Museum Nasional information
On the western side of Merdeka Sq, the National Museum, built in 1862, is the best of its kind in Indonesia and is the one museum in the city that’s an essential visit. A very impressive modern wing was added on the north side of the neo-classical colonial structure in 2007. No photographs are allowed.
The museum has an enormous collection. Around the open courtyard is some magnificent statuary including a colossal 4.5m stone image of a Bhairawa king from Rambahan in Sumatra, who is shown trampling on human skulls. The ethnology section is superb, with Dayak puppets and wooden statues from Nias bearing beards (a sign of wisdom) plus some fascinating textiles.
Over in the spacious new wing there are four floors with sections devoted to the origin of mankind in Indonesia, including a model of the Flores ‘hobbit’. There’s also a superb display of gold treasures from Candi Brahu in Central Java, including some glittering necklaces, armbands and a bowl depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
The Indonesian Heritage Society organises free English tours of the National Museum, at 10:30am on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Tours are also available at other times, and in French, Japanese and Korean; consult the website for the latest schedule.