Kuala Lumpur, the glitzy capital of Malaysia, is more than just your typical cosmopolitan Asian city. Its deliciously modern surface, bedecked with skyscrapers and overrun by activity, disguises a city steeped in tradition.
The face of Kuala Lumpur changes as you move through the city. Three cultures dominate here: Chinese, Indian, and, of course, Malay. All add to the colourfully-gripping cultural tapestry that is Kuala Lumpur.
To experience Kuala Lumpur could mean many things: stuffing your face with some of Asia’s best food, expanding your wardrobe, dabbling in colonial history, or soaring to new heights above the skyline. Why not just do it all? Tackle KL to the max with this list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur for beginners…
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What to do in Kuala Lumpur: The top attractions & best places to visit
Planning your trip to Malaysia’s capital can be a pain with all the options in front of you. If you need a launchpad for your adventures, whether you’ve got one day in Kuala Lumpur or a week, look no further. Here’s a quick list of the top 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur…
While they may no longer be the world’s largest buildings, the sleek Petrona Towers still grasp your senses as furiously they always have. These iconic KL landmarks incorporate both Asian and Islamic elements to create an architectural style that’s uniquely Malaysian. And, still, two decades later, no other structure in Kuala Lumpur beckons for peek inside—and out—more than these twin buildings.
The Petrona Towers are adjoined by double-decker bridge that offers a spectacular view of central KL. Spend time on the Sky Bridge observation deck to gape at the clutter of tower spires and the stunning KL skyline. There’s a limited number of tickets available. Get to the Petronas Twin Towers in the wee hours to snatch yours up. Alternatively, buy your tickets online from the Petrona Twin Towers website. Tickets will set you back no more than RM85.
Getting to Petronas Towers: Hop onto the LRT and make your way to KLCC Station on the Kelana Jaya Line. The Petronas Towers are connected to the station by a pedestrian subway.
Little India (Brickfields)
Situated at the heart of KL Sentral Station, Brickfields, commonly known as “Little India,” is home to the majority of the city’s Indian population. Apart from a huge section of Indian residential complexes, the area hosts a narrow strip of colourful Indian shops, making Little India a famous KL tourist attraction for anyone looking to explore Indian culture and tradition in Malaysia.
Walk aimlessly along the streets in Little India to take in the sights and smells. Sample Indian delicacies in one of Little India’s many restaurants to tackle your hunger with a little dash of spice. If you’re interested in shopping, Little India is the perfect place to take home some authentic silk saris and jewelry. With all the bustle and uniqueness of Little India, you may even forget you’re in Malaysia!
Getting to Little India: Brickfields sits just outside of KL Sentral Station. From KL Sentral find your way to Jalan Tun Sambanthan, the main drag in Little India.
The trendiest and most happening shopping and entertainment district of Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Bintang, offers everything from plush shopping centers and glitzy five-star hotels to 24-hour restaurants and vibrant pubs.
Bukit Bintang is buzzing with activities all-year round. One of the most iconic places to visit here is Pavilion KL, a sleek and upscale shopping mall housing the top brands of world and including European luxury retailers like Dolce & Gabbana, Coach, Juicy Couture, Versace and MaxMara, to name a few. You can shop your heart out in the luxury stores of this shopping mall, provided you’re willing to splurge.
If you’re more nocturnal, experience the legendary nightlife of the Bintang Walk. Dive into the area’s spectacular nightclubs and bars to socialize with locals and learn the intricacies of Malay customs and culture. Whether you are looking to spend a relaxing evening at a posh pub, enjoy live music or glug pints of beer and sip wine at an opulent rooftop bar, Bintang Walk’s the place to do it.
With all the nightlife and excitement abound, Bukit Bintang is also one of the best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Backpackers should check out the hip minimalist Paper Plane Hostel, one of the best hostels in Kuala Lumpur, while those looking for more privacy and luxury will love the Verdant Hill Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
Getting to Bukit Bintang: Thanks to its central location, Bukit Bintang’s easily accessible. You can reach Bukit Bintang from practically every corner of Kuala Lumpur via public transportation. The quickest way is via monorail, exiting at Bukit Bintang Station.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Built in 1873, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple is an ancient Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur that merits attention from worshipers and visitors alike. Designed by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, the temple was opened to the general public only in the late 1900s. Today, with more than a century of remarkable history, the temple stands as the richest Hindu temple in KL.
