Explore Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Explore Kuala Lumpur the federal capital and the largest city in Malaysia.
Literally meaning “muddy river confluence” in Malay, Kuala Lumpur has grown from a small sleepy Chinese tin-mining village to a bustling metropolis of 7 million (city-proper population- 1.8 million) in just 150 years. A cultural melting pot with some of the world’s cheapest 5-star hotels, great shopping, even better food and some of nature’s wonders in just an hour away, this dynamic city has much to offer for every visitor.
Kuala Lumpur is a sprawling city and its residential suburbs seem to go on forever.
The city can be divided into the following areas, each of which offers a particular attraction or activity.
- Old City Centre/Old Town (Chinatown) [not to be confused with Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)] – This is the traditional core of KL where you’ll find the former colonial administrative centre-the Merdeka Square, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Selangor Club. It also includes Kuala Lumpur’s old Chinese commercial centre which everyone refers to now as Chinatown and wet market turned handicraft centre – Central Market Kuala Lumpur.
- Golden Triangle – KL’s Central Business District (CBD), to the north-east of the old city centre/old town. This is where you will find Bukit Bintang- KL’s premier shopping district, five-star hotels, offices, nightlife, and the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
- Tuanku Abdul Rahman / Chow Kit – This extension of the old city centre/old town is fast regaining its old fame after a decade of slow growth. Located 500 m north of Chinatown and 500 m west to the Petronas Twin Towers, this is the traditional colorful shopping district of Kuala Lumpur north of the city centre that moves into high gear when the festivals of Hari Raya Puasa (Eid ul-Fitr) and Deepavali approach. Located just beside the Golden Triangle (northern neighbor) with many popular budget accommodations. The gigantic Putra World Trade Centre & the traditional Kampung Baru food haven are among the most important landmarks.
- Brickfields – This area, located south of the city centre, is Kuala Lumpur’s Little India, filled with saree shops and banana leaf rice restaurants. Kuala Lumpur’s new main railway station, KL Sentral, is located here.
- Bangsar and Midvalley – Located south of the city, Bangsar is a popular upmarket dining & nightlife district while Midvalley is one of the city’s most popular shopping malls.
- Damansara and Hartamas – Largely suburban, these two districts to the west of the city house some interesting pockets of restaurants and drinking areas. This district also merges into the northern part of Petaling Jaya.
- Ampang – Located east of the city, Ampang is home to Kuala Lumpur’s Little Korea and most foreign embassies.
- Northern suburbs – This huge area to the north of the city is home to several natural wonders attractions, such as the Batu Caves, the National Zoo and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.
- Southern suburbs – This district may not interest travellers much, although Kuala Lumpur’s National Stadium and National Sports Complex Bukit Jalil and Putrajaya are located here.
Kuala Lumpur has a year-round tropical rainforest climate which is warm and sunny, along with abundant rainfall. It can even rain daily during the northeast monsoon season from October to March. Temperatures tend to remain constant throughout the year and hover between 31~33 °C (max. temperature) and 22~23 °C (min. temperature).
Malaysia’s transportation systems are, by regional standards, pretty well functioning. Planes, trains, buses, and taxis are linked in a system conceived and constructed by, if not an order-loving architect, at least a dedicated amateur. The planners’ aims are an ultra-modern, chic, European-style system that is a far cry from the city’s humble beginnings.
Kuala Lumpur’s ambitious public transport system is sufficiently developed to be fairly efficient and convenient, but much room for improvement lies in its integration.
Kuala Lumpur has good quality roads and a comprehensive expressway system, but driving in the city might be difficult at times due to traffic jams, a complicated web of expressways and road signage in the local language. If driving, be especially aware of sudden lane changes by cars, as well as scooters, which tend to erratically weave in and out of traffic.
Renting a car is an option for travelling in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia. The road system is quite complicated and road signage is in the local language, so it is highly recommended that all travelers rent GPS units from their car rental company – such units are widely available, and are usually offered at reasonable rates. Drivers may also use navigation apps such as Google Maps or Waze to get around.
Petrol and parking costs are generally low, contributing to the car-culture in Kuala Lumpur that exacerbates traffic congestion. However, it would be prudent to carry a loaded Touch ‘n Go card as drivers may be required to pay for road tolls. Cash is not accepted at some toll plazas that have gone fully electronic. Congestion charges are non-existent in Kuala Lumpur.
