Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown combines a mishmash of traditional shophouses, chaotic markets and a reputation for a good night out. Culture Trip rounds up our favourite bars in Chinatown KL, including quiet lounges, rowdy reggae bars and a few hidden locations most tourists don’t know.
The Attic Bar is probably the most mysterious bar in Chinatown KL. Hidden away on the third floor of Travel Hub Guesthouse on Jalan Balai Polis, visitors won’t find any signs or overt advertising. Instead, customers mostly visit from recommendations. The interior looks like an attic with bare brick walls, sofas and beanbags. But the highlight is the chandelier made using birdcages and the terrace overlooking the old railway station. Follow two spiral staircases into the spacious bar and enjoy one of their affordable cocktails such as a Mojito, Long Island Iced Tea and a mysterious cocktail made by skillful bartenders.
The cocktail bar on Petaling Street sits inside a pre-war shophouse behind the endless stalls stretching along both sides of the street. After entering PS150, customers will find three different thematic seating areas based on historical Indochina and cocktail contexts. Expect a selection of drinks and spirits from around the globe and the chance to taste a series of unusual cocktails. The menu features several beverages from different eras including Contemporary, Disco and Tiki along with Vintage and Prohibition. Not only does PS150 transport patrons back in time with its decorations and drinks, but it also makes for a charismatic hangout in Chinatown KL.
Located on Jalan Tun H S Lee in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, Reggae Bar is both a popular bar and guesthouse with backpackers. Reggae plays in the background and photos of Bob Marley decorate the walls as this bar in Chinatown KL generates a chilled-out vibe. The menu has a reasonable selection of beer, wine and cocktails along with occasional live music and DJ sets. Consider a drink or two at Reggae Bar to meet other like-minded travellers in a relaxed environment away from the neighbourhood’s chaos.
This hidden and slightly tricky to find spot on Jalan Tun H S Lee uses creative decorations to imitate Berlin. A sign reads ‘Ich bin eine Berliner’ on the red door as the graffiti-covered walls glow under neon lights. But don’t be put off by its drab and slightly seedy style – the decorations are intentional. Daily Happy Hour promotions run from 6pm to 10pm, as well as weekend DJ sets. The Berlin KL also has monthly thematic parties. Backpackers and younger tourists who want a more rowdy night reminiscent of some of the bars in Europe will appreciate this spot. So why not head down and grab a beer or one of their many cocktails and have a night to remember?
Have a bit of a dark side or want a spooky experience when it’s not Halloween? Check out Chinatown’s newest cocktail bar with a macabre and eerie twist. After following a staircase reminiscent of any horror story, brave customers will enter the bar inside the former Chinese pharmacy. Expect a variety of ghastly cocktails costing RM28 ($7.10) and communal tables which encourage some element of socialising. For the chance to meet other travellers inside a refreshingly creative bar, head to The Deceased on Jalan Sultan.
Few bars combine a spot for a drink with as much culture as Old China Café. A pair of cowboy-style swing doors marks the entrance to this bar in Chinatown KL and customers will find a bar, restaurant and an antiques gallery inside. Order a drink and marvel at the old Chinese relics such as traditional furniture, posters of Shanghai and books. An extensive food menu is available too, serving up laksa, fried rice and noodle dishes. For those not interested in alcohol, order a pot of Chinese herbal tea.
Rhumbar, along Jalan Petaling, combines an intimate lounge with a bistro offering a fine selection of food. Customers can head in for a quick bite or set lunch after shopping along Petaling. Others come later for a cold beer and a game of pool inside the modern and elegant interior to hang out with their friends. Expect a sophisticated evening with an atmosphere suitable for a quiet drink or romantic evening.
Few bars in Chinatown KL offer the same level of atmospheric ambience as Bar Zhen. Inside the almost hidden bar along Petaling Street, customers can order from a menu of slightly unusual drinks. From the Ginseng-infused cocktails to top-shelf spirits, Bar Zhen provides a different and laid-back experience compared to the chaos outside. After opening in early 2018, Bar Zhen is quickly becoming one of the hottest cocktails bars in Chinatown KL. Expect large crowds from 11pm and table reservations are advisable.
Lucy in the Sky sits near Sri Mahamariamman Temple, KL’s oldest Hindu temple on Jalan Tun H S Lee. With a selection of Western food including pasta, burgers and sandwiches inside a pre-war shophouse, enjoying a drink with a late lunch inside a beautiful location is ideal for a quiet afternoon near Pasar Seni Station.
For a local experience, head to Restoran H20 Ocean on Petaling Street. The Chinese restaurant/bar serves a variety of food including economy rice and self-service options, as well as fried rice and noodle dishes. Locals tend to sit inside a restaurant similar to this and enjoy their drinks rather than visiting noisy bars. But don’t expect too much variety; drinks usually consist of bottled beer starting at RM9 (US$2.30). This place in Chinatown KL makes an ideal pit stop after bargain hunting along Petaling and a chance to experience how locals enjoy their drinks.