Explore Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide

Kuala Lumpur is the bustling capital city of Malaysia and its showpiece of prosperity and grandeur. Unromantically, Kuala Lumpur means 'muddy estuary', a name coined by the original tin prospectors who arrived at the confluence of the Kelang and Gombak rivers in 1860. The city has progressed considerably since then, and now the river water reflects the glittering skyscrapers that rise elegantly, competing for dominance of the skyline.<br /><br /> This city is a blend of old and new worlds, a melting pot of the diverse influences of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, making exploring Kuala Lumpur a fascinating experience. An exploration of Kuala Lumpur is best begun from Merdeka Square, the heart of the city. To the southeast of the square is the modern business centre and the bustling, colourful streets of Chinatown. The picturesque National Mosque (Masjid Negara) and impressive Railway Station can be located to the south, and beyond them to the west is the city's green belt. The tranquil and lush Perdana Botanical Gardens provide some respite from the frenetic activity of the city. The National Museum (Muzim Negara), the National Monument, and the Malaysian Parliament are also found on this stretch. Kuala Lumpur's most famous landmark, however, is the stunning Petronas Towers, which afford visitors phenomenal views of the city.<br /><br />

Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)

Address: Kuala Lumpur

The 328-foot (100m) flagpole rising from Merdeka Square is one of the tallest in the world, and marks the place where Malaysia achieved independence at midnight on the 30th of August 1957. The square is the heart of Malaysian nationalism and one of the few places in the city where historic old colonial buildings can still be seen. The city's colonial past is still very much alive in the architecture of the surrounding buildings and the large field still hosts the occasional cricket matches. The Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club rests on one corner of the square, looking onto a large video screen displaying religious messages and advertisements. The Club served as a social centre for Kuala Lumpur's British residents; its doors are now open to anyone who can afford the membership fees. In keeping with die-hard customs women are still not allowed entry to the bar, except by invitation. Other buildings of interest around the square include St. Mary's Church, purported to be the first church built in Kuala Lumpur; the Abdul Sambad building, built in 1893 and named for one of the sultans; the High Court building; and the old Town Hall. There are some shops and restaurants in the vicinity and it is an interesting area to stroll around - the square is also nice to visit at night.<br /><br />

Chinatown

Address: Kuala Lumpur

The crowded and colourful Chinatown area is a jumble of shops, food, smells and people. The central section of Petaling Street is closed at night to traffic and the street is transformed into an exciting, brightly lit experience. Vendors spread their wares onto the pavement and one can stroll along endlessly taking it all in. Merchandise ranges from jewellery to toys and t-shirts - with lots of fake brands on sale - and bargaining for the best prices is accepted practice and part of the fun. There are many stalls in the market during the day but Chinatown is a more special experience at night, with the bright lights promising good photographs. However, no matter what time of day you visit, be sure to stay vigilant with your possessions as pick pockets are a problem in the area and the crowds, noise and multitude of distractions make it easy for them to operate. Chinatown's popularity is gradually causing a rise in both prices and petty crime, which is unfortunate, but there is great fun to be had, the food is always yummy, and there are certainly still bargains to seek out. Apart from all the exciting shopping and food, there are some great Chinese temples in the area, for those who want to experience a touch of the culture. Kids generally love the bright and busy area.<br /><br />

Petronas Towers

Address: City centre. Ticket Booth: Tower 2, Concourse Level Kuala Lumpur

Admission: MYR 85 (adults), MYR 35 (children). The towers are open to the public Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 9pm (closed from 1pm – 2.30pm on Fridays), but tickets go on sale at 8.30am.

