The feasibility of bacterial cellulose (BC) as a novel substrate for retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) culture was evaluated. Thin (41.6 ± 2.2 μm of average thickness) and heat-dried BC substrates were surface-modified via acetylation and polysaccharide adsorption, using chitosan and carboxymethyl cellulose. All substrates were characterized according to their surface chemistry, wettability, energy, topography, and also regarding their permeability, dimensional stability, mechanical properties, and endotoxin content. Then, their ability to promote RPE cell adhesion and proliferation in vitro was assessed. All surface-modified BC substrates presented similar permeation coefficients with solutes of up to 300 kDa. Acetylation of BC decreased it's swelling and the amount of endotoxins. Surface modification of BC greatly enhanced the adhesion and proliferation of RPE cells. All samples showed similar stress-strain behavior; BC and acetylated BC showed the highest elastic modulus, but the latter exhibited a slightly smaller tensile strength and elongation at break as compared to pristine BC. Although similar proliferation rates were observed among the modified substrates, the acetylated ones showed higher initial cell adhesion. This difference may be mainly due to the moderately hydrophilic surface obtained after acetylation.