With millennia of indigenous history followed by encounters with Chinese, Europeans and Japanese, Taiwan has always been a cultural crossroads.
This vibrant island democracy holds many fascinating stories, and the museums of its capital Taipei could tell them better. On a rainy day (or any day except Monday), visit their galleries for insight into tribal communities, Hakka heritage, and controversial Taiwan-China relations.
These are the best museums in Taipei.
The National History Museum offers powerful historical information
Founded by Japanese settlers in 1908, the National Taiwan Museum is Taiwan’s oldest, located on the edge of 2-28 Peace Memorial Park in central Taipei. Explore the park and its many pagodas before the day gets too hot, finding commemorations of the “February 28 Incident” at the site where Taiwanese civilians protested police brutality sanctioned by the Chinese Nationalist government (the Kuomintang) in 1947.
Inside the museum’s galleries, visitors can explore Taiwan’s cultural and natural history, including taxidermy models of native animals and dinosaur bones, before crossing the street for free access to the vault. centenary fort of the Land Bank Exhibition Hall.
International art lovers will love the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts
One of the best art galleries in Taipei, the Museum of Fine Arts is a great choice for a day out. The museum is a frequent stop for international traveling exhibitions that cover fashion, design and art. TFAM also presents local artists and hosts the Taipei Biennale in its modern architectural space. The entrance fee is usually 30NTD but is free on Saturday nights. (Find out more ways to see more for less in the capital with our guide to Taipei on a budget.)
Admire the splendours of Chinese art at the National Palace Museum
If you only visit one museum in Taipei, make it this one. The National Palace Museum has a permanent collection of 700,000 Chinese works of art and artifacts – the largest and probably the finest in the world – with 8,000 years of Chinese history displayed gloriously over four vast floors. Prepare for a visual feast: ceramics, ancient calligraphy, jade and bronze vessels that once belonged to Chinese emperors are on display.
The grand entrance to the museum matches the historical significance of its contents, with a wide walkway lined with manicured shrubs and fountains squared in a complex built in the style of a Chinese palace.
Discover alternative histories at the Shung Ye Museum of Formosa Aborigines
Just down the road from the National Palace Museum, the Shung Ye Museum of Formosa Aborigines offers an alternative picture of Taiwanese history, worlds away from the glittering wealth of ancient Chinese emperors. Instead, you’ll find various exhibits of Taiwan’s native cultures here, focusing on the island’s ethnology and the varied customs and lifestyles of its various tribes.
Discover the wonders of the universe at the Taipei Astronomical Museum
Free your child from inner space at the Taipei Astronomical Museum, explore the many wonders of the universe through a range of educational exhibits and interactive installations including an equatorial telescope, star dome and ecliptic sundials.
Walk through a forest of Euro-Japanese architecture at the Beitou Hot Springs Museum
A replica of Japan’s Shizuokaken Idouyama bathhouse, the Beitou Hot Springs Museum is an unexpected find in the foothills of the Yangmingshan Mountains north of Taipei (accessible a short walk from the MRT Xinbeitou station).
Built in 1913 over the natural hot springs in the valley, this resort blends Eastern and Western architectural styles and served as a public bathhouse for Japanese colonialists. Swap your shoes for slippers to walk on the tatami floor and get a closer look at the arched hallways and tiled walls of the old bathing area as you peruse the historical exhibits.
Rest for a while on the pavilion overlooking Beitou Park; Alternatively, head for a more immersive experience at Beitou Public Hot Spring, baths that remain active today.
Take a leisurely stroll past jade artifacts at the National Museum of History
Set in the paradise of the Botanical Gardens filled with chirping birds, the National History Museum stands out among the trees with its Ming-style architecture – all red columns and sloping turquoise roof – backed by a peaceful lotus pond . Step inside to discover textiles, handicrafts, and jade jewelry from six Chinese dynasties, then take time to browse the garden.
Guandu Temple offers life lessons in religious practices
Guandu Temple could be called a living museum. The oldest temple in northern Taiwan is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and tells various stories through inlaid carvings on the walls, columns, and dragon carvings.
Dating back to the mid-17th century and expanded during the Qing Dynasty, Guandu today is a multi-faith temple run by an association of indigenous people from Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan.
Discover the latest news from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Another of Taipei’s best galleries is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which offers an eclectic program of modern international exhibitions in a Japanese colonial building just north of Taipei Main Station.
Get a taste of kitsch at the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan
At the smallest scale of all, the Taiwan Miniatures Museum showcases a couple’s unique collection of world attractions in miniature. Exhibits include a small Buckingham Palace, a Tudor castle and Roman ruins alongside fantastical scenes from famous fairy tales such as a Pinocchio and Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s all a bit silly – and utterly charming.