Flanking the square to the east is China’s championed National Museum. Unequalled throughout the nation, the National Museum of China was first opened in 2003, but it underwent years of renovation until it was reopened in 2011. The current building is a combination of two museums: the Chinese History Museum (Zhōngguó Lìshǐ Bówùguǎn 中国历史博物馆) and the Chinese Revolutionary Museum (Zhōngguó Gémìng Bówùguǎn 中国革命博物馆). The superb exhibits are unmatched and fantastically displayed, and you should absolutely not miss the Ancient China (Galleries N20-N25, S15-S18, S20) exhibit on the basement floor. Prehistoric China up to the recently departed Qing Dynasty are magnificently represented with countless artifacts under thoughtfully implemented soft lighting and spacious viewing areas. The journey of Chinese civilization follows a 1.7 million year voyage here, one that is quite spectacular.
Other not-to-be-missed exhibitions include those in the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries (Central Hall 2), Ancient Chinese Jades (Gallery S13), and the top-floor Ancient Chinese Money display (Gallery S11). The museum is spacious and sweeping, so be prepared for a dazzlingly lengthy stay. When fatigue inevitably strikes, swing down to the main floor for a break in the café. Passports are required for entry.