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Top 10 Things To Do in Johor Bahru

Hakka Heritage Gallery
Hakka Heritage Gallery | © Kuen Lim / Shutterstock
Between the cosmopolitan buzz of Kuala Lumpur and the luxury lifestyle of Singapore, it’s easy to forget that Johor Bahru has more than a few exciting attractions to offer. Here’s a reminder for you.

Johor Bahru sits at the strategic — and sometimes uneasy — location between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Traditionally, it has been the fertile site for agriculture, electronics manufacturing and food processing, but in recent years Johor’s economy has increasingly come to rely on urban tourism and retail. As a result, the city is now one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Malaysia, which means you won’t be short of things to do here.

Visit the Hakka Heritage Gallery

Hakka Heritage Gallery © Kuen Lim / Shutterstock

For the uninitiated, the Hakkas are a people with cultural roots in Hakka-speaking provinces of mainland China. Way before eclectic and colorful became à la mode, the interiors of this Hakka townhouse already featured colorful and eclectic mixtures of functionality and sentimentality. Discover old typewriters, rattan furniture and farming tools in an instructional exploration of traditional Hakka life. Entrance costs RM5 (USD $1.25) per person. Call in advance to arrange your visit.

Take pictures of the Istana Bukit Serene

Laman Diraja Pontian, Johor, Malaysia. © MajestiX B/Shutterstock

It’s impossible to miss the Istana Bukit Serene from the Skudai freeway. The official palace of the Sultan of Johor, this stately home boasts a strategic bird’s eye view of Singapore, which proved particularly useful for the Japanese Army in World War II. The palace is not open to the public, but the gardens surrounding it are. The most iconic feature is the crown archway, but the gardens also feature tall water fountains, manicured landscapes and dazzling light features (at night).

Twinkle with the fireflies at Kota Tinggi

shutterstock_1063564289 © Shutterstock

Also known as the ‘Firefly Valley Leisure Park,’ this is where you get to see nature’s twinkles on land. For RM20 (USD $5) per person, you’ll be able to take a small boat with other passengers to coast along the sides of a mangrove swamp, where the fireflies shimmer and glimmer in the night. Best to visit on a new moon when the fireflies won’t be outshone by the moonlight.

Hike and swim at the Pulai Waterfall

Gunung Pulai Johor © BroNrw/Shutterstock

Do you like nature, water and walking? If so, you’ll get your fill at the Pulai Waterfall. If you begin from the foot of the hill, it will take you about two hours to reach the base of the waterfall. It’s no Niagara Falls, but the water is clean and the area is shaded by thick tropical trees. Want to go for a swim? Bring your swimwear.

Say hello to the animals at Johor Zoo

Tigers © BroNrw/Shutterstock

At RM2 (USD $0.50) per entry, how could you not visit? Tigers, monkeys and flamingos sleep, swing and swim in equal measure, and children will be delighted by the expansive grass field with happily grazing deer. While the Johor Zoo is not a large zoo by any means, the animals here are nevertheless well-fed and live in healthily spacious enclosures.

Stroll along Puteri Harbour

Puteri Harbour © Zanariah Salam / Shutterstock

This is the place to go with your beau or belle. The long promenade at Puteri Harbour is the highlight of the seafront here, as visitors enjoy the sea breeze, rocking yachts and view of the horizon. Restaurants and retail shops line the walkway, including a Sanrio Hello Kitty World, and quirky art features decorate the retail-free land. It has a similar vibe to the Straits Quay in Penang.

Go cafe-hopping in town

My Liberica Coffee waffle and latte © My Liberica Coffee

Thanks to its urban influence from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Johor boasts a number of fashionable establishments for coffee (and tea) lovers. From the cat-loving Cats Cafe and waffle-rich Brew Orchestra, to the complex espressos at Faculty of Caffeine, this list will show you all the cafes you need to try downtown. Expect caffeine-induced bliss.

See what glitters at the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple

Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple © Georgia National Guard / Flickr, derivative of original

Thousands of glass pieces make up this glittering Hindu temple. The glass architecture was inspired by Guru Bhagawan Sittar’s visit to Bangkok, during which a brilliant light from two miles away caught his attention. The light turned out to be a temple made of glass artwork. Some 300,000 pieces of colored glass ornament the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple now, making it a dazzling — almost blinding — sight. Entrance costs RM10 (USD $2.50).

Pay your respects at the Sultan Abu Baker Mosque

Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque Building in Johor Bahru, Malaysia © Jay Nong / Shutterstock

One of the largest architectural triumphs in Johor Bahru, the Sultan Abu Baker Mosque features Victorian-Moorish architecture from the late 19th century and can house up to 2,000 worshippers at any given time. For those who prefer not to enter the mosque, the view from the outside will more than make up for what you’re missing inside. The mosque overlooks the Straits of Johor, and the silhouette of Singapore can be seen from a vague blue-green distance.

Go for a ride at Legoland

Legoland Theme Park Malaysia Resort © MajestiX B/Shutterstock

We couldn’t end this list without mentioning Johor’s favorite theme park — Legoland. With water parks, Lego Kingdoms and mad roller coasters, this amusement park is bound to amuse adults and children alike. Lego lovers will get to celebrate all things Lego, because even your bed could be Lego-themed.