Europe has some of the oldest artifacts displayed in some of the oldest museums in the world – nearly all top class and filled with priceless historic treasures. But it’s good to see the cultural wheels keep turning, with new additions to the museum scene opening all the time. Here are 10 new museums in Europe that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Red Light Secrets, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The latest addition to Amsterdam’s museum scene opened in November 2013; the world’s only prostitution museum provides a glimpse behind those notorious red-tinged windows in Europe’s most famous Red Light District. Tucked behind the 17th-century facade of a canal house on Oudezijds Achterburgwal – itself once a brothel – the museum features recorded interviews with prostitutes, a confessional wall on which to post your most private fantasies and a chance to sit behind a reconstructed florescent window. The museum won’t delay you much more than 30 minutes but it provides clever insight into the world’s oldest profession.
Gaudí Exhibition Center, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona’s fabulous new Gaudí Exhibition Center opened in summer 2015 in the medieval Pia Almoina almshouse, right next to the soaring pinnacles of La Seu Cathedral in the Barri Gotic. The labyrinthine museum uses of-the-moment multimedia technology, kicking off with a spectacular 3D presentation and using video walls and simulated film, models, stained glass and sculpture to illustrate the chronological story of Antoni Gaudí’s creative genius. The presentations go a long way toward explaining his groundbreaking architectural theories in an entertaining and understandable style. Anyone with even a passing interest in Gaudí and his magical Sagrada Familia cathedral should make this exhibition part of their visit to the city.
Little Museum of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
The Little Museum of Dublin launched in 2011 in an elegant Georgian townhouse on St Stephen’s Green in the city center. Its exhibitions are packed with interactive displays, images, posters, furniture, cartoons and artwork, taking you through the social and political history of Ireland over the last century – from the Easter Rising to the successful Celtic Tiger boom years to the economic crash in 2008 and beyond. Many of the museum’s 5,000 artifacts were donated or loaned by private residents of Dublin, so subject matter is wide-ranging, with one room dedicated to the production of the Irish Times and another to mega-band U2.
Hoff Museum, Berlin, Germany
For reasons unknown – perhaps of dodgy taste – David Hasselhoff is big, big business in Germany, and in 2015 the world’s strangest shrine opened in his honor in a cramped basement of Goldman’s Bar, Circus Hostel, in Berlin. Its subterranean confines offer up a rather terrifying mural and posters of Hasselhoff in various stages of undress, album covers and skimpy costumes from Baywatch as well as photos of his iconic 1989 performance as the Berlin Wall came crashing down around him. When you’ve had your fill of the Hoff, retreat upstairs for a beer crafted in the Circus’ own microbrewery.
Adornes Estate, Bruges, Belgium
In 1429, the aristocratic Anselm Adornes returned to Bruges from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and commissioned a copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with a replica of Christ’s tomb in the crypt underneath the choir. The elaborate tower of the resulting Jeruzalemkerk peeks up above the 15th-century medieval mansion and neat rows of almshouses that still belong to the 17th generation of the Adornes family today. As the only medieval domain, or estate, remaining complete in Bruges, the complex was opened to the public in October 2015, allowing visitors an insight into how the Flemish aristocracy lived down the centuries. A multimedia museum in the medieval almshouses highlights the story of the Crusader knight Anselm and his aristocratic descendants. Bruges’ Kantcentrum (Lace Center) also belongs to the Adornes estate, and the nuns who once ran it were also responsible for the upkeep of the Jeruzalemkerk.
La Vigna di Leonardo, Milan, Italy
A stunning new attraction appeared on Milan’s cultural roster during Expo 2015, which saw 20 million visitors descend upon the city. Opposite the lovely church of Santa Maria delle Grazie – home of Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous “Last Supper”– is a newly discovered secret. In 1498 the ruling Sforza ducal dynasty donated a private vineyard to da Vinci in celebration of his exceptional genius. Forgotten for several centuries, the Vigna di Leonardo has been restored and replanted with vines. A visit to the vineyard and adjoining formal gardens is a rare respite from the hurly-burly city and combines delightfully with a tour of the Casa degli Atellani, a Renaissance masterpiece where spectacular 15th-century frescoes and classical statuary were unearthed during restoration.
Hangar-7, Salzburg, Austria
Although not the newest of the museums – Hangar-7 opened in 2003 – this futuristic one-stop cultural hub out near Mozart Airport is several centuries younger than many of Salzburg’s museums, its collection is constantly being updated and its landmark Outdoor Lounge restaurant will reopen in spring 2016 after extensive sprucing up. Hangar-7 was designed by architect Volkmar Burgstaller and reflects the obsessions of its Austrian billionaire owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, whose company sells the world’s best-known energy drink and also runs the Red Bull Formula One racing team. A must-see for all lovers of engines, flying and motor sports, the light-filled galleries feature historic helicopters, Cessna and Russian Sukhoi aircraft, planes flown by the Flying Bulls and F1 racing cars. Art exhibitions are also held here, and there are several restaurants and rooftop bars. Best of all, entry to Hangar-7 is free.
Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN), Warsaw, Poland
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened in October 2014 in Warsaw’s former Jewish ghetto in Muranów, and is based in a gleaming wedge of glass and copper designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki. While this museum’s raison d’être is to document the events of the Holocaust, its exhibitions also celebrate 1,000 years of successful Jewish life in Warsaw. In the inter-war period, affluent Jews formed more than 30 percent of the city’s population, but the four years of World War II saw 3.3 million Jews systematically wiped out in the Nazi death camps of Eastern Europe. By 1945, Warsaw had been destroyed and its Jewish population reduced by 90 percent. Interactive multimedia displays, emotive survivor interviews and movie screenings combine with a collection of Jewish paraphernalia to hammer home the tragedy of the Holocaust, while the masterpiece of the museum is the reconstructed synagogue from Gwozdziec in what is now Ukraine. Visitors who lost relatives in the Holocaust can trace them in the museum’s genealogy center.
And finally, a couple of cultural high spots to look out for in coming years:
V&A Museum of Design, Dundee, Scotland
Dundee was once an important town on Scotland’s east coast, but since losing its shipbuilding and printing industries it’s often overlooked in the headlong rush to the Highlands. All that is about to change, with the long-anticipated opening of the Dundee outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, slated for June 2018. It’s to be housed in a sleek, wafer-thin gallery designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and will sit on the River Tay waterfront next to Captain Scott’s RRS Discovery, the Antarctic research vessel built in Dundee in 1900. The museum is an integral part of the riverfront regeneration project and will showcase the very best of Scottish design as well as the gallery centerpiece: a reconstruction of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Art Nouveau design for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow.
The New Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway
In 1940, Norway’s most famous artist donated much of his work to the city of Oslo. Comprising some 28,000 works, finding space to do justice to the extraordinary skill of Expressionist Edvard Munch has been an issue, but finally his masterpieces are to get the home they deserve. Announced in 2013 and subject to serial delays, a stylish new museum on the waterfront at Bjørvika has finally been approved. The Lambda gallery is the design of Spanish architect Herreros, and its 12 stories will be home to an innovative new exhibition of Munch’s artwork, finally opening in 2019. Meanwhile, Munch’s most famous work, “The Scream,” can be seen at Oslo’s National Gallery, and a much reduced – but worthwhile – changing exhibition of his paintings, photographs and sculptures are on display in the Munch Museum in Tøyen.