Taking the time to understand and get to know the real culture of the Balinese, who separated from the mainland Javanese to the north in the 14th century, is super rewarding. Their stories are told through dance and music performances, regular religious ceremonies, and especially through their art, examples of which centre in and around Ubud.
1. Museum Puri Lukisan
Go back in time at Ubud’s Museum Puri Lukisan (Palace of paintings), boasting a collection of the oldest existing art on the island. Bali has a long history of art, which includes its own named movements; Young Artist, Keliki, Wayang, Ubud and Batuan.
2. Blanco Renaissance Museum
Antonio Blanco arrived in Bali in 1952, married a traditional Balinese dancer, and was given land by then King of Ubud, where he built his home and gallery. The Blanco Renaissance Museum is an art gallery dedicated to his work, and now used as a studio and showroom for his artist son, Mario Blanco. Tranquil and manicured gardens, along with an impressive bird aviary is an extra special slice of Bali.
3. Agung Rai Museum of Art
Just south of Ubud, the Agung Rai Museum of Art showcases vast painting styles, as well as local culture in the forms of dance and theatre performances. Local art, dance and music lessons are also available.
4. D'Topeng Kingdom Museum
In Kuta, the D’Topeng Kingdom Museum is a three storey complex filled with Indonesian artefacts, textiles, carvings, paintings, daggers and puppets that reflect the entire Indonesian archipelago. Their collection of masks one of the most notable in the country.
5. Museum Neka
Also in Ubud, Museum Neka showcases fine art styles and how they developed over the 16th to 20th century. Displayed from oldest to newest it’s a great way to see the evolution of one of the island’s most celebrated activities.
6. Museum Pasifika
In Nusa Dua, Museum Pasifika celebrates international and locally renowned artists with a collection of over 600 pieces, by more than 140 artists from 20 countries. As a modern, curated museum, it’s designed for a more formal art appreciation experience.
7. Purpa Fine Art Gallery & Naka
There’s a number of swanky contemporary art galleries scattered around the island, featuring revolving modern art exhibitions, along with canapes and fine wine. Check out Purpa Fine Art Gallery in Seminyak, or Naka contemporary art with galleries in Seminyak, Ubud and Jimbaran.
8. Le Mayeur Museum
Similarly to Blanco in Ubud, although far earlier, Belgium painter Adrien Le Mayeur de Merpres settled in Bali in the 1930s, married a young legong dancer and created a series of paintings featuring his wife. His art also reflected his many travels through Europe, Africa, India and the Pacific. His home, now the Le Mayeur Museum can be visited on Sanur’s beachfront.
9. Tandjung Sari's cultural shows
Some hotels provide a taste of local dance and music along with their dinner buffets, but some do it better than others. In Sanur, one of the oldest locally owned hotels, Tandjung Sari, offers a cultural dinner show every first and third Saturday. Children perform classical Balinese dances, supported by a traditional gamelan orchestra in a beautiful garden/beachside setting.
10. Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple
Possibly one of the most dramatic backdrops for a local cultural experience, the hypnotic and trance-like Kecak dance, performs high on the top of the cliffs of Uluwatu, just near the famed temple. Based on the epic Hindu tale of Ramayana, the performance takes place as the sun sets over the ocean.