25 Best Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

25 Best Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

The name Kuala Lumpur (means muddy estuary) was coined from the very location of the first settlement in KL – where the rivers meet at the confluence of the Kelang and Gombak rivers. The name appropriatley describe KL in the early days as well as nowadays after flash flood whenever its rain heavily in the city.

History recorded that a royalty from the state of Selangor, Raja Abdullah of Klang, discovered KL in 1857 and saw its potential as tin was aplenty there. Chinese tin miners were later brought in and KL became the tin-mining centre of the country. This led to the development of a trading settlement in KL. However, the trading post was an unhealthy and dangerous place to live in as it was plagued by floods, diseases, civil war and clashes between the Chinese clans. In 1868, Kapitan China Yap Ah Loy was appointed as the leader of the Chinese community in KL and was responsible for the growth and survival of the city. 

The state of Selangor came under British protection in 1874 and in 1880 the capital of Selangor was moved from Klang to KL. Under the British colonial rule, KL was chosen as the capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896. As it was designated as the British administrative centre, KL was developed in accordance with its status. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the field opposite to it (now known as Dataran Merdeka) as well as the old KL Railway Station are legacy of this. 

During the World War 2, the Japanese forces occupied the city and just like the British made KL their administrative centre. Post WW2, KL’s population increased drastically and leads to the establishment of its first satelite town, Petaling Jaya. 

In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained independance from British rule and KL was chosen as the capital of the newly formed independent state. Upon the formation of Malaysia in 1963, KL was again chosen as the capital and maintans that status to date. In 1972, KL attained its city status and in 1974 it was declared a Federal Territory – saparated from the state of Selangor and under the administration of the Federal Goverment.

Today KL is one of the emerging city in Asia as evidence by its fast paced development. It is a city of contrast – a combination of modern, cosmopolitan and old world charm. It’s legacy – old shophouses, minerets and domes – blends well against a backdrop of skycrappers. The Petronas Twin Towers (world tallest building until recently) dominated its skyline yet the feeling of old world charm still linger at the older part of the city. The lush greenery everywhere make it a garden city and at nite, its buildings and streets are lit brightly and turn KL into a city of light – hence the nickname Garden City of Lights.

Here are the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur:

1. Petronas Twin Towers

Petronas Twin Towers

The Petronis Towers were, for six years, from 1998 to 2004, the tallest building in the world with an overall height of 457m (1,500 ft), and the top floor being 375m (1,230 ft) from the ground. It is unique in that on the 41st and 42nd floor there is a double deck skybridge which is not actually connected securely to either tower, enabling the structure to move in high winds, and heat expansion and in addition serves as an emergency exit should fire break out in one of the towers.

The building, which is structurally made of stainless steel, was designed by the Argentinian architect Caesar Pelli and has 88 floors served by 78 elevators serving the retail outlets and offices above. The ground and lowers floors are almost exclusively of high end retail outlets. If you wish to go up in the tower, tickets are available each day from 08.30am to 20.30pm (except Mondays when closed) on a first come first served basis and you must get there early to ensure you have a chance of obtaining one.

2. Batu Caves

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

I visited the Batu Caves as part of a night tour. It took me 25 minutes to climb the 272 steps to the top, take some photos and a video, then come back down the 272 steps. In the time it took me to go up and down once, an old Chinese man (he must have been about 75) went up and down the steps three times.

The Batu caves lie 8 miles (13 km) from the city, at the Northern edge of Kuala Lumpur, in the suburb of Gombak.

The caves, formed from limestone rock, were first noticed by American explorer William Hornaby in 1878. The caves had been used for years by indigenous Orang Asli people. 10 years after being discovered by Hornaby, Indian dignitaries persuaded British administrators that this was the ideal place to build a shrine for them to worship. Many devotees have come here to pray. The shine is dedicated to Lord Murugan, Hindu god of war, (he is also known as Lord Subramanium).

The shrine was later enlarged to include a shrine to Lord Ganesh, (Ganesh is the patron of art and sciences, and the remover of obstacles). It is always busy here with devotees and visitors.

