The heart of Malaysia‘s social and economic life, as well as one of the most important connection centers on the Asian continent, Kuala Lumpur is an incredible mix of East and West. The Malaysian capital, a modern city known for its unmistakable skyline dominated by the Petronas Twin Towers, amazes for the balanced coexistence of its skyscrapers with mosques, temples and multiple markets.
While visiting Kuala Lumpur, one is amazed by the succession of huge and modern buildings interrupted, from time to time, by some old one- or two-floors houses in stark contrast to the skyline. Kuala Lumpur is both ancient and modern, here different cultures and food styles blend together creating a city that deserves to be visited before you embark on a journey to discover Malaysia‘s several wonderful destinations. Kuala Lumpur is well connected with the rest of the country. Arranging a self-guided tour is simple, and the best way to get around is by bus.
But right now, let’s focus on what to see in this fantastic city.
KUALA LUMPUR – WHAT TO SEE?
If you want to make a stop in Kuala Lumpur, consider that three or four days should be enough to visit the main attractions of the city. If your stay is shorter, I recommend you to exclude the parks, but not to miss the Petronas Towers, the Batu Caves, Chinatown and Jalan Alor.
The Petronas Twin Towers are named after the oil company, and with their 88 floors and 452 meters of height, they literally dominate the city center. The project is a modern reworking of traditional Islamic architecture. On the 41st floor the two towers are connected to each other by a Sky Bridge which can be accessed by lift at a ticket price of around 80 Malaysian Ringgit (about 19 US$). Tickets can also be purchased online.
Petronas Twin Towers are housed in the Ampang residential district and are part of the large KLCC, the Kuala Lumpur City Center, which includes the Suria KLCC Shopping Mall, a luxury hotel, an office block, and another of the city’s must-see attractions: Aquaria.
This water park covers an area of approximately 5600 square meters divided into two levels, and it hosts at least 250 marine species, more than 20000 aquatic animals from Malaysia and the rest of the world. Aquaria’s main attraction is a 90 meters long underwater tunnel from which you can observe different marine species in their natural habitat.
If you are up for some shopping, head to Butik Bintang, a few minutes from KLCC Park, where you can find boutiques selling well-known brands and several shopping malls. This is an excellent area for an overnight stay: it offers a wide choice of hotels, and it is close to most of Kuala Lumpur places of interest.
Only a tad lower than the Petronas Twin Towers, the Menara Tower is 421 meters high and has the highest observation platform in the city. From here you can admire Kuala Lumpur at 360°. I recommend visiting at sunset when the views are stunning!
The Menara Tower houses the revolving Atmosphere 360 restaurant, which gives its customers a panoramic view of the city. It is not cheap, but I would say that dining while observing the city from high above, with soft lights and live music, is definitely worth it!
Central Market and surroundings
The Central Market is a roofed-up market built in 1888. It is extremely popular with tourists, who can buy souvenirs and food from its over 350 shops and stalls. A few minutes away is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in the city (dated 1800). It stands out for its beautifully carved monumental access tower. Also in the area, we can find the Guan Di Temple, a Taoist temple built in honour of the God of War, and the National Textiles Museum.
In Malaysia the official and most widespread religion is Islam. Kuala Lumpur houses several mosques, but only two are accessible to visitors: the National Mosque and the Masjid Jamek.
The National Mosque is the largest mosque in Kuala Lumpur; it has a rather modern architecture, with an 18-pointed star-shaped dome representing the 13 federal states of Malaysia and the 5 pillars of Islam.
Masjid Jamek, the oldest mosque in the city, was built on the point where two rivers meet: the Gombak and the Kelang. This is a confluence of some importance since the city was founded in 1857 right on the meeting point of these two rivers. Not by chance the name Kuala Lumpur in Malay means “muddy confluence”. The mosque is inspired by Mughal Indian architecture, it is very beautiful, dominated by domes and enriched by lush gardens. Masjid Jamek is definitely worth a visit, it is well connected by public transport and can be visited providing you wear suitable clothing.
Chinatown, the Chinese heart of Kuala Lumpur
A three-minute walk from the Central Market on Petalin Street, in the heart of the Malaysian capital, is Chinatown, a lively district full of colours and lights. Once known for the tapioca trade, today it is a very popular neighbourhood frequented by tourists, full of colourful shops selling all sorts of items.
I prefer to visit Chinatown in the evening, when it turns into a large night market where you can taste several dishes of local cuisine. It is worth noting that, being a busy and very crowded neighbourhood frequented by both tourists and locals, Chinatown is subject to pickpocketing, so take precautions.
Jalan Alore and surroundings
Street food lovers cannot miss Jalan Alore night food court, a whole street dedicated to eating, where you are really spoiled for choice. Here you can eat all sorts of dishes and filling up is really cheap. The cozy streets in the surrounding area are entirely decorated with street art and strolling along them is a pleasure.
Brickfield, Kuala Lumpur Little India
Due to the high concentration of Malaysians of Indian origin living in this neighbourhood, Brickfield is named the Little India of Kuala Lumpur. It is characterised by the presence of the oldest religious buildings in the capital, such as the Maha Vihara Buddhist temple, of which the original structure dates back to 1824. The neighbourhood is easily accessible using public transport, getting off at the nearby KL Sentral Station, and it is also well served by taxis and buses.
The famous Batu Caves temple is located at about 15 km from the city center, reachable in 40 minutes by train from KL Sentral, or in 20 minutes with Grab taxis. The Main Cave, known as the Temple Cave or the Cathedral Cave, is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Muragan. It is accessed through a coloured staircase consisting of 272 steps, in front of which stands a 42 meters high majestic golden statue of Lord Muragan.
The green oasis of Kuala Lumpur
If you are tired of the city hustle and bustle and are looking for quiet places, opt for one of Kuala Lumpur’s lush parks and gardens. One of the most beautiful is the KLCC Park, a true oasis in the center of the city, equipped with numerous recreational services: swimming pools to cool off, splendid fountains, sculptures and walking paths.
Another great place to relax is the Titiwangasa, a beautiful park that houses a large lake where you can hire a boat and go rowing. If you are a real fan of green places, don’t miss a visit to the Botanical Garden of Perdana, one of the most popular parks in the city, which includes the favorite KL Bird Parkmeta, a weekends must-go for locals.
I hope this article has given you inspirational ideas for your future trip to Kuala Lumpur. Find me on Instagram, where I post the best photos of my travels, and on my Facebook page, where in addition to various articles I share my next scheduled trips.
Enjoy your traveling!