Europe is packed with all things cool and quirky. Metropolitan cities like London and Amsterdam are home to a weird museum or two, while lesser-known places harbour a few hidden gems… or remnants of a dark past. It’s very rare that these kind of places find themselves on guidebooks – in fact, that’s what makes them so special (and mysterious).
I’ve worked with other travel bloggers to put together a post about cool and unusual places in Europe. From places that are pure fun to ones that used to be a site of horror, here are 16 offbeat attractions in Europe you should try visiting.
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1. The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb
“Located in Zagreb’s historical upper town, the Museum of Broken Relationships houses mementos and stories of past relationships from all over the world.
When two Croatian artists broke up, they were inspired to start a collection of souvenirs from their relationship. They asked friends to donate objects from their own failed relationships, and the Museum of Broken Relationships began.
At the museum you can not only see typical relationship items like stuffed animals, clothes and love letters, but also unusual items like a bottle filled with tears and an axe. In the museum gift shop, you can buy amusing items like a “bad memories eraser” and an apron with the slogan “you’re so hot- not!”
Kat from Memoirs of a Globetrotter
2. The bobsled track in Sarajevo
“Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984 and soon after descended into war. Surprisingly most of the bobsled track remained intact and now makes a quirky tourist attraction for visitors to Sarajevo. The sides have been painted with street art and visitors can take a taxi to the top and walk the length of the track back down to the town.
There’s talk of renovating the track for use again but for now it’s just an unusual and unique thing to see in Sarajevo.”
Rohan from Travels of a Bookpacker
3. Parikkala Sculpture Park in Finland
“Parikkala Sculpture Park is located in the far east of Finland just kilometres from the Russian border. It’s by far the most bizarre roadside attraction that we’ve encountered in our world-wide travels.
This quiet park was conceived and built by Veijo Rönkkönen, a reclusive Finn who created sculptures and placed them in this corner of Finland for about 50 years. At Parikkala Sculpture Park, you’ll wander among a crowd of life-like moss-covered statues striking yoga poses. You may discover a rogue dinosaur in the mix.
The sculptures cover many periods of history, from ancient Greeks to modern hippies. I can almost guarantee that a few of Rönkkönen’s creations will make you blush. If you are on a road trip in Southeastern Finland, definitely program Parikkala Sculpture Park into Google Maps and get yourself there!”
Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari
4. The Old Operating Theatre Museum in London
“Part apothecary, part amphitheatre; The Old Operating Theatre is a museum dedicated to the history of Victorian surgery and medical treatment both pioneering and downright bizarre.
Situated in the attic of a 300 year-old church, at the top of a steep spiral staircase, the herb garret is dark and atmospheric, full of bottles and organic exhibits. The next room- the operating theatre itself- is well-lit and clinical, as it would have been at the time of use. Surgical re-enactments regularly take place there.
You can wander around on your own or get to know the contents in the many cabinets of curiosities by attending one of the themed talks.”
Faith from Life Out There
5. The neolithic houses in Bulgaria
“The small village of Chavdar, just an hour drive from the Bulgarian capital Sofia, has recently become famous for its realistically restored neolithic village perched on a hill above it. It consists of just a few neolithic-style houses, all built according to what the construction methods used to be at the time.
Visitors can learn what the life of a neolithic man was by visiting the small museum of the complex… or by spending the night at one of the houses. The beds are accessible by a wooden ladder and are located right under the roof. Although you will sleep on a mattress made of straw, you have clean sheets and pillowcases. A bit of an adventure never killed anybody!”
Maria from 203 Challenges
6. Froggyland in Split, Croatia
“Froggyland is one of the most bizarre places you’ll ever see. In a small museum of sorts located in Split, Croatia, you’ll find over 500 stuffed frogs displayed in human positions.
The artist is Ference Mere, 19th century taxidermist, who spent ten years catching frogs at the pond by his home and carefully stuffing them through the mouth to keep the frog’s body whole without damaging any part of it.
At the museum there are 21 different froggy scenes that you will see- from frogs being arrested to a froggy circus. There really is nothing quite like this place.”
Rachael from Bee Anything But Boring
7. The Cube Houses in Rotterdam
“Rotterdam is known for its modern architecture which is in contrast to the rest of the traditional Netherlands, and the Cube Houses might be the best example of Rotterdam’s crazy architecture love.
The Cube Houses are perhaps best described as one long line of interconnected, floating, yellow cubes that dominate Rotterdam’s downtown area.
You can see what living in one might be like by visiting the Cube House Museum (entrance €2.50) or even experience it yourself by staying at the Cube Hostel!”
Addie from Addie Abroad
8. Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch, London
“One of the things I love about London is that it’s full of quirky things. On a recent trip I discovered that there’s a bar there with a ball pit for adults. Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch has recently expanded and now has a million plastic balls in their pit.
This place is perfect for the club goer who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Ballie Ballerson also serve up awesome off-the-wall cocktails (but no drinks in the pit) so you can damper down your inhibitions before frolicking in the ball pit.
