For such a large metropolis, there surprisingly aren't a lot of museums in Mumbai. You won't be disappointed by the ones that do exist, though. Not only will they help you get to know the city and India better, many have the added bonus of remarkable architecture. Here are our top picks.
Originally called the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai's main museum was renamed after legendary Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1998. (King Shivaji Museum is simpler to say, if you're struggling with the pronunciation).
The museum's Indo-Saracenic architecture gives plenty of wow factor to an expansive collection of about 50,000 items covering the arts, archeology, and natural history; these include paintings, textiles, jewelry, sculptures, artifacts excavated from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and the sword of 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar.
They have evolved with the times by adding an engaging section that offers innovative interactive experiences, hosting themed international exhibitions, and adopting environmentally-friendly practices. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and there's a free guided tour at 11 a.m. Tickets cost 100 rupees for Indians and 650 rupees for foreigners. Some of the museum's exhibits can also be viewed online.
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is the place to learn about the development of Mumbai into an industrial city and port, particularly during the time of British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. This compact yet compelling museum is Mumbai's oldest—it opened in 1872, and was established by members of various communities who had migrated to Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was called then). Notably, in 2005, a comprehensive revamp of the museum won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence for Conservation.
The cultures and lifestyles of Mumbai's founding communities are documented in one of the museum's galleries, housed in an ornate Palladian-style heritage building. The exhibits flow out into the surrounding garden where there are statues, a special projects space, café, museum shop, and performing arts area. Shows featuring Indian contemporary artists are held regularly.
Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Wednesdays. Tickets cost 10 rupees for Indians and 100 rupees for foreigners. Free tours, led by the curators, depart at 11.30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday. You can take a look at the museum online as well.
A guided walk through the UNESCO-listed heritage wing of Mumbai's 19th-century Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) provides an exceptional opportunity to see inside one of the finest functional railway buildings in the world. The first stop is a small museum that tells the story of India's railways via a collection of railway-related antiques such as live model trains, brass bells, telephones, clocks, cutlery, and crockery. However, what you'll really marvel over is the building's astonishing Gothic Revival-style architecture featuring a giant inner dome with stained-glass panels, and the elaborate arched ceiling of the Star Chamber booking office.
The tour runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and starts from the side entrance next to the bus depot. Tickets cost 200 rupees for adults and 100 rupees for students. You can also have a peek inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus online.
It's fitting that Mumbai, the birthplace of Indian cinema, has a museum chronicling the country's film heritage, from the screening of the first silent motion picture at Watson's Hotel in Mumbai in 1896 to modern-day Bollywood. This exciting new museum was inaugurated in 2019, and is split across two buildings.
Permanent exhibits tracing the evolution of cinema occupy a 19th-century heritage bungalow, while the neighboring contemporary glass structure contains interactive galleries spread over four floors. On display are all kinds of memorabilia such as posters, magazines, costumes, vintage cameras, equipment, and touch screens showing clips from iconic movies. A children's film studio provides a hands-on experience of film-making, and another section of the museum explores Gandhi's impact on cinema.
Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets cost 20 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners.
If you're a fan of Mahatma Gandhi, do set aside some time to drop by the stately mansion that served as his Mumbai headquarters from 1917 to 1934, during the height of his activism. Attractions include a research institute, comprehensive library with about 40,000 books, photo gallery, paintings, press clippings, the room where Gandhi stayed, the terrace where he was arrested in 1932, and some of his personal belongings. Opening hours are 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There's no entry fee. A tour of the museum is available online.
Kids will enjoy a trip to the Nehru Science Center—the largest interactive science museum in India, named after the country's first Prime Minister. Its 500-odd exhibits are related to aspects of science and technology including energy, sound, kinematics, mechanics, and transport. For a fun photo opportunity, don't miss the Head on a Platter optical illusion. The Sparkling High Voltage Demonstration facility is sure to impress too, with eye-popping displays of the power of electric current. Its star apparatus, the Tesla Coil, generates enough voltage to create an effect akin to actual lightning! Opening hours are 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Entry tickets cost 70 rupees.
Set up by the Reserve Bank of India, the highly educational Monetary Museum imparts insight into the world of currency. Its six galleries cover the concept and history of money, the monetary and banking system in India, and the management of currency in the country. Of most interest will be the substantial Indian Coinage section, with some ancient coins that are 1,000 years old. The museum is open from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Mondays and bank holidays. Entry is free.
Mumbai's ubiquitous red B.E.S.T. buses are an integral part of the city, and you'll be able to find out how they came into existence at this transport museum. The museum has old photographs of all the buses and trams (which Mumbai ran from 1874 to 1964), an antique ticket machine, a collection of tram and bus tickets, staff uniforms, city gas lamps used before electricity, models of horse-drawn trams and electric trams, radiator grilles of buses, and miniature buses for kids to play with. A classic Daimler double-decker bus chassis from 1938 grabs the most attention, though. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. Entry is free.
If you're traveling through Mumbai airport's international Terminal 2, keep your eyes peeled for captivating installations of Indian art and artifacts. More than 5,000 objects decorate the walls of the departures area, arrivals corridor, and baggage claim area. The artifacts, some several centuries old, were gathered from across India, and artists and craftsmen were brought in to create the eclectic array of intriguing, themed art works. "India Greets" is the most prominent one; its towering ensemble of doors, windows, and arches starts after immigration and continues towards the departure gates. Join one of the free guided "art safari" tours for an in-depth look at the museum. You'll need to book at least two days in advance online. The Jaya He Museum Store at the airport sells handicrafts made by local artists, too.