Top Museums in Delhi
Credit: Alamy

For most Delhiites who enjoy museums, I think it’s safe to say that must of us cannot wait to go abroad, and explore all the delights that other countries museums have in store for us. Because our local governments have more pressing priorities (and rightly so), cultural initiatives can sometimes take a back seat in India, so you won’t find the big-name art collections that you would in other world capitals. But there are a few museums, either run privately or publicly, that put up superb shows and I can only imagine the dedication it takes, from the teams behind them, to keep them going. The themes may be quirky but are no less fascinating—such as apparel, toys, hygiene and the military. The Dolls Museum, for one, has been around since 1965, and the latest addition to the museum circle is the Heritage Transport Museum, which opened its doors in 2014. Here are my five favorites:

National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum

If clothes make the man, can we look at sartorial history to tell us a story? The National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum (also known as the National Crafts Museum) brings together the richness and diversity of India’s culture, as told through weaves and textile. Constructed to mirror a real village, you can see men and women at work, too.

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum

If dolls reflect how cultures see people, then we’re actually pretty lucky, going by the looks of the collection of dolls in this museum. Celebrating all shapes, sizes, costumes and the occasional oddity, you’ll find character in these little creatures from Russia, Hungary, China, India and any other place in the world where little boys and girls play.

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets

Even if you don’t like potty talk, you’ve got to admire this level of appreciation for design. As the museum’s founder has put it, how a society deals with a critical aspect of bodily function can mean the difference between order and disorder. Explore cultural variation and technical knowledge integrated into design. Bottom line: These guys aren’t taking the piss.

Heritage Transport Museum

This brilliantly curated museum sheds light on things that have moved us forward—meaning physical distance, as well as societal and industrial progression. Even if you’re not into the cultural narrative, you’ll enjoy the stunning display of planes, trains and automobiles through the ages.

Air Force Museum

In a fantastic tribute to bravery and sophistication in aviation, the Air Force Museum is divided into an indoor and outdoor section. Indoors you’ll find tales of real-life mavericks {and the occasional Ice Man, for Top Gun types), while the large outdoor area displays captured enemy tanks and model aircraft.