on the third floor.

6. Devil’s Museum

Established by a Lithuanian landscape artist and fortified with artifacts donated by visitors, the spooky Devil’s Museum in Kaunas contains more than 3,000 examples of devil depictions from cultures scattered across the globe. Exhibits include sculptures and carvings illustrating appalling scenes of violent punishment doled out by the Devil to those daring to deceive him.

7. Electric Ladyland – the First Museum of Fluorescent Art

Phosphorescent art by: ilovebutter (CC)
Phosphorescent art by: ilovebutter (CC)

Dedicated to a different kind of artistic expression, Electric Ladyland in Amsterdam is the world’s first museum of fluorescent art, featuring displays of naturally luminescent rocks and artificially made glowing objects. The small but trippy museum also includes several cases filled with gray stones, known for exploding with electric color when put under the black light.

8. Rockheim

Featuring a fifth-floor restaurant with a fjord view, Trondheim‘s Rockheim documents the history of Norwegian rock and pop music. Step inside to jam to popular tunes, draw graffiti, mix songs, and try some break-dancing in the hip-hop room. The museum houses a large media library, where you can browse music magazines and listen to music no longer publicly streamed.

9. Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft

The Sorcerer's Cottage by: Jonathan (CC)
The Sorcerer’s Cottage by: Jonathan (CC)

To visit a time when magic ruled everyday life, visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft in Holmavik. Most of Iceland’s witches were men taking part in occult rituals that were little more than ancient Viking traditions. Local witch hunters convicted and burned about 20 people at the stake, and the museum narrates the story of those trials and displays the bizarre necropants, made from human skin.

10. Spy Museum (Vakoilumuseo)

Housing mostly Cold War-era exhibits, the Spy Museum in Tampere, Finland provides a rare insight into the secret world of international espionage. The interactive exhibits include many Bond-style tools and weapons, including infrared and lie detector devices. For a small fee you can take an agent suitability test, allowing you to find out whether you could work for the CIA, MI6, or Mossad.

Europe’s Offbeat Museum Experience

In addition to visiting world-class museums like the Louvre and Prado, try to leave some time in your Europe sightseeing itinerary to see some of the continent’s more peculiar collections. Look for offbeat and intriguing museums displaying everything from spy gear and music memorabilia, to ghastly witch artifacts and antique candy-making machines.

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