Museums are almost always an integral part of everyone’s itinerary when visiting a new destination. Yet, they are not among top associations when you think of the Balkans – it is nightlife, food, lovely beaches and nature. However, Balkan cities have some real hidden gems and fantastic niche museums that are well worth the visit.
From broken relationships to aviation, nuclear bunkers and science or the communist retro past, these 7 cool museums in the Balkans are waiting for you to discover them! Next time you’re in the Balkans look beyond the main attractions and go visit one of these museums.
What started as a traveling exhibition ended up being one of Europe’s most innovative museums. The exhibition consists of objects sent by contributors from around the world which are accompanied with a personal story. These objects can be anything from a fluffy toy or music CD to something more extreme such an axe. Stories, on the other hand, hide much more powerful message – they are packed with satire, hatred and hurt.
This is a museum you’ll remember for a lifetime which is not so surprising as it is such an emotional roller coaster. What you may find interesting though is that this museum was founded by two people whose relationship has ended.
If you’ve just suffered from a breakup and want to do something more creative than punching a pillow, sharing your story to the world might be just what you need.
Museum of Aviation – Belgrade
If you happen to fly into Nikola Tesla Airport, the main airport serving Serbia’s capital, don’t miss the chance to visit the Museum of Aviation which is right next to it.
You’ll easily recognize its geodesic glass building which houses more than 200 aircraft previously operated by the Yugoslav and Serbian Air Forces. The most important displays include the USAF F-117 Nighthawk and F-16 Fighting Falcon which were shot down during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.
There is also an outdoor exhibition with more than 10 large airplanes.
You can also go to the museum by catching the bus #72 from Zeleni Venac station.
Noesis – Science Centre and Technology Museum – Thessaloniki
Planetarium (Photo: Noesis Museum)
If you’re a science freak you don’t want to miss Noesis – Science Centre and Technology Museum in Greece’s second largest city. Go watch an astronomy show at the Planetarium, a 3D movie in the Cosmotheater or do a ride show at the Motion Simulator.
After the Science Centre go to the Museum which consists of three main exhibitions. One is dedicated to classic cars, the other to technological innovations and works of Ancient Greeks and the last one is Technopark – an interactive area where you can learn more about the world of physics.
It’s a fantastic experience for people of all ages!
Tito’s Atomic Shelter – Konjic
Photo: Almin Zrno (www.bijenale.ba)
Also known as the Ark, this former nuclear bunker was built to protect President Tito and his close inner circle in case an atomic conflict happened. The bunker is located near the town of Konjic in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the public only heard about it after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
It was one of the largest underground complexes in the former Yugoslavia. To get an idea of how big it is, it had Tito’s residence which consists of 5 rooms, over 100 rooms in general, two conference centers, two kitchens and even a fully operational hospital.
You are allowed to sit in Tito’s chair and take photos by his portraits. The bunker also has an art installation from various European artists.
Retro Museum – Varna
If you’re a fan of history you’re gonna love Retro Museum in Varna which opened its doors in 2015. This relatively new museum will take you back in the period between 1944-1989 during which socialism flourished in Bulgaria and other countries. The highlight of the museum is the rich collection of 50 cars which includes some legendary names such as Trabant, Volga, Wartburg, and Moskvich.
Walking along the red carpet you’ll pass by figures of Lenin, Stalin, Karl Marx and other leaders of the socialist movement. The museum also has a nice collection of household items, cigarettes, food, cosmetics and other brand products people used under the Communist regime.
If you happen to visit the Bulgarian coast for holidays and stay in Sunny Beach or Golden Coast, considering stopping in Varna and visit this interesting museum.
Museum of Yugoslav History and House of Flowers, Belgrade
No visit to Belgrade could be complete without visiting the Museum of Yugoslav History and the House of Flowers – the resting place of Josip Broz Tito and his ex-wife Jovanka Broz. Every year on May 25th Yugonostalgics from Serbia and the former states flock here to commemorate his birthday.
The museum has more than 200,000 artifacts showing the history of Yugoslavia and its nations. Museums are mainly centered around Tito, the gifts he received from youth, workers and foreign politicians. The Museum 25th May is also part of this large complex and is included in your ticket. At the moment it is hosting a fantastic exhibition dedicated to Yugoslav workers in Germany and Austria on temporary work.
Plan at least half a day for a visit to this complex. You won’t be disappointed.
Photo: Bunk Art
Albania is one of the countries that suffered the most from the Communist regime. It is home to thousands and thousands of bunkers that you’ll spot pretty much everywhere – on mountains, beaches, cities. In fact, just after leaving the Warsaw Pact the country built 700,000 of them.
Since they were extremely hard to destroy locals found the way to make them a bit more aesthetically pleasing by being artistic and decorating them in different colors.
BUNK’ART is a place where you can learn more about Albanian history during the Communist regime and the lives of its citizens. There’s also another bunker called BUNK’ART 2 which reveals the secrets of Enver Hoxha’s secret police.
Did you like this list? Which cool museums in the Balkans do you recommend?