The festival of Thaipusam is held here in January/February each year. This festival attracts over 1 million people.

A giant statue of Lord Murugan stands at the foot of 272 steps that lead up to the shrine. This statue, at 141ft (43m), is claimed to be the tallest statue in the world. At the top of the steps there is a 328ft (100m) high cave, other statues in the cave include Shiva, Ganesh and Durga. Religious scenes are also painted onto the walls.

There are a number of smaller temples around the site and macaques (monkeys) mingle amongst the crowds.

3. Genting Highlands

Genting Highlands

Genting Highlands is around 1.5 hours away from KL and situated in a breezy and cool mountain top. Kids can play in their outdoor or indoor theme parks and the adults can play in the casino. Be appropriately dressed for the casino and bring a light jacket.

We managed to watch an entertaining show of acrobats with live operatic singers. The matinee show at 2 pm was 50% off.

The Genting Skyway (cable car) is not to be missed as it is the fastest and highest cable car in Asia or so they claim. You can see green mountains of Genting.

After 6pm and on weekends, the taxis charge premium rates for overtime. They drive pretty fast on the zigzag road.

4. Chinatown – Petaling Street

Chinatown - Petaling Street

The original Chinatown of KL was established during the British colonial days in the Petaling Street area as a settlement site for the Chinese community in KL. For years the area maintains much of its traditional atmosphere, with a Bhudist temple and shops selling incense, gems, traditional medicines as well as famous Chinese eateries. 

Early in the afternoon till late evening vendors will spread their wares on the street with more items to sell. The place is especially notorious for imitation goods on sale here – from designer stuffs to illegal VCDs/DVDs. 

Recently, the area has been upgraded with canopy roof covering the streets. Nevertheless, the area still maintains its charm and still pulling in the crowd for bargain hunting, especially for imitation goods. 

Even if shoping or dining is not the main purpose of going there, wandering around in Chinatown is still an enjoyable experience with its spectacular sights and sounds.

5. Merdeka Square

Merdeka Square

Malaysia took a different path to independence from Britain than did it neighbours. The process took longer, but on 31 August 1957, independence from colonial rule finally came – granted, not taken, and with minimal civil disruption.

At midnight on 30 August 1957, the Union flag was lowered for the last time on the flagpole on the Selangor Club Padang, and in its placed the new flag of the Federation of Malaya was raised to chants of Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka by the gathered thousands.

Today, the green field is surrounded by the Mughal inspired public buildings left by the former colonial masters, and the mock tudor Royal Selangor Club whilst mosaic portraits of the participants are displayed on the podium surrounding the 95 meter (311 ft) tall flagpole. Underneath it all is a shopping centre, which seems curiously appropriate for modern Malaysia!

6. Lake Gardens

Lake Gardens

Kuala Lumpur has an impressive lot of parks and gardens. About 30 green spaces can be found within the city’s boundaries. 

The biggest and most popular park are the Lake Gardens – in fact the city’s botanical garden – which covers 91.6 hectares. It is the city’s green lung and includes – as you can suspect when reading the name – more than one lake. Two. The bigger one of the two is the Tasek Perdana where you can hire a boat. You can also go jogging, and do other exercise.

The park is partly themed and includes an Orchid Garden with 800 species of orchids and hybrids, the Hibiscus Gardens with more than 2000 varieties, and the Bird Park. In the Orchid Garden was a shop where you could buy the plants.

The Bird Park is said to be the world’s largest freeflight aviary, with more than 3000 birds of about 200 species from all around the world. It was established in 1991. The nets are set so high above the ground that you really have the impression you are in the birds’ natural habitat.

Next to the Bird Park is the Butterfly Park with more than 6000 butterflies from about 120 exotic species. The garden has been landscaped to resemble the Malaysian rainforest.

Hours and admissions:

Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens open daily 9am – 6pm.

Admission free (except on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays). 

Bird Park open daily 9am – 7.30pm.

Admission 3 RM/

Butterfly Park open daily 9am – 6pm.

Admission 5 RM.

An important building on the lakeside is the Parliament Building, 76 metres (250 ft) high and brilliantly white, opened in 1962. Its most striking feature is an 18 storey tower.

7. KL Tower – Menara Telecommunications Tower

KL Tower - Menara Telecommunications Tower

To the west of the Golden Triangle is the Menara Kuala Lumpur, 421 metres (1381 feet) high. It is the 7th highest telecommunications tower in the world and the highest in Southeast Asia. It offers a breathtaking view, from the observation deck at 276 metres (905 feet) and the sky deck at 421 metres (1381 feet), over the city and in particular over the Petronas towers. In fact, as it is built on a small hill, it dominates the twin towers, and thus offers a magnificent view, undoubtedly the most beautiful in the whole city. The most daring will venture into the sky boxes, these all-glass structures that give the impression of floating 300 metres (984 feet) high. Amazing view and thrills guaranteed with the city under your feet! It is possible to dine there in a tourist atmosphere, and to observe the 360° panorama without moving around since the restaurant is rotating! But beware, a strict outfit is required, it is advisable not to forget your shirt and suit. At the foot of the tower, various activities are proposed: a mini-zoo with wild animals (pythons, capuchins), an aquarium, a carriage ride, a Formula 1 simulation, a 3D cinema… Something to entertain you for a few hours. At the foot of the tower is the Bukit Nanas Forest Park where you can take refreshing walks on suspension bridges. The jungle in the middle of a megalopolis, amazing!

8. Bird Park

Bird Park

20.9 acres, 3000 birds, 200 species. Most of the birds are free to roam in aviaries resembling their natural habitat. Watch out for the hornbills and peacocks and don’t miss the waterfall aviary!

Daily activities include bird feedings and bird shows. It is a nice way to spend the day just strolling and snapping pictures of the feathered residents of the park.

The bird park is located in the scenic KL Lake Gardens area, which also boast the Deer Park, Orchid Garden, Hibiscus Garden and Planetarium Negara. If you want to visit all these places in a single day, keep in mind that not all are open on public holidays.

The bird park is open from 9am to 7.30pm daily. Admission charges are on the steep side, but cheaper for locals, so if you are not a local but look like one, say you are one!

9. Sunway Lagoon & Pyramid Mall

Sunway Lagoon & Pyramid Mall

The Sunway Lagoon is a mix of shopping mall, resort hotel, and theme park. The shopping mall (called The Pyramid) is really nice and it has many shops, food courts, restaurants, an ice rink and cineplex cinema. The exterior of the shopping mall is really amazing because a whole pyramid and a sphinx were built in front of it. Outside, along the arcade, there are small trendy restaurants and bars to cater to the evening crowds.

Sunway Lagoon is excellent fun for both kids and adults. Go during the week if you want to avoid crowds. Note that they don’t allow food or drinks to be brought in. All bags are checked.

Mums and dads who have kids old enough to let loose but not old enough to be left unsupervised, should bring a book to read while the kids rampage through the place.

10. Royal Palace – Istana Negara

Royal Palace - Istana Negara

No visit to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without having a look at the National Palace (Istana Negara) and its guards. The palace is the residence of the King of Malaysia. It is located on a hill at Jalan lstana, overlooking the Klang River, next to the city centre. 

An interesting fact about the King of Malaysia is that he is elected by the sultans of the states and sits on the throne for only five years. Then the sultans elect the next king from their midst.

The palace grounds are not open to the public, so most tourists just go to the main entrance where you can see the royal guards in different attires, and also the change of the guards (every day at 12noon).

Through the steel bars of the fence you can see the cream-coloured palace with its white pillars and golden domes rather well. In the centres of the fence sections are rather big plates with the insignia of the King. 

11. Bukit Bintang District

Bukit Bintang District

Jalan Bukit Bintang (West) is a tourist pedestrian street line with palm trees, hotels, massage parlors, restaurants, boutiques, and etc. There are several old restored shop houses worth looking at, for example the Bintang Warisan Building. There are two nice hotels on this street worth trying, the The Federal and The Royal Bintang. Both hotels are unique local four stars hotels on this street.

