When travellers come to Malaysia, they usually stop by Kuala Lumpur (KL) first before moving on to some of its other popular neighbouring states. Also known as Garden City of Lights, Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital city — and it is also home to the country’s iconic building, the Petronas Twin Towers.
If it is your first time in KL, check out my list of 10 of KL’s must-visit destinations. Since these attractions are not very far from each other, you can possibly visit all of them within a day.
1. Petronas Twin Towers
Did you know that the Petronas Twin Towers used to be the tallest building in the world? The architecture of the building is so fascinating that each year thousands of international visitors come to Malaysia mainly to see it.
If you do not mind spending RM85 to learn more about the towers, take a tour to level 86, where the towers’ observation deck is located. There are digital displays that will take you into the towers’ history. Then check out the double-deck Skybridge where you can have a better view of the city.
To get your ticket, you need to queue up at the Petronas Twin Towers’ ticketing counter, which is located on the ‘CONCOURSE’ level. Otherwise, you can get it online. The attraction is open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday (9.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m.) only. It is closed on Monday, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha. Note: It is closed from 1.00 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. on Fridays.
After that, take a stroll around KLCC where you can shop for food and fashion goods, or hang around until night time to catch the KLCC Lake Symphony Water Fountain Show that plays at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. Each shos lasts for about 10 minutes.
2. KL Tower
The Petronas Twin Towers are not the only tall structures in Kuala Lumpur. The KL Tower is also well-known for its impressive height. If you can see the Twin Towers from where you are, you can definitely see the KL Tower, too!
Constructed in 1994, the 421-metre high building offers a more stunning view of the city than the Petronas Twin Towers. That is because you can view the whole city from the tower’s viewing deck which is 276 metres high. At night, the view of the city is bright and beautiful.
3. Batu Caves
Most of the travellers I met, who visited KL for the first time, told me that they wanted to go to Batu Caves. It is a must-visit travel location for many. Sharing a photo of you standing in front of the temple is one of the ways to let everyone know that you are in Kuala Lumpur.
Batu Caves is a religious landmark for the Hindu community in Malaysia. It is a 100-year-old temple that features statues of the Hindu Gods. When you are there, you will come across a huge statue right before the stairs. That is the statue of Lord Murugan. You will be amazed by it.
In the caves, there are many limestone formations that are about 400 million years old.
Batu Caves’ most popular cavern is the Cathedral cave. When you are at the foot of the cave, you will come across two other cave temples: Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave.
Every year in the month of January, thousands of Hindu devotees visit Batu Caves for Thaipusam, one of the biggest celebrations in Malaysia.
For just RM35, you can pay a visit to ‘The Dark Cave’, which is just a few stairs under the cave’s main entrance. I took a tour into the cave with my American friend named Corina. We really enjoyed the cave tour even though it was quite short. Why don’t you try it, too? You might like it.
Go to Chinatown in the afternoon or in the evening. Most of the shops are open around those times. There you can find many shops and stalls selling souvenirs, cheap gadgets, imitation goods, local food and many more.
Chinatown is usually known as the place where all things are extremely cheap. That is not always true. Although things are relatively cheap there, you still need to bargain in order to get the best prices.
As Chinatown is a tourist spot (or some like to call it a tourist trap), things tend to get overpriced. I guess the sellers themselves already know that customers will try to bargain with them.
Around Chinatown you may be able to find plenty of budget guesthouses that will suit your budget, especially if you are a budget traveller or a backpacker. Higher range hotels are also available for those who don’t mind spending a little more for comfort.
The meals offered at the Chinese restaurants are all not halal. Halal food can be found at the Indian restaurants nearby.
From Chinatown, you can take a 15-minute walk to another popular attraction in Kuala Lumpur — Bukit Bintang.
5. Central Market
Built in 1928, Central Market is another of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular travel attraction. It is also known as Pasar Seni. It was once a wet market that was then turned into a handicraft marketplace during the early 1980s.
Apart from handicrafts, you can also buy and try local foods from the 120 year-old building. If you are an antique collector, there are lots of nice antiques for you to choose from. If you need a massage, there is a massage centre available on the building’s first floor. In case you need a parcel sent out immediately, there is a courier service on the ground level, which is just by the building’s main entrance.
Did you know that the landmark has been classified as a Heritage Site by the country’s National Heritage Department? So be sure to visit it when you are in Kuala Lumpur.
Central Market is also a great place to experience local cultures. If you are lucky, you might be able to watch some local stage shows. To find out more about their latest art performances, you can refer to their schedules that are usually displayed on the building’s notice board.
