Features // Museums & art

10 of the world’s weirdest museums
10 of the world’s weirdest museums

This year saw the opening of the world’s first Barbie museum in Montréal, Canada. It’s one of a handful of exhibitions specialising in unusual subject matters, so if dusty fossils don’t do it for you, we’ve rounded up ten of the world’s weirdest museums. 1. Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo, Japan Those prone to squeamishness should probably…

30 things to do on your first trip to Europe
30 things to do on your first trip to Europe

Europe offers more architecture, wine, music, fashion, theatre and gastronomy per square kilometre than any other continent. It boasts over seven hundred million people, in excess of 450 World Heritage Sites and more renowned paintings than you can point your camera at. Which means heading off the main routes will still land you waist-deep in…

6 reasons to visit Bogotá: South America’s underrated capital
6 reasons to visit Bogotá: South America’s underrated capital

Polluted, rainy and business-orientated. Let’s face it, a trip to Bogotá hardly sounds appealing. And many travellers don’t bother to probe much further than this bleak reputation, seeing Bogotá either as somewhere to be skipped out altogether, or as merely a logistical blot on a more exciting itinerary. Other Latin American cities such as Buenos…

Copenhagen’s best kept secret: Retro Bobby’s arcade barbershop
Copenhagen’s best kept secret: Retro Bobby’s arcade barbershop

Bobby’s mullet blows in the wind as he pilots his dinky motorcycle down Copenhagen‘s cobbled backstreets. Wobbling past kebab shops and contemporary design stores on his way to work, he looks like a living relic from a bygone era: the 1980s. A turtleneck peeks out from beneath his blue denim jacket, which perfectly matches the…

Isla de las Muñecas: Mexico’s terrifying island of haunted dolls
Isla de las Muñecas: Mexico’s terrifying island of haunted dolls

They hang from trees and clothes lines. Bits of plastic bodies jammed onto fenceposts and nailed to cabin doors, decaying heads strewn among the island’s greenery, gazing at visitors through insect-infested eye-sockets. Welcome to Mexico‘s Isla de las Muñecas, or Island of Dolls. Located deep in Xochimilco, a borough just 28km south of Mexico City, the Isla de las Muñecas…

On the trail of Klimt in Vienna: the art tour of a lifetime
On the trail of Klimt in Vienna: the art tour of a lifetime

Known for its lavish balls and even more lavish cakes, Vienna is overflowing with art. If there’s one image that encapsulates the city, it’s of an elegant, gold-clad muse staring out at the viewer with an unsettling beauty. No, not Conchita Wurst, but the women of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. A tour of his artworks not only takes you to Vienna’s…

Miami’s makeover: shaking things up in the Sunshine State
Miami’s makeover: shaking things up in the Sunshine State

Banish thoughts of Miami Vice or ‘God’s waiting room’. The Sunshine State’s most flamboyant city is rapidly changing and there’s more to discover than golden sand and neon nightclubs. Down-at-heel neighbourhoods are being revitalised, the art scene is spreading and with its variety of cultural influences from Latin to Caribbean, Miami has grown into a…

How to see Paris on a budget
How to see Paris on a budget

From the new Pocket Rough Guide, we’ve selected some of our favourite tips for seeing Paris on a budget. A trip to Paris, famous as the most romantic of destinations, is one of those lifetime musts. Long the beating heart of European civilization, it remains one of the world’s most refined yet passionate cities. Yet…

Havana: the city where time stopped short
Havana: the city where time stopped short

Gilly Pickup discovers the enduring allure of Cuba’s bright and breezy capital, Havana, the island’s cultural heart. Havana’s effervescence is palpable. The city is reminiscent of an old picture postcard come to life – awash with faded grandeur and crumbling ice-cream coloured buildings. Bartenders mix up mojitos in time to the hip-swaying, hypnotic sounds of salsa…

10 reasons why Manchester is the UK’s new cultural hotspot
10 reasons why Manchester is the UK’s new cultural hotspot

Manchester is Britain’s new cultural capital. No, really. The city may have been built on the heavy industry of the Industrial Revolution but since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it has re-invented itself as a world capital of the arts. Today Manchester dominates the headlines with a slew of galleries, venues and festivals. It’s home to some of…

Hidden New York: 5 little-known sights
Hidden New York: 5 little-known sights

We’ve just published a brand new Pocket Rough Guide to New York City, and thought we’d share a sneak preview. Want to shun the crowds? Here are five places to explore hidden New York.  No superlative, no cliché does New York City justice. It may not serve as the official capital of the US or even…