The Petronas Towers are designed to impress and encapsulate Malaysia's emergence as Southeast Asia's commercial and cultural centre. Celebrated as among the tallest towers in the world and the tallest twin towers, the building stands at a height of 1,483ft (452m) and the two towers are joined by a skybridge extending 192ft (58m) across. Traditional geometric principles of Islamic architecture have been followed using modern technology, with an inspiring result. The Petronas Towers are used as office complexes that form part of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Development Park. The towers dominate the city skyline and are particularly beautiful at night when they are lit up like a beacon. Many people will recognise the building from the popular film Entrapment, and other movies and programmes.<br /><br /> There are limited tickets per day so it is a good idea to get there early or book in advance online. On the tour you will cross the famous bridge and go up to a viewing platform on the 82nd floor. The views of the city are phenomenal. There is an exhibition detailing the development of the towers and a gift shop selling souvenirs like books, postcards, clothes and miniatures.<br /><br /> Travellers should note that there have been scams involving fake Petronas Towers tickets - tickets should only be booked at the ticket office or through the official website listed below.<br /><br />

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Address: Jalan Hishamuddin Kuala Lumpur

British architect AB Hubbock was inspired by North Indian Islamic design when he conceived this magnificent railway station, which could easily be mistaken for a sultan's palace. Spires, minarets, towers and arches explode against the backdrop of skyscrapers emphasising the glory of Moorish elegance. The building is lovely and has been very well-maintained, and it is a refreshing sight in a city which actually has very little colonial architecture, and few historic old buildings. It serves not only as an aesthetic vision but is in use as an important commuter station; inside it is fairly unremarkable and looks much like other stations. Opposite the station there is an administrative building which is also architecturally interesting. Inside the station there is a small railway museum on the evolution of railway technology in Malaysia; the exhibition is intriguing for railway fanatics, but for those not particularly interested in the technology it may be a waste of time. The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is ultimately more of a landmark than an attraction - it only requires a quick walk by and photo shoot and shouldn't occupy much of your time - but it is a charming building which attracts rave reviews from many visitors to the city.<br /><br />

Friday Mosque (Masjid Jamek)

Address: Jalan Tun Perak Kuala Lumpur

Admission: Free Visiting hours are from 8.30am to 12.30pm and from 2.30pm to 4.30pm

Masjid Jamek, the Friday Mosque, is located where the Gombak River flows into the Klang River; with palm trees and curved steps leading to the water's edge, the mosque is a haven of peace and tranquillity set among the buzz and rush of modern Kuala Lumpur. The mosque is situated on the spot purported to be where the founders of Kuala Lumpur fist set foot. The design was inspired by Mogul mosques in northern India. Cupolas and minarets top the brick walls and arched colonnades. As with all mosques, a visit calls for conservative dress and the removal of shoes; the mosque staff at the entrance supply women and men with appropriate attire for a mosque visit if they have not come prepared.<br /><br /> If you only visit one mosque in Kuala Lumpur the Friday Mosque is probably the best option, but the National Mosque is also worth investigating. A modern contrast to the Friday Mosque, the National Mosque was completed in 1965 and remains one of the largest mosques in Southeast Asia - the vast main prayer hall can accommodate up to 10,000 people. Many of the city's Malay office workers congregate here for the Friday afternoon prayers. The impressive 18-point star-shaped dome represents the 13 states of Malaysia and five central Pillars of Islam. Entry is only permitted once prayers have been concluded. Robes can be borrowed from the desk at the mosque entrance.<br /><br />

Perdana Botanical Gardens

Address: Jalan Perdana Kuala Lumpur

Admission: Theres a small admission fee for the Butterfly House, Bird Park, and Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens on weekends. Daily 7am to 8pm.

Telephone: +603 2617 6404

These beautiful gardens, established in 1888, form the green belt of Kuala Lumpur, and the lakeside loveliness with a backdrop of skyscrapers is reminiscent of New York's Central Park. The lush vegetation surrounds a vast lake, with a number of romantic bridges and plenty of space to relax, read a book, go for a walk or jog, or socialise. Visitors can take a leisurely boat cruise to enjoy views of the gardens from the water. There are numerous attractions within the gardens, which incorporate the National Monument, Butterfly House, Bird Park, Orchid and Hibiscus gardens, and Malaysia's Parliament House situated at the northern end. There are wonderful playgrounds for little ones and if you are travelling in Malaysia with children a jaunt to the gardens is the perfect way to let them blow off some steam. The water and shade make the Perdana Botanical Gardens (formerly known as the Lake Gardens) a cool refuge from the humidity and crowds of the city, and for those interested in the indigenous plant life there is plenty to see. There are numerous restaurants fringing the gardens but the best option is to pack a picnic and spend a few hours in some green nook.<br /><br />

National Museum (Muzium Negara)

Address: Jalan Damansara Kuala Lumpur

Admission: MYR 5 (adults); MYR 2 (children aged 6 to 12). Daily 8am to 6pm.

