The National Museum is the best of its kind in Indonesia and an essential visit. The enormous collection begins around an open courtyard of the 1862 building, which is stacked with magnificent millennia-old 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 sporting beards (a sign of wisdom) plus some fascinating textiles.

Over in a spacious modern wing there are four floors with sections devoted to the origin of humankind in Indonesia, including a model of the Flores ‘hobbit’. There’s also a superb display of gold treasures from Candi Brahu in Central Java: glittering necklaces, armbands and a bowl depicting scenes from the Ramayana. At the back of the courtyard, look for the architectural collection with models of some of the extraordinary structures from across the archipelago. Nearby, the textile collection (koleksi tekstil) has beautiful fabrics including koffo from Sulawesi, an intricate woven cloth with rich gold threads.

The Indonesian Heritage Society ( organises free English tours of the museum at 10am on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, with an additional tour on Thursday at 1.30pm. Tours are also available in French, Japanese and Korean and at other times; consult the website for the latest schedule.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

1. Arjuna Wijaya Statue


Built in 1987, this enormous statue near a major road junction depicts the Hindu hero Arjuna in his chariot pulled by eight horses.

2. Monumen Nasional

0.37 MILES

Ingloriously dubbed ‘Sukarno’s final erection’, the 132m-high National Monument (aka Monas), which rises into the shroud of smog and towers over Merdeka…

3. Istana Merdeka

0.42 MILES

The presidential palace (one of six in Indonesia) stands to the north of Merdeka Square. It was built in 1879 and was Sukarno's official residence during…

4. Merdeka Square

0.44 MILES

It is here that Jakartans come to take a breather from the traffic. The figurative centre of Jakarta, Merdeka Square (merdeka means independence) is…

5. Deer Enclosure

0.61 MILES

Dozens of pint-sized spotted deer wander a large tree-shaded enclosure in the southeast corner of the park.

6. Immanuel Church

0.71 MILES

This classic church dates from 1834. The interior is smaller than you'd think but it has an evocative round dome and an organ from 1843. Ask to see the…

7. Galeri Nasional

0.75 MILES

Over 1700 works of art by foreign and Indonesian artists are part of the National Gallery collection. While only a few works are on display at any time,…

8. Masjid Istiqlal

0.78 MILES

The striking, modernist Masjid Istiqlal is adorned by patterned geometric grates on the windows. Completed in 1978, it's the largest mosque in Southeast…