To get to Central Market, you can take the KTM or LRT to Pasar Seni train station. Alternatively, you can also get there by bus or taxi.
6. Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square is a site not to be missed during your visit to Kuala Lumpur. It is a historical site located right in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building. The St. Mary’s church, which is one of the oldest churches in the country, is also nearby.
Merdeka Square is very popular among tourists. You will likely see them photographing themselves in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building, or lazing on the 200-metre open field. There is nothing much to do there apart from the two activities mentioned. But just lying down and hanging out there especially in the evening is relaxing. I like that place. And I usually hang around there with my friends until dusk. At night, the place gets very bright and even more beautiful.
There is a very tall flagpole for the Malaysian flag right there. In case you don’t know, it is the tallest flagpole in the world, standing at 95 metres.
The Merdeka Square was where the Federation of Malaya’s independence from the British empire was declared on the 31st of August 1957.
7. Kampung Baru
There is a place in the middle of Kuala Lumpur called Kampung Baru which was known by the British as Malay Agricultural Settlement in the 1900. Today, it is a popular spot for foodies. You will see many local, expats, and tourists dining together there.
Although Malay cuisine is mainly served there, some of the local restaurants offer Thai cuisine.
Go to Suraya Seafood restaurant if you want to try some of the most savoury seafood dishes cooked in Malay style. I tried some of their dishes and I loved every one of them. When I was having my dinner there last time, I noticed that most of the diners were having grilled cockles. I suppose grilled cockles are their specialty.
One of my friends said that a visit to Kampung Baru is not complete until one has tried Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa. What makes it different than the typical Nasi Lemak? Well, it is not like any other Nasi Lemak you’ll find on the streets of KL. This version features innards, lungs, and other unusual ingredients. But it is definitely halal.
Okay, I have yet to try Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa. Therefore, I need to go back to Kampung Baru soon to try it.
Not very far from Chinatown is Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur’s “Little India”. It is located along Jalan Tun Sambanthan where a wide variety of Indian clothing, food, beauty centres, and jewellery can be found. There are many tall office buildings there, too.
Brickfields is one of the best places to find vegetarian food. I recommend Annalakshmi Vegetarian restaurant and Chat Masala to all vegetarians and vege lovers. Vegetarian meals are also available at other Indian restaurants, such as Seetharam and Sri Paandi.
In case you need to do some shopping, KL Sentral is just 10 minutes away. From Brickfields, you can also visit a beautiful hill-top temple, the Thean Hou temple.
9. Alor Street
Let me tell you this: Alor Street is not the best place to try local food in Kuala Lumpur. The food is all overpriced. But many locals (like me) go there once in awhile for the fun vibes that it offers. I usually go there before I go to the bars. It is, after all, situated next to Changkat, a small street with many local pubs and clubs.
Food is abundant at Alor Street. You can find Chinese and Thai restaurants there. And there is a small stall serving Kebabs and Shisha in one of the Thai restaurants. For those craving for sweet things, there are two ice-cream stalls sitting along the street; one that sells Turkish ice-creams and the other one selling coconut ice-creams.
Alor Street is also a great place to find seafood such as fish, crabs and lobsters. Due to its strategic location, both Malaysian locals and foreign travellers like going to Alor Street to meet people and enjoy their dinner together.
Since street musicians are all around the corner, diners will always be entertained by their performances. The only downside is their performances tend to get too loud.
As there are many hotels around the area, those staying at hotels like Casanova Hotel, Capitol Hotel, Swiss Garden, and the Royale Bintang can easily walk to Alor Street from their hotels. But if you’re staying outside of the city centre, you can easily get there by local trains.
10. Bukit Bintang
Your visit to Kuala Lumpur will not be complete without exploring Bukit Bintang.
Alor Street is in Bukit Bintang. So after you have explored the popular food street, walk around Bukit Bintang (Bintang Walk), Kuala Lumpur’s most popular district for entertainment and shopping. Optionally, you can explore Bukit Bintang first before you head down to Alor Street.
At Bukit Bintang, you can find almost everything you need such as shopping centres, hotels of all budget ranges, nightclubs, restaurants, supermarkets and many more. Getting there is easy, too, as it is accessible by public transport.
When you are there, check out some of its popular malls like the Pavilion Mall, Times Square Mall, Lot 10 and Sungei Wang. Next to the Pavilion Mall is Sephora, an established French cosmetic retailer.
If you like sushi and seafood buffet, check out Jogoya Sushi Buffet, which is located at Starhill Gallery. Their buffet prices are pretty reasonable.
Here is a video of me and Christoph exploring Kuala Lumpur together.