Sarawak’s capital Kuching has a colonial charm blended with the traditional, stunning architecture, an attractive waterfront and a charismatic Main Bazaar. Check out the top things to do in Kuching to experience the city’s history, culture, and some of the best parks in Borneo.
Sitting on the northern banks of the Sarawak River, Kuching’s Astana, or Palace, has a rich history. The colonial structure sat inside the manicured lawns dates back to the late 19th century. Acting as the residence for the White Rajahs and now the Governor of Sarawak, the building is among the capital’s most majestic. Snap a few photographs of the simple, yet elegant Palace from the waterfront.
Kuching boasts an impressive collection of colonial buildings dating back to the White Rajahs of Sarawak who ruled from 1841 to 1946. Charles Brookes, the second White Rajah, contributed to the layout and colonial heart that remains today. Check out the Astana, Fort Margherita, the Old Court House and the General Post Office. The Bishop’s House, the Anglican Bishop of Kuching’s private residence, as well as the Sarawak State Museum are worth visiting too. Enjoying the blend of Kuching’s colonial, traditional Chinese-style and contemporary styles is one of the best things to do in Kuching.
Kuching’s State Legislative Assembly Building is an architectural masterpiece. The elegant government building sits on the northern side of the Sarawak River near Astana. With a nine-pointed star as the roof and a combination of various cultural elements, there’s little wonder why this landmark is often said to be rated as the most magnificent architecture in Borneo. Tourists can get the best views from the waterfront.
Spending an hour or two at the Main Bazaar in old Kuching consistently rates as one of the top things to do. Chinese shophouses line the street, housing multiple generations of the same families. With an abundance of handicraft shops and art galleries, tourists can have a field day searching for souvenirs, mementoes and bargains. And after shopping, check out the antique coffee shops and soak up the historical heritage of the area.
A small wooden mosque once occupied the site of today’s Kuching City Mosque for more than a century until the present structure opened in 1968. Combining elements of Western, Italian and contemporary Islamic styles with shiny golden domes, the mosque makes an idyllic photograph. Non-Muslims can enter outside of prayer times. Enjoy the view of Kuching City Mosque, formerly the State Mosque of Sarawak, from the river at sunset.
The attractive waterfront opposite Main Bazaar is a regular among the best things to see in Kuching. A boardwalk stretching for approximately one kilometre (0.6 miles) hugs the Sarawak River. Visitors can stroll along and admire the views of the river, snap photographs of the Astana and Fort Margherita and soak up the Kuching culture.
Learn the History and Traditions of Islam at Sarawak Islamic Museum
Once a colonial school and later Madrasa in Sarawak under the White Rajahs, the structure became the Sarawak Islamic Museum in 1992. A total of seven galleries covering Islamic history, architecture, science, costumes, weaponry, art and collections of the Koran surround a central courtyard garden. For a cultural experience and chance to learn about the role of Islam in Sarawak, Borneo and Malaysia, take a trip to this free museum.
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Most visitors overlook one of Culture Trip’s favourite things to do in Kuching. The 15-acre Orchid Gardens houses more than 75,000 plants, flowers and 82 species of orchid. The park itself splits into a nursery and display area, and includes Sarawak’s state flower: the Normah Orchid. Orchid Gardens sits on the northern bank of the river near The Astana and Fort Margherita. Take the Penambang, or wooden boat, across the Sarawak River from the waterfront.
Located approximately six kilometres (3.7 miles) south of the waterfront, the Friendship Garden in Tabuan Heights offers a peaceful retreat from the city. The garden features lovely lawns, ponds filled with koi fish, two wishing wells and ancient Chinese-inspired structures. Friendship Garden symbolises the friendship between Malaysia and China and makes an ideal way to relax in serene surroundings. Locals say this is one of the most attractive parks in Borneo.
Damai Beach, located approximately one hour from Kuching, has some of the most impressive views in Borneo. The sandy beach overlooks the South China Sea against the backdrop of dense jungle and Mount Santubong. Damai Beach Resort maintains the space in excellent condition, providing a romantic spot for the sunset.