Solo has two palaces – the Kraton and the Mangkunegaran. The Kraton is located south of the town centre within a large walled compound where the Kraton employees and their families live. You can visit the palace and its grounds, where there is also a museum. On one visit I was told it was compulsory to have a guide, who turned out to be very informative and then on another visit I was not even offered a guide. You can see the Sultan’s house at the centre of the Kraton and the tower that was built by a previous Sultan from which it is said you can see as far as the ocean. The museum features old carriages, formerly used for transportation, pictures of the royal family, past and present and many items owned by the Sultans. The water at the Kraton is considered to offer good luck to those who drink it or wet themselves with it, and you can try this in the Kraton garden.
The Mangkunegaran, located just north of the main road, is Solo’s second palace. Although smaller than the Kraton, it is my personal favourite of the two, and one of my favourite places in Solo. The atmosphere in the Mangkunegaran pendhopo (Javanese wall-less building) is magically beautiful and peaceful. You can take a tour where you will be told about the history of the Palace and taken inside to see the museum collection of artefacts, including household items, jewellery and much more. On Wednesday 10am – 12pm there is a gamelan and dance rehearsal in the Mangkunegaran pendhopo, and on other mornings of the week you can watch rehearsals of other traditional musics including gamelan pakurmatan (music for special celebrations). Entering the palace grounds and the pendhopo is free of charge.
Museum Radya Pustaka is situated on the main road – from Novotel cross over and walk west. It is the oldest museum in Solo and features collections of artefacts ranging from household items to wayang shadow puppets.