Museums are probably among the most intriguing places to visit anywhere in the world. And, India is home to some offbeat museums that showcase a collection of dolls, trains and toilets, to name a few. From artefacts dating back to the earliest civilisations to spaces dedicated to illusions, every museum is unique in its own way and Delhi, being the capital city, has enough of such spaces to keep you engaged.
Museums make for a memorable addition to your regular travel itinerary, allowing you to learn about the history of a place or a particular thing. So, while you are in Delhi, be sure to visit these unique museums that will not only educate you but give you some fun memories, too.
12 of the most unique museums in Delhi that deserve a visit
National Rail Museum
Inaugurated on February 1, 1977 as the Rail Transport Museum, it was renamed National Rail Museum in 1995. Today, it houses over 100 exhibits from the Indian Railways. The articles displayed include not just train coaches but static and working models, historical photographs, antique furniture, signalling equipment, and information on the history of railways.
Some of the exhibits here are Rangotty (1862), Patiala State Monorail (1908), and John Morris Fire Engine (1914), which are among the rarest operational exhibits of this kind in the world. Adding to the visitors’ pleasure is a toy train ride that you can opt for.
Where: Chandra Gupta Marg, Chanakyapuri, next to Bhutan Embassy, New Delhi
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry Fee: INR 50 onwards for people aged 12 and above; INR 10 onwards for children aged between 3 to 12 years
National Philatelic Museum
Among the most unique museums in Delhi is the National Philatelic Museum. Located near Connaught Place, the place is a heaven for philatelists interested in Indian stamps. It houses an extensive collection, including the first stamp issued in India by the Sindh Dak (1854), as well as those issued before Indian independence by the rulers of princely states.
Operated by the Department of Post, the museum is located on the ground floor of the Dak Bhavan. Free passes can be obtained from the Parliament Street Head Post Office basement, as per the Delhi Tourism website.
Where: Sardar Patel Chowk, Sansad Marg, New Delhi
When: Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry Fee: Nil
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum
Shankar’s International Dolls Museum was set up by noted political cartoonist K Shankar Pillai in November 1965. The museum houses one of the largest collection of costume dolls anywhere in the world, and has over 6,000 figurines from 85 nations on display. It is managed by the Children’s Book Trust.
The idea of the museum came to Pillai after receiving a doll as a gift from the Hungarian Ambassador in the 1950s. Since then, he started collecting and displaying them at exhibitions. At one such exhibition in Delhi, where Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were present, Gandhi suggested preservation of these figurines in a permanent museum.
The museum is divided into two equal sections, one housing miniatures from Europe, the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Independent States, while the the other displays dolls from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and India. Over 500 dolls are from India, depicting its various states and activities.
Where: Nehru House, 4, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Entry Fee: INR 25 + taxes for adults; INR 10 + taxes for children; INR 5 + taxes per child for groups of 20
Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
Among the quirkiest museums in India, and not just Delhi, is the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. Dedicated to the history of toilets and sanitation, the museum was founded by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak in 1992. It is maintained by the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.
The exhibits here include rare facts, pictures and objects that detail the evolution of toilets from 2500 BC till today. Organised chronologically, the museum showcases how these toilet systems developed from the ancient to the modern period. Artefacts such as chamber pots, wet toilets, stone-studded bidets and even Victorian toilets and Roman gold seats made for emperors are on display here. The museum also sheds light on technology, toilet-related social customs, etiquettes, prevailing sanitary conditions and legislative efforts through the different eras, along with poems dedicated to toilets and their usage.
Where: Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Marg, New Delhi
When: Monday to Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Sundays and Holidays, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry Fee: Nil
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions offers just what it says — optical illusions. A fun place for both children and adults, the museum has sections such as the Vortex Tunnel, which will make you feel like you’re struggling to take a step forward in a rotating cylinder. Also, an Upside Down Room and the Infinity Room seem to challenge the laws of gravity and size ratio. The place also houses a collection of holograms and tricks that challenge vision, perception and the human brain.
Where: A 30-33, 1st Floor, A Block, Inner Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi
When: Monday to Friday, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 am to 8:30 pm
Entry Fee: INR 650 onwards for adults; INR 520 onwards for children (3+); INR 500 onwards for senior citizens
Delhi Metro Museum
The Delhi Metro Museum is one of a kind in South Asia. It details the history of the Metro in the city. The space houses a rich array of precious photographs and models in 27 display panels.
