Kuala Lumpur (KL) is home to a little bit of everything, from awe-inspiring heritage and cuisine to exhilarating treats for friends and family. There seems to be a fair chance that any traveller would find something that they love about KL. We’ve assembled some of the city’s best attractions below – according to your traits – for your touring convenience.
For Heritage Lovers
Do you know that Petaling Street was once a flourishing hub for Chinese entertainment in the city? Neither did we. Before the quarter becomes famous for its cheap retail offerings, and way, way before Youtube becomes a thing, the Cantonese community used to go to many teahouses at Petaling Street to listen to singers performing ballads. Others went to opera houses to watch actors perform engaging plots based on popular Chinese history, classics and myths. 1920s were the peak time of such activities, but sadly, time and technology changed this. Discover more of this intriguing past by visiting the Petaling Street Heritage House, a two-storey pre-War shophouse that aims to revive the musical heritage that once defined the area. Follow along the guided tour to learn about the development of theatre in Petaling Street through well-described explanations and exhibits ranging from age-old song lyric books, elaborate costumes, intricate stage and antiques. There is also a restaurant at the lower ground of the house.
Are you always curious on how the modern Malaysian royal palace looks like from the inside? Well, wonder no more because the former National Palace at Jalan Istana is giving the public access to some of the most private chambers and hallways. For over 80 years, the National Palace served as the official residence of Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysia’s Supreme Head of State or King) until it was closed in November 2011. Take time to explore the palace on your own or with the guide and marvel at the grandeur of each of the space within the palace such as cinema, bedrooms, and even a royal clinic. We personally love the glamourous His and Her Majesty’s bathrooms that exude Great Gatsby vibe, making us inexorably envious. Entrance fee is MYR5 for adults with MyKad (MYR10 for non-myKad holders) and MYR2 for children with MyKid (MYR5 for non-MyKid holders).
Between the skyscrapers and other concrete modern buildings of Kuala Lumpur, it can be hard to find any trace of Malay vernacular architecture that once dominated the landscape. But thanks to the award-winning restoration and conservation initiative by Badan Warisan Malaysia, travellers can find the beautifully-preserved gem sitting at the corner of Jalan Stonor, in the form of a Malay Kedah style structure raised on stilts high above ground. The elaborate woodcarvings and the enormous size reflect the high status of the family, in this case the reputation of Abu Seman as a penghulu (local headman). The house comprises three parts namely Rumah Ibu, Selang and the Balai that were built in stages respectively. Visitors may roam around the house freely, but access into the building requires a guided tour that takes place twice daily (11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.) except on Sundays.
A gorgeous architectural wonder at Jalan Raja Chulan was about to be torn down when it caught Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attention as he was passing by the road some time in 1985. He then stalled the plan and urged for the building to be conserved as a national heritage instead. Today, it houses the Telekom Museum, specialising in the evolution of telecommunications in Malaysia. Students can also take the chance to experience a ‘Night at the Museum’ through an educational package offered by the museum, which includes activities, meals, sleeping bags and access to KL Tower.
A popular handicraft centre selling a wide range of ready-to-wear batik, this gallery offers the opportunity for visitors to pick up a new skill: batik-painting. The price of the class starts at MYR60 per person, and rather easy and fun to follow: pick a design, choose the colours and then paint. A group of experts will also be around during the class to give guidance.
For Thrill Seekers
Let’s be honest, paintball is painful; in fact, make a misstep, an unexpected shot at a close range could leave you bruised for days. But don’t let that diminish your inner ‘secret agent’ spirit by going for the next best thing: laser tag game. It is equally fun, challenging and not to mention a lot safer too. Step into the battle ground equipped with combat gear and a high-tech laser gun, where your tactical and aiming skills are put to the test as you go head to head against your opponents to gain points. Entrance fee is MYR45 per person.
If mystery intrigues you and mind challenges excite you, then head no further than to the Escape Room, where participants will be locked in a room until they find and decode a series of clues to complete the assigned mission and find the key to escape, all while managing the pressure against the clock. Each game requires two to six participants and varies in terms of difficulties and themes. We personally tried the ‘The Insidious Art Thief’ theme, whereby the mission was to steal a priceless painting – and needless to say the whole experience was absolutely nerve-racking yet enjoyable! Entrance fee is MYR32 per person on weekdays, and MYR36 per person on weekends and public holidays.
