By Mario Ng
Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital of Malaysia, is a beautiful city to visit. Located in Southeast Asia, it is also a good gateway to head to the rest of the cities, such as Singapore, Phnom Penh, and Hanoi, just to mention a few places.
The city itself has many places where one can explore. For sure, Petronas Twin Towers and Menara KL Tower are top of the list for most visitors. However, get past that and you start to see the cultural beauty of KL. They have the awesome Islamic Arts Museum, while the National Museum is great place to visit. These offer insights into the country's past, and are worth exploring.
Remember to check out the Google map all the way below for our full list of attractions and food places you should head to while in Kuala Lumpur!
For your convenience, refer to this list of attractions you should head to while in Kuala Lumpur!
1. Central Market
2. Islamic Arts Museum
3. Menera KL Tower
4. Merdeka Square
5. Muzium Negara (National Museum)
6. National Monument
7. Petaling Street Market
8. Petronas Twin Towers
1. Central Market
Central Market is located nearby from Petaling Street Market, and one can immediately see the difference between the two markets. While Petaling Street Market is congested, messy, and humid, Central Market is much more organised, and is housed in an air-conditioned building.
For those who are afraid of the heat and are running short for time, Central Market would be the better bet. There are different vendors selling a variety of products, from your local street food (with much better hygiene standards) to the more fashionable popcorn, from the usual magnets (once again of much better quality) to lacquerware, and from the stores selling tees to those selling paintings, including those of famous local politicians!
Entrance to Central Market
Eateries are also available here, and you get your pick of choosing either local fare or something more western. Indeed, it is quite large, as it houses two stories worth of stores. You can in fact take your time to explore and buy some products, before taking a break at the in-house food court of any of the eateries. You can then continue your shopping afterwards, exploring even more shops. Take some time to explore the stores just outside the complex, as they are arguably an extension of Central Market, and you see stores selling fresh fruits, cutlery, and (most probably counterfeit) watches.
If one were to compare comfort levels between Central Market and Petaling Street Market, Central Market would definitely win. That is not to say Petaling Street Market is not worth visiting. Rather, Central Market will simply suit those who enjoy a relaxing time while shopping for local goods. It does not hurt to have proper eateries located in the building as well, and be quite assured of its cleanliness.
Make sure Central Market is in your itinerary, so that you do not miss out on some authentic local merchandise and food!
Affordable clothes for sale at Central Market
Opening hours: 10am to 9.30pm daily
2. Islamic Arts Museum
Located within the large cluster of the city’s main tourist attractions, the Islamic Arts Museum is well-situated to be around the country’s National Mosque, which is within walking distance. Said to be the largest arts museum dedicated to Islam in Asia, it contains over 7,000 artefacts!
While the entrance is located on the first floor, the galleries are mainly situated on the third and fourth floors. As you first step into the galleries, you will be brought into a world of Islamic wonders as models of different religious buildings all over the world are displayed. Dating as far back as the 9th century, majestic models of mosques are shown, and one can wonder at the beauty of each generation’s architectural influences.
A model of a mosque on display at Islamic Arts Museum
As one wanders through the different galleries, you are gradually brought into the world of Islam and how it was able to spread all over the world. From the Middle East to India, as well as China, strong Islamic influences can be seen in these places. Artefacts such as precious coins, weapons, and jewellery, are all on display in this museum.
It can be seen that much effort was put into constructing this structure. True to its name as an arts museum, the ceiling is in itself an amazement. When you are there, remember to keep looking up! Each section has a different dome that has been meticulously painted with an Islamic design. Look out for the inverted dome on the second floor as well!
One of the many beautiful domes within Islamic Arts Museum
For sure, this museum is really unique that is not commonly seen around the world. Specially dedicated to Islamic Arts, it is not just about the history of Islam, but the artistic background of the religion as well. It shows how art played an important role in Islam, and how it continues to be a positive influence to the religion.
Make sure you head down to Islamic Arts Museum when you are in Kuala Lumpur!
Just a couple of some amazing artefacts shown at Islamic Arts Museum
Ticket Prices: RM14 per person
Opening hours: 9.30am to 6pm daily
3. Menara KL Tower
The Kuala Lumpur Tower (KL Tower) was built in 1995, its intention to enhance the quality of telecommunication services in the city. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked by visitors to Kuala Lumpur, despite being its older cousin by only a few years. The KL Tower is the seventh tallest freestanding tower in the world, and the tallest in Southeast Asia. Compared to the Petronas Twin Towers, the KL Tower has a higher viewpoint that is open to the public, due to the hill where the Tower is built on.
