TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan is blessed with an abundance of museums offering insights into just about anything you can think of. They are popular with tourists and locals alike and many are highly regarded by experts around the world.
The most famous of all Taiwan’s museums is undoubtedly the National Palace Museum in Taipei. It has long been a must-see destination for visitors to Taipei and this remains the case. In the recently published 2017 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index, it ranked as the 13thmost-visited museum in the world with 4,436,000 recorded visitors last year.
But while the National Palace Museum is undoubtedly packed full of stunning artifacts, it is far from the only museum worth paying a visit to in Taiwan. There were three other museums in Taiwan which made it into the top 20 most-visited museums for the Asia-Pacific region on the latest index.
And even if a museum does not attract big numbers, it can still be well-worth visiting. So, here is our rundown of the Top 10 Museums in Taiwan (excluding the National Palace Museum). If we have missed out any of your favorites, why not let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages?
1. National Palace Museum – Southern Branch- Chiayi
The National Palace Museum has long held far more artifacts that it has been able to display in its Taipei home. So, the opening of this new branch of the museum in Chiayi in 2015 was long overdue. This brand-new state of the art complex was built with no expense spared. It features permanent and temporary exhibitions on topics as diverse as Buddhist Art, The Art and Culture of Tea, and Asian Textiles. It is also home to a highly regarded Children’s Creative Center where youngsters of all ages can learn more about the diversity of South-Asian culture.
2. National Museum of Natural Science- Taichung
The National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung is another of Taiwan’s Museums to make it onto the 2017 index with more than 3 million visitors last year. It is a huge complex built which boasts permanent exhibitions on zoology, botany, geology, and anthropology. Their Life Sciences exhibition includes a hugely popular dinosaur exhibit, while their excellent science center does a great job of teaching visitors young and old about modern science. The museum also boasts a popular IMAX cinema and its own botanical garden on the main site. It also manages the 921 Earthquake Education Park in Wufong, the Fonghuanggu Bird & Ecology Park, and the Chelungpu Fault Preservation Park.
3. National Taiwan Science Education Center– Taipei
The National Taiwan Science Education Center in Taipei is another of Taiwan’s popular science museums. It had more than 2.8 million visitors last year. It features some wonderful high-tech facilities and attractions including a Turbo-Ride 3D Theatre, an Earthquake Theatre, a Kids Learning and Discovery Playground, and a Science Laboratory. There are permanent exhibitions on both life sciences and material sciences which offer compelling insights for visitors of all ages. And the museum also hosts some hugely popular temporary exhibitions, with upcoming highlights including a semiconductor innovation exhibit, a Peppa Pig event, and an interactive "Crazy Bubble" exhibition.
4. National Taiwan Museum– Taipei
Taiwan’s oldest museum, which established in 1908 under the Japanese occupation, is often overshadowed by its larger and more modern rivals, but still has much to offer. It is located in Zhongzheng District, adjacent to the 2/28 Peace Park. In its elegant neo-classical main building, visitors can enjoy exhibitions on Taiwan’s natural history, indigenous cultures, and native plant and animals. The museum also operates the nearby Land Bank Exhibitions Hall, where, as well as learning more about the history of this historic building and the bank that it once housed, there is also an impressive dinosaur exhibition loved by kids of all ages.
5. Chimei Museum– Tainan
Tainan’s Chimei Museum is a private venture which was opened in 1992 by Wen-long Shi (許文龍), founder of the Chimei Corporation, to house his personal collections of antiques and artifacts. It is not focused on Taiwan as such, but rather Shi’s own personal interests. He is an amateur violinist and the Chimei Museum houses one of the world’s largest collection of antique violins. There are also extensive collections of western art, antiques, and historic military artifacts. In 2014, the museum moved to its current spectacular Greek-style home in Tainan Metropolitan Park. It also features spectacular landscaped grounds which include a huge lake and is a popular place for locals and visitors alike to play and relax.
6. National 228 Memorial Museum– Taipei
One thing Taiwan is widely praised for in the museum sector is the readiness with which the country addresses it darker historic moments. And nowhere is that more in evidence than at the 228 Memorial Museum in Taipei. This powerful museum first opened its doors in 1997 with the aim of remembering the dreadful events of the co-called "228 Incident" in which KMT forces massacred an estimated 10,000 people. The museum was also intended to make information about the atrocity public and provide some form of closure and comfort to the families of those who died. It is housed in a humble old building which was once home to the Taiwan Broadcasting Bureau. Its exhibits and graphic imagery are all offered with English explanation and the museum delivers a powerful reminder of the dreadful events that took place back in 1947.
7. National Museum of Taiwan Literature– Tainan
Housed in the spectacular former Tainan Prefecture government building, which dates to 1916, the National Museum of Taiwan Literature was established in 2003 as the first Museum in Taiwan dedicated to literature. It archives and displays all manner of different items relating to Taiwanese literature covering all periods from the modern day back to the Dutch colonialization and beyond. There are a number of fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions on different literary subjects. But if you are not a big reader, it is still worth visiting for a closer look at how this architecturally important building has been restored too.
8. Museum of Gold, Jinguashi’s Gold Ecological Park
Situated near the town of Jinguashi (金瓜石), Taiwan’s Museum of Gold provides a fascinating insight into the gold mining industry that once dominated this mountainous northern area. Visitors can get an insight into the life of a miner here, including having the opportunity to venture down the Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑) into what was a real working mine. There is also a gold-panning experience and the opportunity to touch one of the largest gold bars in the world, weighing 220kg. The museum considers itself an ecological-museum and also offers an environmental education center on site. It is also home to a stunning example of Japanese-era architecture, the Crown Prince Chalet (太子賓館).
9. Dengfeng Fish Ball Museum – Taipei
As well as established large-scale museums, Taiwan also has a hugely impressive range of smaller, specialist museums too. You can find museums about everything from seashells to drinking water. The Dengfeng Fish Ball Museum (登峰魚丸博物館) is perhaps the most popular of these smaller museums. Located on Tamsui Old Street, it can be found where the famous Weixiang Fish Ball Shop (味香魚丸店), once stood. The museum was intended to promote the Tamsui areas local fishing culture and offers an insight into fishing techniques and equipment as well as displays about the fish ball industry. Needless to say, there are plenty of opportunities to buy fish balls yourself and you can even have a go at making your own.
10. National Human Rights Museum – Green Island
Last week, President Tsai Ing-wen formally opened the National Human Rights Museum on Green Island. It is located in the White Terror Memorial Park, where thousands of prisoners were incarcerated and killed during the White Terror, a 38-year long period of martial law under the KMT regime. The museum is sited in a former prison complex, the main building of which was known, ironically, as Oasis Village. It is intended to help preserve the site where numerous human rights abuses took place as well as play a role in Taiwan’s efforts at achieving Transitional Justice. It will also preserve documentary evidence from the White Terror period and promote human rights more generally.