Exhibits depicting the Delhi Metro’s legacy, including its management style, earthquake-proof structures and the distinction of being the first railway project to claim carbon credits have been highlighted here. What’s more, you can bring back Metro models, ties, pens, keychains and books from the souvenir shop.
Where: Patel Chowk Metro Station, New Delhi
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Entry Fee: Nil
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National Children Museum
Not all museums intrigue children, and this is the thought behind this children’s museum. The space has toys from various countries, bronze and stone objects, jewellery, utensils, art and craft material, currency and musical instruments on display, that is sure to fascinate the little ones.
The museum has permanent exhibitions, which include permanent galleries, while temporary exhibits include theme-based displays. The museum organises educational workshops and seminars.
Where: National Bal Bhawan, Kotla Road, Near I.T.O. New Delhi
This unique museum in Delhi is the brainchild of photographer, historian and archivist Aditya Arya. The place began as a personal collection of Photographic equipment in 2009, and today, it is the largest not-for-profit crowd-funded Centre for Photographic Arts in Southeast Asia. The one-of-a-kind museum is a private-public partnership between the India Photo Archive Foundation and The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram.
The place showcases the history of photography. From age-old cameras to new, modern designs, it displays not just gadgets, but the images clicked through them and the story behind the same.
Where: Shri Ganesh Mandir Marg, DLF Phase IV, Sector 28, Gurugram, Haryana
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Ghalib Museum and Library
Located inside the premises of Ghalib Academy, the museum gives glimpses of the eminent poet, Mirza Ghalib. Among the main attractions here is a statue of the poet, as well as images of his residences. The space also showcases the poet’s attire and favourite foods.
Other displays include coins, seals, postal stamps and specimens of his handwriting. Additionally, paintings of artists such as M.F Hussain, Satiate Jugular, Anise Farooqui and others on Ghalib’s verses are not to be missed.
Where: Plot No-168 1, near Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi
National Charkha Museum
Located in the Palika Bazar Garden, in the heart of Connaught Place is the National Charkha Museum. Inaugurated in 2017, the museum features the world’s largest chromium stainless steel charkha (spinning wheel), which weighs around five tonnes. Not just that, this spinning wheel is non-magnetic, rust-proof and heat-proof.
The museum has 14 vintage models of charkhas and depicts the transition of kapas (cotton) to the final khadi cloth. This, along with a multimedia presentation of Mahatma Gandhi‘s life add to its charm.
Where: Palika Bazaar Garden, Connaught Place, New Delhi
When: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Entry Fee: INR 20
National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy
The National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy is located about a kilometre from India Gate and a five-minute walk from Delhi Zoo. The place, which houses a cafe (Cafe Lota), a shop, and a village set up for exhibitions and fairs, has displays of crafts and textiles from across the country.
Its many rooms house figurines of gods and goddesses, ancient toys, games and paintings, shawls, cane and bamboo crafts and even utensils. Over 33,000 specimens have been gained over a period of 60 years from Indian states and union territories such as Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Each of these artefacts reflects the heritage of the region they are from. The collection reflects the continuing traditions of handicrafts and handlooms.
Where: National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
Entry Fee: INR 20
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National Police Museum
The museum, located at the National Police Memorial in Delhi, showcases the history and evolution of the police force in India. The museum is sectioned, with each part dedicated to separate themes. These include the constitutional basis of policing in the country, the law and order system in India, the role of different police organisations, and stories of police martyrdom and valour. Other than this, the museum also highlights the difficulties faced by policemen in India.
On display are various batons, guns, bulletproof vests and other arms and ammunition, shown exactly as it is used by the officials in action. Visitors can learn about the weapons’ technology, operation technique and target impact, on a digital screen. The emblem and insignia of various police departments are also showcased here.
Where: Pandit Uma Shankar Dikshit Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
Main and Featured Image credit: Shutterstock
Related: Explore These 10 Unusual And Quirky Museums In India On Your Next Vacation
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Delhi is home to over 30 museums.
Answer: Greater Kailash is among the most expensive areas in Delhi.
Answer: No, the National Museum has a minimal entry fee of INR 20.
Answer: Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad is among the largest private museums in the world.