- Start in Chinatown (Petaling Street)
- Head towards the vertically striped wedge of the Maybank building. Head along Jalan Pudu, passing to the left of Pudu Sentral bus station. After 800 m, turn on to Jalan Bukit Bintang at the Royale Bintang Hotel.
- Jalan Bukit Bintang is a major shopping street: stop for coffee at Bintang Walk, or check out the electronics mega-mall, Plaza Low Yat.
- When Bintang meets Jalan Sultan Ismail and the monorail, turn left, following the monorail.
- After 1km of Sultan Ismail, turn right on to Jalan P. Ramlee. This lead to the Petronas Twin Towers. Be amazed!
- Head back down Jalan P. Ramlee
- Merge onto Jalan Raja Chulan near the KL Tower and head back to the Maybank building and Chinatown.
- If you’re fortunate enough to do this walk on a typical Sunday afternoon you will find a calm and attractive city.
What to see. Best top attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
KL hosts an amazing variety of architectural delights. The grandest old British colonial buildings lie in the city centre and include the former offices of the Colonial Secretariat (now the Sultan Abdul Samad Building) on Merdeka Square and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway station. They blend themes from the architecture of Britain and North Africa. On Merdeka Square’s west side, looking like a rejected transplant straight from Stratford-upon-Avon is the Royal Selangor Club. Near Merdeka Square is Masjid Jamek, a charming Moorish-style mosque set at a confluence on the Klang River. The National Mosque, Masjid Negara, (1965) celebrates the bold ambitions of the newly independent Malaysia. The National Monument in the pretty Lake Gardens is inspired by the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. The ASEAN sculpture garden is nearby. Also in the lake gardens is Carcosa Seri Negara, the former residence of the British High Commissioner, which now houses an upmarket hotel and colonial-style tea rooms. While some buildings in the high-rise Golden Triangle, such as the KL Tower, are uninspired copies of other famous structures, the Petronas Twin Towers are truly marvelous.
Within the city centre is also the fascinating narrow streets of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur’s traditional commercial district, with its many Chinese shops and places to eat.
And if you are looking something more authentic, then head yourself to Kampong Bharu (commonly spelled as “Kampung Baru”), which is 1 of the last surviving traditional Malay villages in the middle of KL. Here, you will able to experience a glimpse of traditional Malay lifestyle and see many beautiful Kampung houses that are still well-preserved.
KL is hot, humid and sometimes crowded, so schedule some cooling off in air-conditioned shopping malls or restaurants. You may find that most attractions are only crowded on weekends and holidays and are otherwise deserted on weekdays.
What to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
KL is mainly known for its eating and shopping, which are adequately covered by the Eat and Buy sections.
Other activities include usual urban sports such as golfing, cycling, running, jogging and horse riding. If you’re into rock climbing, the Batu Caves in the Northern suburbs is popular. However given Malaysia’s stunning terrain, you’re better off heading to other places for anything more strenuous or challenging.
Several good theatres and performance halls have emerged as part of Malaysia’s drive to encourage greater cultural expression. These include the National Theatre (Istana Budaya) and the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) in the northern part of the city, the KL Philharmonic in the Twin Towers, and the Actors Studio at Lot 10.
Leading museums in the city centre are the National Museum, which covers the region’s history, and the well-regarded Islamic Arts Museum, which houses a small but captivating collection. Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery is a modern museum linked to the country’s national bank with well-designed galleries on Malaysian economic development, Islamic finance, the history of the central bank, and the national’s banks own art collection.
Pampering and spas can be found in several five-star hotels and independent centres in the Golden Triangle. There’s also nail parlours and beauty salons, which are generally good value, there’s also high-end ones offering similar services for a premium. Reflexology and foot massage places are everywhere, especially in Bukit Bintang in the Golden Triangle and in Chinatown.
Kuala Lumpur also has several theme parks around the city and in the surrounding cities. The most famous of these parks is Sunway Lagoon situated in the neighboring city of Subang Jaya. The theme park has rides, a huge waterpark, an extreme park for adventure junkies, a scream park for those wanting a good scare, and a petting zoo for children. Sunway Lagoon is a 40 minute drive from central Kuala Lumpur in good traffic.
Skyscraper Gazing – glass and steel abound, but only one (rather a pair) shine. However, the view from the KL Tower is cheaper and better than that from the Twin Towers.
Experience of the history of KL city watching the the musical MUD.
