If you are planning a trip to Kerala, the beautiful backwaters, beaches and delectable cuisine are some of the things you might already have in your itinerary. However, if you want to go towards a more cultural route, then a visit to at least some of these museums should definitely be on your list. They provide an insight into the region's rich culture and history like no place else. Here is a list of five hand-picked museums across all major cities of Kerala so you can visit at least a few.
From Vasco da Gama's arrival in 1503 to 1663, the Portuguese ruled Cochin and inevitably left behind a lasting impression on the region's history and culture. Located in Fort Kochi, The Indo-Portuguese Museum seeks to highlight this cultural relationship. The Portuguese influence on the art and architecture of the region can be seen here. Thanks to the efforts of Dr Joseph Kureethra, the Bishop of Kochi, the museum was set up inside the compound of the Bishop's House so that future generations could understand the Indo-Portuguese Christian Art heritage. The museum is divided into five main sections - Altar, Treasure, Procession, Civil Life and Cathedral. One can see a piece of the altar made in teakwood (16th century) from the Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypeen, a chasuble (19th century) from Bishop's House, Fort Kochi, Processional cross, which is a combination of silver and wood (17th century) from Santa Cruz Cathedral, Fort Kochi, Indo-Portuguese Monstrance (18-19th century), from The Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypeen. You will also see sculptures, precious metal objects and vestments, among others from the Cathedral of Santa Cruz and other churches of the Kochi diocese.
Visiting Hours: 9 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm. Closed on Mondays and all Public Holidays
Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 12 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 44 km
The Museum of Kerala History portrays the history of Kerala from its early inhabitants to the modern era. There are 38 life-size tableaux, each accompanied by a variety of visuals, reflecting the cultural and social history of Kerala. There is also a gallery that has on display paintings and sculptures, more than 200, by some of India's leading modern masters, including Raja Ravi Varma, M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Jamini Roy, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinker Baij, Ram Kumar and K.G. Subramanyan, among others. Both in English and Malayalam, the sound and light shows will tell you all you need to know about Kerala's history.
Visiting Hours: 10 am to 5 pm (Tuesday to Sunday). Museum is closed on Mondays.
By Car- On the National Highway from Edappally Toll, in the direction of Aluva, just past Lulu Mall on the left.
By KMRL- Next door to Pathadipalam Metro Stop
By Bus- Pathadipalam Stop
Named after the former Governor General of Madras, John Napier, this museum is one of the finest examples of architecture that blends Indian, Chinese, Kerala and Mughal styles. From gothic roof to minarets, all elements combine seamlessly to form this unique masterpiece. A landmark in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, it was designed by Robert Chisholm and the construction of the building was completed in 1880. The Indo-Saracenic structure also boasts of a unique natural air conditioning system. The museum is home to a rare collection of archaeological and historic artefacts, a temple chariot, bronze idols, ancient ornaments and ivory carvings. It also has the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, which contains paintings by the modern master Raja Ravi Varma and the landscape painter, Nicholas Roerich apart from Mughal and Tanjore art. The Museum shares its grounds with one of the oldest zoological gardens in India, the Trivandrum Zoowhich was established in 1857.
Visiting Hours: 10 am to 4:45 pm. Closed on Mondays, January 26th, August 15th, Thiruvonam and Mahanavami.
Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central, about 2 km
Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, about 6 km
Among the more picturesque and historically-relevant sites in all of Thrissur is its famous Archaeological Museum. Originally in the Kollengode Palace building, it has now been moved to the Shakthan Thampuran Palace. This beautiful building once was the seat of the Perumpadappu Swaroopam, the former ruling dynasty of Kochi, and now houses some of the finest murals from across God's Own Country. Step inside and one is immediately made aware of the unique treasures this place holds, including Veerakallu, temple models, olagrandhangal (manuscripts on dry palm leaves) and megaliths. Veerkallu (herostones), especially, catch the intrigue of all new visitors. These stone engravings and sculptures of figures and weapons belong to a bygone era, and were found in the forests of Thrissur and Wayanad. Other important exhibits include earthen pots, urns and special temple models that are some of the best representations of holy sites across all of Kerala.
Visiting Hours: 10 am to 5 pm on all days except Mondays and National Holidays.
Nearest railway station: Thrissur, about 3 km away
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 57 km away
As many as 122 smiling wooden horses await all who visit Kuthiramalika, which means palace of horses. Formally known as Kuthiramalika Palace Museum or Puthenmalika Palace Museum, it is a pristine two-storied palace near the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Built by Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma, who was Maharaja of the Kingdom of Travancore in British India, it takes one back to the 1840s when it was first constructed. It is a great example of the Kerala school of architecture and is made from teakwood, rosewood, marble, and granite. The museum houses idols and sculptures made from white marble, Kathakali figures, Belgian mirrors and paintings. The flourishing spice trade between Kerala and the world made it possible to obtain those items. Barefoot walks are extremely famous here as well. It is a trip to another era hidden inside the capital of the state. The local guides give you a detailed idea of the many wonders hidden in the palace which will surely leave you enthralled.
Visiting Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on Mondays
Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central, about 1 km
Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, about 6 km