For a glimpse into the era when the Dutch ruled Indonesia, head to the Old Town or Kota Tua district of North Jakarta. Prior to the establishment of modern-day Jakarta, this area was called Batavia and was the central administrative center of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Around the Old Town square, now called Fatahillah Square(Taman Fatahillah), are historic buildings in Dutch architectural style, several of which are now museums.
On the south side of the square is the neoclassical town hall built in 1712. Now the Jakarta History Museum (Museum Fatahillah), it was once occupied by the justice council that held shackled suspects in flooded underground dungeons. Among the museum’s treasures are prehistoric tools and earthenware, weaponry, furniture, porcelain and paintings. In its archives are old maps and other memorabilia. A statue of Hermes, the god of fortune in Greek mythology, stands in the garden as the protector of traders. In front of the museum is a 16th-century Portuguese cannon, Si Jagur, its large fist regarded by many Javanese to be a fertility symbol.
The Fine Art and Ceramic Museum (Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik), on the east side of the square, has endured many occupants, the most historic being the Dutch Hall of Justice. Constructed in 1870, it has also been a Dutch military barrack, the West Jakarta mayor’s office and the city of Jakarta’s museum and history office. Its superb collection includes rare porcelains, terracotta pottery dating from the 14th century, and ceramics from Europe and Asia circa 16th century. Its art gallery houses paintings by Indonesian artists over the last two centuries.
To the west of the square is the Shadow Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang) housing a large collection of puppets and masks from throughout Indonesia and other Asian countries. Built in the neo-Renaissance style in 1912, the exterior was renovated in 1938.
Wander behind the Shadow Puppet Museum to see the Red House (Toko Merah), typical of Batavia residences of yore. On weekends the square comes alive with street performers, snack sellers, side-walk artists and vintage bicycle rentals.
Best Time to Go: To avoid rush-hour traffic, go between 9 am and 4 pm. During the week, you’ll practically have the museums, galleries and cafes all to yourself.
Getting There: Take a taxi and ask the driver to drop you at Taman Fatahillah. Opening Times Government-owned museums are open Tuesday–Sunday 9 am–3 pm, closed Mondays and holidays. Admission Fees Around Rp5,000 per person for each museum.
Opening Times: Government-owned museums are open Tuesday–Sunday 9 am–3 pm, closed Mondays and holidays. Admission Fees Around Rp5,000 per person for each museum.