There’s something really fun about attempting to dance while hip deep in plastic balls. It’s hard to stay upright, but falling over and attempting to get up is half the fun. According to my FitBit it also counts as a workout. Score! So, if you’re in London and need to get rid of some stress and have a good laugh, head over to Ballie Ballerson.”
Melissa from Suitcase and Heels
9. Chernobyl, Ukraine
“Some of us are old enough to remember, but almost everyone knows about the tragedy of Chernobyl.
There are several companies that take 1 to 2-day tours to visit the power plant and Pripyat ghost town. You have a chance to get close to the infamous reactor #4 and see the abandoned buildings of the city that housed the nuclear power plant employees and their families.
You will never forget the sites you will see on this tour – the famous Ferris wheel, murals inside an unused cooling tower, dusty creepy dolls in a kindergarten, discarded gas masks in a school cafeteria, and the ‘Russian Woodpecker’.”
Lisa from The Hot Flashpacker
10. Kemeri National Park in Latvia
“When people visit Latvia, they usually explore the old town of Riga and enjoy the beach at Jurmala. However, there are some lesser known places which are amazing and not far from the capital.
One of the biggest bogs in Latvia is located in Kemeri, only 60 kilometres from Riga. It has quite spectacular views of wetlands and moss in all the shades of green.
You can walk through the Kemeri bog without even wetting your feet because around 5 kilometres of boardwalk has been built there. The surroundings look best at dawn or sunset, and you can even climb on a watchtower to get the best views.”
Una from Wandernity
11. The Phallological Museum in Reykjavik
“The Phallological Museum in Reykjavik is a must-visit on your trip to Iceland! For some reason, someone made a conscious decision to collect, uhh, members of the male species, to the point that he could fill an entire museum with his… wares.
My highlights, apart from the self-explanatory gift shop, are the corner of mythical creatures (merman and troll, anyone?), a horse penis flavoured with a whole host of herbs (FLAVOURED?!), and casts of the entire Icelandic football team. The centre piece is of course the star of the show: the sperm whale!”
Clarissa from An Orcadian Abroad
12. The nuclear bunker on Vis Island, Croatia
“Vis is amongst the furthest inhabited islands in Croatia. From 1950 until 1989, it served as the Yugoslav National Army’s base, out of bounds to foreign visitors. Because of this unique history, Vis island has many interesting sites that can be visited as part of a military tour.
A visit to a bunker dug 920 feet deep into a mountain, to protect Marshall Tito and erstwhile Yugoslavia’s ruling class from nuclear attacks was the highlight of our Tour. The nuclear bunker is an astounding complex – designed to allow more than 300 people to live and work for six months without even coming up for air. It had its own water supply, generators, and air conditioning system.
If you are claustrophobic, you might not enjoy the bunker as it goes a long way into the mountain. There were no scary rodents inside when we visited, just a few albino insects.”
Shweta from Zest in a Tote
13. Maison Tavel in Geneva, Switzerland
“One of the oldest private residences in Geneva, Maison Tavel today is the Museum of Urban History and Everyday Life. A free-admission museum, it gives an elaborate description of the civil architecture, behavioural lifestyle and city’s structure in the medieval ages and in the 19th century.
Interestingly the museum incorporates various audio and video films that help tourists and locals understand the anecdotes better. The most appealing feature is on the third floor, where one can find the 3D structure of the city in medieval ages.
It is amusing to note how the city has changed over the years and has maintained its dignity and pride for all these decades.”
Ridima from Little Joys and More
14. The Museum of Illusions in Barcelona
“If you’re looking for something fun to do in Barcelona that doesn’t take too much time, the Museum of Illusions should be on your list.
For a small fee, you will find yourself surrounded by a range of funny and unusual optical illusions including a giant paella and sangria, a 3D house and various sights from Barcelona including the Sagrada Familia.
You will definitely need your camera for this fun experience!”
Elizabeth from Call Me Liz
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15. The Cat Cabinet in Amsterdam
“Amsterdam’s pussy museum Kattenkabinet is a great way to appreciate felines in the art form and wander around a very grand canal house. Inside, the walls are graced with cat posters, paintings and drawings, interspersed with opulent furniture, cat sculptures and overcast by opulent ceilings.
The real stars of the show are the moggies who reside there, one of which inspired the creation of the museum and had his portrait painted many times as well as a book of limericks dedicated to him. Stop by for a cute collection of cattiness that will have you purring in delight.”
Annie from Soulful Travels
16. The Sólheimasandur plane wreckage in Iceland
“One of the most unusual attractions I’ve found whilst travelling in Europe was a plane wreckage site from the 1970s in Iceland. We’d been heading to Vik black sand beach when we realised we wouldn’t be able to make it the whole way there due to a mileage limit on our rental car.
So instead, we stopped off at Sólheimasandur black sand beach. It’s about a 2.5 mile (4km) walk to the beach from the car park.
As you get over the top of a slight hill, you’ll find a rusty old plane wreckage (which you can climb into!). It turns out that this is quite the tourist attraction in Iceland as there were about 15 other people there when we arrived… who knew?!”
Justine from Wanderer of the World
If you are visiting Europe for the first time, here are 100 things to know when planning your trip.
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