If you love art and culture, you can’t go past the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Built in the nineteenth century, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu Temple in Kuala Lumpur. It’s also one of the most instagramable spots of the city: its bright blue exterior stretches up into a tower-like triangle, in the typical Hindu style. The façade of the temple is also filled with statues of different Hindu gods and goddesses, which depict different Hindu stories. Located on the edge of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, this temple is still an active place of worship for the local Tamil community. Check out the temple grounds and gardens to learn more about the Hindu religion and its history in Kuala Lumpur.
Visit the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
One of the most iconic sites of Malaysia and most-visited Kuala Lumpur attractions, the Petronas Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world. While these contemporary glass towers look super modern, its architectural design symbolises the minarets of Muslim mosques, as an ode to Malaysia’s national religion. For the most remarkable views of the city, zip up the elevator and head straight to the top of the tower. For those who are game, walk across the glass sky bridge that connects the two towers. If you’re not the best with heights, grab a buddy who’ll help you tackle your fear.
Enjoy the culture at the National Museum
From its Hindu origins to its Muslim conversion and being taken by the Brits, Malaysia has gone through a lot of political and religious change. Learn about the fascinating history of this country at the National Museum. Telling the story of Malaysia from prehistoric times, discover artefacts, musical instruments and costumes that give you a sense of its colourful culture. The museum building is something of a work of art, fashioned in the shape of a traditional Malay house and decorated with a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Located near the famous Lake Gardens, you can also sneak a visit to the Museum and its neighbouring botanic garden in on the same day. Winning.
Uncover your inner child at Sunway Lagoon Theme Park
Adrenaline junkies, this one’s for you. Sunway Lagoon Theme Park is located just outside the centre of Kuala Lumpur and is one of the biggest theme parks in Southeast Asia. Get your adrenaline hit on a range of rollercoasters, swing pirate ships and water rapid rides. The park complex is way more than just a theme park: it’s also a water park and zoo. Spend a day soaking up the sun or sliding down some serious drops at the Water Park, or discover white lions and meerkats at the Wildlife Park. If you’re itching for something more adventurous, or you’re all cultured-out, go shake up your holiday at Sunway Lagoon.
Shop like a local at Central Market
If you’re anything like us, you love a good market. The Central Market in Kuala Lumpur, also known as Pasar Seni, is the most famous market in the city. What used to be a ‘wet market,’ selling fruit, vegetables and meat to the locals, has now expanded and developed into something of a hybrid between a Western shopping centre and an open-air bazaar. Here you’ll find all cultures of Malaysia represented in its street food and permanent stores, selling a range of Indian, Chinese and Malay products, souvenirs and arts and crafts. Bargain your way through Central Market and enjoy the bustle of this busy part of town.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
Chinese New Year
Marking the start of a new lunar calendar and lasting 15 days, the Chinese New Year celebrations go off in Kuala Lumpur. The most important festival for Malaysia’s Chinese community, traditional festivities include giving red envelopes, lighting firecrackers and feasting with family. You best bet the streets of Kuala Lumpur get lit up with lanterns, fireworks and dragon dances.
For Malaysia’s Indian community, Thaipusam is an annual Hindu festival that occurs in late January. This festival honours Lord Murgan, the Hindu god of war and son of Shiva. Taking place in the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, the Hindu devotees pierce their bodies with hooks and skewers to showcase devotion to the deity.
Good Vibes Festival
Taking place in the hills to the north of Kuala Lumpur, Good Vibes is a music festival that usually happens at the end of July every year. Showcasing local and international acts, the festival's line up has included the likes of Phoenix, Lorde and Alt-J. You’ll also find a bunch of art installations and performances happening around the festival grounds.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, also known as Eid al-Fitr Internationally, is celebrated by the Muslim community in Malaysia. It marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which calls for Muslims to fast for 40 days. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated by feasting and partying in the streets, with ketupat-shaped ornaments and lanterns decorating the streets.
Deepavali is the biggest festival for Mayalsia’s Hindu community. The festival commemorates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after his 14-year banishment, signifying the triumph of good over evil. Also called 'Diwali' or Festival of Lights, Hindu temples and major public places in Kuala Lumpur are filled with colourful lights, oil lamps and flowers. Deepavali usually happens in October of November each year.
Top 5 Festivals in Kuala Lumpur
As a country with so many distinct cultures, it feels like there’s a different festival happening every week in Kuala Lumpur. With the streets getting lit up for Chinese New Year, Eid and Deepavali, you’ll also find a heap of music festivals mixed in with the traditional stuff. Here’s when it all goes down in Kuala Lumpur.
Built in 1963 after the independence of Malaya from Britain’s colonial forces, the National Museum details the history of the country. From prehistoric life to the big events of its modern history, this museum prides itself in explaining how this part of Southeast Asia, which was known as Malaya, developed into the nation of Malaysia.
Islamic Arts Museum
The biggest museum housing Islamic arts and artefacts in Southeast Asia, the Islamic Arts Museum is something of a shrine to Malaysia’s national religion. It documents the history of the religion all over the world, from the Middle East to China, India and its spread through Southeast Asia.
National Textile Museum
Based in a Mogul-style building, the National Textile Museum is a beautiful collection of Malaysian costumes and fabrics. The museum explains traditional Malaysian techniques and machinery, including songket, the method of creating silk or cotton pieces with gold threading. Here, you can also check out some pretty fabulous ceremonial headgear and jewellery.
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum
The Bank Negara Malaysia Museum is a series of small museums that focuses on banking, finance and money. While it might sound like a business studies excursion, it’s way more interesting than that. With a collection of ancient coins and money and a massive private art collection, this museum is definitely worth a visit.
National Visual Arts Gallery
Located in northern Kuala Lumpur, the National Visual Arts Gallery is packed with incredible works that deal with Malaysian politics and local identity. The building is an artwork in-and-of itself. Built in a triangular shape and covered in glass, you’ll find a winding staircase inside that’s not too dissimilar to that of the Guggenheim in New York.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in Kuala Lumpur
As a place where three very distinct cultures meet, the fascinating history of Malaysia comes to life in its many museums. From understanding its political history to learning about its decorative and visual arts, here are our picks for the top five museums to visit in Kuala Lumpur.
Cocooned in banana leaf or served steaming hot on a plate, Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s national rice dish. With spicy sambal is piled onto coconut-infused rice and served with an assortment of sides, including fried anchovies, eggs, cucumbers and beef or chicken curry. Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa serves up a mean version of this Malaysian staple.
Best eaten at Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa, 4 Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, 50300 Kuala Lumpur
Warm, spicy and filling, rendang is one of the most loved curry dishes of Malaysia. Usually served with beef or chicken, this rich Malay dish is packed full of flavours. Made using galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, kaffir leaves, coconut milk and tamarind, you can pick up a bowl of rendang at Opium Kuala Lumpur.
Best eaten at Opium KL, 50 Changkat Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Hainanese chicken rice
The ultimate chicken dish for Malaysians is Hainanese chicken rice. Originating from the Hainan district of Southern China, this dish was brought to Malaysia by its Chinese community. The fat from the poached chicken cooked in garlic and ginger is used to make the flavoursome rice accompaniment. No one does this dish better in Kuala Lumpur than Restoran Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Best eaten at Restoran Hainanese Chicken Rice, No. 651-1, 3 1/2 Miles Jalan Ipoh, Wilayah Perseketuan, 51200 Kuala Lumpur
Unlike the packets of instant noodles that got most of us through university, mie goring in Kuala Lumpur is the simple and delicious way to fry noodles. This street food staple is flavoured with garlic, onions, Chinese cabage, kecap manis, chilli and fried chicken, pork and shrimp. Get stuck into the mie goreng at Mee Goreng Tanglin.
Best eaten at Mee Goreng Tanglin, Kompleks Makan Tanglin, Jalan Cenderasari, 50480, Kuala Lumpur
Ketupat is a Malaysian rice dumpling. Unlike its Chinese counterparts, these aren’t filled with meat or vegetables, but rather served as an accompaniment with meat or veggie dishes. Wrapped up in a triangle using palm leaves, these dumplings are cooked slowly for hours, turning them into delicious rice cakes. Ketupat Palas pumps these out like nobody else.
Best eaten at Ketupat Palas, M3 Mall, Jalan Madrasah, Taman Melati, Gombak Setia, 53100 Kuala Lumpur
Food in Kuala Lumpur
With influences from China, Indonesia and India, Malaysian food is the original fusion food. Spicy, rich and fragrant, you’ll find a bunch of good eats in Kuala Lumpur. Here are our picks for five iconic Malaysian foods you’ve got to try.