Solo So Good – Things to Experience in Solo, Indonesia

From outstanding Javanese history, compelling traditions to unique gastronomy and breathtaking views, Solo has it all for curious travellers.

Excelsior Dance Project (EDP) Banua Hikayat Heritage Sasirangan from Banjarmasin performing at SIPA Festival 2022.

From outstanding Javanese history, compelling traditions to unique gastronomy and breathtaking views, Solo has it all for curious travellers.

Solo – also known as Surakarta – is located northeast of Yogyakarta. This city is still considered underrated among international travellers, but despite its smaller size compared to Yogyakarta, this city is rich in what curious travellers like me are looking for. Situated in Central Java, Solo is one of the best destinations for travellers to learn outstanding Javanese history, compelling traditions, unique gastronomy, breathtaking views and more.

For the trip to Solo, my travelling companion and I took return flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, Indonesia. On the way to Solo, we boarded the Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) train that took us from Gambir Station in Jakarta to Solo Balapan Station in Solo. The journey takes around eight hours one way.

Good to know:
Regarding the KAI trains, there are several options that travellers can choose such as KAI Bima and KAI Argo Dwipangga. The trains are comfortable and equipped with facilities like toilets, Muslim prayer room and café. Every passenger is provided with a blanket and face mask, which travellers are urged to wear throughout the ride. The train tickets can be purchased online via KAI’s official website or travel apps such as Traveloka.


Besides enjoying the views along the way (if you take morning or afternoon trains), travellers should really check out their cafe and what they can offer. Some of the options presented in the menu are remarkably tasty!


Pura Mangkunegaran

Pura Mangkunegaran
The pendopo at Pura Mangkunegaran, a large pavilion with strong Javanese and European architectural influences.

Pura Mangkunegaran or Mangkunegaran Palace is where the royal family of Mangkunegaran resides. Mangkunegaran is a small duchy within Solo that was created after the Salatiga Convention in 1757, which determined that part of the Kasunanan realm must be granted to Raden Mas Said, who was also known as Mangkunegara I.

Pura Mangkunegaran is still a royal residence, but travellers are welcomed to visit it. Apart from witnessing traditions that are still practiced to this day (if you are lucky), travellers can appreciate the strong Javanese and European influence through its time-honoured architecture and learn about the history in detail from a knowledgeable guide. Be mindful, though, as some areas cannot be photographed.

National Press Monument

National Press Monument
The grand entrance of National Press Monument.

The role of the press was significant to Indonesia’s intriguing modern history. And this monument documents everything about it by preserving thousands of printing materials including newspapers, magazines, journals and books from the Dutch colonial period until today. It also showcases the technology used for communications that has tremendously evolved over time. 

Gedung Djoeang 45

This old building has been revived into one of the most Instagrammable spots in Solo. It even has trendy shops inside it such as Gelatoku (a gelato shop) and Kantine Straat Restaurant. History has it that this building was once a canteen for the colonial Dutch soldiers. Though it has been given a fresh, new look, the European influence on its long-established structure remain strongly visible. 


Candi Sukuh

Around one hour and a half drive from Solo city, in Ngargoyoso, Karanganyar Regency, travellers can visit this sacred temple built in 1437 along the western slope of Mount Lawu at 910 metres above sea level. Birth and sex are the two recurrent themes that make this Javanese-Hindu temple distinctive and exotic compared to other temples. Among the notable erotic structures include the lingam and yoni (a symbol of life creation represented in a form of paired erect phallus and an image of vulva) and a headless man grasping his own penis. Believe it or not, some people believe that one can check their virginity at this temple. 

Candi Sukuh
A statue of a headless man grasping his own penis.

But more than that, this temple is unique because of its main building’s pyramidal shape, said to resemble the Mayan civilisation architecture in Mexico. Nevertheless, Candi Sukuh is widely known as ‘The Last Temple’, referring to the fact that it is the last Hindu temple in Java built near the end of Majapahit Kingdom period.