Many of Malaysia's historical artefacts and cultural treasures are housed in the National Museum, which is an appropriately designed building, reflecting the Minangkabau architectural style of the region. Ethnographic and archaeological exhibits include life-size dioramas depicting various aspects of traditional Malaysian life. Shadow play (Wayang kilt) displays reflect the ancient artistry of the nation, while exhibits of traditional weapons such as daggers (kris) and machetes (parangs) reveal the Malaysian pride in functional aesthetic forms. The museum covers a lot of time and subject matter and can seem discordant as a result of the many topics and occasional lack of linkage between periods and themes; as a result, it is a good idea to join one of the free guided tours that do the rounds daily at 10am (in several different languages) so that you can ask questions and get a bit more information. Apart from the extensive permanent collection there are always temporary exhibits. There is a cafeteria and museum shop, and the premises are equipped for disabled visitors. Photography is permitted in the museum but only for private use and only with hand-held equipment. The air conditioning is a big plus on hot Malaysian days!<br /><br />

Batu Caves

Address: 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor Kuala Lumpur

Stalagmites and stalactites festoon the interior of these impressive limestone caves, together with the Hindu shrines that honour their deities. The caves were discovered by the American explorer William Hornaby in 1881 and are very interesting in themselves, but have since become a Hindu holy site, particularly associated with the celebration of Thaipusam, a three-day religious festival during January/February. Thousands of devotees flock to the caves during the festival to pay penance and undergo rites of self-flagellation that are fascinating, if a bit disturbing, to observe. The largest of the caves, Temple Cave, is reached by climbing 272 steps to its entrance from which a path leads to Museum Cave, housing a dazzling display of ornamental religious art. There is a clear view from the top to the Subramaniam Swamy Temple, set within a large cave that extends for 262 feet (80m). Onsite companies offer rock-climbing opportunities as well. It is a good idea to take some water as the climb up is tiring. Those with physical difficulties may struggle. Beware of the monkeys: they are cute and fun to photograph but they also steal things that take their fancy, so hang on to your belongings and keep an eye out.<br /><br />

Taman Negara National Park

Address: Kampung Kuala Tahan, 27000 Kuala Tahan, Pahang Kuala Lumpur

Taman Negara contains some of the oldest rainforest in the world and spans thousands of square miles of protected land. Its richly diverse fauna and flora have evolved over a staggering 130 million years. The best way to explore the diversity of plant and animal life is by 'trekking' along the jungle trails. Although seldom seen, a small population of nomadic Orang Asli people still live in the rainforest, their makeshift shelters appearing in clearings among the jungle growth. Guided tours to tribal villages are available from several operators. Besides trekking, the park's other attractions are fishing, river rafting or bird watching and climbers can explore the Peninsula's highest mountain, Gunung Tahan, at 7,175 feet (2,187m). The best time to visit Taman Negara is between March and September. There are numerous canopy and trekking tours offered but it is ideal to avoid the tours and do your own thing to really experience this jungle world. It is easy to self-guide in Taman Negara. Hiking the main path across the park takes about three days and there are wooden refuges to camp in at night to keep you safe. The jungle sounds at night are incredibly special, if a bit unnerving for the uninitiated. There are several luxury lodges within the reserve, but budget accommodation can be found on the outskirts.<br /><br />

Melaka (Historic City)

