World Buddhist Museum (International Buddhist Museum)
Also called the International Buddhist Museum, the World Buddhist Museum in Kandy is the world’s first museum dedicated to the international story of the religion. Located within Kandy’s UNESCO-listed Temple of the Tooth complex, its exhibits chart the history, art, and practices of Buddhism worldwide, from China to Sri Lanka.
Housed in Kandy’s former High Court buildings, the Buddhist Museum is arranged into separate galleries devoted to each of the 17 countries it covers. Nations include Thailand, Nepal, Japan, and Sri Lanka; and each gallery displays photographs, statuary, models, and information panels on the Buddhist beliefs of each.
Museum admission is included in Temple of the Tooth entry tickets and visitors explore on a self-guided basis. All private Kandy tours—including those leaving from Kandy and day trips from Colombo and Negombo—include a visit to the must-see temple. Most of these also offer customizable itineraries, giving visitors the opportunity to ask their guide to tailor their temple sightseeing to include a museum visit.
Things to know before you go
- The World Buddhist Museum is a must for Buddhists and history and culture buffs.
- No photography is allowed inside.
- Allow 15 minutes for a quick look or around 45 minutes for an in-depth visit.
- The museum can only be accessed from within the Temple of the Tooth complex.
- Museum access is difficult for wheelchair users.
How to get there
The World Buddhist Museum stands directly behind the Temple of the Tooth in the temple complex—look for the colonial-period building fronted by a Buddha statue. Visit the temple on a tour from Kandy, Colombo, or Negombo; or alternatively, catch one of the numerous trains that depart for Kandy from Colombo Fort station. Regular buses also run to Kandy from Colombo.
When to get there
The museum is open from 8am to 7pm daily and since it’s cool and usually fairly quiet, can provide a welcome refuge from the heat and bustle of the rest of the temple complex. There’s no bad time to visit, but if you want to explore when the museum is at its quietest, aim to arrive near the opening time.
Must-Sees at the World Buddhist Museum
Keep an eye out for the World Buddhist Museum’s most unusual treasures as you wander around. Head to the India section to see a haunting effigy of a near-skeletal, fasting Buddha before continuing to the Pakistan room to see similar penance-paying depictions. Other highlights include a set of immense temple gongs in the Myanmar hall and a Vietnamese Buddha statue with 1,000 eyes.