The Sultanate of Brunei is known for mosques, virgin rainforest and the world’s largest floating village. Here are our top 20 attractions in Brunei for tourists staying in Bandar Seri Begawan on a stopover to those exploring the best of the country.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque
The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan is the most striking image of Brunei. An artificial lagoon-cum-reflecting pool surrounds the mosque which overlooks the Brunei River and Kampong Ayer. This is one of the most Instagramable attractions in Brunei.
One of Brunei's two national mosques in Bandar Seri Begawan
The second of Brunei’s grand mosques sits a few kilometres from the city centre. With the title as the country’s largest mosque, it’s a favourite stop on short itineraries to Bandar Seri Begawan. But because of its size, you might have difficulties finding the perfect photograph!
Always featured among the top attractions in Brunei, Kampong Ayer provides an experience found nowhere else on the planet. The historical floating village consists of more than 40 smaller settlements connected with a maze-like network of wooden boardwalks. A total of 13,000 residents live inside Kampong Ayer who have their own schools, mosques and shops. Speedboats cost approximately B$1 ($0.66 USD) to ferry residents and tourists to the world’s largest stilted village.
Hugging the banks of the Brunei River, The Waterfront is an ideal place for a pleasant evening stroll. Apart from views of the river and Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, this is our favourite place to get photographs of Kampong Ayer.
With almost 1,800 rooms, the Istana Nurul Iman is officially the world’s largest house. The Sultan’s palace lies a short drive from Bandar Seri Begawan’s city centre. Featuring as a favourite stop for day trippers, appreciating the vast size and splendour gives you an idea of the Sultan’s wealth. Tourists can’t go inside apart from during Hari Raya. Take photographs from the nearby river or park.
After seeing the palace, head to the Royal Regalia Museum and see his collection of gifts. From a giant chariot used in his silver jubilee to countless jewels and gold, the free museums offer a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of a Sultan.
Another must-visit attraction in Brunei for those looking to learn about the country’s culture. Several rooms have displays on Malay and Bruneian ethnography including a collection of traditional costumes. Others show how residents live in the floating village. Expect to spend approximately one hour at this museum.
The Maritime Museum rarely features on the list of top attractions in Brunei, but we think it deserves a special mention. Located some six kilometres (3.7 miles) from the Waterfront in Kota Batu, it makes a perfect cultural combination with the Malay Technology Museum. Three galleries cover maritime trading history in the region as well as displaying artefacts recovered from a nearby shipwreck.
The former High Commissioner’s house is one of Brunei’s oldest buildings. Dating back to 1906, the colonial structure has deep ties to imperial Britain. After gaining their independence in 1984, the Twelve Roofs House has since become a museum. Inside, you’ll learn about the friendly relationship between Britain and Brunei and the Queen and the Sultan. We suggest visiting to appreciate the style of architecture and learn more about the evolution of modern-day Brunei.
Tasek Lama sits a few kilometres north of Bandar Seri Begawan and provides a slice of nature in the heart of the city. Apart from a favourite picnicking spot for local families, the park has short trails through the jungle. Expect to spend an hour or two appreciating the rainforest habitat, snapping photos from viewing platforms and admiring the waterfalls.
Brunei is one of the countries you can see the endangered Proboscis Monkeys
We recommend this park as one of the top attractions in Brunei for every visitor to the country. Stretching along the Brunei River, the park is a haven for locals and families in the evening. The island in the centre houses monkeys including the endemic and endangered Proboscis Monkeys.
Brunei’s best beach is approximately 30 minutes by car from Bandar Seri Begawan. The clean stretch of coastline and adjacent parks has several benches for picnics, a jogging trail and a prime position to see Borneo’s famous sunset. Why not combine a day at the beach with a sunset picnic? But remember to respect local customs and leave the speedos and bikinis in the hotel.
When Jerudong Park opened in 1994, it was one of the largest theme parks in Asia. But after a lack of investment, it dwindled to a fraction of its former size. Despite having just a few rides and being rather uninspiring by European standards, it still gets classified as one of the top attractions in Brunei in guidebooks. We suggest considering a trip here if you’re visiting with children.
Every evening at 4pm, Gadong Night Markets officially opens. Stalls sell local dishes including grilled fish and chicken. Because Bandar Seri Begawan gets so few tourists, the night market retains an authentic flair. If you want to soak up a bit of the Bruneian culture and taste regional cuisine, head to Gadong. Try nasi katok (steamed rice and Bruneian-style fried chicken with a spicy sauce).
Drop by the market to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables at local prices
Located near the Brunei River, Tamu Kianggeh sells fruit, veggies and fish. Other stalls have locally-made handicraft and souvenirs catering towards the stopover tourists in Bandar Seri Begawan. This is also our favourite place in the city to buy fresh tropical fruit.
Spend the night at Ulu Ulu National Park Resort and experience the rainforest
Brunei’s first national park opened in 1991 in Temburong District. The vast protected area consistently features as one of the top attractions in Brunei for ecotourism. Unlike their Bornean neighbours, the Sultanate’s rainforests remain intact in a type of state-sponsored conservation. Visitors can hike jungle trails, get views of the rainforest from canopy walks and see some of the island’s wildlife.
The monument in Seria near the border with Sarawak commemorates Brunei’s production of its billionth barrel of oil. Offshore oil drives Brunei’s economy making it one of the wealthiest nations in Southeast Asia. Stop by for half an hour when passing between Miri and Brunei’s capital. But unless you have a car, it might not be worth the effort to travel from Bandar Seri Begawan specifically to see this monument.
Brunei’s largest lake sits some 70 kilometres (43 miles) from Bandar Seri Begawan. The ‘S’-shaped lake supports a variety of flora and fauna including a rare species of fruit bat. Apart from snapping photographs and enjoying the environment, tourists can take boat trips and visit the two lake islands. Because of its proximity to Tutong Town, why not visit both the lake and Seri Kenangan Beach as part of the same trip?
In English, Pantai Seri Kanangan translates to ‘Unforgettable Beach’. The stretch of orange sand is sandwiched between the rough waters of the South China Sea and the relatively calm Tutong River. The best time to enjoy this attraction in Brunei is with a late afternoon picnic or during the sunset.