The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is designed with a variety of intricate architectural formations that are sure to grab your eyeballs and motivate you into taking a few snapshots from different angles and perspectives. The temple’s most remarkable feature is the massive structure resembling the shape of human body. Additionally, it is bordered by impressive gateways at all the tiers, adorned with Hindu deities sculpted in a typical South-Indian style.
When you visit Sri Mahamariamman Temple during the time of Thaipusam (a Hindu festival), you get to be a part of the procession that carries the statues of Lord Muruga as well as his consorts all the way up to the Batu Caves until the wee hours of dawn. And when you are finally famished with all the photography and worship, you can slunk in to the vibrant Petaling Street nearby for a hearty Chinese meal.
Getting to Sri Mahamariamman Temple: The closest LRT station to Sri Mahamariamman Temple is Pasar Seni. Exit Pasar Seni Station onto Jalan Sultan, taking your second left onto Jalan Tun H S Lee. The temple will be on your lefthand side.
Menara KL Tower
Overlooking the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, Menara KL Tower, at a whopping 421m height stands as the one of the tallest man-made structures on the globe. KL Tower may be outshone by the glitzier Petronas Towers, but this tower still remains a spectacular architectural landmark. Just like Petronas, KL Tower draws huge crowds of tourists and locals alike, and is one of the must-do attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
The tower offers spectacular panoramic views of the city through its observation deck. Since the viewing deck is around 100 metres higher than that of the Petronas Tower, you’re sure to get the best view of Kuala Lumpur from KL Tower. The view is splendid in the wee hours of dawn, and even better at sunset when you get to see the sparkling city center in all its glory.
Menara KL also has a revolving restaurant, Atmosphere 360, that offers fine dining in a pleasing ambiance. With curving walls, immaculate table arrangements and starry, sky-high views, this restaurant is the ideal place for date nights.
Getting to Menara KL Tower: Take the monorail to Raja Chulan Station. Walk out the station towards Jalan Tengah, following it to Jalan P Ramlee. After crossing the street, you’ll need to continue straight(ish) onto Jalan Puncak. Walk as far as the guard gate where you’ll be able to catch a free shuttle to KL Tower.
Jalan Petaling (Petaling Street)
The heart of KL’s Chinatown, Jalan Petaling, is a popular destination for tourists and locals looking to engage in budget shopping and fine dining. This is one of the most famous places to shop in Kuala Lumpur, and on the radar of every person who visits the city for the first time. The streets of Chinatown are lined by nondescript shops that offer everything from clothes and bags to keychains and gadgets.
Haggle with the shopkeepers on Jalan Petaling to carve out the best deals for whatever you find. If you’ve got some mad bargaining skills you may even score up to half off! Once you’ve finished shopping, head into one of the tiny tea shops to relish exquisite Chinese tea. Stomach growling with hunger? Pop into one of Jalan Petaling’s many restaurants to gorge upon KL’s most delicious Chinese gastronomic delights.
Getting to Jalan Petaling: The closest station to Jalan Petaling is Pasar Seni. Make your way to Pasar Seni LRT Station on the Kelana Jaya Line. Once outside of the station, walk straight up Jalan Sultan. Jalan Petaling will be the fourth street on your left.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Built in 1898, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of the earliest Moorish-style structures in Kuala Lumpur. Regarded as the most prestigious city landmark, the building initially acted as the center for the colonial British administration a couple decades ago. However, times changed after independence and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is now home to government offices including the Ministry of Information, Culture and Communications of Malaysia. It is situated to the eastern wing of Merdeka Square and forms a spectacular backdrop for the annual Independence Day Parade.
You can gape at the marvelous architecture of the gothic-cum-Moorish style building and take a couple of snapshots against its graceful arches. Additionally, you can tour its 42-metre-high clock tower to revel in its old-world charm. Even amidst a constantly changing skyline, Sultan Abdul Samad Building still remains one of the best Kuala Lumpur attractions for travellers.
Getting to Sultan Abdul Samad Building: Hop on the LRT, exiting at Masjid Jamek Station. Follow the signs from here to get to Merdeka Square. Sultan Abdul Samad Building lies upon the square.
KL Bird Park
Located in the serene and picturesque Lake Gardens, KL Bird Park is an enchanting tropical paradise. Home to thousands of exotic birds, KL Bird Park is regarded as the largest walk-in aviary in the world. It houses 21 acres of valley terrain replete with hidden adventures, unexpected bends and dense forests. Whether you’re an avid bird-watcher or a run-of-the-mill nature lover, you’ll dig KL Bird Park.
