Museums behave like time machines. They lead you through the back roads of history into fascinating other worlds where stories of kings and queens, conquests, valour, love and grandeur come alive. Kochi has its share of museums where its past lies embalmed. For those who are not easily excited by time travel, however, we have museums that document contemporary history, too.

Here’s a short guide to the museums in and around the city.

The Dutch Palace museum/ Mattancherry Palace

A tour of the museum would feel like a walk through a story-book. Artifacts and exhibits, rearranged chronologically, tell the history of Cochin in an engaging way. Into its third phase of renovation, the Dutch Palace museum in Mattancherry has smurals that have been pictographically explained. Once the abode of the Cochin Royal Family, it has preserved objects used by the members—clothes, jewellery and other items such as an ivory palanquin, royal umbrellas, howdah, coins, stamps and drawings. It also has a portrait gallery of the Cochin Rajas. The structure, believed to have been built by the Portuguese in early 16th century and modified by the Dutch in 1663, was restored and declared a centrally-protected monument in 1951 by the Archaeological Survey of India. It was established as a museum in 1985.

Open on: All days except Friday

Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 5 for adults

Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum

One of the most recent museums in town (2009), this one brings together the art and culture of Kerala in a truly grand fashion. The extremely ornate interiors give a hint of the artistic fabric of erstwhile Kerala. The three floors of the structure have been built in the distinctive architectural styles of Malabar, Kochi and Travancore States. The collection includes costumes of ritual art forms, musical instruments, traditional jewellery, utensils dating back to stone-age, masks and sculptures. The museum is at Thevara.

Open Everyday

Time: 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 100 for adults

Rs. 50 for students

Maritime Museum

Ancient canons, telescopes, navigation charts, missiles and guns, a visit to the Naval Maritime Museum guarantees an adrenalin rush. It documents the history of the Indian Navy right down to the tiniest detail. The museum offers a glimpse into the various operations of the Navy. One can learn the technicalities of ship building and see the armaments and equipment used by the Naval force. Some of them on display are a Tem-3 sweep diverter, deployed by mine-sweeping vessels to neutralise underwater mines, a vintage anti-aircraft gun from World War II, a replica of the destroyer INS Delhi and personal mementos such as the ceremonial sword. It is at the Navy’s Missile and Gunnery School, INS Dronacharya, Fort Kochi.

Time: 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 25 for adults and Rs. 15 for Indians

An additional Rs.100 will be charged for a camera and Rs. 150 for video camera

Museum of Kerala Arts and History

A visit to this museum would require more than a leisurely approach. On the one hand, you find the centuries-old miniature art and on the other, works by contemporary artists. There is no struggle to strike a balance, as these have been elegantly segmented. The Kerala history section has a life-size tableaux reconstructing the socio-cultural set up of yore. The painting and sculpture section has over 500 original works by legendary artists such as Raja Ravi Varma, M.F. Hussain, F.N. Souza, Jamini Roy and the like. Miniature art, which was brought to ancient India by the Persians, is one of the major attractions. A curious collection of hand-crafted dolls from various parts of India is another. The Visual Arts section hosts reproductions of works of great artists. An open amphitheatre and a library are some of the museum’s latest additions. Set up by the Madhavan Nayar Foundation, the museum is in Edappally.

Open on All days except Monday

Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 100 for adults, Rs. 75 for college students and Rs. 30 for children

Hill Palace Museum

The sheer size of the Hill Palace Museum in Tripunithura is indicative of its glorious history. The abode of Maharaja Rama Varma of Cochin, the huge edifice spread over 52 acres, was built in 1865. The royal heritage of Kerala is perhaps most palpable here. All of the 17 galleries of this museum unravel the splendour of royal life. A gold crown weighing 1.75 kg, believed to be presented to the Raja of Cochin by King Immanuel of Portugal, is the show stopper. Various other A Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) written on goat skin is another major attraction. Other exhibits include ornaments, weapons, coins, paintings and sculptures. One of the first and the largest heritage museums of Kerala, the Hill Palace museum was declared a protected monument in 2003. The complex has an archaeological museum, a heritage museum, a deer park, a pre-historic park and a children’s park.

Open on: All days except Monday

Time: 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 30 for adults and Rs. 10 for children below 12 years

Indo Portuguese Museum

The Portuguese imprint on the history of Kochi is perhaps the most visible here. Located on the premises of the Bishop’s House at Fort Kochi, the museum showcases the ancient Indo-Portuguese Christian heritage. The 16th century altar finished in teak sourced from the Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypeen, is one of the major exhibits. Among the exhibits are a processional cross done in silver and wood, a chasuble (vestment worn by clergy), and an 18th-19th century Indo-Portuguese Monstrance. Several treasures collected and preserved by the Cochin Diocese, which runs the museum, are also on display.

Open on: All days except Mondays and public holidays

Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Entry fee: Rs. 10