For Instagram Royalties
Hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, the Museum of Illusions boasts over 70 exhibits of mind-blowing optical illusions for visitors’ visual feast. Try your hand at interactive puzzles, use the camera to create trick-eye images, or walk through the dizzying Vortex Tunnel that seems like it constantly rotates when it actually doesn’t. In fact, whatever fascinating exhibits that you stumble upon, each will definitely tease your mind! The Instagram-worthy illusions also make a photographic dream, so get your camera or smartphone ready and shoot away! Entrance fee is MYR35 for adults with MyKad (MYR45 for non-myKad holders) and MYR25 for children with MyKid (MYR35 for non-MyKid holders).
Mural at Jalan Alor
Feast your eyes with vibrant three-dimensional artworks gracing one of the capital’s popular strips, Jalan Alor, where local talents do not only leave signature marks on the city’s canvas, but also paid tribute to the area’s history. There used to be a lush vegetation with a flowing stream in the area in the 1920s, but a lot has changed since then due to progress. In recapturing the area’s sylvan origins, Kuala Lumpur City Hall commissioned a group of young talents to create colourful murals that reflect the olden days, when a waterfall, a river, flora and fauna dominated the landscape.
Fans of pop culture should not miss the opportunity to pose in front of colourful pop art backdrops made up of 200 iconic celebrities from around the world. Spot your favourite and be moved by their inspiring quotes. Other than that, the gallery also educates visitors on what makes the Malaysian identity, from local Manglish slangs to the best local food in the country. Entry is free!
Malayan Railways Limited Building
With its grand whitewashed façade, distinctive arches and domes, the Malayan Railways Limited Building is one of the most beautiful heritage buildings that one could find in the capital. It features ‘Neo-Moorish/Mughal/Indo-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic’ style, conceptualised by Arthur Benison Hubback who was also behind various iconic architectural gems in British Malaya.
Also read: What to See, Do & Eat in Labuan?
For Always-hungry Gourmands
Dubbed as one of the best in town, consider yourself lucky if you managed to get a seat less than 10 minutes after arriving. Merchant’s Lane is always busy, and the well-executed dishes explain why. The baristas and chefs are excellent in bringing out so much flavours and varieties, but in case you need a suggestion, our favourite is the ‘South China Sea’: grilled salmon served with 63°C eggs, salsa and home-made mash.
If you’re looking for a fuss-free café that delivers quality quintessential Malaysian favourites like nasi lemak, toast, lontong and assam laksa, then look no further than Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock Kopitiam. Their emphasis on quality ingredients in each of their offering results in seductive flavours that ceaselessly satiate the taste buds. We also love the humble yet intimate ambience, reminding us Malaysians of the good-old kopitiams that we used to visit when growing up.
On a hot sunny day, there’s nothing like a soft-serve to quench the heat. The brand originates from Penang, offering colourful unicorn soft-serves that are light, less sweet and absolutely yummy! There are over 50 inventive flavours available that the owner, Joe, rotates weekly, but the most-beloved hits are Oceanic Sea Salt, lychee, French Valrhona Cocoa and Coal Black Thai Coconut.
We love a hearty and satisfying meal as much as the next person, so nasi lemak would be that one dish that we Malaysians hold dearly. One nasi lemak joint that is known for its consistency is Nasi Lemak Saleha that serves the rice cooked in coconut milk that is always light and fluffy, accompanied by spot-on sambal. However, to us, the star on the plate would definitely be the crispy chicken that is deep fried to perfection and not allowed to remain on the serving counter for more than 10 minutes.
Banana Bro is set to be a strong contender in serving the tastiest banana leaf rice in Klang Valley. The spread includes steamy white or brown rice with rasam (sweet and spicy soup), tairu (fresh yoghurt), papadom (crisp snack made of dried lentil and spices), and four types of curry (chicken, dhal, fish and mung bean) that are rich and full of spices, guaranteed for finger licking goodness. To amp it up a notch, take a pick between spicy dry mutton curry, fried tenggiri (mackerel) or fried boneless chicken – trust us when we say that one single serving will never feel like enough. And oh, the fried bitter gourd is also equally addictive!
The fish head curry at Coffee House, Sunway Putra Hotel, will satisfy any foodie at heart. The curry is fragrant, thick and rich in flavour, while the portion is undeniably generous. The ambient here is pleasant and the service is excellent!
The view of KL from above is stunning, but the food spread here is equally glorious. The restaurant’s culinary team comprises some of the country’s finest chefs, so customers may expect nothing but a plethora of scrumptious seasonal spread. The restaurant slowly rotates 282 metres above ground a few times a day, creating a unique dining experience, especially ideal for special occasions.