Beijing has no shortage of museums, and indeed is home to some of the most impressive ones of anywhere in the world. Here’s a quick guide to the top five museums to visit when in Beijing to help you know where to start.
You’ve probably heard of the famous Forbidden City in Beijing, which is in fact just one part of the Palace Museum. Surrounded by a moat and eight meter high walls, this vast museum has a huge collection of ceramics, paintings, bronzeware, clocks and jade – among many other things from throughout China’s imperial age. Allow several hours (perhaps the whole morning) to fully explore the Palace Museum, as well as appreciate the ornate and pristinely preserved architecture. From April, to October, entry is ¥60, while from November, to March, it costs just ¥40 to go in.
This relatively new museum, which only opened in 2003, when it merged two separate museums that had until that point occupied the same building, covers China’s history from approximately 1.7 million years ago up until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. Housing many unique items that can’t be seen anywhere else such as ancient bronzeware, burial suits and some more unusual ceramics – the National Museum is conveniently situated right on Tiananmen Square. Visits are free to everyone, but you must make a reservation in advance; either online, or on the day (ideally in the morning) by showing up at the entrance with a valid form of identification. Knowing that this is the third most visited museum in the world might help you understand why!
National Art Museum of China
One of the largest art museums in China, the National Art Museum of China contains 21 exhibition halls, over 3 levels. Filled with traditional Chinese paintings, oil paintings, watercolours, sculpture, porcelain from Ming and Qing Dynasty, as well as the early Republic of China. It’s also home to several collections of more modern works, both from within China – as well as some by artists from around the globe. Admission is free, but bare in mind that they limit daily admittance to 4000 tickets and that it’s closed on Mondays.
Beijing Museum of Natural History
With over 200,000 specimens, the Beijing Museum of Natural History is a great place to learn about the evolutionary path of life on Earth as well as biodiversity in general for both adults and children alike. Displaying some impressive dinosaur remains, including some specimens that are unique to China, it also has a large collection of birds, mammals and invertebrates to marvel at. Admission is free, but must be reserved at least one day in advance by telephone. Closed on Mondays.
Beijing Capital Museum
This enormous art museum has a spectacularly varied collection of porcelain, calligraphy, painting and sculpture from China and around Asia. Displayed over five floors, a clear effort is made to make works of art accessible and presented in creative and unusual manners. Seeing the stele of the Emperor Qing Long is one good reason to visit the Beijing Capital Museum, but don’t skip past everything else just to see it. Like most other museums in Beijing, it is closed on Mondays and entrance is free, but you must make reservation in advance through their website or by phone.