National Museum of China
At 47 acres (19 hectares) the National Museum of China is among the largest museums in the world. It’s a great place to learn about Chinese culture and the history of long-lost dynasties. You can spend a good part of the day wandering through the museum’s halls.
Upon entry you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer scope of exhibits. You won’t have enough time to see all the items in the collection, which numbers about a million. Start with the rotating exhibits and then move on to the collections that pique your interest most. You can always come back for the free basic exhibits.
The permanent exhibits span 5,000 years of Chinese history. Follow this history through the treasure trove of precious artifacts, such as rare porcelain pieces, antique gold and silver jewelry, old currency pieces and jade objects from Neolithic times. You’ll see portraits of Buddha and Mao everywhere you look, so history, religion and politics go hand-in-hand at this museum.
Take a break in the on-site café before seeing more highlights. Find the ancient bronze cooking vessel known as Simuwu Ding and the incisors of an ancient Homo erectus, dubbed Yuanmou Man. The ceremonial Han Dynasty jade burial suit is another eye-catching piece.
Set aside an hour or so for the ever-changing artwork displays, which often come from all over the world. Some books in the museum shop are in English, so you can stock up on documentation about Chinese architecture and folklore.
The National Museum of China on Tiananmen Square is open daily, except Mondays. Entry is free for the basic exhibits, but you’ll need to bring your passport to enter. Arrive early to make the most of your visit, as the ticket booth for the more elaborate and rotating exhibits closes mid afternoon.