Menara KL Tower
Another interesting detail about this Tower is the fact that it hosts the annual BASE jump competitions. If you are lucky enough to be in Kuala Lumpur around that time, you will get to see insane BASE jumpers leap off the tower and land smoothly onto the asphalt at the base of the tower. Awesome!
A BASE jumper successfully landing after jumping off from KL Tower
For lovers of skylines, you should be attracted by this tower, which offers you three different types of experiences. The first one is the standard attraction, which is the indoor observation deck. Over here, you get to see the Kuala Lumpur skyline, including the Petronas Twin Towers in all its glory. As you look over the horizon, you marvel at the beauty of this city!
For the more adventurous, you will certainly enjoy the Skydeck and Sky Box. The former is an open-air observation deck where you get to see the skyline, while winds hit at your face hard! At more than 300 metres above ground level, the views are certainly more beautiful than those seen in the observation deck. However, we must warn that this may be a little frightening for those afraid of heights. If you can conquer your fear though, we promise an amazing view!
Sky Box is for those that simply aren’t afraid of heights, seeking to challenge it even. Really a box, it is extended out of the Sky Deck ledge, where you get to see the skyline in all its glory. Surrounded by glass, look below you and try to spot people walking on the pavements! You will also get an even better view of the skyline, where the Petronas Twin Towers is that much closer to you. Is it worth conquering your fear of heights just to take in this view? You tell us!
After your tour of the KL Tower, you can head back down to the ground level, to visit the famed Jelutong Tree. This tree is more than 100 years old, and is located at the base of KL Tower. Because of the position of this tree, it was supposed to be destroyed to make way for the communications tower. The decision was taken to conserve this tree, and shift the position of the tower instead. At the cost of RM430,000.00, this tree was saved, and has since been surviving nicely, providing intrigued visitors with an interesting anecdote to this huge tree at the base.
If you are in Kuala Lumpur, be sure to head down to KL Tower and enjoy the stunning views of the city!
View of Petronas Twin Towers from KL Tower
Do note that it may be difficult to hail a taxi at the base of KL Tower after you have completed your visit. There is, however, a free shuttle bus that brings you from the base of KL Tower to the street level. Even at the street level, it may not be easy to hail a cab. While there are sometimes taxis waiting there, chances are they are not metered ones. Hence, a suggestion would be to take a 10-15 minute walk to the nearby Shangri-La hotel to get a taxi. Alternatively, walk a further 10 minutes from Shangri-La hotel to KLCC, where there is a MTR station. Do take these into consideration when planning your visit to KL Tower!
Ticket Prices: RM 49 per adult; RM 29 per child, free for children below 4 years of age
Opening hours: 9am to 10pm daily
4. Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square is a site filled with so much history within, that every visitor should really put this as the top of their list when in Kuala Lumpur. This place is basically where everything began for Malaysia as a nation.
Surrounding Merdeka Square are notable buildings, such as the Royal Selangor Club, which was founded in 1884, and Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Both buildings are in themselves steeped in history, and it is worthy to note Sultan Abdul Samad Building used to house the British government when the they were still in charge of the country. It was only in 1974, when the decision was taken to rename the building after the sultan who was in charge of Selangor when the building was first being built. It is also interesting to note the building is still in government hands, housing the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia and Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia.
View of Sultan Abdul Samad Building at Merdeka Square
It is also at Merdeka Square that the Union Jack was lowered for the final time and the Malayan flag raised for the first time. It was on 31 August 1957, that then Malaya achieved independence from the British, and right at midnight, her own flag was finally hoisted at Merdeka Square. Near where the flag was first raised, is now a 95m gigantic flagpole with the Malaysian flag flying up high against the winds. For Malaysians, this is surely a place of pride.
The next day, on 01 September 1957, the first-ever Merdeka Parade, a procession commemorating the country’s independence, was held at Merdeka Square. Since then, most years will see the 31 August Merdeka Parade being held at the Square. With the parade an important event for the country, each year sees the Sultan, Prime Minister, and government officials attend the parade. Military flypasts are regularly organised, and other artistic performances involving the public take place at the parade itself.
View of the city's skyscrapers from Merdeka Square
As one can see, there is so much that happened at this location, that it is no wonder most tour groups head down here. For most of us who do not know much about this place, heading down to the Square itself is a good start to enrich yourself culturally, about Malaysia and its history. Make sure you do!
5. Muzium Negara (National Museum)
Located just across an expressway from KL Sentral, Malaysia’s national museum, Muzium Negara, is definitely worth visiting. Conveniently connected by an underpass from Muzium Negara MRT station, it is always linked to KL Sentral MRT station via a walkway.
When you arrive at the big grand building housing the museum, you will first be greeted by a magnificent set of tiles. Presented to Malaysia by the government of Pakistan, it has been painstakingly preserved throughout the years. When visitors come to this museum, they will be amazed by the classic beauty of the mosaic tiles.
Entrance to Muzium Negara
In the museum itself, is separated into four distinct galleries. The first gallery is naturally about Malaysia’s prehistoric times. Dating back as far as 200,000 years ago, the gallery showcases precious stones (literally) that were found across the country. It also has other precious artefacts, including earrings and ceramic bowls that survived hundreds of thousands of years.
The second gallery focuses on the pre-colonial times in Malaysia, explaining what it was like to be ruled by the local kings. It also shows how Islam reached Malaysia, and how its influence was widespread enough for Chinese ceramics to be decorated with Arabic expressions.
The third gallery, on the Colonial era, might be more familiar to the young ones, especially if they were obligated to study history in school! Containing much information on how the Europeans first stepped into Malaysia, it depicts how the Portuguese first attacked Malacca in 1511, as well as how the Dutch then came into Malaysia after defeating the Portuguese.
Historic artefacts on display at Muzium Negara
The final gallery features a timeline of how Malaysia came into being. Not many people know, but this country used to be named Malaya. It was only upon the unification with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore (between 1963 and 1965), that it was renamed Malaysia. Much attention is also paid to how its independence was achieved, as well as the different Kings that have ruled Malaysia. The gallery also talks about how the country has grown since its independence in 1957.
While there are a total of four galleries in this museum, each gallery is kept small enough to maintain one’s attention, while detailed enough to be educational to the visitor. This is a nice museum that summarises the history of Malaysia, and visitors to Kuala Lumpur should definitely check this out!
Information about Malaysia's Tunkus at Muzium Negara
Ticket Prices: RM 5 per adult, RM 2 per child, free for children below 6 years of age
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm daily
6. National Monument
The National Monument is located in downtown Kuala Lumpur, nearer to KL Sentral. Situated on a hillside, it faces the beautiful gardens that house Butterfly Park, and KL Bird Park. On a good day, it offers a nice breeze and one can enjoy the sights of greenery surrounding the monument.
The National Monument
Built and erected in 1966, it was created to commemorate the fallen heroes who fought in one of Malaysia’s longest wars, the Malayan Emergency. While some might find the monument familiar, this is due to the sculpture being inspired by the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Virginia. Felix de Weldon, who first sculpted the war memorial in the United States, was then commissioned by the Malaysian government to design their own monument.
In the same complex also houses the Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph, which is right at the entrance of the compound. Built originally to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War, it would later include those who died during World War 2 and the Malayan Emergency as well. Originally located elsewhere, the decision was taken to relocate it to its current location at Lake Gardens, and thus house Malaysia’s war memorials at one location.
Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph
It is definitely one side of Malaysia that is seldom seen. Often viewed as a friendly country that is welcoming to all, not many know the sacrifice required that allows its citizens to enjoy the freedom currently seen.
If you are in Kuala Lumpur for a visit, make sure you head down to the National Monument to appreciate the tough times the country went through, in order to allow its people enjoy freedom.
Opening hours: 7am to 6pm daily
7. Petaling Street Market
Petaling Street Market, which is also Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is a must-visit for all visitors to the capital. Unlike any attraction in the city, you will either love or hate this market.
Petaling Street Market
Located just opposite Central Market, it is one entire stretch of street that spreads into the small alleys. Backpackers are bound to love this market, as vendors advertise their products towards anyone and everyone. While most sell the usual merchandise, including tees and electronic gadgets, one does not need to purchase anything to get into the spirit of Petaling Street. Congested and humid, it is an experience in itself to tour this market. Street food is also readily available, so you can have some delicious food while squeezing your way through the crowd.
A vendor selling a variety of products at Petaling Street Market
Certainly, if one wishes to purchase any product at Petaling Street Market, he or she must beware of the authenticity of the merchandise. It is most likely counterfeit, no matter what they tell you, and you buy it knowing it is a knock-off product. Take note that this applies to the electronic products as well. Hence, bear this in mind when you go bargaining with the vendors.
