If you thought museums in India are just places to see relics and old artifacts… then think again!!! The museums that we are about to show you are not only the best museums in India. They will also open their doors into another world, where secrets and mysteries of the bygone era will no longer remain elusive but will reveal themselves before you in the most wonderful of ways. They are like portals to some mythical world, which you may have only read about or heard in fables and legends.
Get ready to step back into time and explore some of the top museums in India:
Indian Museum, Kolkata
Indian Museum is not only one of the oldest museums in India, but it is also the biggest museum in India. It boasts of more than 30 galleries and each one holds a rare collection of antiques ranging from coins, sculptures, to ornaments, Mughal paintings, among many other equally stunning exhibits. The things to look out for in this museum are Buddha’s ashes, an Egyptian mummy, skeletons of prehistoric dinosaurs, an imprint of Buddha’s foot, remnants from Ashoka Pillar, and relics from Indus Valley Civilization. The museum holds events and exhibitions regularly to showcase India’s cultural and heritage beauty.
National Museum, New Delhi
Visiting the National Museum in Delhi is like taking a walk through the annals of Indian history. National Museum is like a huge labyrinth of halls and exhibits, where you see a mind-boggling collection of antiquities that depict India’s history through the ages. There’s the famous Dancing Girl from the Harappan Civilization, Emperor Jahangir’s Jade hookah, Mughal era paintings that will leave you in awe. Equally awe-inspiring are the rare Buddhist relics and manuscripts, Central Asian antiques and priceless collection from the Mayan and Aztec cultures of South America.
Government Museum, Chennai
The sheer variety of exhibits and objects in the Government Museum in Chennai is enough to justify its rank among the famous museums in India. Exhibits ranging from sculptures, palm leaf manuscripts, stone inscriptions, and Buddhist figures will reveal the glorious past of civilizations and empires who ruled over India. This museum will entice art lovers with its enviable collection of European portraits, Raja Ravi Varma paintings, Mughal paintings, Miniature paintings, Contemporary art displays, and even Prehistoric Rock Art. Children will have a double dose of education and fun when they explore the dioramas and life-size fiberglass models about science, technology, transportation, prehistoric world, and civilizations.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
A mere glimpse at the gothic architecture of this museum is enough to send onlookers into a feeling of nostalgia. Situated in an area that boasts of art deco heritage buildings, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is a glittering jewel that ranks among the best national museums in India. The interiors have numerous galleries and halls where you will see exhibits that include textiles, sculptures, paintings, arms and armory, royal costumes, among many other exhibits. Each exhibit has informative kiosks and labels that describe the object on display. The National History section contains charts, diagrams, dioramas about the wildlife found in India.
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, Delhi
Among the most unique museums in India is the International Dolls Museum in New Delhi. It has dolls from almost every major country in the world. The museum started with 1000 dolls and today you can see almost 6500 dolls. The museum is the brainchild of the famous political cartoonist K. Shankar Pillai and is named after him. Special attractions in this museum are the traditional Japanese dolls, and dolls from Hungary, Spain, Thailand, Sri Lanka, which are dressed in their traditional attires and can be seen performing their native folk dances. 150 handcrafted dolls from Indian states is also a thing to look out for in this museum.
Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad
Now, this is a museum that you must visit when you are visiting Hyderabad. Salar Jung Museum is not only one of the most visited museums in Hyderabad; it is also one of the best art museums in India. Among its treasured collection are antique watches and clocks, which are nowhere to be seen in today’s world. Over 38 galleries have a vast collection of art objects collected from every part of the globe. You will get a glimpse of European art, Japanese art, Tibetan art, Islamic art, and Middle Eastern art in paintings, ceramics, textiles, Quran books, sculptures, antique furniture, and many other art objects.
Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad
Plan a visit to the Calico Museum of Textiles when preparing your tour plan of Ahmedabad. Its collection of fabrics and handicrafts depict the history of clothing. You will see such wonderful exhibits like Kashmiri shawls, Mughal costumes, handcrafted textiles, embroidered fabrics, manuscripts, and sculptures. Robes and royal tents of Mughal emperors, textiles made for religious purposes, are the things to look out for in this museum. If you were thinking of how these textiles were made, then this museum will satiate your curiosity. On display are life-size models of block printing tools, weaving methods, tie and dye techniques that artisans used in earlier times.
National Rail Museum, Delhi
If you like train journeys, or even if you don’t, you must make it a point to visit the National Rail Museum in Delhi. And take children with you, for they will enjoy this museum the most. A ride in the mini-train is the most exciting thing to do in this museum, and this is not just a fun ride. The ride will take you to visit restored models of steam locomotives, diesel engines, vintage trains, tramways, monorails, royal carriages used by former maharajas, besides many other working models. Indoors is a wonderful experience of interactive games, simulated train rides, miniature models, and everything about the heritage of rail transport in India.
Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram
Apart from the beaches and temples, Napier Museum is a must-visit tourist landmark in Thiruvananthapuram. Besides the museum itself, you will also be able to visit one of India’s oldest zoological parks. The museum holds a rich and varied treasure trove of objects that takes visitors on a historical journey into the cultural heritage of Kerala. Sree Chitra Art Gallery is one of the most popular sections of this museum. It contains paintings from acclaimed artists, sculptures, murals, pre-historic India, Japan, China, Bali, and other countries. Among the star attractions are a temple chariot, ivory carvings and stone sculptures.
Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur
You must visit the Albert Hall Museum when visiting Jaipur!!! This museum is remarkable not only for its architectural beauty but for the priceless collection of objects inside. An Egyptian Mummy, no doubt, attracts the maximum tourists. But there are other equally stunning and rare objects to explore. Take for instance the pottery from Iran, Turkey, and Japan, not to mention the blue pottery of Jaipur. History buffs will love the collection of marble and crystal art, stone sculptures, and ancient coins. The antiques are not there just in the halls, but the corridors too, have Persian paintings, Greek murals, and sculptures, Chinese art that will impress visitors.
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
People taking a tour of Kolkata visit Indian museums for their collection of antiques and relics. But you must visit Victoria Memorial for its mesmerizing architecture. Viewing it is like reading poetry carved out of white marble. The 25 galleries have enough to keep history buffs and tourists busy for at least 2 hours. Landscape paintings, stone sculptures, illustrated Arabian Nights, handwritten Quran by Emperor Aurangzeb, the personal war diary of Tipu Sultan… these and many more stunning exhibits are its star attractions. The landscaped garden surrounding the museum has marble statues of British generals and the green environs will make your visit to the museum even more memorable. All these reasons make it one of the top museums of India that you must add to your itinerary.
City Palace, Jaipur
Visiting the City Palace in Jaipur is like entering a huge palace. There are palatial buildings, massive courtyards, arched columns, giant stone gates, long corridors, intricate carvings wherever you see. Anyone visiting Jaipur invariably visits the City Palace, for the museum inside has rich memorabilia of objects that throw light on the glorious history of Jaipur and Rajasthan. Colorful portrait paintings of Jaipur kings, thrones, armory, costumes, Rajasthani art, royal transportation, textiles, photographic collection of Jaipur history, are the major things to see in this museum.
HAL Aerospace Museum, Bangalore
HAL Aerospace Museum is one museum that you should visit with your kids, for there is both fun and education in equal measure. Life-size models of aircraft, helicopters, fighter planes, jets, bombers, and MIG aircraft are on display in the outdoors. Inside you will see charts, diagrams, displays on aviation in India. Real aircraft engines and mechanics of an airplane will stimulate curiosity in children and adults alike. Flight simulators will give a virtual feel and excitement of seeing the world from inside an aircraft.
