Top 10 attractions in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, is built on Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influence. These unique cultural and historical foundations, and their impact on architecture, cuisine, its people and day-to-day life make it a fascinating city to explore. If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, and we whole-heartedly believe you should, don’t miss these must see sites in the city’s captivating capital.
Our top tip - download the Grab app, South-East Asia’s answer to Uber, to get around.
Thean Hou Temple
The striking architecture of the Thean Hou Temple, dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, sits atop a hillside on the southern outskirts of the city. At six tiers, it’s one of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in South East Asia. It’s a sea of vibrant red lanterns making it one of the most attractive too.
If you’re looking for a happy and prosperous marriage, this is the place to pray for it, according to the many Buddhist locals who regularly attend to worship at this active temple. Visit early (from 8am) to avoid the crowds and while there’s no strict dress code, we recommend modesty as a sign of respect.
Central Market, located in the heart of the city and just a short walk from Chinatown, brings together Malaysian culture, art and craft under a striking art deco facade. Here you’ll find local handicrafts, textiles and collectibles (a great place for authentic souvenirs) as well restaurants and artist studios in the Central Market Annexe that houses the work of local artists.
Nestled among limestone cliffs thought to be around 400 million years old, the Batu Caves are one of Kuala Lumpur’s more popular tourist destinations. Home to colourful shrines beneath dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, the caves are an active pilgrimage site for both local and visiting Hindu worshipers. Guarded by a gigantic gold statue of Lord Murugan and accessed by a theatrical rainbow staircase, they’re a monumental attraction. Having first visited 10 years ago and returned in 2019 we hate to say they have become a little too touristy in our opinion. If you do plan to visit, hop on to one of many tourist buses that run daily or take a direct train (30 minutes) from KL Central.
Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Towers are the crowning glory of Malaysia’s capital. As the current ‘World’s tallest twin buildings’ (452 metres), you’d be hard pushed to visit KL without stumbling across them in pride of place in the city’s ‘Golden Triangle’. They are designed on the Islamic principles of unity, harmony, stability and rationality, and symbolise Malaysian culture and advancement through a blend of local art and cutting-edge innovation. Visit the skydeck at 170m and the observation deck on level 86 (of 88) but book tickets a couple of days in advance.
British architect, A.B. Hubback designed the Jamek Mosque. Its distinctive ‘onion shaped’ domes and decorative archways in Indian Mughal architectural style are typical of its time. Built in 1907 so over 100 years, Jamek Mosque, officially Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque, is one of the oldest Islamic places of worship in Kuala Lumpur. It is still a place of active worship and as such, tourist visitors are requested to dress modestly and be mindful of visiting hours around prayer.
If twin towers aren’t enough for one visit, head to Menara Tower (otherwise known as KL Tower) for an alternative viewpoint. The sky box on the sky deck is a popular vantage point to capture the Petronas Towers as part of KL’s unmistakable skyline.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Founded in 1873, Sri Mahamariamman is one of Malaysia’s oldest temples and KL’s oldest Hindu temple. Designed in the Dravidian style of South Indian temples, the distinctive gopuram tower, is ornate, colourful and depicts carvings of Hindu gods. Visit during the Thaipusam Festival (late January / early February) and enjoy a colourful devotional parade between the Temple and the Batu Caves in honour of Lord Murugan.
Chinatown & Petaling Street Market
If you’re in search of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinese influence, vibrant and bustling Chinatown is the place to be. KL’s Chinese culture, heritage and history starts here and really comes alive at night as tourists and locals alike flock to Petaling Street market.
Situated to the west of Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring the city’s picturesque botanical gardens, Masjid Negara, KL’s National Mosque, welcomes up to 15,000 people to worship. Built to commemorate and in honour of the countries peaceful independence it's striking turquoise star-shaped dome and use of Islamic art, calligraphy and ornaments embodies a contemporary expression of modern Malaysia. Visitors are welcome outside of prayer times and whilst modest dress is appropriate, robes are provided.
Bukit Bintang & Jalan Alor
If there's one thing you notice about inhabitants of Kuala Lumpur it's that they love to shop. You'll find busy malls and shopping streets all over the city but Bukit Bintang is at the heart of it and is bustling from morning 'til night. Meanwhile nearby Jalan Alor is an evening hot spot; the perfect place to tuck into delicious Asian cuisine and local street food. Step away from the madness into quieter side streets and you'll find plenty of vibrant street art too.
- By Bethany Silcox
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