For sure, this market is not for everyone, and indeed, one does not need to purchase anything here. However, this would be a good place to visit, just so you can experience how a tourist market is like, and enjoy some street food while you are at it!
8. Petronas Twin Towers
Built in 1996, the Petronas Twin Towers are a famous landmark all over the world. One of the tallest buildings in the world, they held the record for six years between 1998 and 2004, until they were surpassed by Taipei 101, which has also since been surpassed by Dubai’s Burj khalifa.
One interesting fact about these skyscrapers was that the Malaysian government specified that the towers must be completed within six years. As a result, two separate companies constructed the towers, with each company in charge of one tower. In the end, Tower 1 was completed by a Japanese consortium while Tower 2 was built by a South Korean consortium.
The Petronas Twin Towers
For visitors and tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur, this landmark is a must-visit. Starting from the ground floor, there are many vantage points to snap a photo of these towers. Simply choose a nice spot and start snapping! The nearby KLCC Park is a good place to start, although a good timing would be either early in the morning or early evening. The intense warm weather can be tormenting.
Of course, many people visiting Kuala Lumpur would surely want to head up the Twin Towers. Some visitors choose to purchase their tickets only on the day itself. This could be a huge mistake. Tickets are often sold out in advance, and rarely would there be tickets left to be sold on the day itself. We have seen many visitors head down to the Twin Towers to purchase them, only to be turned away disappointed. A good method would be to secure those tickets online, by purchasing through their official website. To get good timings, try to get them at least 2 to 3 days in advance! To truly be able to select any timing you want, get them a week in advance. Good timings do sell out rather quickly!
View from the Skybridge on Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers Visit
On the day of your visit, you have to arrive at the Petronas Twin Towers at least 30 minutes before your official scheduled visit time. Upon arriving, assuming you bought the tickets online, you will need to head to the counter and show your proof of purchase (e.g. online receipt) to get your tickets. 15 minutes before your scheduled visit time, they will announce for such ticket holders to gather and start the check-in. What happens now would be a brief security check and depositing of bags at the concourse (bagpacks are not allowed during the visit).
Right on the dot, your group would then be called to watch a short video, before being ushered into the elevators proper. The visit begins! First stop would be the skybridge, located on levels 41 and 42. For visitors to the Twin Towers, you will arrive at level 41. Each group would then be given around 10 minutes to walk along the skybridge and admire the view. Of course, now is the time where cameras start doing their job, and just about everyone begins to talk loads of pictures! Take your time, as you have the entire length of the skybridge to find the best spot to take your pictures. Although, as you have virtually the entire Kuala Lumpur skyline to choose from, it can be quite hard to settle on a spot!
Your group will be called, and then gathered to take another elevator to head up to the 86th floor. Right here, is the observation deck. With an almost uninterrupted view of the skyline, you would only need to contend with the other tower and Menara KL Tower in the distance. Other than that, you can marvel at the beautiful Malaysian skyline. Most of the time would be spent here, and most visitors start to whip out their cameras again to start snapping. Guilty as charged, we spent a lot of time taking pictures of the entire skyline. We did find some time to take pictures together. :)
View of the city from Petronas Twin Towers
Almost too soon, your group is called upon again. The visit is just about done. You look at your watch and realise that indeed, the hour is almost up. You are shuffled to the 83th floor where there is a small gift shop. Photos taken earlier at the concourse level can be purchased here. Other tourist favourites can also be purchased here (i.e. magnets, books, bookmarks).
For security measures, you will soon be asked to head down to the concourse level. Not done shopping? Not to worry, as they have a larger gift shop at the concourse level, and you can purchase the same gift there. You can also spend all the time you want at that gift shop, which does have a much larger collection anyway.
In the span of some 1.5 hours, your visit to the top of the Petronas Twin Towers is completed. If you are a frequent visitor of Kuala Lumpur, do consider visiting the Twin Towers more than once! We heard that it has beautiful views of the skyline at different timings! Try the dusk timing to see the beautiful sunset!
Ticket Prices: RM 80 per adult (13 to 60 years of age; RM 42 per senior (above 60 years of age); RM 33 per child (3 to 12 years of age); free for children below 3 years of age
Opening hours: 9am to 9pm (Tuesdays to Sundays); closed on Mondays
Website (including to book your tickets): https://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/
Google Maps: List of attractions and food places in Kuala Lumpur!
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