While KL is more of a concrete jungle compared to other parts of the country, there are some natural gems that are accessible by public transport. Among them are:
FRIM Forest Reserve: You can get to FRIM via KTM Komuter. Stop at Kepong or Kepong Sentral and grab a short taxi ride. The hikes are easy and you can go up a canopy walkway for RM10.60 to get a good view of KL on a clear day. There is a nice tea house in the FRIM compound where you can sample various types of local teas and snacks. Get there early as it is more likely to rain later in the day.
KL Forest Eco Park: Formerly known as “Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve”, this urban jungle is located close to KL Tower. The forest provides for an easy trek that you can enjoy on your own; but the many specimens are likely more appreciated through guided tours which are free and can be arranged from KL Tower.
Nature Escapes Malaysia is a good website for more details on natural trails located within or a short drive away from KL.
KL Bird Park (free-flight walk-in aviary), 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, Taman Tasik Perdana (Next to Islamic Art Museum in the City Centre. 9AM-6PM. Great semi-wild habitat for many different species of mostly Asian birds. The Bird Park allows you to approach quite close to the birds which are skittish but not fearful for some very nice photos. A bit pricey, but makes for a nice long day in a mostly shaded area. Feedings and shows throughout the day give something to see at any time, and the 20+ acres provide plenty of area to walk and explore. The photo booth offers a wide array of tamed birds that will happily sit on you and pose for photos for a small price. Concession stands are priced fairly and offer drinks, ice cream, etc.
Near the KL Convention Centre is the Aquaria KLCC which contains some 5,000 varieties of tropical fish.
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur is one of travel’s greatest pleasures! Kuala Lumpur alone has 66 shopping malls and is considered one of the major shopping capitals of Asia. KL is also the retail and fashion hub for Malaysia. Goods are available in every price bracket. shopping in Kuala Lumpur
Internet cafés are quite plentiful in Kuala Lumpur and you can find them in most shopping centers. Many hotels provide free internet access and connections. Free Wi-Fi is also available in many café’s, restaurants and shopping centers.
Tap water in Kuala Lumpur is heavily chlorinated and thus safe, but unfortunately the pipes that carry it may not be. Most locals boil or filter it before use; alternatively, bottled water is cheap and ubiquitous.
Day trips from Kuala Lumpur
- Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre
- Genting Highlands – 40 min by road on the East Coast Highway, has cooler weather, theme parks for the kids and a casino for the adults. Easily accessible by buses from KL Sentral.
- Putrajaya – Malaysia’s megalomanic new federal administrative centre is 30 km to the south (20 min by KLIA Transit train).
- Kuala Selangor – 1 hr north-west of Kuala Lumpur, is notable for its fireflies that flash in unison, and seafood restaurants.
- Klang – former Royal city with a few interesting old buildings and restaurants.
- Sungai Tekala Recreation Park – 40 min south of Kuala Lumpur (near Hulu Langat District’s Semenyih Dam) is a favorite recreation park with comfortable jungle trekking in concrete steps and natural waterfalls suitable for families.
- Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) – at the mouth of the River Klang and its Chinese fishing villages make for an interesting day trip. Take the train to Port Klang then the boat to the island.
- Malacca – if you have more days to spend in Malaysia, a must-visit is the historical town of Malacca, which is one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Steeped with history of its Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial period, you will find this town to be rich in culture and history.
- Penang – George Town capital city of Penang, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. It is famed for its authentic street food and dubbed “Malaysia’s Food Paradise”, Baba Nyonya Peranakan cuisine, and laksa, local to this part of Malaysia. Also not to be missed is their pristine beaches and smallest National Park in Malaysia.
- Ipoh – 90 minutes by train for cuisine, a water theme park, hot springs, Rafflesia flower, caves and colonial buildings.
- Cameron Highlands – about 200km from Kuala Lumpur or 85km from Ipoh, offers cooler weather and lovely highland landscapes. You will be able to visit tea plantations, vegetable farms, strawberry farms and nurseries, as well as soak in the colonial history of this plateau. Colonial cottages and bungalows as well as modern hotels, resorts and luxurious hilltop retreats can be found here. Bird-watching, jungle trekking and other outdoor activities are also available.
- Taman Negara National Park – The largest national park on Peninsular Malaysia, known for its excellent jungle trekking and wide variety of birds and insects.
- Port Dickson- The army town of Malaysia. It hosts several beach resorts which perfect for a weekend getaway.
Official tourism websites of Kuala Lumpur
For more information please visit the official government website: