Dense, humid and mechanical, Kuala Lumpur’s city center is constantly on the move. But the city slows down to breathe in its hidden nooks, where true Malaysian way of life slips through the urban form. Save your pocket money and go on a free city tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by visiting these points of interest. [View all our Malaysia travel articles here.]
Flanked by three museums and a church, Merdeka Square is the focal point of all activities celebrating Malaysia’s independence and the city’s sports events. It faces the palatial Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club, structures that echo the nation’s strong cultural influences. Also a place of firsts, Merdeka Square is home to the tallest flagpole in the world.
Take a closer look at the city’s evolution through the visuals at the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery; afterwards, stand by the window on the same floor and rest your eyes on the greenery of Merdeka Square. Then take a gander at artisans in action as they create miniature woodcarvings that feature Malay batik patterns. They’re located right beside the souvenir section.
Travel in time at the Music, and National Textile Museums where you can see what instruments ancient Malay people played for entertainment, as well as the garb they wore to social functions. Grab a bite at the The Canteen by MasterChef judge Chef Adu, which showcases family heirloom dishes.
Petronas Twin Towers
Visiting the Petronas at night is a popular activity for tourists, before they head out to enjoy the city’s nightlife. See the tower in all its splendor as it illuminates the sky. Ticket buyers are advised to go to the 86th floor of the tower, for an expansive view of Kuala Lumpur’s cityscape.
Dubbed as Kuala Lumpur’s “crown jewel,” the Petronas stands at a height of 451.9 metres, consisting of 88 storeys. The idea to put Malaysia on the map inspired former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to build the tower; it was Cesar Pelli, an American-Argentine architect, who brought his vision to life. The towers were completed in 1999.
Located at a former wet market, Central Market is one of the best shopping destinations in Kuala Lumpur. Now transformed into a modern shopping center, it’s where visitors can get anything they need to restock their cupboards or embellish their walls.
Browse the arts and crafts stores at Central Market, or have your likeness sketched on-the-spot by a local artist. Stores selling batik and contemporary paintings are the stars of the show, though the food haunts are also a crowd pleaser. Shop ‘til you drop and get lost in one of its 300 shops housed by the astounding antiquated building.
Petaling Street is the city’s Chinatown and is among its heritage sites. It contains perhaps Kuala Lumpur’s largest flea market, which boasts a warren of hawker stalls that sell anything from counterfeit bags or items of clothing, to souvenir keychains. The vendors are predominantly Chinese, but Indian, Malay and Bangladeshi sellers have also found a place in the bustling, shopping hotspot.
Petaling Street has a rich historical past and was pivotal in the city’s development during the 19th century. The locals were composed of Cantonese and Hakkas who worked in tin mines. Yap Ah Loy, the third Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur, encouraged locals to transform the site into an agricultural and industrial district. He also opened the first tapioca mill, giving the street the Cantonese moniker, “chee cheong kai,” or “starch factory street.”
Naturally, the street is a famous food haven for Chinese cuisine and local Malaysian favorites. Don’t leave without taking home a beef or pork jerky or bak kwa, or Madam Tang’s sweet, glutinous rice cakes called muah chee. The latter has been featured in newspapers and magazines nationwide.
The streets to Jalan Alor presents an assault to the senses; from the bustling, arterial road of Jalan Raja Chulan, an eclectic mix of restaurants loom as you walk uphill along Jalan Nagsasari. The streets are busy, but gets busier at Changkat Bukit Bintang, where the hawkers are quite aggressive.
For someone looking for pretty sights, Jalan Alor may prove to be anti-climactic. The itinerary can be negotiable if food is on the priority list. Jalan Alor is a well-known destination for local authentic cuisine and street food, from meat skewers to fresh seafood off-the-grill. A row of pubs along Changkat Bukit Bintang that serve anything from Irish to Asian fusion are also good alternatives.
That should complete your one day tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As always, there’s more to Kuala Lumpur tourism than meets the eye. Explore the off-the-beaten track, the next time you’re back.
Featured Image by Sandy Miguel