Something that I’ve grown to appreciate through travel is visiting museums. Before we moved to Japan and started traveling more regularly, I would visit an occasional art museum for college credit, but never sought out museums of my own accord.
However, as we’ve started traveling more, I’ve realized that museums are really the perfect way to learn about a specific culture or city without the help of expensive tours or impatient guides.
Today I want to talk about a few different museums that we checked out during our trip to Malaysia. Obviously, these aren’t the only museums that you can visit in Malaysia, but just the ones we had time to see.
The National Museum (Muzium Negara):
Opened in 1963, this museum in the heart of Kuala Lumpur has four different galleries that show different aspects of Malay culture. We loved walking through each exhibit, beginning with the Prehistoric gallery, working our way through Early Malay Kingdoms and Colonial times, and ending with the exhibit that showcases the Malaysia of today.
We really loved this museum, and appreciated the wide variety of information offered to us in English. Being able to understand all of the text around us really helped us feel more engaged, and we enjoyed our time so much more than if we had simply rushed through the museum just to say we went.
Outside of the United States, this is probably the best national museum that we’ve ever been to. Not only was it well thought out and had really interesting artifacts, it was also reasonably priced and very aesthetically pleasing.
|5 RM (non-Malaysian)||9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||Only closed on Hari Raya Aidilfitri & Hari Raya Aidil Adha.|
For more information, check this link out!
The Islamic Arts Museum:
Kuala Lumpur really hits the nail on the head again with the Islamic Arts Museum (IAMM). Open seven days a week, the IAMM has two levels filled with gorgeous art pieces from different Islamic countries (India, China, Malaysia). Two floors of the museum are dedicated to permanent galleries, and two separate galleries house temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
There was so much to see inside the museum that we could have spent a whole day just admiring the different art pieces in each gallery.
I loved looking at the different jewelry, clothing, and the temporary Islamic book binding exhibit, but what we enjoyed seeing the most was the gallery with scale models of mosques around the world.
There are a few mosques, like the National Mosque in KL, that allow non-Muslims to enter and explore inside. However, there are other mosques that are more private and we would be prohibited from visiting because we aren’t Muslim. We liked that we could see the details of these mosques, because these models are probably the closest we’ll ever get to most of them.
Like the National Museum, the IAMM has a beautiful interior, and is a gorgeous structure just on its own. The gift shop was also surprisingly interesting, and there was a lot of beautiful (and a few expensive) souvenirs that we wished we had the room to bring home with us.
14 RM (adults) / 7 RM (students)
|10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||None!|
For more information, check out this link!
An unassuming museum in the heart of a Hindu-Peranakan village, the Chetti museum was something we stumbled upon in a random guide book about Melaka.
It’s not as beautiful or grand as the museums we visited in Kuala Lumpur, but something to consider adding to your itinerary if you want to learn more about this mix of Indian and Malay peoples.
Don’t expect to spend hours at this museum – you can walk through the entire building in about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how long you spend reading the texts and looking at pictures.
If anything, this is a great stop to make while you explore the surrounding village.
|2 RM / person||9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.||Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays|
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a website for this museum, but it’s in most guidebooks/e-books about Melaka.
Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum:
A more elaborate museum, the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum is a great place to learn about another people group that originated in Melaka. A Chinese man married a Malay woman, and their offspring are now known as the Babas and the Nyonyas.
The building that the museum is in was at one time a lavish home where four generations of Babas and Nyonyas were born and raised. In 1985, it was officially opened to the public as a museum, but those that belong to this family line are still able to use it as a place of worship.
Tours begin at 10 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m., and after the tour is over, you can walk through the house and gift shop area on your own. Unfortunately, we felt like the tour was rushed and the guide did not speak very good English.
If you don’t visit the Heritage Museum, you’re not missing out on much, but it is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
|16 RM||10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.||None! Open daily.|
Sultanate Palace Museum:
Located right in the hub of the city, the Sultanate Palace Museum is a replica of the palace built by Sultan Mansur Shah, who ruled from 1456 to 1477.
Now, the palace is a cultural museum, and gives visitors a glimpse of the ancient kingdom in Melaka. Inside, you can find thousands of photographs, weapons, clothing, and other art pieces that showcase what life was like during this time period. We felt like this museum was very similar to the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur, but it was unique in that it focused primarily on life in ancient Melaka.
The museum is close by to many other popular sites in the city, and has a nice garden area, known as the Forbidden Garden. Unfortunately, you have to pay to enter the palace complex, but at a very small price, it’s worth checking out.
|5 RM||9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||closed on Mondays|
The Camera Museum:
We decided to visit the Camera Museum on our last day in Georgetown just to kill time before we could check into our next Airbnb, but we’re so glad we checked it out!
If you love photography, or just appreciate old cameras, this is a great place to include in your travel plans. While not the most amazing museum you’ll ever visit, we thought it was a great way to spend a morning where we had a little bit of extra free time.
It definitely caters to the “Instagram Traveler,” so if you’re into that, you’re gonna love it! If not, you might think it’s a little bit on the cheesy side. Like the Chetty Museum in Melaka, it doesn’t take very long to get through, but we took our time and spent about an hour walking around and taking in everything in each exhibit.
Ironically, I didn’t take many pictures inside the Camera Museum, but you can see more of the inside of the museum in our Penang vlog below:
Important note: As I was writing this post, I visited their Facebook page, and discovered that the museum is actually moving locations! I’m not sure how this will affect pricing or hours, but the information I put below is the most recent information that I could find. There isn’t an actual website, but you can follow along on their page to find out when they’ll reopen at their new space.
|20 RM||9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.||None! Open daily.|
Not all museums are equal – some are amazing, but there are also a lot of museums that aren’t really worth your time or money. However, we feel like traveling should help you focus on something other than yourself, and museums help you do just that. Learning about different cultures and people groups help make you more knowledgeable and understanding, and just might be the thing that brings you closer to the people around you.
Take some time on your trip and add a museum to your itinerary. You won’t regret it.
Are there any museums in Malaysia that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comment section below!
National Museum of Malaysia & IAMM:
Chetty Museum, Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, and Sultanate Palace Museum:
The Camera Museum: