Snacking on endless bowls of cendol, browsing an endless array of boutiques and marveling at the many glittering skyscrapers that dot the cityscape. It can only be Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and a vibrant, sometimes maddening metropolis. If you’ve made your way to this city of steel spires for the first time, it can be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve curated the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur, to make the best of your time in the dazzling, often chaotic city of KL.
1. Traipse around the Thean Hou Temple
Start your Kuala Lumpur adventure in style by heading to the oldest (and largest) Chinese temple in Southeast Asia. While KL might be better known for its Muslim religious buildings (more on those later), this marvelous mix of Taoist, Confucianist and Buddhist influence is a must-visit on your KL itinerary.
With six, impressive tiers and thousands of intricate carvings, this ruby red-tinted temple is not only an exquisite example of Chinese architecture but serves up striking views of the city, as it’s set atop Robson Hill.
Pro tip: Get there when it opens at 9.00am to beat the tour busses.
Address: 65 Persiaran Endah, Off Jalan Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur, 50460
2. Spot street art in Chinatown
Even if it’s George Town in Penang that scoops all the accolades for street art, you can definitely still get your fix of murals in Kuala Lumpur, and the best place to do it is undoubtedly Chinatown.
The area, usually best known for the manic alleys of the Petaling Street market, has undergone a revival in the last few years with lovely cafes and small gastro bars popping up in some of the undiscovered nooks. Now you can spend a few hours skipping from one bar to another, while in search of some amazing murals in the traditional Malaysian style, which features ‘interactive’ pieces of local scenes that encourage you to get involved for the perfect photo.
Some of the best are in the almost hidden quarter surrounding Concubine bar, called ‘Kwai Chai Hong’. Nestled between Lorong Panggung and Jalan Petaling you’ll find a series of murals by artists including Khek Shin Nam, Chew Weng Yeow and Wong Leck Mind.
Address: Lot 2, Jalan Panggong, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
3. Run up the rainbow steps of the Batu Caves
The most instagrammable place in Kuala Lumpur, you can’t miss a visit to the Batu Caves (its ‘real name’ being the Sri Subramanair Swamy Temple).
Not only offering some spectacular views of the city, punctuated by a 43 metre high golden statue of Hindu god of war, Lord Murugan, the Batu Caves boasts a soaring flight of 272 steps painted in eye wateringly bright shades of blue, red, green and orange.
Whether you’re just looking to get a photo on the pastel-painted stairs or are more interested in the temple complex itself – which has three main caves including the acclaimed Cathedral Cave – this is definitely one of the top things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Address: Gombak, 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor
4. Get panoramic views from the Petronas Towers
No list of the ultimate things to do in Kuala Lumpur would be complete without including the most legendary Malaysian landmark: The Petronas Towers.
The most spectacular building in a city known for its soaring skyscrapers, the 88 storey, 450 metre high Twin Towers can be seen from most corners of the city, beautiful to behold during the day but even more arresting when twinkling at night.
The Towers were envisioned to represent Malaysia’s goal of being a power player on the global economic stage, with a massive steel and glass façade decorated to resemble Islamic art motifs. While you should definitely marvel at the exterior, it’s worth heading inside for the stomach-dropping elevator ride to the 41st floor. Here you can stroll around the Skybridge to get perfect photos of the city laid before you.
Address: Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur
Pro tip: Want the ultimate shots of the Petronas Towers? Head down to the neighbouring KLCC Park which even has signage for the best photo spots!
5. Shop ‘til you drop
Have you even been to Kuala Lumpur if you haven’t spent at least a day wandering the many-vaulted halls of the city’s multitude of malls? Shopping is almost a national pastime in Malaysia and KL is the buzzing epicenter of the retail trade.
From the luxury stores like Louis Vuitton in the Pavilion to finding a bargain piece of tech in the almost maze-like Low Yat Plaza, any budget can be accommodated. Most of the shopping arcades also offer a bit more than just retail therapy, like the oversized bowling alleys of Berjaya Times Squares which, incidentally, also has a full-sized roller coaster inside its atrium. That’s right – a rollercoaster smack bang in the middle of a mall!
6. Kick it in the KL Eco Forest Park
Tired of the almost never-ending concrete sea of the city? Get some oxygen in those lungs by heading to the KL Eco Forest Park.
Previously known as the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, this area of tropical rainforest is one of the last remaining ‘natural’ green spaces in Kuala Lumpur.
Don’t expect a walk in the park though, since the Forest Park is not about laidback lounging but, rather, has a series of hair-raising suspended bridges and some fantastic treetop walkways! Navigate around the park on a set of swinging wooden and rope bridges, culminating in the Canopy Walk, a gigantic wood and steel suspension bridge where you saunter (well, with a bit of hesitation due to the heights!), through the many towering trees of the park.
Address: Bukit Nanas, Jalan Puncak, Off Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur
7. Go dining in the dark
Whether you’re in search of soupy, tangy curry mee, a mouth-watering mound of char kuey teow noodles or even the simple pleasure of traditional chicken rice, Kuala Lumpur is a haven for foodies. While it might not stack up to the local charm of Melaka or even nearby Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur is world-renowned for its fusion of cuisines.
You can scoff your way through an entire day’s delights in KL but its unique fare is probably best enjoyed after dark. That’s when the hawker stalls start coming to life, steam rising off sizzling griddles as you walk down the aisles of the many evening food markets.
Head on down to the slightly touristy scene of Jalan Alor to munch on mixed satay or heavenly oyster omelettes, or avoid the crowds at Hutong 10, a market housed in the basement of the Lot 10 shopping centre.
Address: 21, Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
8. Join the queue at the Jamek Mosque
Constructed back in 1909, the Jamek Mosque (Masjid Jamek), is part of the fabric of Kuala Lumpur, as the oldest and most notable mosque in the city.
Built in a mix of Moorish, Islamic and Mughal styles, this beautiful building is perched on the edge of the water, making it a great subject for budding photographers, with the lilywhite domes reflecting off the water’s surface. You’ll find a gaggle of avid snappers there at sunset too; the ideal time to get your postcard-perfect shot.
If you’re keen to tour the inside you can visit for free during set times, seeing the interior of this sacred spot. Of course, you’ll need to be respectful and wear attire covering your shoulders and knees, or lend one of the free robes on offer at the door.
Regardless of your route in Kuala Lumpur, this ‘Garden City of Light’ has something for even the fussiest of traveller. Whether it’s gorging yourself on gigantic bowls of nasi goreng or filling your already overloaded luggage with new buys, Kuala Lumpur is a must-visit for anyone wanting to visit Southeast Asia; a feast for the eyes and, of course, the palate.
Address: Jalan Tun Perak, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur