Visit unusual collections in the Alps

With over 1,110 different museums covering everything from art and history to science, Switzerland’s museum landscape has much to offer. No wonder it has gained a reputation near and far. Yet, when asked about Swiss museum experiences, most of us can only think of the usual suspects. This article will introduce you to three unique museums in Switzerland that you might not have heard of yet.

Basel – Museum Tinguely

We all have heard, read, or at least deeply internalized the common credo of museums—time to unlearn it and much more at the Tinguely Museum in Basel. The museum, designed by Ticino architect Mario Botta, is built directly on the Rhine river and houses the most extensive collection of works by Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). Tinguely was one of the most innovative and influential Swiss artists of the 20th century.

This museum is a place where art novices can reconsider their conception of what an art museum is. Upon entering, visitors are not greeted by peaceful silence and somber or delicate art objects. Instead, one is immersed in a buzzing, whirring, colossal kinetic constructions. Some come alive at the touch of a button, convincing even the last art skeptics that the Tinguely museum will not offer them a conventional art museum experience.

Exhibition hall at Tinguely Museum Basel
Exhibition hall at Tinguely Museum Basel © Switzerland Tourism Oliver Baer

Gruyères – HR Giger Museum

Aliens and Switzerland — not an association people usually make. Aliens, grotesque landscapes, AND nightmarish visions are displayed in a 13th-century Swiss castle even less so. That is, however, what one finds at the HR Giger Museum in Gruyères, a medieval Swiss village. The museum pays homage to the renowned Swiss artist H.R. Giger (1940–2014). Giger was an airbrush artist and sculptor who developed an unusual, often grim, and futuristic-appearing bio-mechanical visual language. Giger’s signature visual style captured the imagination and won the hearts of Oscar juries and sci-fi enthusiasts around the globe when he masterminded the visual effects, creature design, and nightmarish landscapes for iconic films such as Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien and Roger Donaldson’s Species.

HR Giger Museum Gruyères
HR Giger Museum Gruyères © Switzerland Tourism Matthias Belz

Zurich – WOW Museum

Welcome to a place full of illusions. Across three floors and more than 4000 square feet you will lose yourself in infinity, stand upside down, and wonder about your perception at Zurich’s WOW Museum. Dive into 12 different experience rooms, immerse yourself in lights and lose yourself in patterns. WOW combines fun with learning, culture, and virtuality.

The creators of this museum aimed to offer an intergenerational and cultural place to the people of Zurich and tourists from all over the world — and above all, to bring a little more “WOW” into everyone’s life.

Vector room at WOW Museum Zurich
Vector room at WOW Museum Zurich © WOW Museum

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