Norway’s quirkiest museums

Discover another side of Norway visiting these unusual museums, handpicked by our travel editor Marie Peyre.

Norway's quirkiest museums
The Norwegian Prison Museum in Kongsvinger. Photo: Marie Peyre

Leprosy Museum, Bergen

Europe’s best-preserved leprosy hospital is a fascinating and emotionally charged place. Did you know that Bergen once had the largest concentration of leprosy patients in Europe? They were catered for in three different leprosy hospitals, the oldest of which, St George’s (St Jørgens), is today a museum. In operation since 1970, the museum recalls the personal tragedies of the thousands of people affected by the disease, the various public efforts made to combat it in the 1800s, and Norway's famous contribution to leprosy research. It was a Norwegian, Gerhard Armauer Hansen, who discovered the bacteria that cause leprosy in 1873 – an international medical breakthrough that led to the eradication of the disease in the West. Leprosy is now also referred to as Hansen's disease in his honour.

Photo: Marie Peyre

Mini Bottle Gallery, Oslo

Norwegian beer baron Christian Ringnes was seven years old when he began collecting miniature bottles his father brought home from his business trips abroad. The Mini Bottle Gallery, the only museum of its kind in the world, houses his private collection, which counts a whopping 53,000 bottles. 12,500 of these are on show here, displayed in 50 themed vitrines and cabinets, including a circus carrousel, a doll's house and even a miniature model railway. You will find Elvis bottles, animal-shaped bottles and naughty pinup bottles, to name but a few. Should all these make you thirsty, there are two bars on the premises (one of them accessed by a playground-style slide), as well as a horror dungeon and a bondage room (don't ask!). Make sure you check out the restrooms before you leave – completely over the top too, in a good way. A fun, quirky museum that's a good alternative to Oslo's better known attractions. Open weekends only, noon to 4pm.

Photo: Marie Peyre

Norwegian Prison Museum, Kongsvinger

The Norwegian Prison Museum opened in 2012 in the grounds of Kongsvinger Fortress, which had its own prison until about 1830. The museum gives an insight into the lives of inmates in Eastern Norway jails from 1700 to the present times – and shows changing incarceration conditions over the centuries. The collection includes an interesting array of artifacts, pictures and literature produced by the inmates themselves, including a stunning oak altarpiece and an intricate model ship showing how gifted some of the inmates could be. The museum is run by enthusiast Svein Arne Tvedt, former warden of Kongsvinger Jail. Tvedt has 40 years experience working in the Norwegian prison system behind him, and shares his passion (and huge knowledge) with interested visitors by showing them around. Call beforehand to book a slot to visit, as opening times can be a bit volatile.

Photo: Marie Peyre

Lutefisk Museum, Drøbak

'No love is more sincere than the love of lutefisk', Norwegians say. Or at least some of them. You might argue lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye) is an acquired taste (the detractors of the dish go as far as arguing it is plain vile), but this tiny museum in Drøbak is all about celebrating love for this unique delicacy. Fun it is, although explanatory signs are in Norwegian only, so try to visit with a Norwegian friend so they can help translate. The museum celebrated 20 years on in June 2017.

Photo: Jan-Kåre Øien

Insemination Museum, Stange

Museums probably don't come more niche than this one. But for the specially interested, the Insemination Museum at Store Ree in Stange, near Hamar, offers a wealth of knowledge on this particular topic. The museum, which is primarily aimed at cattle farmers and breeders, documents the historical development of artificial insemination in Norwegian cattle breeding – insemination techniques, tools of the trade… you get the picture. The museum is located on a farm, which is itself a working insemination centre. Semen is collected here weekly and over 1.3 million doses of semen from elite Norwegian Red bulls are distributed to more than 30 countries worldwide. 

Photo: Geno

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