Dublin: what to see in the Year of Irish Design
Dublin: what to see in the Year of Irish Design

This is the year to discover the Irish capital’s burgeoning creative scene. The country’s designers are stepping into the limelight to celebrate the Year of Irish Design, and Dublin is taking centre stage as 2015’s World Design Hub. Visitors already arrive in their droves for the city’s the literary connections, the Guinness and that intangible…

A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums
A titillating tour of the world’s finest sex museums

Sex museums are nothing new. Dozens were erected across Europe during the Swinging Sixties when the sexual revolution was in full swing. These days the orgy of sex museums has slowed to a mere mouthful, though they have been stimulated by a new breed of ‘erotic’ museum that aims to steer more towards art than…

9 new tourist attractions to visit in 2015
9 new tourist attractions to visit in 2015

With a whole host of new attractions opening this year, from world-record-beating skyscrapers to whacky amusement parks, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. To help you decide where to visit, we’ve picked the top 9 new tourist attractions around the world.  Shanghai Tower, China A better symbol of China’s continuing march forward would be harder to…

Cairo through the ages
Cairo through the ages

As visitors slowly return to Egypt after years of political instability and unrest, Keith Drew traces the history of Cairo, the largest city in the Arab world.  Midan Tahrir was strangely peaceful. A handful of tourists milled around waiting for the Egyptian Museum to open its doors for the day. Taxis, trucks and donkey carts…

The Mayan ruins less travelled: El Salvador’s forgotten history
The Mayan ruins less travelled: El Salvador’s forgotten history

El Salvador’s Mayan ruins can’t be compared with the great Mayan centres in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, but they have their own powerful charm – and on most days you’ll have the sites completely to yourself. Stephen Keeling went to explore El Salvador’s rich but oft ignored Mayan heritage. Joya de Cerén Around 1400 years…

The sex theme park that’s helping Koreans loosen up
The sex theme park that’s helping Koreans loosen up

 In amongst blushing couples and giggling grannies, Nelson Groom gets a sex education at Jeju Loveland, South Korea.  South Korea has a prudish past. It was only in the 70s that police were patrolling the streets with rulers, measuring the length of ladies’ skirts. Gauging from my time there, South Koreans remain vastly conservative, especially…

Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker
Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker

From 1947 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, secret bunkers sprung up across Europe in an effort to protect capitalist and communist states from potential nuclear attacks. Adam Bennett explores a secret metropolitan bunker in the Essex village of Kelvedon Hatch. During the Cold War, the prospect of a nuclear attack was…

Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities
Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities

Yorkshire boasts a wealth of big-hitting tourist attractions, but hidden away there are a few entertaining oddities which would be a shame to miss. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best. The Teapottery Housed on an industrial estate just outside Leyburn, the Teapottery calls itself, with justification, the “home of eccentric teapots”.…

Vienna remembers the Great War
Vienna remembers the Great War

If there is one European city that seems particularly focused on the World War I centenary then it is the Austrian capital Vienna, where a host of war-themed exhibitions will be opening over the course of the year. Such attention may come as something as a surprise when one considers that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was…

Ten central & Eastern European sites to mark the WWI Centenary
Ten central & Eastern European sites to mark the WWI Centenary

Most of us know that World War I started with the assassination of an Austrian Archduke in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. For the English-speaking world, however, the subsequent history of the conflict largely focuses on the Western Front, Gallipoli and other theatres where British, Commonwealth and American forces saw action. It is often forgotten…

Indian visas and luxury dog carriers – this month’s travel news
Indian visas and luxury dog carriers – this month’s travel news

Steve Vickers updates us with the latest news from the world of travel, which this week includes Indian visas, emails you can physically track and luxury doggie bags….  Indian visa update Last year we reported that India would be simplifying its visa application process, and now more details have emerged. As soon as October this…

Ten things to do in Madrid for free
Ten things to do in Madrid for free

Sophisticated, globally minded and perfect for late-night parties – Madrid can be an expensive place to enjoy. So if you want to see the sights on a budget, timing is crucial. Many of the city’s best museums, galleries and historic buildings are free to visit but only for a few hours at a time, so…

Beyond the colleges: things to do in Cambridge
Beyond the colleges: things to do in Cambridge