It is a short walk to Jalan Alor, BB Plaza, Low Yat IT Mall, Sungai Wang. On the east side of the streets are those up scales shopping malls and hotels.

12. Putrajaya – Daytrip

Putrajaya

We visited Putrajaya, the new city. We were impressed with many of the buildings structure.

The most beautiful side of this area is the space, it’s wide, opened and so you really feel away from the high bulidling prison of KL. The view of the Mosque on the river is simply amazing!

It is about 1 hour from the city centre.

13. Little India

Little India

Jalan Masjid India is a popular place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The road is named after an Indian Mosque built in the 1800s and has become part of KL’s history. Some parts of the road has been turned into a pedestrian mall with covered walk way. Many shops and arcades lie along Jalan Masjid India. Primarily, the place is associated with textile shopping, with some shops specialising in Indian sarees and garments. My main interest to this place however are some of the restaurants serving a variety of cuisine, from Malay to Indian and Mogul dishes. There are several budget hotels in this area to cater for the out of town shoppers too. 

The place draws huge crowds during the weekends and before major festive seasons such as the Muslim Id celebration and the Hindu festival of Deepavali. Even if shopping is not on your mind (and blood), the place is worth visiting because of the bazaar like atmosphere of the 60s and to experience the sights, smell and sounds of a Malaysian street mall.

14. National Museum – Museum Negara

National Museum - Museum Negara

The museum is not so huge, mainly occupying 2 stories, but it has very interesting collections, and have a wealth of information though not too much that it overwhelms. One wing is devoted to prehistory, with artifacts dating from the Neolithic age, and bones and skulls of early man (remember, Java man was discovered in this part of Asia). Also displayed are menhirs which i found to be much more interesting than the ones found in Europe. Another wing is devoted to the glory days of the Malay sultanate — the elegance of their attire, their jewelry, the weaponry. What is striking is how the major religions and cultures have converged in the archipelago all through the centuries, where each have found its unique place — a testament to the high degree of tolerance with which they were allowed to practice, and even, flourish. 

The museum has an ongoing exhibit (until early 2012, i believe) which is very much worth visiting — Treasures from the Shipwrecks, housed in a small building annexed to the main. As the archipelago was a major trading port, all ships which traded valuable goods in Asia passed through the straits. Some were not so lucky — either from the storms or from pirate attacks. The sea around the straits, thus, is rich in these finds, and what are exhibited in the museum come from about two decades of salvage and research. They are very impressive, most are exquisite decorative objects of high value — impressive not only in their beauty, but also in their preservation. 

The exhibit charges a separate ticket (about $2 / 2 euros), while the permanent collection also charges separately (about $1 / 1 euro). Three hours or half a morning is enough for a good visit. 

There is a cafeteria near the entrance which serves meals and snacks. The meals can be either from the buffet or ordered separately. The buffet has a lot of choices, and quite good (rather home-like cooking), and very cheap (about $2 / 2 euros, including drinks). Toilets, (as public toilets elsewhere in the country) which are adjacent to the cafeteria charge .30 ringgit. 

The only thing I didn’t like about the museum is the lack of seats, or places to rest. There are none inside the rooms, and only very few (which can seat only 3) in the main lobby. Not friendly at all, especially to the elderly, and to the weary tourists. Also that the toilets are located outside the building, quite far for, again especially the elderly.

15. National Zoo

National Zoo

Besides Taiping Zoo, this used to be one of my favorite zoo in Malaysia. Now there is also a zoo in Melaka.

There were plans to move the zoo due to the rapid urban development in Ulu Klang where this old zoo is located. The zoo conditions needs improvement and better maintenance. 

Still if you want to see orangutan, gibbon, hornbill, tapir, elephant, Malayan tiger, Malayan sunbear, porcupine, crocodile and mousedeer, it worth a trip to come here.

16. Massage and Spas

Massage and Spas

A massage in KL is an absolute must especially if you’re all tired after a long flight. There are heaps of massage places concentrated in this area. My favourite one is Best Friend Foot Massage and Health Therapy. All along here the staff members at all the massage stores try to coax you in with reflexology pictures of the souls of feet. Best Friend Foot Massage is distinctive as you can see all these blue reclining soft chairs lined up inside and cubicles separated with curtains for the body massage. The cost for either reflexology for 1/2 hour or upper body massage for 1/2 hour is only RM35. One hour is only RM60. 

I have tried a few masseuse’ here and the best by far is this lady called Hong. She really knows where to find the tight spots and advised me to drink more water and get more sleep. They open at around 11am and close around 3am.

My brother had a male masseuse who did a really good job with the reflexology, explaining what different parts of the foot relate to in the body.

Although the surroundings aren’t anything like the spa at the Westin Hotel, the massage is worth it. A nice touch is the complimentary sealed mineral water they hand to you with a straw to drink. 

If your surroundings are really important you can ask Hong to come to your room for RM20 extra to cover travel time.

17. Eye on Malaysia

Eye on Malaysia

Eye On Malaysia is a ferris wheel that Malaysia Tourism Board has rented from a Germany company for one year in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007. The ferris wheel is located at the lake shore of Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.

The ferry wheel takes about 12 minutes to complete a full circle. This round wheel consists of 42 fully air-conditioned gondolas, 39 of which have the capacity to carry a cosy eight passengers. There is even an exclusive VIP gondola has also been outfitted to include plush leather seats fit for a king, a mini fridge, a DVD player, a plasma TV and a mobile telephone. There are also two specially designed gondolas, fitted with unique features making it friendly to wheelchair-bound and handicapped visitors.

18. National Mosque – Masjid Negara

National Mosque - Masjid Negara

The National Mosque is free to visit and open to both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors – for non-Muslim visitors it is closed at prayer times. To visit, shoes need to be removed at the entrance and long purple robes are given to visitors who are not dressed appropriately (legs, arms and hair for women covered). The robes are also free.

The mosque itself is quite modern, with peaceful open spaces and water features. The mosque is located close to other attractions like the Bird Park and the Islamic Arts Museum. You could easily make your own ‘walking tour’ taking in the mosque and other attractions nearby.

The mosque can be reached by taxi, private car or by walking. Pasar Seni is one of the closer LRT stations, although the lack of footpaths in places don’t make it the easiest of walks from there!

19. Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

This impressive and extravagant building was the heart of Colonial Kuala Lumpur, sitting on the so called Padang, a big English lawn where people play(ed) sports. Do not forget that the British rulership only ended on 31 August 1957 when Malaysia became independent.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building, started in 1898, was the Brit’s administration centre. Then it became the site of the Supreme Court.

The style is a blend of north Indian and Moorish architecture. The architects (A.C. Norman and A.B. Hubbock) thought this was appropriate for a mainly Muslim state. However, they totally ignored that the Malay people had already developed their own architectural style.

The 40 metre (131 feet) high clock tower is called Malaysia’s Big Ben. It is crowned by a golden dome, as are two other lower towers of the building.

A word about the Padang: It is not the size of the English lawn that makes it look strange within this city of golden towers and mosques. It is more the Tudor style of the comparably tiny buildings, sitting in front of skyscrapers.

20. National Monument – Tugu Negara

National Monument - Tugu Negara

The National Monument (Tugu Negara) is located on a little hill not far from Parliament. It is dedicated to the people who died in World War II and in the fight against the Communist rebellion, the so-called Emergency (1948 to 1960). 

The massive 15.54 metre (49 feet) high statue is a replica of the famous Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington DC. Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Raman, wanted this replica because the original had impressed him on a visit to the USA. 

The statue in Kuala Lumpur is made of bronze and was created by Felix de Weldon in Italy. It sits on a white platform, surrounded by a water filled ditch which features spraying fountains.

21. Central Market

Central Market

Central Market is one of the Malaysian Heritage Buildings in downtown Kuala Lumpur. It is a walking distance from the KL Railway Station, Pasar Seni LRT Station and Bus Station. It is located next to the Chinatown. 

Other than selling local handicrafts and souvenirs, you should try the food court on the first floor where you will enjoy the local dining atmosphere with reasonable price tags on local foods. They are many selections of foods, mainly Chinese, Malay and Indian.

