For my first full day in Taipei I thought I’d jump straight into some history and culture at the National Palace Museum. I knew some general Taiwanese history (Chiang Kai-Shek, Chinese civil war and all that) but I wanted to learn more and put it all in context.
The clue’s in the name because the National Palace Museum truly is a palace, both inside and out. It’s nestled between trees up on a mountainside, making the walk through the archway and up the staircase to the museum entrance itself somewhat grand.
The entry free is only NT$250 (about US$8) and you can also hire a free audio guide which is invaluable. I can’t lie, I don’t have the world’s longest attention span and I generally find audio guides annoying but I promise you will get so much more out of your visit if you do hire one here as the info under the museum pieces themselves is very limited or non-existent. You also get given an info sheet which has the exhibits and halls numbered so you know which audio track to follow.
One refreshing thing about the National Palace Museum is that you aren’t allowed to carry in a whole plethora of things which, initially, is a bit of a pain (although they do supply you with free lockers). No medium or large bags, no cameras, no umbrellas, no water, no food. I went into the exhibits with just my phone, audio guide and some emergency cash. It was nice to not fight through crowds of people snapping a thousand photos with DSLRs or people with bulky backpacks. People were just enjoying the present experience and not living it out through their camera lens. (But unfortunately means I can’t show you any exhibit photos).
I learnt the differences between Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism and saw plenty of stunning ancient Buddhist relics, which were probably my favourite bits. There’s also an insane amount of ancient Chinese pottery, jewellery, books, paintings and more.
I was amazed to hear that the museum has actually accumulated nearly 700,000 artefacts and is the largest collector of ancient Chinese artefacts in the world. And because the collection is so huge, only 1% of all artefacts are exhibited at a time! So basically, every time you visit, you’re guaranteed to see something different!
Overall, just make sure the National Palace Museum is on your Taipei-must-do list. It’s a super inexpensive and interesting way for both locals and foreigners to spend a day.