Cambridge is deservedly famous for its university, and seeing the colleges is at the top of any visitor’s list – closely followed by punting of course – but there are a host of other reasons to visit. Rebecca Hallett explores all that Cambridge has to offer beyond chapels, courts and students. Museums & galleries Among…

Standing at the heart of Mother Russia
Standing at the heart of Mother Russia

Stand in the middle of Moscow’s Red Square and in a 360-degree turn, the turbulent past and present of Russia is encapsulated in one fell swoop: flagships of Orthodox Christianity, Tsarist autocracy, communist dictatorship and rampant consumerism confront each other before your eyes. Red Square, is, well, red-ish, but its name actually derives from an old Russian word for…

The street-side delights of George Town, Malaysia
The street-side delights of George Town, Malaysia

Kiki Deere takes a stroll around George Town to explore the Penang street art scene and sample the city’s amazingly multicultural street food. I awake early and take a stroll around the city’s quaint alleyways. At this time of the morning, a peaceful silence envelops the streets. The musical song of the 5am call to…

Better than Disneyland: the Ghibli Museum, Japan
Better than Disneyland: the Ghibli Museum, Japan

Move over Mickey Mouse: in Japan it’s a giant cuddly fur-ball called Totoro who commands national icon status. This adorable animated creature, star of My Neighbour Totoro, is among the pantheon of characters from the movies of celebrated director Miyazaki Hayao and his colleagues at Studio Ghibli – Japan’s equivalent of Disney. Just like Walt,…

Britain’s best gardens
Britain’s best gardens

From Kinross to Kent, Britain is home to all manner of beautiful gardens, ranging from wild and sprawling estates to compact, tidy arrangements. Here’s a few of our favourites, taken from Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. Aberglasney Gardens Once a grand Carmarthenshire estate, Aberglasney fell on hard times during the twentieth century…

Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy
Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy

You’ve seen them a thousand times before you even get there. Michelangelo’s ceiling and wall frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are perhaps the most recognizable pieces of art in the world, reproduced so much that they’ve become part of the visual furniture of our lives. Getting to this enormous work isn’t easy; indeed, it’s almost an act of…

Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past
Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past

There are some places in the world that you may not immediately think of visiting. Among all the favourite churches, museums and galleries lurk some more disturbing locations with morbid histories, places that represent the darker side of humanity. They may not be top of your itineraries, but they’re equally – if not more –…

Ten things to do in Tokyo for free
Ten things to do in Tokyo for free

With sublime sushi, soaring skyscrapers and vending machines that churn out everything from eggs to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet’s most mind-boggling metropolis. Wandering its neon-lit streets can easily eat up your time, and put serious pressure on your wallet. But as this round up of the free things to do in Tokyo shows,…

10 free things to do in Montréal, Canada
10 free things to do in Montréal, Canada

As the largest city in Québec province, there’s plenty to do in Montréal. Fill up on complimentary samples at the Jean-Talon food market and then take advantage of the city’s huge variety of free cultural and outdoor activities, from festivals to art exhibits to tango. Here’s our roundup of the best free things to do…

Paying respects to Lenin, Moscow
Paying respects to Lenin, Moscow

One of Moscow’s unforgettable highlights is a visit to the father of the Russian revolution: Vladmir Lenin. Adam Bennett depicts his encounter with the dogmatic politician who was embalmed and preserved over 80 years ago. Staring into the bulletproof glass that separates me from the legendary Russian leader, I am surprised to see he’s still…

Exploring the Great Plains
Exploring the Great Plains

Most US travel itineraries skip the “middle bit” – often stereotyped as a boring, endless and pancake-flat swathe of corn that makes up the Great Plains. But while the region lacks showstoppers – no Grand Canyon, no New York – the Great Plains are crammed with surprisingly intriguing attractions and great tracts are, well, quite…

Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece
Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece

There’s no better place to experience classical drama than the ancient theatre at Epidavros, just outside the pretty harbour town of Nafplio in the Greek Peloponnese. Dating back to the fourth century BC, it seats 14,000 people and is known above all for its extraordinary acoustics – as guides regularly demonstrate, you can hear a…

On the trail of Mark Twain in the USA
On the trail of Mark Twain in the USA

Stephen Keeling follows in the footsteps of Mark Twain, the American literary giant who penned such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal, Missouri “Hannibal has had a hard time of it ever since I can recollect, and I was “raised” there. First, it had me for a…

Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England
Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England

