No matter your budget, there is something for everyone in Jakarta. From contemporary street art spotting, to eco-rallies, here are 10 amazing free activities to try in Indonesia’s dynamic capital.
Jakarta’s Old Town neighbourhood is a fascinating collection of remnants from the city’s past. As an important sea port town during the Dutch colonial era, the area is dense with many of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. All you have to do to enjoy it is walk around and explore the old town area, one charming nook to another. Many of these buildings have been repurposed as museums, although the tickets costs are very cheap. Highlights of Jakarta Old Town you can enjoy for free include Fatahillah Square, Rumah Akar, and the Sunda Kelapa harbour.
Suropati Park is tucked in the middle of Jakarta’s concrete jungle, surrounded by elegant buildings of the upscale Menteng residence. The park is a neatly landscaped green area lined with tall shady trees occasionally moved by a natural fresh breeze so rare in the city. Suropati Park has a mix of nature, urban liveliness, and an artistic vibe. Six ASEAN monuments are on display, dozens of doves are making this park their home, and you can occasionally find groups or individuals practising their musical instruments under the trees.
The colourful murals on the walls seem to perfectly wash over the neighbourhood’s dark past as a notorious spot for prostitution and illegal gambling. Now, the area has taken a much more innocent turn, with green areas, skate parks, childrens’ rides, and vibrant street art. You can play, walk around, take pictures, and just generally have fun the locals’ way. Once in a while, this area also hosts various events such as music shows or educational programmes for children.
Despite housing many of the nation’s most monumental and prestigious artworks, tourists can enter the National Gallery of Indonesia free of charge. As one of the most prominent art and culture spaces in Jakarta, the gallery has more than 1,700 items in its collection. The space is organised to reflect the nation’s different eras and movements, contextually showcasing works from legendary artists such as Raden Saleh and Affandi to emerging contemporary artists. The gallery also hosts various temporary exhibitions in addition to the permanent collection.
One of the best way to enjoy Jakarta’s lively and peculiar Chinese-Indonesian culture is on foot, around the corners of Glodok Chinatown area. This part of town has a strong oriental atmosphere, signified by the architecture, people, businesses, and, most prominently, ornate temples and shrines. The Chinatown is also home to many of the city’s oldest and legendary vendors, from restaurants to barbershops.
What started as an environmental initiative has become a well-loved tradition and lifestyle for Jakartans. Every Sunday morning, hundreds of people take to the streets of Sudirman and Thamrin; walking, running, or cycling through the usually jam-packed business district. The festivity occasionally includes public or corporate events, entertainment performances, marches, and other programmes.
A true testament to the nation’s diversity, the Gambir area of Jakarta is home to historical houses of worship from different religions. It’s where a neo-gothic cathedral sits across a post-independent grand mosque, and just around the corner is an old colonial Protestant church. These religious buildings are also heritage sites that you can visit for free or for very little cost.
OK, riding the bus is not free but at less than 30 cents, a ticket costs a mere pittance. The integrated bus lines can take you virtually anywhere in the city. Be sure to try Line 1, that will take you from the Old Town of Jakarta through the presidential palace complex and the National Monument and through the dynamic business district, with its tall offices and mega-malls. Riding the spacious, air-conditioned bus is a convenient way to sight-see around the city in the sticky tropical weather and beat the traffic.
Exploring a market can be fun even if you don’t have money to burn – especially if the market doubles as a cultural and historical attraction. Also known as Jakarta’s Little India, many of this market’s vendors are of Indian descent, and still keep their traditions and customs, which have mixed with the local culture. The market is packed with stores, restaurants and food stalls. The unique mix of old buildings and lively market scene create a wonderful atmosphere to experience even if you’re not coming home with a mountain of shopping bags.
The Merdeka Square in Central Jakarta is not only home to the impressive National Monument. It is in itself a popular spot for exercise or simply hanging out with the view of the monument, surrounded by verdant parks. Every weekend, the square gets even more lively with a spectacular fountain show, complete with dramatic lights and music.