Candi Cetho

Candi Cetho
The courtyard at Candi Cetho.

Also perched on the slope of Mount Lawu, Candi Cetho is another Javanese-Hindu temple that is worth visiting. This temple carries the similar themes as Candi Sukuh, only that it sits higher, at an elevation of 1,495 metres above sea level. And yes, it does contain carvings resembling human reproductive organs as well. It is said to be built around the same time Candi Sukuh, somewhere in the 15th century. 

This temple might remind travellers of the temples in Bali. In fact, during my visit, there were several Balinese families who came here all the way to pray. And since it sits high on the mountain, travellers will definitely be in awe of the temple’s surrounding postcard-perfect vistas.

A few minutes’ walk from Candi Cetho stands another sacred site amidst the forest called Puri Taman Saraswati, dedicated to a four-handed goddess known for her gentility, excellent beauty, and intelligence. She stands gracefully on a lotus flower accompanied by two swans.

Puri Taman Saraswati
Puri Taman Saraswati.

Travellers need to wrap a piece of black-and-white checkered cloth around their waist before entering the temples as a sign of respect towards the sacred sites. It can be rented near the entrance with a minimal fee. 

Tip: Travellers need to wrap a piece of black-and-white checkered cloth around their waist before entering the temples as a sign of respect towards the sacred sites. It can be rented near the entrance with a minimal fee. 


Tumurun Museum

Tumurun Museum
Some of the collections on display at Tumurun Museum.

Owned by a famous textile businessman, H.M. Lukminto, this private museum showcases some of the best artworks in the country, including some of the owner’s private collections. Among the notable artists whose artworks are displayed here include Eddy Susanto, Entang Wiharso, Heri Dono, Isabel & Alfredo Aquilizan, and Wedhar Riyadi.

The museum also holds seasonal exhibitions. During my visit, there was the ‘Why’ Exhibition, the first solo exhibition by Solo’s very own artist, Aditya Novali. It is such an eye-opening experience trying to understand each of his artwork, which is full of surprises, riddles and metaphors. Deep thinking is required but with the help of the museum curator and QR code next to each artwork, it becomes easier to delve into the creative and curious mind of Aditya. 

Solo International Performing Arts (SIPA) Festival 2022

Pooja Bhatnagar Krisna Nartan from India performing at SIPA Festival 2022.

SIPA Festival is already in its 14th year of its instalment in 2022 and continues to successfully become one of the main events in Solo. During the three days, guests can access the prestigious festival at Benteng Vastenburg for free to witness art shows including dance, music and theatre performances from Indonesia and other countries. On top of giving the locals the chance to enjoy the performances, the objective of the festival is to strengthen diplomatic relations with foreign countries. This year, with the theme ‘Art as the Spirit of Life Changing’, the festival shows as many as 11 participating countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, India, Brazil, Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, Turkiye and Spain.


Serabi Notosuman

One of the delicacies that will complete your journey in Solo is serabi Solo. It is a kind of round and fluffy pancake made from rice flour, coconut milk and eggs, among others. Serabi Solo is distinguishable from other regions in Indonesia because it does not come with special gravy, usually made from coconut milk and palm sugar. It is also rolled and wrapped with banana leaf. Serabi Notosuman is one of the popular purveyors of serabi Solo

Adem Ayam

Adem Ayam is a legendary restaurant in Solo. It is said that few Presidents of Indonesia have enjoyed its culinary offerings, including the current President Joko Widodo. Nasi gudeg is the main attraction here. The food comes with rice cooked in coconut milk served with cattle skin, egg boiled in soy sauce and stew made from unripe jackfruit with palm sugar, coconut milk and spices. The restaurant also serves other delicacies of Solo like nasi liwet (rice cooked in coconut milk with chicken stew and spices), selat Solo (braised beef tenderloin served with sweet sauce and vegetables) and timlo (soup-like dish with egg boiled in soy sauce, shredded chicken, rice and fried onion).

