Kuala Lumpur combines grand mosques with colourful Chinese temples and neighbourhoods bursting with the flair of the Indian subcontinent. Add a modern city centre, the world-famous Petronas Towers and a reputation for delicious street food. Culture Trip shows soon-to-be visitors how to get the most out of 48 hours in Malaysia’s capital.
Before we start
Download the GrabCar App. GrabCar (Malaysia’s Uber) is faster, cheaper and more convenient than taxis. Kuala Lumpur resembles a maze. Travelling a short distance on foot often takes a frustrating eternity that involves crossing highways and suddenly finding the pavement disappears. Our advice: Use the LRT if you’re near a station or travelling during rush hour. Otherwise, take Grab Car, where a typical journey costs less than RM15 ($3.70 USD). If you’re looking for comfortable, budget-friendly accommodation, we recommend My Hotel @ Brickfields. Apart from a convenient location near cheap local eats, it’s two minutes from KL Sentral (the city’s central transport hub).
Day one: Malaysian history, Indian food and Petronas Towers
The first 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur involves a trip to the National Museum, exploring Little India and getting Instagram-worthy photos of Petronas Towers.
Morning: a short history of Malaysia
Start the day with nasi goreng (fried rice) and Nescafé ice at Nasi Kandar Pulau Pinang. The National Museum (Muzium Negara) showcases the Malaysian story from early human migration to the present day. Learn about Orang Asli (Malaysia’s aboriginals), the birth of the Malay State and how several centuries of colonialism made the country what it is today. Expect to spend an hour inside. Either walk through KL Sentral’s shopping mall or use GrabCar. Walk back from the National Museum to Malaysia’s Little India in Brickfields. Stop for a drink and cake at the classy BrewBerry Café on the opposite side of the highway.
Afternoon: taste the subcontinent in a KL suburb
Stroll through Little India’s backstreets in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most vibrant districts. Check out the elegant Vivekananda Ashram, Sri Karpaga Vinayagar Temple and Sri Kandaswamy Kovil. If you’re peckish, order a roti canai from one of the many nasi kandar (self-service buffet dining) restaurants along Jalan Tun Sambanthan.
Evening: Petronas Towers and KLCC Symphony
The first evening of your 48 hours in Kuala Lumpur involves a trip to the capital’s most famous building. Try to arrive at KLCC in the late afternoon. Marvel at the twin towers which almost touch the low clouds. Culture Trip recommends snapping a photo first outside Public Bank before passing through the mall to KLCC Park. Stick around until 8:00pm for the Lake Symphony. Pro tip: KLCC has a food court and Starbucks for a quick refuel at surprisingly affordable prices.
Night: Malaysian street food and meeting other travellers
After admiring the magnificent Petronas Towers, order a GrabCar from KLCC to Bukit Bintang. Pro tip: Make sure you know which exit to take from the maze-like mall. Bukit Bintang is the city’s life and soul after dark. Several restaurants fill the roads, serving everything from street food to nasi kandar. If you want a cheap meal and drink, head to Jalan Alor. This area is a haven for backpackers and travellers, promising a social experience.
Day two: explore KL’s wild side, learn about Islam and night markets
The second 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur involves a trip to Lake Gardens, an Islamic Arts Museum and Chinatown.
Morning: tropical gardens, a lake oasis and monkeys
Start the second morning of your 48 hours in Kuala Lumpur with a bowl of steaming hot noodles (Culture Trip recommends Restoran One Sentral near KL Sentral). Order a GrabCar to Lake Gardens, KL’s vast oasis in the heart of a somewhat chaotic city. Check out the colours and smells inside the Botanical Gardens, snap photos next to stunning orchids and stroll around the central lake. Keep your eyes open for macaques living near Orchid Gardens. Pro tip: Try to visit Lake Gardens as early as possible (before the mercury soars and the rain clouds roll in).
Afternoon: appreciate the importance of Islam in Malaysia
As afternoon temperatures get unbearable, head to the nearby air-conditioned museum. The Islamic Arts Museum sits near both the Lake Gardens and the National Mosque. Anticipate spending an hour or two exploring the four-floored museum, costing just RM14 ($3.50 USD). Highlights include exhibits on musical instruments, model mosques and Islam’s story over the centuries.
Evening: an evening in Chinatown
Nobody’s 48 hours in Kuala Lumpur would be complete without visiting their famous (or infamous) Chinatown. After freshening up from a sweaty afternoon, either take the LRT from KL Sentral to Pasar Seni (one stop) or order GrabCar. You can also walk from the National Mosque directly to Chinatown. Visit Central Market and KL’s oldest Hindu Temple (Sri Mahamariamman Temple). Several red Chinese temples line the streets as wafting incense fills the air.
Night: souvenir shopping along Petaling Street
Stroll around the labyrinth of streets, search for bargains and sample street food along Petaling Street. If you buy something, be careful with the vendors. They sometimes get upset when you bargain and don’t buy. Pro tip: You can find some of KL’s best street food along Petaling Street. We recommend trying satay (Malaysian kebabs skewered on a stick). If you’re still full of energy, head down to KL’s Golden Triangle in Changkat for a few evening drinks.
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