The Top 10 Things to Do And See in Kuala Lumpur

Photo of Crystal Au
9 February 2017

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia‘s effervescent capital, is a dynamic city with state-of-the-art shopping malls, historical colonial-era buildings, picturesque natural scenery, original art and an impressive skyline dominated by the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. Influenced heavily by the Chinese traditions from across the water, Kuala Lumpur is a melting melting pot of Asian cultures, elevating itself as a dynamic and varied place to engage with and explore. From bustling museums to idyllic gardens, here’s 10 of the best things to do and see in Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur skyline I | © Daniel Hoherd/Flickr

Merdeka Square and Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Map View
Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square | © IQRemix/Flickr
Merdeka Square is the Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, an iconic landmark fo Malays as it was here that the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time at midnight on 31 August 1957. And it is here also where the annual National Day Parade is held in honor of this independence, with the country’s flags flying enthusiastically and patriotic songs sung by various performers. Take a two minute walk from here and you will arrive at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, an imposing structure housing the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia. The clock tower here, oftentimes referred to as the ‘Big Ben of Malaysia’, was built between 1894 and 1896 when the city was under the rule of the British. It is interesting to see how these archaic, historical buildings are integrated with the other modern skyscrapers of the area, and the cityscape is particularly arresting at night when the buildings are illuminated by thousands of lights.

Central Market

The Central Market of Kuala Lumpur is a dynamic hub of activity thriving on the streets of the city, a center not only for shopping, but for the arts, culture and handicrafts too. Exuding a unique charm and bustling atmosphere, there is over 100,000 square feet of retail space here, and there is also a large outdoor stage providing a venue for multicultural performances and celebrations. Everything from traditional masks to authentic Malaysian fare can be purchased here, and additionally a number of interesting cultural activities are held monthly, such as the ‘mid-autumn cultural fiesta’ this fall. Visiting the market and taking part in these activities is a great way to get to know Kuala Lumpur’s culture and its people.

Opening hours: Daily 10am-10pm

Central Market l | © Khalzuri Yazid/Flickr

Jalan Alor

Bar, Restaurant, Malaysian
Map View
Busy Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang | © McKay Savage / Flickr
Jalan Alor is an area famous for its night market in Kuala Lumpur. Sometimes known as the Jalan Alor Food Street, this is a vivid, vibrant place where you can find all types of culinary wonders, with a main focus being on Chinese noodle dishes with meat or seafood. Only open at night, the coconut ice-cream is a must-try here. Be careful of the cars crawling to get past the growing crowds on busy evenings.

Opening hours: depends on different stalls and restaurants, usually 5pm-12am

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Constructed in 1873, the magnificent Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu structure in Malaysia. The gopuram, which is the monumental tower of the Hindu gods, is the first thing which captures a visitor’s eye here, an impressive feature standing at 22.9 meters tall and opulently decorated with depictions of Hindu gods sculpted by southern Indian artisans. Inside there are a series of separated buildings serving different religious purposes, and even if you aren’t particularly spiritual, the richly decorated ceilings, intricate sculptures of goddesses and majestic main prayer hall here all make the site worth visiting.

Opening hours: Daily 6am-8:30pm

Sri Mahamariamman Temple l | © Jorge Láscar/Flickr

Petronas Twin Towers

The iconic landmark of Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC) are the tallest structures of their kind on planet Earth. The 88-storey skyscrapers were built in 1992, and designed by Argentine architect César Pelli in a dinstinctive postmodern style, with the aim of creating an innovative, 21st-century emblem for the city. They house the gigantic shopping mall Suria KLCC, and boast an observation deck, situated on the 86th floor, offering jaw-dropping views of the spirited city.

Opening hours: Daily 9am-9pm

Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2331 8080

Islamic Art Museum

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, with 60% of its people practising the ancient belief. The Islamic Art Museum gives a fascinating insight into this religion, and offers engaging information on the art which flourishes from it. The museum is the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia, and houses 12 galleries set over two floors dedicated to increasing the engagement between visitors and the Islamic arts. The objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, with the aim of creating a collection which is truly representative of the Islamic world.

Opening hours: Daily 10am-6pm

Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2274 2020

Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Art Gallery, Museum, Shop
Map View
The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery tells the story of Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it’s known to locals, through pictures, objects and exhibitions. It’s an enthralling tourist information center set in an 114-year-old colonial-style building, and exhibits paintings and mock ups of famous city landmarks as well as a detailed timeline chronicling the city’s transformation, from its 19th century origins all the way through to its present-day state. This timeline includes some interesting pictures on the construction of the aforementioned Petronas Twin Towers, too. The museum also illustrates the multicultural element of the city by displaying national costumes such as baju kurungs, sarees and cheong sams.

Ode to Art

Ode to Art is a contemporary art gallery which exhibits paintings, photography, sculptures and installation artworks by prominent artists from all around the world. Featured artists include Chen Wen Ling, Lorenzo Quinn, Robert Indiana and Xi-Aige, and there are creative and diverse exhibitions held regularly.

Opening hours: Daily 11am-9pm

Red Memory Smile by Chen Wen Ling, at Ode To Art l | © Moondyne/WIkiCommons

Perdana Botanical Garden

Built in 1888, Perdana Botanical Garden, also known as the Lake Gardens, was the first urban park ever to be constructed in Kuala Lumpur. The beautiful, natural space features picturesque waterfalls and multiple collections of different flower and plant varieties. Take a boat around the idyllic lake here, or rent a bike to really traverse the wonder of nature; this is an unmissable experience transporting visitors to a tropical rainforest location, right in the middle of the Malaysian metropolis.

Opening hours: Daily 7am-8pm

Jalan Kebun Bunga, Tasik Perdana, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2617 6404

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

Close to the Perdana Botanical Gardens sits the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, a home to more than 3000 birds of 200 different species. A self-proclaimed zoo just for birds, visitors can have fun here taking pictures with the creatures at designated photo booths, and feeding the birds themselves. This is also a popular venue for weddings and birthday parties, with the tropical scenery and colorful critters making for a unique and memorable day.

Opening hours: Daily 9am-6pm

KL Bird Park, 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 2272 1010

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