28 Dec 2016
Imagine the most colorful city in the world, where all street lights shine differently, and the minarets are timidly, yet strikingly showing themselves in the sea of Mughal-style skyscrapers, and you will get a pretty clear image of Kuala Lumpur.
Still, words fall short when describing it, and to truly experience it, you would have to breathe in the smell of mouth-watering Asian food, walk to its most famous historical landmarks and natural attractions, and meet its friendly locals.
There’s absolutely no reason not to visit Kuala Lumpur, and a million of reason to visit it, but a trip like this can be very overwhelming since the city is bursting with places to see, things to do and accommodation options. Hopefully, this guide will make your job if just a bit easier.
Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia and it covers an area of 94 square miles (243 km²), and although it may not seem large when compared with giants like London and New York, it’s packed with fantastic things to see and do, so you have to be very careful when making your itinerary choices. Here are some great things you shouldn’t miss.
#01 Go See the Petronas Towers
Petronas Twin Towers were the world’s tallest buildings up until 2004 when Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates took over the throne. Still, that doesn’t make the Kuala Lumpur’s towers any less impressive. The buildings look like “a thing of the future” and, as such, they symbolize the city’s meteoric rise from a tin miner’s shelter to a metropolis we know today.
The buildings are a combination of striving for modern and holding on to traditional Islamic influences. Looking them from below will make you realize how small you are, but going on a 45-tour to the 86th floor will make you see how small the world really is.
#02 But Don’t Forget the Menara Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Towers might be taller than Menara, but here you’ll experience the best city view. Plus, the bulb on the top is home to a breathtaking revolving restaurant, an open deck and interior observation deck. You can walk to it through the Forest Eco Park or take a free shuttle bus from the gate on Jalan Punchak.
#03 Go to KLCC Park in the Evening
Sure, the KLCC Park and its greenery and dancing fountain are beautiful during the daylight too, but in the evening, you’ll get the best view on the glowing Petronas towers punching up into the night sky. In the evening (8pm, 9pm and 10pm) you can hear the magical Lake Symphony fountains play.
#04 Visit the Islamic Arts Museum
This is not yet another ordinary arts museum. The Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur hosts one of the best collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world. The building itself is a stunning work of art, with glazed tile work and decorated domes. Add to it the jaw-dropping colorful textiles, jewelry, carpets, and pottery and you will get a true feast for the eyes.
#05 Spend the Day in Chinatown
This bustling neighborhood requires your full-day attention. Sure, there are more glamorous areas in the city to see, but if you really want to experience the Oriental ambiance of the city, this is the place to be. Based in Petaling Street, the district is well-known as a bargain hunter’s dream where you can find everything from herbs to imitation goods.
When the sun goes down, the neighborhood becomes a vivid night market filled with hundreds of stalls. After you are finished with shopping, you can go to some of the pubs and bars to get a hint of the local entertainment. In this area, you’ll find numerous other attractions, such as Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Chan See Shu Yuen Temple and Kuan Ti Temple.
#06 Eat in Jalan Alor
Jalan Alor is the street located just behind the Jalan Bukit Bintang area, and it is one of the city’s most famous food attractions. As soon as you enter this street, you’re leaving behind the modern shopping malls and tall skyscrapers and entering into the past age of Kuala Lumpur. It hosts a lot of seafood restaurants and hawker stalls and represents the most authentic flavors of the country. Believe us, you haven’t truly felt the city until you tried the fried oyster, smoky-flavored satay, grilled chicken wings and roasted barbecue pork in Jalan Alor.
#07 Stroll through the Traditional Area of Kampung Baru
Located in a small corner of downtown Kuala Lumpur, this charming neighborhood stands as a rare survivor of the mighty wrecking ball of the urban development. Kampung Baru is filled with adorable wooden houses, lush leafy gardens and people living the calm life as they have done for decades. This is the perfect area to take a break from the bustling city life and stop and smell the roses. When there, make sure you try some delicious home-cooked Malay food at local stalls.
#08 Go on an Excursion to Batu Caves
Traveling for 6 miles (11km) to see this outstanding attraction is a small effort, compared to what you will gain by seeing Batu Caves. This limestone hill is comprised of three major caves and a number of smaller ones. Although the temple itself is only a 100 years old, the limestone formations inside could be around 400 million years old. If you visit it in January, you will have the chance to see the annual festival of Thaipusam, which is one of the largest gatherings in the world.
#09 Hunt for Bargains at Local Street Markets
Kuala Lumpur’s street markets are the best places where the first-time visitor can actually feel the city’s pulse and get to know the local culture. The markets are offering a wide array of apparel, fresh produce, jewelry, handicrafts, and accessories at great prices, and they’re open from sunrise until past midnight.
Some of the best markets to see are Petaling Street, Kasturi Walk, Chow Kit Market, Kampung Baru Sunday market, and Taman Connaught Night Market.
#10 Go Bird Spotting in Bird Park
If you like animals, especially feathery creatures, you’ll be impressed by this park, where you can see 200 mostly Asian species of birds. You will have no trouble spotting them all, since they are either caged or flying freely under a canopy.
There is a huge selection of accommodation options in Kuala Lumpur, ranging from backpacker-affordable hostels to luxury 5-star rated hotel brands. Here are some of the top rated places of different types to stay in this city.
The Majestic Hotel offers 5-star hotel experience for the price of a 4-star hotel ($85). It is located in Chinatown, so you can be at the very heart of the happenings. This hostel carries the charismatic vibe of old-century glamour represented in high ceilings, marble floors, chandeliers, etc.
The C Suites is located in Bukit Bintang, just a 10-minute drive from Merdeka Square and Petaling Street. It hosts a restaurant and a fitness center, and comfy apartments with kitchenettes and high-tech equipment for the price of $29 for a night.
Back Home is a charming hostel located in the heart of the city’s historical district. It is possible to find a bed in a shared 8 bed mixed dorm for $13, so it is the perfect choice for backpackers who love to meet new people. Since the facilities are actually 6 colonial era houses, it can be a true privilege to stay there.
Kuala Lumpur’s main airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is located about 47 miles (75 km) south of the city centre. It is connected with a large number of international airlines, such as Air China, Air France, Air India Express, AirAsia, British Airways, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, and Qatar Airways.
As for the USA, there are direct flights from New York and Los Angeles. Nine cities in Europe, including London and Paris have an airline flying to Kuala Lumpur, as well as several cities in Australia, like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.
About one mile away from KLIA is KLIA2, the largest airport for budget airlines in the world, with integrated express railway link to city centre. It cooperates with 10 airlines mostly from the territory of Asia.
The third airport, Subang International Airport, is located only 30 minutes from the city centre.
How to safe money on the trip?
Direct flights are always the most comfortable way of traveling, but if you can find a connection of budget airlines from your country to some of the 10 companies flying to KLIA2, you may save a chunk of cash.
Also, you can often find cheaper flight tickets to Bangkok or Singapore and take a bus or a train from there to Kuala Lumpur. The cheapest bus ticket from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur usually costs about $50, while the same means of transport from Singapore costs from $7 to $24.
Hopefully this guide was helpful for finding out the most amazing things Kuala Lumpur has to offer and the best ways of getting around the city. If you would take one last piece of advice: Do your best to immerse in local culture, get to know a lot of friendly and kind people and truly experience the city to its maximum – although these tips were all about precision and efficiency, it doesn’t hurt to get lost among the vivid streets of Kuala Lumpur... Happy travels!
Thanks to Roxana of High Style Life for putting this article together. Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. Follow Roxana on Twitter.