Museum Bali

Museum Bali

Introducing Balinese culture

More on Denpasar

With its combination of a small but impressive ethnological collection and striking architecture, Museum Bali is an excellent introduction to Balinese arts and culture.

Travelfish says:

The fall of Klungklung kingdom in 1908 resulted in all of Bali falling under Dutch colonial rule, leading to increased opportunities for international trade; sadly, this was a time when artefacts and cultural treasures were expunged from Bali at a dizzying rate. In 1910, an idea to establish a collection to preserve Balinese cultural heritage was envisaged by, ironically, one of the colonial administrators. In collaboration with Balinese experts, the museum was conceived combining palace and temple architectural elements.

The museum's lovely setting. : Sally Arnold.
The museum's lovely setting. Photo: Sally Arnold

The museum exhibits collections in four main buildings, three representing the architectural styles of different regencies from the north (Gedung Buleleng), south (Gedung Tabanan) and east of Bali (Gedung Karangasam) in honour of the Rajas who funded the project. The hybrid structures include courtyards, shrines and flower gardens and nowadays these form a popular backdrop for pre-wedding photography. Hindered by earthquakes and financial setbacks, the museum was finally officially opened in 1932.

The museum is reasonably well organised, with the collection ranging from prehistoric to contemporary artefacts, mostly displayed behind glass with labels in English. Explanations of individual exhibits are somewhat lacking; it’s a little static and dry, and could do with a bit of revitalisation. Little information is offered at the ticket desk and there are no printed maps or brochures, although a brochure and booklet on the museum are available from the nearby Tourist Information Centre.

Moody exhibit. : Sally Arnold.
Moody exhibit. Photo: Sally Arnold

“Guides” will attach themselves to you, but the one who tagged along after us offered no more information than we gained from reading the labels. We politely declined, but it did take a little convincing. Tips (large) are expected for this service, so negotiate a firm price first if you wish to employ a guide. In the grounds and near the exit, as well as the “guides”, a few hawkers peddle their wares, but similar goods are often cheaper at nearby Pasar Kumbasari.

The large double-storey Eastern Pavillon (Gedung Timur) houses the majority of the collection with stone age tools, through to bronze age and the modern period. Balinese textiles, ceramics and objects associated with ceremonial life including a large collection of kris daggers are displayed in the other smaller pavilions.

A popular spot for pre-wedding photos. : Sally Arnold.
A popular spot for pre-wedding photos. Photo: Sally Arnold

Of particular interest is an ancient round stone sarcophagus with sculptured stylised female genitalia and from the 11th century, an unusual and rare double stone lingga. A large carved wooden phallus is sure to induce a few giggles in any teenagers in your company. The exhibition focusing on “Cili”, a pre-Hindu fertility symbol includes some intricate woven lontar “dolls” and fascinating information on Balinese ritual.

The Museum Bali is worth a good hour or two, but you could do a quick zip though in less than an hour if pressed for time. You’ll find it next door to Pura Jaganatha and overlooking Puputan Square. If you have an interest in unusual fusion architecture, nearby Gereja Katolik Paroki Santo Yoseph (St Joseph’s Catholic Church) in Jalan Kepundung is worth a look, too. A good convenient lunch stop is Dapoer Pemuda, or its neighbour, Voltvet Eatery & Coffee is excellent for a coffee break.

Dapoer Pemuda: 11 Jalan Veteran, Denpasar; T: (0361) 244 214, (0813) 3966 0116;; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Voltvet Eatery & Coffee: 11A Jalan Veteran, Denpasar; T: (0361) 226 479, (0896) 7815 0777; open daily 11:00-23:00.

Contact details for Museum Bali

Address: Jalan Mayor Wisnu, Denpasar
T: (0361) 222 680; (0361) 235 059;
Coordinates (for GPS): 115º13'6.63" E, 8º39'26.73" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: Foreign adults/children: 20,000/10,000 rupiah. Indonesians adults/children: 10,000/5,000 rupiah.

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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