Sometimes you wander around a city and you come across a gem of a museum that you might have missed if you had just gone for the famous sights. The Globe Museum in Vienna, Austria, was one of those for me.
Here then is my list of ten lesser-known museums in Europe.
If you are a geography nerd like me, this is one museum you don't want to miss. Over 250 items are exhibited in this gem of a museum, including exclusive terrestrial and celestial globes, globes of the moon and other planets as well as numerous astronomical instruments.
This chapel sees plenty of visitors looking at the statue of the Veiled Christ. Many miss the statue by Antonio Corradini, “Pudicizia” (Modesty) of the veiled woman, to the left of the altar. It represents a mother who died when her son was 11 months old. See how she gazes into the distance, with her veil representing how her son never knew her. It is one of the most moving artworks I have ever seen.
So many museums to choose from in Rome! One often overlooked but not to be missed is Palazzo Massimo alle Terme near Termini train station. Wonderful sculptures from the classical era, culminating in the spectacular Portonaccio Massimo sarcophagus featuring battle scenes between Romans and Germans.
Haarlem, The Netherlands
A small museum in delightful Haarlem (yes, I am biassed, this is my hometown), the museum exhibits works by 17th century Dutch master Frans Hals. A refugee from Antwerps, Hals settled in Haarlem where he became famous for his portraits, mainly of wealthy citizens, and large group portraits for local civic guards and for the regents of local hospitals. In 1813, English painter James Northcote stated, ‘In terms of character representation, he was certainly the greatest painter who ever lived.’
Do you trust your senses? Did they ever deceive you? Prepare yourself because in the House of Illusions your senses will be on a serious test. But doing so you will have a lot of fun and you will learn new things. There are more than 70 exhibits waiting for you. Are you ready?
As the museum's website has it, the "Museum of Broken Relationships is a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions. It is a museum about you, about us, about the ways we love and lose."
Rothenburg o/d Tauber, Germany
This rather gruesome museum tells the tale of more than 1,000 years of German and European legal history. The exhibits – more than 50,000 of them – are witnesses to a bygone age, when harsh punishments and public humiliation were used to administer “law and order.” Alongside the history of criminal law and retribution, the museum sheds light on persecution and witch-hunts as well as peculiar punishments for animals and criminal cases that caused a sensation.
There's no dicking around in the worldʹs only genuine penis museum. The Icelandic Phallological Museum is dedicated to collecting, studying and presenting actual phalluses and all things phallic.
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzogovina
When the idea of building a tunnel under the runway of the Sarajevo airport was born, in order to connect besieged Sarajevo with the rest of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seemed strange to many. But the tunnel became a major route to get food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid into the city, and allowing people to get out. Visitors can still walk down a small length of the tunnel (approximately 20 metres).
A rather eerie site is the Museum of Cold War located in the Plokstine Missile Base in Lithuania. When I visited the tours were only given in Lithuanian. It didn't matter, I could sense the threatening atmosphere. Knowing I grew up with these missiles pointed at me, made me shudder.