Taiwan boasts museums to suit nearly every interest, from art and folk, to history and memorials, to maritime and hot springs. There are more than 200 museums in Taiwan, but to narrow them down for you, we've picked the top ones in and around Taipei to help you explore Taiwan’s rich history and culture. Before you go, note that most museums are closed on Mondays, and on International Museum Day (May 18), many museums offer free admission or special programming.
One of Taipei’s newest museums, Bopiliao Historical Block is a restored street in Wanhua district, which was a major maritime hub during the Qing Dynasty. The red brick buildings here retain their charm and history, a reflection of the influence of Qing Dynasty and Japanese colonial rule. Divided into outdoor and indoor areas, the outside is free to explore and is open every day except Mondays. The indoor areas host art exhibits and events, which are ticketed separately. Like It Formosa occasionally offers free, three-hour walking tours that include visits to Bopiliao Historical Block, Lungshan Temple, The Red House, Presidential Office, 228 Peace Memorial Park, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Nestled in the foothills of Yangmingshan some 30 minutes by subway from downtown Taipei, Beitou Hot Spring Museum was originally Taiwan’s first bathhouse. When the sulfuric hot springs in Beitou were discovered during Japan’s occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), the Japanese introduced their tradition of soaking in natural hot springs to the district. The small two-story museum features exhibits on the bathhouse’s renovation as well as the surrounding area, originally home to the Indigenous Ketagalan plains-dwellers. Exhibit highlights include a massive public bath where locals once soaked; a 1,763-pound piece of Hokutolite, a local mineral which takes more than one century to crystallize; and a second-floor balcony that affords sweeping views of Beitou. The museum, which is closed on Mondays, is just down the road from dozens of hot spring resorts.
The 228 Memorial Museum, located inside 228 Peace Memorial Park, is run by the nonprofit 228 Memorial Foundation. Opened in 1997, the museum is a memorial to the thousands of Taiwanese who were killed during the 228 Incident on February 28, 1947. This bloody anti-government uprising ultimately led to the beginning of the White Terror, a decades-long period in which thousands were charged as communist subversives and killed or jailed. It wasn’t until martial law was lifted in 1987 that the 228 Incident began to be discussed. While many of the displays are in Chinese, there is an English audio guide, and many of the museum’s docents speak English.
Learn about the life and times of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan’s former dictator who ruled Taiwan from 1945 until his death in 1975, at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The distinctive concrete and marble structure with an octagonal cobalt blue roof houses a museum with six exhibition rooms at ground level, as well as a memorial with a massive bronze statue of Chiang at the top of its 89 steps. Noteworthy artifacts include Chiang’s bulletproof Cadillac and a recreation of his office. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard that occurs at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is an exhibition hall and cultural center that was built to honor Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Republic of China’s “national father.” The park that surrounds the bright yellow, tiled-roof memorial is a popular spot for locals to stroll, fly kites, and exercise. Outside is a massive statue of Sun, while inside, the hall boasts a library and several art galleries, including the Chung Shan Art Gallery. Like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, visitors can watch the changing of the guard that occurs at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Located 90 minutes from Taipei in Miaoli, this museum is housed in a small factory that produces Ramune marble sodas. Marble soda is a flavored, carbonated drink bottled in distinctive Codd-neck bottles that are sealed with a glass marble to lock in the carbonation; the bottle’s plastic cap then serves as a plunger to smack the marble into the neck, where it rattles around each time you take a sip of the old-time Japanese soda. Factory workers give tours of the soda making and bottling process, after which visitors can bottle their own marble soda in flavors ranging from grape to ice cream. The Dapunei Marble Soda Museum is off-the-beaten track in an industrial park in Tongluo Township, but it’s easily accessible via taxi from Miaoli Train Station.
This 59-acre park in Luodong, an urban township in the center of Yilan on Taiwan’s northeastern coast, is a walk through time. The National Center for Traditional Arts has recreated a village to inform visitors about Taiwan’s rich folk culture with music, dance, crafts, and food. Located on the bank of the Dongshang River, the museum features three boulevards, each offering hands-on exhibits and activities; a temple dedicated to Wangchang, the Chinese god of academia; and performance halls for folks shows. Stroll Education Boulevard to watch artists create traditional crafts and try DIY activities like straw-weaving, candy-making, and knot-tying. Admire the Southern Fujian- and Baroque-style shops on Folk Art Boulevard, which are crammed with handicrafts and curios, including opera puppets, calligraphy brushes, and old-school toys like wooden spinning tops.
Luodong is 40 miles from Taipei (about a one-hour drive). If you don't want to drive, take the local train from Taipei to Luodong; then transfer to either a Taiwan Tourist Shuttle or take a short taxi ride to the park.
With 600,000 artifacts, the National Palace Museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese art, much of it secretly shipped to Taiwan before the Nationalists fled Mainland China in 1949. There are two branches of the National Palace Museum, the main location in Taipei and a southern branch in Chiayi. Each is packed with paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, jade, ceramics, engraved seals, rare books, and historical documents. The permanent collection is rotated every three months, and some of the most popular artifacts take turns being displayed in the capital and down south. The most famous pieces include the Jadeite cabbage, an intricately carved cloisonne flower pot from the Qing Dynasty; Ròuxíngshí, jasper carved into the shape of a piece of fatty pork that dates to the Qing Dynasty; and oracle bones used for fortune telling during the Shang Dynasty. Both locations are closed on Mondays.
Built in 1908, The National Taiwan Museum is the oldest museum in Taiwan. Its four floors are filled with permanent and special exhibits on Taiwan’s pre-history and Indigenous culture. Some of the oldest items in the museum’s collection are the Formosan flag, which features a yellow tiger set against a blue background; the oldest existing Chinese map on a single colored scroll (it depicts Taiwan during the Kangxi period); and cowhide armor, a rare artifact of the Tao Tribe who hailed from the Batanes, an archipelagic at the northern end of the Philippines. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Taipei Fine Arts Museum is the island’s first museum focused on modern and contemporary Taiwanese art. In addition to its exhibits and arts education programming, the four-story museum also hosts the Taipei Biennial and the Taipei Arts Awards. The museum’s 5,000-piece collection picks up where the National Palace Museum has left off in collecting Chinese antiques, featuring Chinese and Western paintings, sculptures, and photography of local and overseas artists from the 19th century onward. Collection highlights include Twelve Points of Interest in Taipei, an ink painting by Japanese artist Gobara Koto from the 1920s; The Li Chun-Sheng Memorial Hall, a 1929 watercolor by Taiwanese artist Ni Chiang-Huai; and Sakya, a 1926 plaster sculpture by Taiwanese artist Huang Tu-Shui. The museum is closed on Mondays; free admission is offered on Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.