Address: Kuala Lumpur

The fascinating seaside city of Melaka (Malacca) preserves the historic convergence of Chinese and European cultures. Its strategic position on the Straits of Melaka brought a tide of trade with China, India, Siam and Indonesia. Colonial powers wrestled for control, and much of the Portuguese influence from the 1500s is cemented in its architecture. The most notable cultural presence today is predominantly Chinese. Chinese merchants continue to ply their trades in the tradition of their forefathers. Open-air markets burst with colourful fruit, vegetable and fish produce. The oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia, Cheng Hoon Teng, together with the vast Chinese cemetery, support a thriving industry entirely dedicated to the deceased.<br /><br /> The merging of Chinese and Malay cultures has produced a unique ethnic group found in Melaka, the Baba-Nyonya. The remarkable lifestyle of this micro-culture can be explored in the dedicated Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum. Jonker Street is an attractive thoroughfare, almost always strung with traditional Chinese lanterns, which often hosts night bazaars and festivities on weekends. Trips on the Malazza River are popular, and there are many historic buildings to explore, including the Stadthuys, which was once the seat of the Dutch administration and now houses a history museum. There are also some interesting ruins on St. Paul's Hill.<br /><br />

Kuala Lumpur International Tower Jump

Where: Menara Kuala Lumpur,Kuala Lumpur

When: 29 September to 2 October 2017

The Menara Kuala Lumpur (better known as the KL Tower) is among the tallest telecommunications towers in the world, standing at 1,381 feet (421m). The tower has become a magnet for extreme sports enthusiasts, particularly BASE (Building, Antenna, Span and Earth) jumpers. Every year an increasing number of daredevils make repeated jumps from the tower and allow three-second free falls before opening their chutes, leaving spectators breathless. There are also night jumps. Only experienced BASE jumpers, who have done at least 120 jumps previously and have been active participants in the sport for more than two years, will be considered as contestants. A maximum of a hundred jumpers are selected annually. Other events on the day include a light aircraft fly by, helicopter roping, radio controlled aircraft displays and gliding exhibitions. There is also BASE jumping done at the Gua Damai Cliff in the Gua Damai Extreme Park (a 20-minute drive from the KL Tower). For more information and some video clips of the event check out the official website listed below.<br /><br />

Thaipusam

Where: Batu Caves, about seven miles north of Kuala Lumpur,Kuala Lumpur

When: 31 January 2018

Malaysia celebrates numerous religious festivals, but the best known and most popular with tourists is the Hindu test of faith and endurance, Thaipusam, held at the Batu Caves during the tenth month of the Hindu calendar. The festival is celebrated in a number of countries and commemorates the triumph of Murugan and his god-given spear over the evil demon Soorapadman. This festival, involving a procession of devotees carrying yokes (kavadi) and bearing offerings, up hundreds of steps, is not for the squeamish. The bearers, in a trance-like state, are often pierced with skewers through tongues and cheeks, with hooks and spears pierced through other body parts; at the very least they are carrying heavy burdens a long distance to demonstrate their faith and endurance. The procession follows a ceremonial decorated chariot drawn by bullocks. The procession to the caves starts at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur and the journey of the devotees takes about eight hours. The temple at the caves attracts over a million pilgrims and tens of thousands of spectators for the event. Devotees prepare themselves for the festival by cleansing through prayer, celibacy and fasting, and many shave their heads for the occasion.<br /><br />

Malaysian F1 Grand Prix

Where: Sepang Circuit,Kuala Lumpur

When: 1 October 2017

One of the first events in the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix motor racing season is the Malaysian Grand Prix at the impressive Sepang International Circuit. The first World Championship Grand Prix held at this new ultra-modern track, known for its sweeping corners and wide straights, was in 1999, and since then the event has become known as one of the most thrilling on the F1 Calendar. The Malaysian weather, with the possibility of extreme heat or tropical storms, adds extra excitement to the race. The inaugural event, in 1999, remains the most famous, because it saw Michael Schumacher return to the sport after injury, race masterfully and help his team mate to win, only to be disqualified on a technical irregularity, which was later overruled! The 2001 event is also well remembered because it was held during a storm, which made conditions extremely dangerous. Thousands of people travel to Malaysia for the Grand Prix and the event is accompanied by all sorts of festivities.<br /><br />