At KL Bird Park the activities are endless. You can chase the peacocks and gape at the hornbills, or pose with the owls, with a parrot on one shoulder. Or feed chirping parakeets while watching the ostriches lay eggs, and become awed by the cacophony of the soaring storks in the surroundings. KL Bird Park offers tons of opportunities for family fun and hardcore wildlife photography.
Getting to KL Bird Park: The simplest way to KL Bird Park is to take RapidKL Bus 115 from KL Sentral. The bus will drop you off in front. Alternatively, find your way to Kuala Lumpur Station (not KL Sentral) and take a taxi or walk to KL Bird Park via Jalan Perdana.
Once a hotbed for political activities, Kampung Baru, is now a bustling foodies’ paradise tucked away in a silent little corner of downtown Kuala Lumpur. It paints a quaint rural scene with its timber houses flanked by frangipani and coconut trees and set against a backdrop of stunning skyscrapers.
Begin your time in Kampung Baru with a free walking tour into the heart of this traditional Malay village. This route will take you through amazing neighborhood sites, such as the Sultan Sulaiman Club, the Masjid Jamek, as well as the charming old, wooden houses.
Additionally, you can imbibe the sights and sounds of this Malay village and stop in a traditional shop to purchase a couple of authentic Malay spices. Or, if you’re more of a gadget-freak, wander about the numerous lanes of Pasar Malam and stock up on your favorite DVDs, books, clothes and fashion accessories at unbelievably low prices.
Whatever you choose to do in Kampung Baru, you will definitely enjoy the culinary delicacies offered at the hawker stalls, one of the most important experiences in Malaysia. The semi-buffet affair is memorable. Just grab a plate and select all the foods you want to try. Don’t be surprised if you feel like eating everything you see, even if you can’t identify all of them. Kampung Baru is, after all, one of the best places in Kuala Lumpur to binge eat!
Getting to Kampung Baru: You can begin exploring the area by getting to Kampung Baru LRT Station on the Kelana Jaya Line. Simply walking around Kampung Baru is the best way to explore it.
Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque)
Designed impeccably in Mogul style, Masjid Jamek adorns a Neo-Moorish style architecture with its signature onion-shaped domes, turrets, dome-shaped canopies and ancient horseshoe arches hanging strikingly over decorated columns. Located at the confluence of Klang and Gombank rivers, Masjid Jamek is one of the oldest mosques of Malaysia.
The grand façade and intricate carvings gracing the spires amaze anyone who sets their eyes upon it. You’ll find it nestled beneath a canopy of swaying, shady coconut trees. Despite lying in the middle of a thriving metropolis of 2 million individuals, the mosque hosts a tranquil and peaceful aura, reminiscent of less complicated times. On Fridays, worshippers from all corners of Kuala Lumpur congregate here. Be sure to plan your visit to avoid this. Whatever time you choose to visit Masjid Jamek, don’t forget to dress conservatively as a mark of respect for the Islam culture.
Getting to Masjid Jamek: This is an easy one. Hop on the LRT to Masjid Jamek Station—and you’re there!
Kuala Lumpur Essentials
Where to Stay
Even with the size of the city, choosing where to stay in Kuala Lumpur isn’t exactly a hair-raising experience. There’s a good mix of offering superb value, especially if sky-high prices of other Asian cities like Tokyo or Hong Kong have chomped at your travel budget. Here are few of our top recommendations:
- 1000 Miles: About as good as a budget hotel gets. Anywhere. Rooftop terrace and proximity to Chinatown makes it even more appealing.
- Verdant Hill Hotel Kuala Lumpur: A stylish 4-star hotel right in the heart of KL. The incredible outdoor infinity pool and its skyline views set this hotel apart.
- Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur: A world-class 5-star luxury hotel for the price of a mid-range in most world cities. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms drop stunning views over KL.
Check prices & read reviews for more Kuala Lumpur hotels at Booking.com.
By air: Several airlines fly into Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) including Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. As KL is one of the major airline hubs in Southeast Asia, it’s easily accessible from nearly every major city around the globe. Search for cheap flights to Kuala Lumpur on Kiwi.com.
By bus: Bus from Singapore depart for Kuala Lumpur regularly, costing about SGD14-SGD35 and taking approximately 6 hours. You can also reach KL from Melaka (RM10-20; 2 hours) and Penang (RM40; 4-5 hours).
- Penang: Don’t miss out on Malaysia’s most eclectic destination, just a short flight (or 4-5 bus ride) from KL. Get started planning your trip with this list of things to do in Penang.