Get a taste of the wider wonders of Malaysia in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. This city, affectionately called Kuala Lumpur. by both visitors and locals, is one of the most pleasant cities in Asia. It balances towering skyscrapers and modern entertainment venues with lush gardens and an easy-to-use public transport system.
Kuala Lumpur is also a great place to get insight into the three dominant cultures of Malaysia through visiting local monuments and ethnic neighborhoods. Take a look at these 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur, and get inspired for your next visit to the Malaysian capital.
1) Petronas Towers
You can’t visit Kuala Lumpur without getting your picture taken in front of the iconic Petronas Towers. These massive, tapering towers of glass and steel are connected by the Skybridge at levels 41 and 42. Visitors to the towers can take in the city’s skyline from the bridge or at the observation deck 360 meters up; or simply visit the modern mall in the lower six stories of the building.
2) Be a Star Shopper along Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur’s shopaholics congregate along Bukit Bintang, an avenue of shopping malls and boutiques in the center of the city. Budget hunters will love Sungei Wang Plaza, while Pavilion mall will suit those looking for luxury.
There’s also plenty of entertainment venues and places to eat and drink along this avenue, so it’s OK to shop hungry.
3) Get a Thrill on an Indoor Rollercoaster
Not sure what to do on a rainy day? Families traveling to the Malaysian capital can combine a shopping trip for the adults with an amusement park adventure for the kids at the Berjaya Times Square Mall. This complex featuring an indoor amusement park is just a short walk from Bukit Bintang.
And, if you don’t want to take a ride yourself, it’s always fun to watch other visitors whiz above you on the twisting roller coaster.
4) Visit the National Museum
Malaysia’s National Museum offers an accessible yet comprehensive view of the country’s diverse cultural history. The galleries’ permanent exhibits feature weapons, homewares and cultural artifacts from the Malay culture and that of other ethnic groups represented in the history of Malaysia.
This is near the Lake Gardens, and so a visit here could be easily combined with a trip to the Bird Park or Orchid Garden.
5) Stroll through the Orchid Gardens
Home to 800 species of orchids from Malaysia, this one-hectare section in Kuala Lumpur’s Lake Gardens complex offers a chance to marvel at nature’s unerring designs. After enjoying the orchids, the adjoining hibiscus garden next door is also worth a visit. Budget travelers take note: entrance to the garden is free on weekdays and only 1 RM on weekends.
6) Pay Your Respects at Batu Caves
One of Kuala Lumpur’s star attractions is located out of the city proper, but shouldn’t be missed just on account of the commute. Batu Caves is a Hindu temple housed in natural limestone cave formations about 13 kilometers north of the capital. The caves were converted into the present impressive place of worship in the 1890s.
If you’re in Malaysia in January, the colorful festival of Thaipusam is held at Batu Caves and is a must-see.
7) Enjoy Food from the Subcontinent in Little India
Malaysia’s unique location near the Spice Islands and on the peninsula between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea has made it a natural point of congress between many different cultures. During the period of British Colonialism, many people from present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka immigrated to what is now Malaysia to work with the British Army or on British tea and rubber plantations.
In the present day, visit K.L’s Little India district in Brickfields, near the main railway station, to immerse yourself in the cultural heart of Malaysia’s thriving Indian population. Offering some of the best tastes of the Subcontinent, from thalis to dishes hot from the tandoor, it’s also a great place to find silks, jewelry and other imports.
8) Shop and People-Watch in Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, based in the streets and alleys around Petaling Street, features a pedestrianized shopping zone for all your souvenir needs, well-preserved colonial architecture, and an array of tantalizing restaurants. Malaysia’s population of Chinese ancestry has brought a myriad of tastes together from Asia’s largest country and—daring travelers whisper—perfected them here. Try local favorites by sampling the dim sum options, claypot rice, and Penang curry.
9) Make a Royal Stop at the Old Palace
Much is said about the Chinese and Indian influences on Kuala Lumpur’s districts, but don’t forget to pay homage to Malay culture as well. Malaysia is a monarchy, and a few rooms in one of the royal family’s palaces can be toured. Visit the Istana Negara at noon to see guards wearing traditional Malay ceremonial uniforms change their posts.
10) Flock to the Bird Park
Enjoy a quiet morning or afternoon with Malaysia’s feathered residents, at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, situated in the Lake Gardens. This family-friendly attraction is a huge aviary where 200 species of birds fly around freely and visitors can get up close to their favorite winged animals.
What are your favorite places to visit in Kuala Lumpur? Feel free to share them in the comments.