After years of renovation, China’s premier museum, housed in the immense 1950s building on the eastern side of Tian’anmen Square, finally reopened in 2011. It was still a work in progress when I last visited, with some halls still closed, but much of what was open was well worth visiting.. especially as it’s free!
The Ancient China exhibition on the basement floor is outstanding. It contains dozens and dozens of stunning pieces, from prehistoric China through to the Qing Dynasty, all displayed beautifully in modern, spacious, low-lit exhibition halls. You could easily spend a couple of hours in this exhibition alone.
Also worth seeking out is the Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor. The Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are also impressive.
Many of the other halls housed temporary art galleries were eye-catching, but lacked English captions.
The museum, which is vast and energy sapping, also has a pleasant ground-floor cafe (coffee from ¥20, pastries/sandwiches ¥10-20).
Note, although it’s free, you do need to show your passport (or some other form of official photograph ID) in order to get in.
East side of Tian’anmen Square
Nearest subway station:
Tiananmen East (200m)