22. Butterfly Park

Butterfly Park

The tropical climate of Malaysia is well suited to butterflies, and the KL butterfly house takes full advantage of it. Wandering its steamy paths, I was delighted by the butterflies on every branch, sometimes flitting past as a flash of colour or sometimes resting daintily on a leaf. 

The entry fee was only a four RM: that’s only about 1 US dollar. 

There are more than 100 species of butterfly in the park and no matter what time of year you go, you are bound to find some delicate insects to admire. Take time too, to admire the spectacle of the Koi flocking in the waterways, and the turtles piled upon one another enjoying the sunshine. 

The shop is good too, with quite reasonable prices and some very pretty garments for sale.

23. Suria KLCC

Suria KLCC

Suria KLCC is a huge shopping complex located at the base of the Petronas Towers. Tenants of the Suria KLCC includes:

Aquaria KLCC – Featuring a 90 metre (295 feet) long underwater tunnel, Aquaria KLCC houses over 150 different species of fish from Malaysia and around the world.

Galeri Petronas – There is also an art gallery within Suria KLCC called Galeri Petronas. It is recognised as one of Malaysia’s leading venues for art exhibitions.

Petronas Petrosains Centre – The Petronas Petrosains Centre is located on the 4th floor of Suria KLCC. It focuses on Malaysia’s oil industry. Children are encouraged to visit by the centre. It is well-known for its Dark Ride course, Flight Simulators and Adventure, Molecular Magic, Geotime Formation and Petrojaya sections.

There are also other designer-brand boutiques such as Hermes, British India Company, Dunhill, Mark & Spenser, Gucci, Ferragamo, etc. There are also several food courts with numerous food stalls in each court, restaurants, fast food restaurants, Cafes, etc… in the complex. 

You will truly enjoy shopping and eating at the Suria KLCC. I sure did!

24. Chow Kit District

Chow Kit District

First attraction is the market, with abondance of stalls. Vendors here sell quite all, form fresh vegetables to clothes and shoes.

Chow Kit (during the day) is a colorful place where you could enjoy a “local” immersion. It’s not a hot spot for tourists, in my view, at least during the day…

It’s local, don’t expect a “clean western shoping center”, so you could be embarrassed by smells.

Buildings are quite old, offering a clear different identity compared to tourists hot spots.

It is alos well known to be the (or one of the) red light district (girls and drugs).

25. Aquaria

Aquaria

Aquaria KLCC is the latest addition of tourist attraction in the vicinity of the Golden Triangle. Housed in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre building – opposite the twin towers -, it became a new home to some of the underwater world rarest species.

It can be assessed through a pedestrian tunnel from the Twin Towers. The underground tunnel is located on Concourse Floor of the SURIA KLCC shopping complex. 

If you are coming from the KLCC LRT Station, walk through the shopping complex until you reach the Centre Court. Turn left where you can see the Information Counter, KFC Fast Food Restaurant as well as the Tower Records. The entrance to the tunnel is between Tower Records & Memory Lane gifts shop (on your right).

At the end of the tunnel take a left turn going through the car park. From there you can see a big sign indicating AQUARIA KLCC.

Dont miss the gigantic Arapaima fish as you come down to the lower level of the Aquaria. The Living Ocean is where they housed many kind of sharks, huge garoupas, sting rays, eels, etc… Among the must sea creature is the Frog Fish, i.e the fish with legs. Dont miss it as its ‘house’ is almost at the exit before you go up the escalator to the gift shop – ATLANTIS.

Apart from fishes, there is also a short strectch where they house the Chamelion, gigantic frog, poisonous frogs, tarantula, etc…

It opens daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Last ticket sales and admission is at 9 pm. The standard ticket is sold at RM38 (approx. USD 10) for adults, and RM26 (approx. USD 7) for children between 3 to 12. Below 3 is free of charge.

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Post Author: Aylen

Aylen
I live each of my travels three times: first with its preparation, then during its realization and finally with its sharing through my writing.