Indian Museum

Top choice in Kolkata (Calcutta)

India's biggest and oldest major museum celebrated its bicentenary in February 2014. It's mostly a lovably old-fashioned place that fills a large colonnaded palace ranged around a central lawn. Extensive exhibits in various galleries include fabulous sculptures dating back two millennia (notably the lavishly carved 2nd-century-BC Bharhut Gateway), Egyptian mummies, relics from the ancient Indus Valley civilisation of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, pickled human embryos, dangling whale skeletons and some 37 types of opium in the library-like commercial botany gallery.

There are some oddball exhibits, too, such as 7kg of rings and bangles found in the tummy of a gigantic crocodile. No bags are allowed inside. Hand carriages can be stored at the entrance, but don’t arrive with a big backpack. Avoid visiting on Sundays or public holidays, when the place can be packed with noisy local tourists and playful children's groups.

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