Shijack Susu Murni

Susu Murni can literally be translated as pure milk. But if you look at the menu, printed so huge on a banner, you might be confused as to which one you should try first. I tried susu telur madu (milk mixed with raw egg and honey) while my friend tried chocolate milk. Mine tasted good, especially when paired with toasts that are prepared in variety of ways. I tried roti karamel too, which is actually an abbreviation of roti bakar rasa melon (melon-tasted toast) and kejurnas or keju roti nanas (toast with pineapple jam and shredded cheese on top).

Sate Kambing Bu Haji Bejo

Sate Kambing Bu Haji Bejo
Sate buntel.

Sate buntel is what the locals refer to a juicy minced mutton satay wrapped with lamb’s fat and grilled with special sweet soy sauce and pepper. The best place to savour sate buntel is this humble restaurant, which has been selling sate buntel since 1970s and has Indonesia’s current President Bapak Joko Widodo as one of its many regulars. It is priced at Rp65,000 per serving and even without the rice on the side, the sate itself is enough to make you full!

Bale Branti

Bale Branti
Our lunch at Bale Branti.

Located in Karanganyar where travellers may find vast tea plantations, Bale Branti is one of the tea houses in the form of a traditional Javanese house. It has an outdoor area where one can take in the soothing view of paddy fields while eating snacks and sipping a warm cup of tea, which is what Karanganyar is known for. This place is good for lunch too, serving some must-try traditional dishes such as gudangan, capcay, semur telur, gereh layur and tempe mendoan

Ndoro Donker Tea House

This English-style tea house has its own tea brand of the same name. It has indoor and outdoor dining areas, but of course I recommend the latter since travellers can enjoy the view of the tea plantation, the source of the tea we are sipping from. After taking pleasure in the taste and the view, travellers can also buy some souvenirs from its shop, including their own tea brand’s products. 

Pasar Gede

Pasar Gede
The main entrance of Pasar Gede.

This is Solo city’s largest market where one can find various products, including fruits and snacks. Though the market is already crowded most of the time, wait till you see some stalls that has its customers queuing elbow-to-elbow to buy traditional snacks like rambak petis, karak bratan and the legendary dawet telasih, President Joko Widodo’s favourite.


Istana Heritage Batik Keris

Istana Heritage Batik Keris
The stunning Istana Heritage Batik Keris’ building at night. Photo by Eyta Juwita.

Once an abandoned residence known as Omah Lawa (bats’ house), the building is now an exclusive batik gallery where travellers can find high-quality batik that Solo has always been famous for. Within the building, there is Keris Cafe and Kitchen should travellers feel hungry for some delectable local offerings.

Batik Benang Ratu Heritage

This is one of the recommended places should travellers want to buy cheaper batik and all kinds of souvenirs to bring back home. From batik shirts, bucket hats, trousers, handbags, and keychains, travellers can find them all here!


Jeep Adventure in Kemuning

Jeep Adventure in Kemuning
The jeep adventure will bring travellers traversing through tea plantations.

For adventure seekers, this activity is highly recommended. There are several routes that travellers can choose from, including the route that takes travellers straight to Candi Sukuh or Candi Cetho. The journey on four-wheel-drive brings travellers pass by countless villages and tea plantations along the stunning slope of Mount Lawu, besides a few extreme routes that include crossing rivers and traversing super bumpy roads. It takes around one hour and a half to complete, but from my experience, it sure feels much lesser than that. I mean, it was indeed exciting that all of us lost track of the time! 


The Sunan Hotel Solo

The Sunan Hotel Solo
One of the rooms at The Sunan Hotel Solo.

This hotel, established since 2007, is strategically located in the heart of Solo City, close to many attractions and facilities, including Adi Sumarmo International Airport (15 minutes by car) and Solo Balapan Train Station (six minutes by car). It has 204 rooms besides facilities such as all-day dining restaurant, swimming pool, meeting rooms and fitness centre, making it an ideal choice for both leisure and business travellers.

Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to the Surakarta City Government for making the writer’s trip to Solo smooth-sailing.

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