What Ho, Apothecary! 18 Intriguing Pharmacy Museums - Atlas Obscura Lists

What Ho, Apothecary! 18 Intriguing Pharmacy Museums

Take a calmative and visit one of these preserved drug preparers.

Walgreens and Rite Aid might seem like wholly modern institutions, but professionals have been prescribing medicines to their communities since antiquity. Today, many historic pharmacies that survived the ages intact have been preserved as museums, some of them hundreds of years old, dating back to the days when your local pharmacist was chemist, alchemist, and magician rolled into one.

These museums catalogue the human history of medicinal treatments, a few of which were surprisingly brilliant—including such things as iron-laced wine to improve hemoglobin. Others were woefully misled, like a prescription for ground-up mummy to keep you looking young, or “snail water” to treat venereal disease. Their decor is a far cry from the chain pharmacies of today. Wooden shelves and mirrored walls give them an air of old fashioned sophistication, while glass beakers and spiral-necked flasks lend a bit of science fiction flair. 

Some of these pharmacies are total recreations, while others haven’t been changed since the days when bloodletting was in style. Some of them blur this line, operating both as a modern, functional pharmacy and a historical museum. If you find yourself visiting one these rarities, just make sure your pharmacist doesn’t mistake your blood pressure medication for eye of newt.