9 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
Featured destinations: Kuala Lumpur
Published 03 March 2017
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, is many visitors’ first impression of the country. They touch down among its bright lights and glossy skyscrapers, then spend a day or two looking around before heading off to the jungles and highlands of the interior. Often called KL, with its residents known as KLites, the city falls high up on the top Asian cities list, bewitching visitors under its glittering, traditional, multicultural spell. Here are nine things to do while you’re here:
Ascend the Petronas Towers
For a fabulous overview of Kuala Lumpur, taking the lift up the Petronas Towers takes some beating. The structures, the tallest twin towers in the world at 452m, are linked by the Skybridge, a walkway connecting the two towers together. The observation deck is on the 86th floor, a mere 370m above street level, and offers far-reaching views across the city, including the nearby Menara KL Tower and the pretty gardens and fountains of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).
Cross the canopy walk at KL Forest Eco-Park
Also known as Bukit Nanas, the KL Forest Eco-Park is a 9.3 hectare patch of virgin rainforest, right in the heart of the city. Even if you’re heading straight for the Bornean rainforest after your KL stay, it’s still worth a stop here to hear the cicadas chirping and look out for silvered leaf monkeys, squirrels, lizards and snakes. The best way to take it in is to walk the Skywalk, a rope bridge raised 20 metres above the forest floor, allowing closer views of the trees and birds.
Admire the views from the Menara KL Tower
At 420m, it might not be as tall as the Petronas Towers, but the views from the Menara KL Tower top those from its more famous neighbour, mainly because from up here, you can admire the twin towers themselves. To see the lofty views, head for the observation deck at 276m, eat in the revolving restaurant, sit in the glass-bottomed Sky Box or walk out onto the open Sky Deck, a popular leaping off point for base jumpers.
Sample the street food
Kuala Lumpur, and indeed Malaysia as a whole, has some of the best street food in the world. It’s super cheap and tastes delicious too, so don’t miss trying some while you’re in town. Dishes are a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay specialities, with the tastiest treats found on Jalan Alor, a whole street of food stalls. Try hokkien mee, noodles stir fried with egg, pork, prawns and squid, or roti canai, a folded flatbread fried in ghee and served with curry.
Visit the Masjid Jamek
The Masjid Jamek is a wonderfully serene mosque, built in 1909 near Merdeka Square at the point where the Klang and Gombak Rivers converge. Light and airy corridors, pink brickwork, Moghul-inspired minarets and quiet shady spots make this a wonderful place to while away an hour or two (or indeed escape the heat), but do note that you’ll need to come outside prayer time, and cover your shoulders and knees, as well as your head if you are female.
Chill out in Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square can seem a little out of place in Kuala Lumpur, its immaculate lawn sticking out among the surrounding skyscrapers, mosques and offices like a sore thumb. It was here that Malaysian Independence was declared on August 31st 1957, and the national flag still flies proudly atop a giant flagpole. The square is lined with various interesting buildings, such as St Mary’s Cathedral, and the mock Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club, a social club established by the British in 1884.
Climb the steps to the Batu Caves
Around 10 miles north of Kuala Lumpur, the vast Batu Caves are naturally carved into limestone pinnacles, their impressive caverns attracting Hindu pilgrims and tourists alike. The grotto site is easily reached by train from the city centre, although once you get there you’ll have to walk up 272 steep steps to reach the entrance. An enormous golden statue of Lord Subramanian marks the spot. Inside, you’ll find various shrines, as well as a troupe of people-friendly monkeys.
Browse the markets in Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is a maze of marrow streets and alleyways lined with shops and restaurants. Among the hubbub are traditional shophouses and Chinese herbal medicine shops as well as the atmospheric Chan See Shu Yuen and Sri Maha Mariamman Temples. Just next door is the Central Market, an excellent spot for souvenir hunting and eating, with stalls selling everything under the sun, from crafts to stationary to clothes to snacks.
Be amazed at the Islamic Arts Museum
Most definitely in the running for the Best Museum in Kuala Lumpur award, the Islamic Arts Museum is home to an outstanding collection of Islamic artefacts and artworks, including textiles, jewellery and pottery. Not only are the eye-catching displays a delight to behold, but the building itself is perhaps the star attraction, with gold-leafed domes and gorgeous glazed tiles. Don’t miss the calligraphy exhibition, where intricate documents, mostly passages of the Koran, have been painstakingly copied out in elaborate designs.
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