For almost twenty years at the end of the last century, Britain’s most famous spa town had no thermal baths. The opening of the new Thermae Bath Spa in 2006, at the centre of this World Heritage City, was therefore a watershed in Bath’s history. Once the haunt of the Roman elite who founded the…

A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café
A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café

Outside the progressive town of Taormina, Sicily, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere finds phallic fun at a penis-themed café. My long hair brushes against an erect penis as my hand firmly grips onto a dark phallus that protrudes from the bannister. Rows of excited male members line the windowsill, while others seemingly pop out of…

Losing yourself in a good book at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
Losing yourself in a good book at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt

A hallmark of modern architecture, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a superb addition to Alexandria’s cityscape. A stunning work of stone and metal, the central library features a huge, tilted glass roof reminiscent of a sundial, and the walls are carved with text from over 120 languages, ancient and modern. Its location beside the Mediterranean only…

10 unexpected highlights of Croatia
10 unexpected highlights of Croatia

By now we all know what’s on the Croatia bucket list – the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, and at least one of Croatia’s growing roster of music festivals. However there’s a lot more to Croatia than meets the eye, so it’s well worth planning a few detours to take in some of…

Equatorial differences in Quito, Ecuador
Equatorial differences in Quito, Ecuador

If you find yourself in Quito, a visit to the equator is more or less obligatory – the middle of the Earth is only about a thirty-minute drive north from the Ecuadorean capital. As you get closer, the highland vegetation gives way to sandy plains punctuated by uninspiring brown hills. The “Mitad del Mundo” monument…

Santiago out of the shadows
Santiago out of the shadows

New boutique hostels, quirky nightlife and a medley of world cuisines are making Santiago stand out among the crowd of popular Latin American capitals. After spending a long time in the shadows of its more illustrious South American neighbours like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, Santiago is finally coming into its own. The Chilean…

Art after dark: an evening in the Louvre, France
Art after dark: an evening in the Louvre, France

If getting up close to the Mona Lisa was never easy, in the wake of Da Vinci Code fever it’s now almost as challenging as the puzzle at the heart of Dan Brown’s blockbuster. But come on a Wednesday or Friday evening for one of the Louvre’s late openings, and you’ll find things considerably quieter.…

The Battle of Gettysburg: 150 years on
The Battle of Gettysburg: 150 years on

In an emotional venture to Pennsylvania, with Lincoln’s speech echoing in his ears, Rough Guides writer Stephen Keeling remembers the Battle of Gettysburg – the deadliest battle in the American civil war – 150 years on. I can’t remember when I first heard about the Battle of Gettysburg, but it was probably at school. Even…

Ten great places to celebrate Independence Day
Ten great places to celebrate Independence Day

America goes all out for 4th of July celebrations. Sure, people are remembering that historic declaration on the fourth of July, 1776, but they’re also ready to enjoy a three-day weekend right in the middle of the summer. That usually means barbecues, parades, free concerts and fireworks. Whether you celebrate in a big city or…

Exploring an eerie old penal colony in Argentina
Exploring an eerie old penal colony in Argentina

Popular with tourists for its access to the “end of the world” at Argentina’s southern tip, Ushuaia was once inhabited by mass murderers, anarchists and pirates after the Argentine government set up a penal colony in 1896. Ushuaia draws hordes of tourists eager to visit Tierra del Fuego and experience life at the “end of…

Florida at 500: ten historic highlights
Florida at 500: ten historic highlights

Five hundred years ago, grizzled Spanish conquistador Ponce de León became the first European to set eyes on (what he called) La Florida, the “Land of Flowers”, though Spanish colonization didn’t get going until 1565, with the foundation of the city of St Augustine. Today the place is part historic theme park, part memorial to…

Dinosaur hunting in Sucre, Bolivia
Dinosaur hunting in Sucre, Bolivia

It may be famed for its salt flats and Lake Titicaca, but the unsung hero of Bolivia is an experience like no other. Just over 5km from the city of Sucre, on the Altiplano’s eastern edge, you can walk among dinosaurs without the aid of CGI or a celebrity voiceover. Here, on a near-vertical wall…

Montréal on film
Montréal on film

Montréal has played a starring role in so many films that it could practically apply for its own actor’s equity card. From the leafy banks of the St Lawrence River to gritty street corners with faded strip bars, Montréal can seem like a custom-built movie set. Here AnneLise Sorensen, co-author of The Rough Guide to…

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