Impressive historic building
Jakarta History Museum (Museum Sejarah Jakarta) is housed in what was once Batavia’s Stadhuis, the Town Hall and administrative heart of the Dutch East India Company’s colonial empire.
The museum traces the city’s multifarious and occasionally flamboyant history, from the prehistoric era to when it was part of Java’s Sunda kingdom, known as the trading port of Sunda Kalapa, through power shifts and name changes to Jayakarta, Batavia and finally Jakarta.
The commanding, but somewhat austere whitewashed double-storey building with shuttered windows, a neoclassical portico and bell tower, overlooks Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah, formerly Stadhuisplein) in Jakarta’s Kota Tua. The structure we see today began construction in 1707, and was inaugurated in 1710 replacing two earlier incarnations built in 1620 and 1626, and was based on the design of Amsterdam’s Stadhuis (now Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam). For folks interested in architectural details, an information board in the museum points out comparisons between the two buildings.
As well as the general administrative functions of governance including registering marriages and collecting taxes, the complex served as a court, with a basement prison. Executions were performed in the square and were signified by the ringing of the bell in the rooftop tower. One famous inmate detained here was the Javanese and national hero Prince Diponegoro who led a five-year bloody rebellion against the Dutch known as the Java War (1825–30). After his stint here, he was transferred to Makassar where he later died. As you explore the building, don’t forget to check out the cells facing the back courtyard.
The main entrance and ticket counter for the museum is accessed via the laneway to the west of the square. As you enter, look up to see the city’s varied insignia over time. This wing houses temporary exhibitions and the walls are painted with murals depicting aspects of Jakarta’s history and culture in a sympathetic style that fades into the walls (or perhaps it was just unfinished when we visited). From here you enter the inner courtyard where you could visit the junky gift shop, but we wouldn’t bother, or sample some traditional Jakartan street food from the tourist-friendly stalls before you enter the museum building proper.
Once inside, take a moment to admire the stark but impressive interior of the building with solid walls, high ceilings and exposed beams as you follow Jakarta’s history. The exhibitions within are fairly sparse with not a great deal of artefacts on display and are very text heavy (mostly in both English and Indonesia). History buffs willing to read may enjoy the informative historical overview, but for everyone else, the building itself is of more interest. You can also see some archeological artefacts found near Jakarta’s Ciliwung River, early Hindu statues, historic maps and paintings, which may appeal.
The upper level is filled with beautiful heavy wooden furniture, set up much in the way of the old offices and boardrooms more in the style of a historic house than a museum, and this section will be a highlight for many visitors. Although Jakarta History Museum is not a place you will rave about, it is absolutely worth having a quick look while you explore Kota Tua.
While you’re in in the area, check out the Museum Wayang, Jakarta’s Puppet Museum and the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum both edging the square, stop for a drink at Cafe Batavia or Historia then head to Museum Bank Indonesia and its neighbour Museum Bank Mandiri or for some maritime history, Museum Bahari.
Address: 1 Taman Fatahillah, Jakarta
T: (0216) 929 101;
Coordinates (for GPS): 106º48'46.7" E, 6º8'8.29" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 5,000 rupiah
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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