Brunei is known for its mosques, Kampong Ayer and the Sultan’s extravagance. Here are some of the best things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Get lost in the world’s largest floating village
Kampong Ayer ranks as one of the top things to do in Bander Seri Begawan for every type of traveller. The stilted-village on the Brunei River houses more than 13,000 permanent residents. A network of wooden walkways connect houses, shops and mosques linking some 40 separate settlements. Regular water taxis pass from the waterfront into the centuries-old village costing approximately B$1 ($0.66). Alternatively, negotiate a price for a one-hour boat tour which usually ranges between B$20 to B$25 ($13.20 to $16.60 USD) per boat.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque holds the title as the largest mosque in central Bandar Seri Begawan. An artificial lagoon surrounds Omar Ali, acting as a reflecting pool giving it a mirror image. Adding to its opulence, a replica of a royal barge sits inside the pool. We recommend visiting on a sunny day to capture the true beauty of this attractive structure.
Visiting the free Royal Regalia Museum is one of the best things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan. This free museum displays gifts from the Sultan’s life. Highlights include the hundreds of gold relics and jewels, plus a colossal chariot used in the Sultan’s 1992 silver jubilee.
Stroll along the waterfront and get a picture of Kampong Ayer
Bandar Seri Begawan’s waterfront is a short walk from the gorgeous Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Stretching for a few hundred meters, the waterfront offers the best views of Kampong Ayer. Head to the tourist information office for a map and further recommendations. We suggest visiting in the early evening and enjoying a coffee or meal at one of the many riverside restaurants.
Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is a giant. Built in 1994 and inaugurated on the Sultan’s 48th birthday, Brunei spared no expense in its grandeur. The country’s second national mosque has a whopping 29 golden domes and four towering minarets at 58 metres (190 feet). With a capacity of 5,000, it can host approximately 20% of the city centre’s population at any one time.
If you’re looking to taste local street food, check out Gadong Night Market after 4:00pm. Unlike other night markets in southeast Asia, this one in Bandar Seri Begawan feels much more authentic. Because Brunei gets so few tourists, most people here are locals. Stroll through the stalls and you’ll find grilled chicken, fish and kebabs on skewers. Other dishes include stir-fried noodles, nasi katok (fried chicken and steamed rice with a spicy sauce) and fresh fruits. A trip to the Night Market is one of our favourite things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan for foodies.
Stretching for approximately one kilometre (0.62 miles) along the Brunei River, the park is a favourite spot for local families. Apart from a jogging track and a few sculptures dotted around, dozens of primates live on the river island. When the sun dips, the monkeys come out to play. Travellers might catch a glimpse of the rare proboscis monkeys that are found only in Borneo. This is a favourite for everyone, especially families on a stopover.
Learn about colonial Brunei at the Twelve Roofs House
Sat on a nearby hill to the south of the city, Twelve Roofs House is one of the capital’s oldest structures. Built in 1906, the colonial building was once the home of the British High Commissioner. Today, it’s a small museum honouring the long-standing relationship between Brunei and the United Kingdom. Spend an hour or two here to learn about Brunei’s colonial past.
Regional tourists often head to Brunei for shopping. Compared to neighbouring countries, the cost of electronics and designer goods tends to be lower. If you need to get a new camera or handbag, it’s probably much cheaper in Bandar Seri Begawan compared to Malaysia and Indonesia. We recommend either The Mall or Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex.
What could be a better way to get a glimpse into the Bruneian way of life than by visiting the local wet market? Tamu Kianggeh sits near the river with vendors selling locally grown fruit, vegetables and fish. Some sell handicraft and souvenirs too. But be ready to try out your bargaining skills.