10 must-visit museums in India to add to your art and culture itinerary

DEC 26, 2023 | By Bindu Gopal Rao

Banner image courtesy: Museum of Goa, Instagram

Museums are a great way to understand the culture and heritage of a city’s ethos, which makes travel more enjoyable. If you are the kind of person who enjoys museums, here is our list of museums that must be on your to-do list when you are visiting these cities next.

Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru

A private museum that is one of the newest additions to the museum scene in Bengaluru, MAP, located on Kasturba Road, has been designed by architects Mathew & Ghosh. The five-storied structure has an open design with accessibility at its heart. With art galleries that showcase exhibitions regularly, there is an auditorium, an art and research library, a research and conservation facility, a cafe, and a fine-dining restaurant on the premises. Owned by Abhishek Poddar, one of India’s most prominent collectors, there are displays of artists like Manjit Bawa, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Arpita Singh, and J. Swaminathan, and it has a collection of over 60,000 artworks.

Bihar Museum, Patna

Located on Bailey’s Road in Patna, the Bihar Museum has a vast collection of traditional, folk, and contemporary artefacts that date back several thousand years. Spread over 13 acres, the museum is an ode to Bihar’s rich cultural heritage. The museum is organised chronologically and documents periods from 400000 BCE to 1947 CE across ten galleries. It includes varied art forms, women and deities, cultures and religions, calligraphy, and over 25 key artefacts. With the ethos of promoting museum culture, the space is now organising the Bihar Museum Biennale 2023, which brings four Indian and eight international exhibitions. As part of the Biennale, several art shows, symposiums, master classes, and more have been planned until December 2023. And if you want to buy a piece of the city’s rich heritage, check out the souvenir shop on the premises.


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Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Vadodara

The Lakshmi Vilas Palace Estate in Vadodara houses this museum and has an impressive collection of artefacts from the Maratha family. Here you can admire about 30 original paintings done by master artist Raja Ravi Verma and works by Italian artist Fellicci, both of which are said to have been specially commissioned by the erstwhile king of Baroda. This is where you can also admire European Renaissance and Rococo paintings and artefacts from other countries. Spread over two levels, the museum also has many marble and bronze sculptures, as well as the world’s smallest locomotive engine in the form of a completely functional toy train that must not be missed.

Vessel Museum, Ahmedabad

Located within the premises of the famed Vishalla restaurant, opposite the APMC Market in Ahmedabad, is a gem of a museum called Vechaar. Home to a collection of brass, mud, copper, glass, bronze, zinc, and German silver vessels displayed in hut-like structures, this is a one-of-a-kind space. The vessels are in all kinds of sizes, number over 4500, and are categorised by their purpose of use. So, you have nut crackers, vessels for churning buttermilk, spoons, vessels used for prayers, rolling pins, frying pans, incense burners, spice boxes, tiffin boxes, serving utensils, lamps, and more. It is the sheer number of objects in each of the sections that is quite mind-boggling. Interestingly, the vessels have also been sourced from other countries, like some jugs that come from Samarkand, Uzbekistan. There are some interesting exhibits that also have a message (yes, you read that right), like the snake-headed bowl used to mix opium with the snake, reminding you that opium intake is dangerous for your health! Look at Saurashtra’s Kathi community’s dowry boxes that were used to hold jewellery and Madhya Pradesh-origin brass betel leaf boxes made using the lost wax technique.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai

The Prince of Wales Museum in the Fort area of Mumbai is now renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. This is easily one of the finest art and history museums in the country. You will easily need a couple of hours at the minimum to scan through the artefacts. The building’s Indo-Saracenic style of architecture is majestic, set amidst sprawling lawns, and has deservedly earned it a Grade I Heritage Building and the ‘2022 Award of Excellence of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation’. With over 70000 exhibits, you have a vast collection of art—Asian, Jain, Japanese, Buddhist, Chinese, Himalayan, and European decorative art, Indian miniature paintings, prints, drawings, photos, sculptures, numismatics, textiles, and costumes—on display.


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The City Palace Museum, Udaipur

Located within the 464-year-old City Palace in Udaipur, this was once the home of the rulers of Mewar. Today, the museum is operated under the aegis of the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) and is arguably one of India’s best palace museums. The museum is spread across the palace, so you would do well to have a good pair of walking shoes as you check out the sculpture collection, the photographic archive with old photos and cameras, the massive silver collection, armoury, palanquins, textiles, paintings, maps, and more. The museum invests heavily in conservation and research, which reflects on the quality of the artefacts. The beauty of the space is that you have several nooks from which you can click Instagram-worthy images of the city as well.

Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

Located in the old city of Hyderabad, the Salar Jung museum dates to 1951 and has exhibits that belong to the private art collection of the eponymous family. With 38 galleries spread over two floors, the collections are in separate rooms. It is likely that you will be overwhelmed with the massive number of artefacts here, so it is best to be well prepared. A post-breakfast stop is ideal. A large collection of clocks, Qurans, jade artefacts, ivory carvings, Indian miniature paintings, Japanese artworks, porcelain pieces, samurai swords, and more is on display. A special mention must be made of the 19th-century marble statue Veiled Rebecca, made by sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni—a figurine that is so fine that it is placed in front of a mirror for you to see the finest detailing on both the front and the back. The veil covering the face is, of course, a delight to marvel at. The 200-year-old musical clock, whose gong is an attraction, is a must-see, especially at noon.


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Rail Museum, Mysore

Started in 1979 by the Indian Railways, the Mysore Rail Museum near the CFTRI campus will take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The museum has an open-air display of an ES 506 4-6-2 locomotive, a W.G. Bagnall # 1625, an Austin Railway Car, and a YP #2511 made by Telco, among others. There is a good collection of paintings on the railways and old photographs that chronicle the growth of the railways at the Chamundi Gallery. The Sri Ranga Pavilion has two royal coaches that were owned by the Maharaja of Mysore. Take time to see the 1899 Maharani’s saloon carriage that was used by the queen when she had to travel and that comes with its own kitchen, dining car unit, and royal toilet!

Museum of Goa (MOG), Goa

A private art museum started in 2015 by doctor-turned-artist Dr. Subodh Kerkar, this is where contemporary art is used to celebrate the people and culture of Goa. The 16000-square-foot space that is set over three levels has been designed by Goan architect Dean D’Cruz. The permanent exhibition here is the Histories of Goa, which tells many stories of the state’s past through Goan contemporary artists. Apart from this, there is always something to look forward to here, as there are temporary exhibitions that aim to showcase local talent all year round. There are art residencies for budding artists, workshops, musical performances, and lectures that are all aimed at bringing artists and art together. The weekly lecture series, MOG SUNDAYS, sees artists, scholars, and activists speaking on topics that they relate to. Stop by the sculpture garden that has Dr. Kerkar’s Carpet of Joy.


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Kerala Folklore and Culture Museum, Kochi

When you are in Ernakulam, Kochi, it is impossible to miss an ornate chocolate-hued building made with wood, laterite stone, and clay tiles. This is the Kerala Folklore and Culture Museum, designed in traditional Kerala architecture, which houses over 4000 artefacts. The collection is an ode to South Indian folklore art that was started by George J. Thaliath, a former art and antiquities dealer. This is where you can find, among others, dance costumes of Mohiniattam and Theyyam, antique chairs, one of the oldest Bibles, writing instruments, wood and bronze sculptures, stone age paintings, oil lamps, musical instruments, utensils, and a collection of antique jewellery boxes.

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