Many see Malaysia’s criminally underrated capital Kuala Lumpur as Asia’s melting pot. The cultural crucible has allowed for immense religious and ethnic tolerance and acceptance. Kuala Lumpur is a city blessed with its Malaysian roots while also paying homage to its numerous foreign influences.
Though Kuala Lumpur does not long for its past. Rather the capital is one of the most modern anywhere on the continent! With jaw-dropping skyscrapers, high-end shopping malls and luxury abound, Kuala Lumpur is making its mark on the international stage.
So in that case, here are the top 20 highlights to see in Kuala Lumpur!
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Petronas Twin Towers
The unique post-modern design highlights the city’s modernisation while also giving a subtle nod to the country’s Islamic roots. The 452-meter tall structures even held the record as the world’s tallest buildings for a brief time!
While the lower floors house an upscale shopping centre (Suria KLCC), an art gallery and even a science centre, nothing beats capturing the towers in all their glory. For the best shot, make sure you cross the street if you want to capture it all in the frame!
Amongst the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur stands a limestone hill which holds quite a surprise inside! The Batu Caves are a series of caverns and temples which are considered the most significant Hindu shrines outside of India.
These fascinating structures are dedicated to Lord Murugan, the god of war. He won’t be hard to miss, as there’s a 43-meter-tall statue of him standing beside the iconic rainbow staircase.
At the end of said stairs is the entrance to Cathedral Cave – a 91-meter-tall cavern riddled with stunning stalactite formations, a series of shrines and a bunch of cheeky little monkeys that take residence within.
You might also have the opportunity to explore Dark Cave, which is a protected area filled with native bats and spiders. Nightmare fuel for some!
For a detailed guide on visiting Batu Caves, check out The Ultimate Travel Plan: Batu Caves.
After enduring 50 years of colonial rule, Malaysia finally hoisted its new flag for the first time in 1957 right here at Merdeka Square! That turbulent time in history left behind a unique collection of ethnically diverse architecture. That includes the square itself, which used to be a cricket green – how British!
Victorian-era fountains and a local church (which happens to be one of Malaysia’s oldest) are distinctive flashbacks to the past.
Yet some of the most striking structures include the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the National Textile Museum, which houses a collection of traditional costumes and batik.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Despite Malaysia being mostly Islamic, the country prides itself on its religious diversity. As such it’s fairly common to come across temples dedicated to Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism among others.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest of all the Hindu temples in Kuala Lumpur, and as such, is considered the most significant. It even plays a role during the yearly Thaipusam festival, where it marks the start of the procession which leads toward the Batu Caves.
The 19th-century temple was built to honour Mariamman, the goddess who is said to embody Mother Earth. Yet for most visitors, its most iconic element is the 23-meter-tall tower that’s adorned with figures of various deities and Hindu gods.
Kuala Lumpur Tower
Wouldn’t you know, there’s more than one iconic tower to see in Kuala Lumpur! In fact, Kuala Lumpur Tower is one of the tallest freestanding towers in the world at 421 meters high!
Though it mostly functions as a TV and communications tower, it offers so much more! Inside you’ll find a revolving restaurant, an upside-down funhouse and even a small aquarium!
Though of course, the real highlight is the observation deck. It’s even significant for local Muslims as it‘s used for the sighting of the moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan.
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
Kuala Lumpur bird park holds the record for the world’s largest aviary with over 3,000 birds! While most are native species, several winged beauties have also been collected from across the world from across the globe.
Not only is it a great place to get up close and personal with some feathered friends, but it also emphasizes the importance of conservation. The park also plays a vital role in allowing researchers to study birds that are too difficult to observe in the wild.
The ultimate guide on how to visit Malaysia’s most famous attraction and one of the Hindu landmarks:
With such a unique blend of cultures from across the globe, Malaysia also has an immense culinary scene! And there’s no better place to sample some of it than right here in Jalan Alor!
Though it once earned a sordid reputation as the city’s red-light district, the 500-meter-long street has since shaken off its seedy past and has become the number one spot to grab a bite!
Amongst the vast amount of food stalls and eateries, there are plenty of opportunities to tantalise your tastebuds!
Worried about eating street food? Check out 15 Tips for Eating Street Food Safely.
Amongst the vibrant Malay and Indian communities that exist in Kuala Lumpur, the city also has a bustling Chinese community. Naturally, the best place to experience it, as is the case with any country, is in the local Chinatown!
Located in and amongst Petaling Street you’ll find local markets, mouth-watering street snacks and of course, a handful of temples. Those include Guan Di (dedicated to the God of War), Kuan Yin (for the Goddess of Mercy) and Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, which is the oldest Taoist temple in Kuala Lumpur!