Dakshina Chitra Museum, Muthukadu, TN
Chennai boasts of some fabulous tourist places, but the Dakshina Chitra Museum certainly is one of the unique museums in Chennai India. There are houses of farmers, artisans, farmers, potters. These are built and constructed like the ones you would see in any part of southern India. Inside are objects that a common man uses in their daily lives. You will see artisans honing their crafts, and even shop for handicrafts. If you want to see the culture of South Indian states in one place, there is no better place than the Dakshina Chitra Museum.
Heritage Transport Museum, Haryana
Ever wondered how people traveled in the past? Wanted to see how the first trains looked like? Perhaps have a look at vintage cars!!! Then visit the Heritage Transport Museum in Haryana, and you will be able to see not these but many more things, all related to transportation. You will see the story of wheels, how the two-wheelers evolved, modes of rural transport, and a history of maritime evolution. There are models of trains, railway carriages, aircraft models, vintage luxury automobiles, and memorabilia consisting of books, maps, stamps, postcards that tell the story of transportation.
National Crafts Museum, Delhi
If the arts and crafts of India fascinate you, then you should visit the National Crafts Museum in Delhi. On display is a collection that showcases the artisans of India and their crafts. Handicrafts from each Indian state can be seen here. Warli paintings, mirror work from Gujarat, Rajasthani puppets, Bhil tribal art, and Madhubani paintings will give you a peep into the rich kaleidoscope of Indian culture. There are traditional houses of each Indian state, complete with its environs. You can relax in a café that’s a popular hangout among locals and tourists.
Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, Bangalore
Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum is a must-visit place when you are touring Bangalore. There are exhibition halls with interactive exhibits, life-like animal models, and simulated demonstrations about everything concerning science and technology. Children learn through ‘touch and feel’ exhibits. They can engage and experiment with interactive games and simulated models so that they develop an interest in how things work and an awareness of the environment around them. Galleries that are full of every aspect of science and technology and its applications in the real world are a highlight of this museum.
Bihar Museum, Patna
There are many reasons why Bihar Museum features in tour itinerary of every tourist who visits Patna. Artifacts showcased in this museum shed light on the powerful dynasties that ruled India over the centuries. There are galleries that show the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in India. You will find relics from Medieval Bihar, Indus Valley, and Harappan civilizations. But the highlight of this museum is the gallery which has photographs, videos, and exhibits that show how historians and archaeologists unearth relics and come to know about events from the past.
Shivalik Fossil Park, HP
Imagine taking selfies with an extinct mammoth, or petting a full-grown saber-toothed cat!!! No… you are neither imagining nor is it a scene from a Hollywood movie… You are in the Shivalik Fossil Museum, located in the picturesque state of Himachal Pradesh. The open-air museum has life-like fiberglass models of extinct mammals that roamed this region millions of years ago. You can see skulls, paintings, informative charts, fossils of extinct primates, rocks, stones, and other relics that will spark curiosity and excitement in children.
Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum, Bhopal
There are no halls, no glass showcases, not a hint that you are entering a museum. Instead, you will feel like entering a tribal village. Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum is in Bhopal, and the entire place is full of tribal huts, art installations, tribal arts and crafts…. everything recreated and installed to give you a peep into the obscure lives of the various tribes of Madhya Pradesh. Tribal huts with its very own environs, mountains, rivers, courtyards, roads…. everything is as realistically made. Tribal lifestyles, mythological tales, supernatural rituals, religious practices, and the importance of arts and crafts… each aspect of tribal culture is to be found in this museum.
Your Journey Doesn’t End Here
The above list of museums in India is all-inclusive and you must consider adding a few of them in your itinerary. This travel guide also discusses history of museums in India that allow you to know them very well.
About Author: Abhijit Pandit
I live in Mumbai, though I would rather prefer being called an Indian. I write stories and poems out of passion. I write content that you read on websites. Travel writing is my forte. I like to read books, love trekking, photography and being in the natural world.