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Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Places

Beijing’s Wackiest Museums

There’s plenty more to Beijing’s museum playbook than the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. From watermelons, to eunuchs, to tap water, the Chinese capital pays homage to a wide roster and weird and wonderful subjects. Here’s our guide to Beijing’s best niche museums.

Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Juicy Fruit

Thanks to its categorization as a “cold” food in traditional Chinese medicine, watermelon is an essential summer snack in China. You’ll find its sticky blood being spilled on every Beijing street corner during the warmer months, but you can visit this museum, built in the fruit’s honor, all year around. This weirdly futuristic attraction, featuring displays on the origins, journey and different species of the fruit, is found to the south of the city, in prolific watermelon-producing countryside.

China Watermelon Museum

Jingkai Side Rd, Daxing district

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Open: Tue-Sun 10am-4:30pm. Cost: RMB20

Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Drunk on Knowledge

If you’re partial to a tipple that puts hairs on your chest, don’t miss your chance to learn about Baijiu, China’s favorite and notoriously lethal spirit. Beijing’s Maotai Museum, which occupies a grand, traditional building close to the Forbidden City, is dedicated to the country’s most famous brand. See rare and priceless bottles made during the Cultural Revolution and learn how the fermented sorghum drink has been making China merry for more than two centuries.

Maotai Museum

7 Changpuheyan, Dongcheng district

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Open: Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm. Cost: RMB20

Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Clean Cut

The wickedly vintage Beijing Hairdressing Museum showcases hundreds of hairdressing tools, such as ancient stones once used in place of scissors, combs, hairpins, and cutting chairs, in a tiny 100 square-meter setting in the city’s historic Gulou area. Set up by 1956-founded coiffure chain Silian Hairdressing, which was in turn set up by former China premier Zhou Enlai, it’s also home to photos of hairdos throughout the decades and a fun iPad feature that allows guests to see how they’d look with a classic Chinese style.

Beijing Hairdressing Museum

100 meters south of Jiugulou Dajie and Liupukang Nanxiaojie crossroads, Xicheng district

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Open: Daily, 9am-9pm. Cost: Free

Hokey Cokey

If you find yourself craving a particular high-sugar caffeinated soft drink during your time in the capital, head to Beijing’s Coca Cola Museum, where you’ll get free entry and free Coke refills as you browse. Although not a drink associated with China, Coca Cola was the first foreign brand to enter the otherwise shuttered country, in 1978. Enjoy vintage posters and paraphernalia as well as lashings of info on Coke’s sweet history in the People’s Republic.

Coca Cola Museum

9 Rongjing Dongjie, Daxing district

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Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm. Cost: Free

Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Crown Jewels

Ever wondered why and how the practice of castrating men who served in the oriental court came about? Well, wonder no more! This unusual museum, built around the tomb of prominent Ming dynasty eunuch Tian Yi and other castrated comrades, will teach you everything your morbid fascination could desire, via the vehicle of rusty tools, gory sculptures and a creepy mummy. Look out for the tiny phallic carvings around the tombs.

Beijing Eunuch Cultural Museum

80 Moshikou Avenue, Shijingshan district

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Open: Tues-Sun, 9am-4:30pm. Cost: RMB8.

Photo: Aurelien Foucault

Tap into History

Although visitors to Beijing are not advised to drink the tap water, it still deserves its own dedicated museum, apparently. Built on the grounds of the 1908-founded Beijing City Water Supply company, the Beijing Tap Water Museum lauds the colossal task of providing a land-locked city of 21.5 million with clean(ish) running water. Enjoy the retro propaganda posters, a rusting pump and pipe graveyard, and plenty of nerdy detail on the feat of engineering.

Beijing Tap Water Museum

Courtyard 6, Qingshuiyuan, Dongzhimen Waidajie, Dongcheng district

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Open: Wed-Sun, 9am-4pm. Cost: RMB5

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