Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum

You’ve wandered through a night market (yèshì, 夜市), you’ve tried stinky tofu (chòu dòufu, 臭豆腐) and pineapple cake (fènglísū, 鳳梨酥), you’ve been up The 101 (yī líng yī, 一零一), seen the evening crowds in Ximending (西門町), and consumed more bubble tea than you ever thought possible — welcome to the wonderful world of the Ilha Formosa. You might have even hiked Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan, 象山) or watched an exercise dance class in a local park. Now it is time to visit the National Palace Museum.


Many foreigners are blown away by various aspects of Taiwan, from the ease of public transportation to the kindness of the people they encounter, the 7-Elevens on virtually every street corner to the garbage trucks which play the Für Elise as a signal to the neighborhood to come out to separate, sort, and dispose of their trash together. The standard of living and the quality of life here is high and it reflects an incredible confluence of history and culture that is worth taking the time to appreciate. Let this be an indication for what to expect when you visit the National Palace Museum.

Most people are not museum nerds, nor would the average person fly half-way around the world to explore a museum, however, this one is worth it. Simply put, the National Palace Museum is a mandatory stop on every Taipei itinerary. Trust us.

Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum 1
Museum Piece: Jade Beast

Built in 1965, in the northern end of Taipei, the National Palace Museum houses a priceless collection of over 70,000 pieces of art. Containing, porcelain, bronze, sculpted jade, traditional paintings, texts, and calligraphy, it is arguably one of the largest and finest collections of Chinese art anywhere in the world.1 Most of the Museum’s pieces come directly from Chinese Imperial collections originally located in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Spanning work from all of the Chinese dynasties, some of the pieces date as far back as the neolithic period.

The pieces themselves contain incredible histories, however, the history of the National Palace Museum’s collection itself is no less noteworthy. Turned over to the Nationalist Government by the Qing Imperial Family in 1925, the collection became part of what is known as the Beijing National Palace Museum. In 1933, in advance of the Japanese invasion, the artwork was transported out of Beijing, first to Shanghai, and then Nanjing, where it was eventually split into three different portions to be sent thousands of kilometers westward, northwards, and southwards into the far reaches of China to be protected from the fighting and the foreign invaders. After the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, the collection was regrouped, first in the city of Chongqing, before making the long journey back to the National Palace Museum in Beijing, via sea route, by 1947.2

By 1948, in the midst of China’s civil war, the National Palace Museum in Beijing along with several other institutions made the decision to once again move the artwork away from the fighting. In late 1948 they began shipping the masterpieces to Taiwan for safekeeping. Between December of 1948 and February of 1949 over 2,972 crates traveled via Nanjing, China, to Keelung, Taiwan, accounting for around 20-30% of the Beijing National Palace Museum’s collection.3 By the time the artwork arrived in Taiwan the Chinese Communist Party had taken control of Beijing as well as all of the remaining pieces of art. It is alleged today, however, that the rough-third of the former imperial collection housed in Taiwan contains many of the better pieces .4

In the 1950’s, still perceiving the artwork at risk from attack across The Strait, the Nationalist government hid the pieces in warehouses and mountain villages around the Island, even constructing a cave to store the art if need be in times of emergency.5 It was not until 1960 that construction began on the National Palace Museum in Taipei where the collection was moved for its opening in August of 1965.

Subsequently, the National Palace Museum has become one of the most visited sites in Taipei and one of the best places to learn about traditional Chinese art and cultural history. It represents countless hours of master craftsmanship and is some of the pinnacle and seminal achievements in traditional Chinese artwork.

Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum 2
The Luoyang Tower, Tang Dynasty

What to Expect

Pro Tip 1: Go on a full stomach and plan to spend most of the day there. It is a museum that some could spend years in, but you will likely need at least a few hours. It is a great activity for rainy, cold, or very warm weather.

Pro Tip 2: Book a free guided English tour in advance.


From the Museum’s Website for 2023 and 2024: Exhibition Hall I (Main Building)

  • Open from Tuesday to Sunday between 09:00 and 17:00. Closed on Mondays (ticket sales and exchange: 09:00-16:30)
  • |Open on Mondays if they fall on a national holiday or long weekend. In 2023, the National Palace Museum will be open on the following Mondays: 5/1, 6/26, 7/3, 8/7, 9/4, 10/9, 10/16, 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, and 12/4.
  • |Open on Mondays if they fall on a national holiday or long weekend. In 2024, the National Palace Museum will be open on the following Mondays: 1/1, 2/12, 6/10, and 9/16.

See more information on visiting times on the National Palace Museum website here.


The museum offers a number of discounts and deals, but generally tickets cost NT$350 per person. *Those under 17 get in for free regardless of nationality.

See more information on admission costs here.

Museum Layout:

Museums can be tricky to navigate, but this one does not have to be. In addition to the maps that they give you at the information desks you can check out the Exhibition Floor Plan linked here.

Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum 3
Rectangular dish with dragon-and-cloud decor, Ming Dynasty


If you are an English speaker who does not speak Mandarin, it is well worth booking a tour in advance. It is hard to stress this enough: book the tour. You will get far more out of the artwork and the museum if you do so. Free tours can be booked here.

Other options:

The National Palace Museum also offers audio guides at the Audio Tour Information Desk. These are handheld devices which visitors use to personalize their tour of the various galleries. These cost NT$150 per rental and require a deposit of an ID (ID card, driver’s license, health insurance card, or passport) or NT$3,000 in cash that will be returned when you have concluded your visit and returned the device.

The audio guides are offered in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Sign Language.

They have a multimedia tour for kids 7-12 as well. Cost NT$100 and rented at the Audio Tour Information Desk.

Alternatively there are FREE English downloadable audio guides on the Museum’s website if you would like to bring your own device and headphones and save a little bit of money. The link to the downloadable guides can be found here.

Getting There

Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum 4

There are a number of options for getting to the National Palace Museum. One of the easiest is taking the red line to Shilin Station #16. From there you make your way to Exit 1 where it is a short walk to the bus stop on Zhongzheng road. From there you can catch any number of buses to the National Palace (they will announce the stop over the loudspeakers in English as well as Chinese). Travel time is approximately 15 minutes.

Busses from Shilin Station:

R30/紅30, 815, 304, 300, 255, S19/小19, S18/小18, or M1/市民小巴1 to the National Palace Museum

More information on traveling to the Museum can be found on their website here.

Booking a Tour

Booking a guided tour is relatively easy using the Museum’s reservation system.

A few key things to note:

  • Make sure to have your passport/ID number handy and follow the application instructions.
  • The tours take about 60-80 minutes with the opportunity to explore on your own afterwards.
  • Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early with your tour ticket and ID.
  • If you are going to cancel your tour do so at least 24 hours ahead of time, otherwise you will be banned from the reservation system for three months!
Visiting the Taipei National Palace Museum 5
Bamboo sculpture of the Eight Immortals (Zhang Guolao), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

More Resources

To read more about the Museum’s history:

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