Bon Ton

Address: 6, Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur

Food Type: Asian

With Chinese Malay Kampung architecture and a stylish and clean interior dotted with antique furniture, Bon Ton is one of Kuala Lumpur's most popular eateries and has a stylish yet laid-back atmosphere. Bon Ton used to be located in the Lot 10 shopping mall, but in early 2013 it moved to Central Market in China Town. Once you've tried the sesame crusted salmon fillet with roasted mashed potato and cream of chilli cilantro, there's no turning back. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Bombay Palace

Address: 215 Jalan Tun Razak Kuala Lumpur

Food Type: Indian

Specialising in North Indian cuisine, Bombay Palace is one of Kuala Lumpur's most popular restaurants and sees hundreds of locals and tourists dining here each week. With majestic décor fit for a king, Bombay Palace delivers. Try the Lamb Vindaloo if you can handle the heat or for dessert try the Dil Bahar or Pista Barfi. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Arabesque

Address: 92 Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur

Food Type: Middle Eastern

This Arabian gem, slightly incongruous in the middle of Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, is a popular option, especially with vegetarians. The service is renowned for its friendliness and traditional staples like hummus and falafel feature strongly in the menu. Carnivores won't be disappointed either! The restaurant is open for lunch and supper daily.<br /><br />

A city that never sleeps, Kuala Lumpur's streets come to life with bright lights, bustling bars, loud music and pumping clubs after dark. From karaoke lounges and pubs to discos and jazz clubs, there's something for everyone to enjoy on a night out in Kuala Lumpur. It may be predominantly Muslim, but due to the city's cosmopolitan nature alcohol is widely available and the nightlife is some of the best in Asia.<br /><br /> The city centre is the commercial and business hub by day, but once the sun sets things heat up and some of the city's most eccentric bars and trendiest clubs can be found along Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Sultan Ismail. Bukit Bintang is another one of the most popular areas for night-time entertainment, and in particular Changkat Bukit Bintang is where visitors will find great restaurants and busy, vibrant bars, regular stops for young and international residents.<br /><br /> Those looking for a quiet night on the town can enjoy a few drinks at a karaoke bar - a staple of Malaysian society. Getting in on the entertainment is entirely optional and it is great fun for visitors to watch and enjoy the music. Enjoying the local theatre, cabarets and cine-plexes showing contemporary English, Malay, Chinese, Hindi and Indonesian movies is also popular. With so many options the only difficult thing about heading out for a night on the town in Kuala Lumpur will be deciding what to wear and where to start.<br /><br />
Malaysia's eclectic capital is a shopper's paradise. Home to more than 70 shopping malls and priding itself on being the retail, fashion and electronics hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is certainly a must for those looking for retail therapy while on holiday. The capital considers its shopping experience to be one of its main attractions, so tourists are advised to pack lightly and bring extra luggage space in preparation for a shopping marathon!<br /><br /> The Golden Triangle is the city's premier shopping area and is the entertainment and commercial centre of the city. Bukit Bintang Street is where fashion merchandise, IT goods, designer brands and electronic goods can be picked up at shopping malls such as Low Yat Plaza, Sungai Wang Plaza, Lot 10 and Times Square. The Suria KLCC is one of Malaysia's most popular shopping spots due to its location beneath the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. Midvalley's Megamall in the Bangsar and Midvalley area is also a great place to browse for fashionable items.<br /><br /> The Art Deco Central Market on Jalan Hang Kasturi is a great place to buy arts and crafts, and is a popular stop on most travellers' shopping itineraries, as everything from antiques and paintings to handicrafts, clothing and quirky souvenirs can be found. Best buys include pewter, brass and silver jewellery, wood carvings, and pottery. After rummaging through the busy Central Market, visitors can take a walk across to nearby Chinatown where everything from jewellery, herbal medicines, dried food, 'designer' t-shirts, handbags and wallets can bargained for.<br /><br /> Those looking for sales should plan a trip to Kuala Lumpur between June and the end of August when the official Mega Sale Carnival, kick-started by the Ministry of Tourism for Malaysia, takes place in an effort to boost Kuala Lumpur as a leading shopping destination.<br /><br />
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