From relics of the British Raj to life-size models of dinosaurs, from exhaustive coin and fossil collections to selective art displays, the museums of Calcutta have something to offer everyone - artists, painters, poets, paleontologists, student or men of science. And the cardinal rule to follow here is - it's not necessarily shut on Sundays!
Indian MuseumOne of the oldest museums in Asia, the Indian Museum was founded in 1814. You'll need an entire day, or more, to fully enjoy the fossils, coins, stones, Gandhara art, meteors and much more that go to make up this museum. Don't miss the 4,000-year-old mummy here, whatever else you do! Also on display is an urn said to contain the Buddha's ashes. Just ask anybody on the road for the way to the "Jadughar" (literally, house of magic).
Timings: 10 am-5 pm, Tuesday-Sunday (Between March and November); 10 am -4.30 pm, Tuesday-Sunday (Between December and February)
Asiatic SocietyThis was home to the first modern museum in Asia, set up as far back as 1814. However, most of those exhibits have now been moved to the Indian Museum. A small collection remains - do check out the rare Tibetan thangkas, and the Ashokan Rock Edict, dating back to the ages of King Ashoka!
Timings: 8 am-7 pm, Monday-Friday
Victoria MemorialConceived by Lord Curzon in 1905, the marble monument blends the best of British and Mughal architecture. A tour through the Memorial is a great way of reliving the grandeur of imperial-era Britain. The Victoria Memorial is a favorite not just with tourists in Calcutta - its sprawling grounds are synonymous with love nests for the young and restless in the city.
Science CitySituated on the East Metropolitan Bypass, Science City is a brainchild of the National Council of Science Museums. It's ideal for the tourist interested in the nuts and bolts of science. If you're in the mood for a simulated earthquake or a tornado, drop by here. Also worth a dekko is the collection of live birds and insects, and dinosaur models. A great place to take children to.
Birla Industrial & Technological MuseumThe original science museum in the city, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum on Gurusaday Road has been around for over half a century. It doesn't have the technological glitz of Science City, but it is still a great way to relive the early days of technology. Do check out the industrial models showcased here.
Timings: 10 am-5.30 pm, Daily
Nehru Children's MuseumIt's been around in Kolkata for over 30 years, but blink and you'll miss the unassuming building housing the Nehru Children's Museum. Situated amid the bustle of Chowringhee Road, the museum is a great favorite with children. Most of the exhibits here are quaint, but the elaborate display on the great Indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata - is worth a visit.
Timings: 11 am-7 pm, Tuesday-Sunday
Birla PlanetariumBuilt on the lines of the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi, the MP Birla Planetarium isn't a museum, but is perfect for the traveller in Kolkata who has visited the Victoria Memorial and wants to rest his feet while letting the stars wash over him. India's oldest planetarium runs shows in Hindi, English and Bengali, and if you're there for longer in the city, you could sign up for an astronomy course.
Rabindra Bharati MuseumThe rambling Thakurbari built in the 18th century by Dwarkanath Tagore, grandfather of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, has been converted into a museum now and hosts memorabilia that will delight the Tagore aficionado. It is part of the Rabindra Bharati University, which is also situated inside the Thakurbari complex.
Calcutta Museum/ Kolkata PanoramaSet inside what was known as Town Hall, Calcutta Museum is the best place to go to if you're in the mood for a story or two. It recreates historic events in Asia through animated sound-and-light displays. Open mainly on weekdays, the museum lies close to the High Court and is a creative way to relive the past.
Timings: 11 am-5 pm, Tuesday-Sunday