Kuala Lumpur (KL as called by locals) is one of those cities that can be justly referred to as a melting pot of people, since the people who live there come from all over the world. When we first got there during our travels around Southeast Asia, this city instantly became one of our favorite ones mostly due to this incredible cultural mixture that we found there. Walking on the streets of Kuala Lumpur everywhere we looked we could see Malayan, Indian, Chinese or Western people, who seemingly live there in harmony tolerating each other’s culture and religion. Most people speak English, which is not surprising, since the latter is used regularly by local people coming from different ethnical groups to communicate between each other. It is hard to summarize in just one post what to see in Kuala Lumpur, because it is a city that you have to live, but we will try that.
During our round the world trip KL also served for us as a base, since many low-cost flights (mostly AirAsia, the headquarters of which is found here) to reach different parts of Southeast Asia fly from here. We returned to this city numerous times, and always enjoyed our stay there. Apart from the cultural variety, KL is also an interesting mixture of modernity with skyscrapers and huge malls on the one hand, and the typical Asian feeling of chaotic markets or street food stalls on the other hand. We loved everything in this city, although that weather is sometimes unbearably hot and humid, and after the afternoon downpour it feels like walking in a Turkish steam bath.
There are so many things to do and see in Kuala Lumpur, here we just want to enlist some of those you can’t miss out on, when you visit this fantastic city.
It’s one of the most lively Chinatowns in Southeast Asia, where you can really find everything you expect from a neighborhood like this. There are lots of restaurants, hundreds of small shops, where you can bargain with locals to buy some of the cheap fake products they sell. The main street is called Jalan Petaling, which you can access through a huge gate that marks the entrance of Chinatown. We really loved exploring this neighborhood, mostly the food stalls of course, as you know we love eating and trying new stuff.
2. Central Market
Just next to Chinatown, you can find this large market, which is somewhat touristic, but it has a nice atmosphere at the same time. It also has a good food court, where we had some nice meals.
3. Merdaka Square
Not so far from Chinatown, you can find one of the nicest squares of KL with a large green area surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings, the most impressive one being the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, absolutely astonishing!
4. Little India
Near Merdaka Square, we can immediately recognize this neighborhood from the odor of Indian spices coming out from the small shops. We have to tell that Indian restaurants are not limited at all to this part of the city, and our favorite one called Restoran Yusoof Dan Zakhir is just next to Central Market, where we ate the best tandoori chicken ever.
5. The Petronas Towers and the KL city park
The Petronas Twin Towers are surely the most emblematic buildings and sight of KL, which can be observed from so many points of the city. These huge 452 meter tall towers were once the tallest buildings of the world, and there’s no other building that can represent better the progress towards modernity this country has gone through recently. It’s possible to visit the towers, and the views are said to be amazing, but we prefered not to pay 80 ringgits (ca. 20 euros). We simply enjoyed walking in the nice green park in the surroundings, where there are several spots to take pictures of the towers from different angles. We didn’t get bored of this majestic construction and went back there several times also at night, when the building is illuminated making it even more impressive.
6. Jalan Bukit Bintang, the shopping area
Walking in this part of the city is like being in the most modern city imaginable. Lots of skyscrapers, huge office buildings, luxury hotels and most of all an incredible amount of large shopping malls can be found in this area. It’s a pleasure to walk here, especially at night when the lights are on and it really has a feeling of a city in the future.
7. Jalan Alor, the heaven for street food lovers
This street situated not so far from Bukit Bintang and is full of food stalls to try local delicacies. It’s quite chaotic and also noisy, but we simply loved the atmosphere of this place full of people, where you can eat great and cheap street food.
8. Masjid Negra – The National Mosque
Probably the biggest mosque we have visited in our travels is also found here. It has quite a modern structure, and it has a strict schedule when non-muslim visitors can access it (it’s free), and women have to put on a veil to cover their hair.
9. Sri Mahamariamman Temple
This is the oldest Hindu temple in the city, and actually is found in Chinatown. The main façade is simply astonishing, and you can spend some time in front of the temple simply looking at the small details.
10. The Batu Caves
Amongst the sights you can visit in the surroundings of KL, we would totally recommend to visit these caves, which are easily accessible by train. These caves are considered one of the most important Hindu religious sites in the world, and it is really an absolutely must-see-place when you visit KL. When we arrived there we got immediately amazed by the huge golden statue of Muruga, who guards the entrance, which you can access by climbing quite a few stairs. Beware the monkeys in these stairs, which can be quite aggressive and steal your belongings if you are not careful. The cave inside is really huge, and actually there are several halls united together, and the feeling you can experience there is very mystical.
These are just the a very brief summary of what to see and do in Kuala Lumpur, but as we already mentioned above, for us the best thing is simply getting immersed in this multicultural city, where you can enjoy both the luxuries of modernity and feel yourself in a real Asian city with fantastic street food even in the shopping malls. These feelings are quite subjective, but Kuala Lumpur is probably one of our dream cities.
Useful information about Kuala Lumpur
Where is and how to get to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital of Malaysia, situated on the West coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It has direct flight connections with many European cities. We had good experience with our flight with between KL and London with Malaysian Airlines. KL is also well connected to the rest of Southeast Asia through cheap flights provided by low-cost companies such as AirAsia amongst others.
When to go to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has tropical climate during the whole year, and although the monsoon season is between October and March, you can expect rain during the whole year. As far as we are concerned, the climate didn’t bother our visits at all, and we spent some time in this city in very different moments of the year. The downpours are usually in the afternoon, which is always a great time to visit a shopping mall or have a meal in one of the local restaurants.
How to get around in Kuala Lumpur
Public transport is quite well organized in Kuala Lumpur, between the touristically interesting areas there are metro lines and also the LRT Monorail, which really looks like a train from the future. Walking from one point to another in the city center can be confusing sometimes, because several highways and train lines cross the city, and hence get from one point to another that look close to each other on the map, can be a hard task to access on foot.
Since 2012 there has been a couple of free bus lines operating in the city , which is a unique thing that we haven’t seen in any other big cities. The purple line connects Chinatown with the business area, whereas the green line goes around the shopping area itself. One of the very few annoying things about KL can be the moment we need to take a taxi for some reason. We really suggest you insist on switching on the taximeter, since the fix price they offer is usually way higher than the real price. Sometimes it takes arguing with them to achieve that.
Where to stay in KL
Kuala Lumpur has a large selection of accommodation for all budgets. It’s a large city, so you’d rather book your hotel online before getting there.
Other places we suggest to go from KL
If you are in KL, you can easily get to one of the beautiful tropical islands of Malaysia. You can either try public transport, but in most accommodations they offer you transfer in minivans to several places, the price of which is usually affordable. For us, one of the most beautiful island destinations in the whole Southeast Asia are the Perhentian Islands, which you can check out in our double post, one with the most amazing things to do in the Perhentian Islands and another with the most amazing beaches on Perhentian.
Looking for some other tips about the city? Take a look at this itinerary to visit Kuala Lumpur in 2 days.