The Best Museums in Kolkata, India

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata | © Shantanu Kashyap / Pixabay
Sridevi Nambiar

Widely known as the cultural capital of India, Kolkata boasts several quality museums that can serve as rewarding stops during your next tour of the city. Here, we have compiled a list of the city’s most notable museums that are equipped to give you a satisfying peek into local history.

1. Indian Museum


The Indian Museum Kolkata originated from the Asiatic Society of Bengal.. Image shot 2015. Exact date unknown.
© Paul Gapper / Alamy Stock Photo
Established in 1814, Indian Museum is considered to be the oldest surviving museum in India. It also happens to be one of the largest in the country, and comprises 35 galleries displaying artefacts from across six sections – art, archaeology, anthropology, geology, zoology and economic botany. Notable highlights include a 4000-year-old Egyptian mummy, an ancient urn believed to contain the Buddha’s ashes, and a 2000-year-old pillar bearing a structure of four Asiatic lions from which India’s national emblem has been adopted.

2. Victoria Memorial

Memorial, Museum

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata| © Sautrik144 / WikiCommons
© Sautrik144 / WikiCommons
Situated atop the lush green lawns of the Maidan by the Hooghly River, the Victoria Memorial was built in memory of Queen Victoria after her death in 1901. The museum within the structure houses 25 galleries that display historic paintings, rare photographs, ancient manuscripts and other valuable artefacts. From local Kalighat paintings to Mughal era paintings, the Indian art collection here is particularly rich and worth visiting. Rare manuscripts include the illustrated works of William Shakespeare, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as well as the Arabian Nights.

3. Birla Industrial & Technological Museum


Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata | © Biswarup Ganguly / WikiCommons
© Biswarup Ganguly / WikiCommons

The Birla Industrial & Technological Museum (BITM) was founded in 1959, making it one of the oldest museums of science in the country. BITM contains 12 separate galleries that specialise in a range of topics ranging from life sciences to biotechnology. The children’s gallery is particularly popular and houses a range of learning-oriented activities geared towards kids of all ages. Other highlights at the museum include daily planetarium shows as well as a sky observatory.

4. Rabindra Bharati Museum

Memorial, Museum

Jorasanko Thakurbari, Kolkata | © Kinjal Bose 78 / WikiCommons
© Kinjal Bose 78 / WikiCommons
This popular museum is located within the Jorasanko Thakurbari, the ancestral home of the Tagore family, and where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore spent much of his childhood. Maintained to look just as it did when inhabited, the museum preserves a rich collection of artifacts that trace the history of the Tagore family and their social, political and cultural involvements. The highlights here include rare photographs, books, manuscripts, antiques and about 40 original paintings by Rabindranath Tagore.

5. Netaji Bhawan

Library, Memorial, Museum

Netaji Bhawan, Kolkata | © Paul Hamilton / Flickr
© Paul Hamilton / Flickr

Once the residence of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, an important leader of the Indian independence movement against the British, Netaji Bhawan today serves as a museum, library and research centre. The museum houses a range of photographs, personal belongings, documents and other artefacts that inform of Bose’s upbringing, education and political activities. A must-visit location for history enthusiasts, the museum preserves a unique slice of early twentieth century India.

6. Marble Palace

Building, Museum

Marble Palace, Kolkata | © Mjanich / WikiCommons
© Mjanich / WikiCommons
This striking palatial mansion in Kolkata was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, a wealthy Bengali merchant who was also an avid art collector. Though it continues to be a private residence to his descendants to this day, part of the Marble Palace is now open to the public. It houses a rich collection of Indian and western paintings, sculptures and antiques from across time periods.

7. Academy of Fine Arts

Art Gallery, Museum

Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata | © Biswarup Ganguly / WikiCommons
© Biswarup Ganguly / WikiCommons

Initially located in a room loaned by the Indian Museum following its founding in 1933, the Academy of Fine Arts shifted to its current location on Cathedral Street only in 1960. One of the oldest surviving art societies in India, it houses famous paintings by prominent artists including Gaganendranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose and Asit Halder. The museum also hosts a vibrant collection of art from previous eras including Mughal and Rajasthani works.

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