Though Kuala Lumpur isn’t short of high-end shopping centres, local markets are the best places to see the real vibe of the city. Located in a historic 19th-century building, Central Market is the go-to place for traditional Malaysian handicrafts and souvenirs.
First originating as a wet market selling all manner of fresh produce, these days it has been transformed into a one-stop shop for all things Malay, Indian, and Chinese. From ornamental wood carvings and pottery to a full-fledged food court selling local delicacies, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained!
Thean Hou Temple
Though Chinatown certainly has some fascinating temples, the talisman of Chinese spirituality in Kuala Lumpur can be found at Thean Hou Temple. Dedicated to the goddess Tian Hou, it has become yet an iconic symbol of the city with its six-tiered structure.
Inside is an amalgamation where Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are all proudly represented. With its lavish designs and intricate carvings along its pillars, it’s little wonder it’s seen as the most beautiful temple in the city.
The National Museum of Malaysia
As a result of Malaysia’s immense history and vibrant culture, the National Museum is positively bursting with incredible exhibits to match! The museum itself is even steeped in history, as it stands on the former site of the Selangor Museum, which was destroyed by an air-raid bombing during WWII.
Inside the vast three-story structure are a collection of artefacts, exhibits, and photographs that showcase Malaysia’s colonial history and its fight for independence as well as the Hindu-Buddhist heritage of the nation.
First Hindu temples, then Chinese temples, and finally we get to the spiritual home of Malaysia’s majority religion – Islam.
Built in the early 1900s, Jamek Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia, and as such, is considered the primary place of worship for Muslims in the city. To this day, famous preachers and religious leaders still walk amongst its halls.
Considered one of the best aquariums in Asia, this particular one houses more than 5,000 marine creatures including sharks, rays, and other scaly beasts!
The 60,000-square-foot site has been carefully designed to take visitors on a systematic journey through rivers and mangroves before heading toward the ocean blue! Above all, the hope is not only to allow visitors to meet these fascinating creatures but educate guests on the need to protect them.
Placed right at the feet of the Petronas Towers, the 50-acre KLCC Park is spread out as a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.
The park also continues the city’s theme of synergy with nature with its collection of over 2,000 different plant species! In turn, that creates the perfect environment to attract both local and migratory birds and promoting biodiversity.
The true centrepiece of the park is Lake Symphony which features several fountains that shoot water up into the air Bellagio style!
Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park
Yet another park with a unique twist, this one has been utterly dominated by one winged insect – butterflies. Home to over 5,000 butterflies, it’s the largest butterfly park in the world.
The park has been designed to replicate a rainforest complete with walkways and lakes all contained beneath an enormous canopy.
If you’re interested, you can even check out the breeding area and learn more about the animal’s life cycle.
Once you see all the highlights in Kuala Lumpur, how about another Asian hotspot?
The top 15 highlights in the iconic Thai capital that balances mythical spirituality and total chaos.
Bukit Bintang Shopping District
In the booming metropolis that is Kuala Lumpur, there are also plenty of high-end shopping options for any visiting shopaholics. Of all the areas to choose from, Bukit Bintang is the place to be!
Amongst the congregation of high-end stores, street markets and luxury restaurants, you’ll also come across Berjaya Times Square shopping mall. This monstrously large retail space contains one of the largest indoor amusement parks in Asia, which even has a rollercoaster!
Royal Palace Istana Negara
Did you know that Malaysia has a monarch? And like any decent royalty, there needs to be a lavish palace to match!
Istana Negara is the official residence of the royal family, and its newest incarnation is a massive 98-hectare complex fully equipped with humble golden domes. Although the palace itself is closed to the public, its main arched gate attracts visitors from far and wide.
The former Istana Negara, which was used until 2011, has now been turned into a public park and a Royal museum for commoners to get a glimpse at the luxury the family once lived in.
Sunway Lagoon Theme Park
Kuala Lumpur is also a city that knows how to let loose and have some fun, and there’s no better place to do that than at Sunway Lagoon Theme Park. What once began as a simple water park has been transformed into a multi-themed amusement park with almost 100 rides and attractions.
With such creatively named areas as Wildlife Park, Scream Park, an Extreme Park, there’s plenty of fun for the whole family!
Titiwangsa Lake Garden
If it isn’t obvious by now, Kuala Lumpur has a fair few parks to see! Yet in the city’s continued effort to make each one unique, this massive 95-hectare park includes activities such as canoeing and even horse riding!
Most peculiar of all, it also comes with its own race tracks for remote control cars! Plus the stunning view of the Petronas Towers sticking above the skyline
The Chinese community is not the only one that had its own dedicated area of the city! There is also a vibrant Indian community which have brought its own unique influence to the country for centuries.
Brickfield, or Little India, is a little slice of Indian culture in the form of mouthwatering restaurants and traditional Indian stores selling everything from clothing to food. The quirky little arches that line the street are worth it alone!
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