Welcome to My Own Backyard
Say ‘Hello’ to Kuala Lumpur, the place where I grew up and live in. This is the capital and one of the three federal territories in Malaysia. The city’s name literally means “Muddy Confluence” due to its location near the place where the river of Klang and Gombak intersect.
What I loved about Kuala Lumpur is the friendliness of our people that comes from different races and religions which makes us a multi-cultural country. From day to night, there is definitely something to keep you entertained. The bustling city can be described as a shopping heaven and food paradise with many historic landmarks lying within the tall skyscrapers.
Whether you are here to shop for affordable or luxury goods, dine for local street food or authentic restaurants and maybe just wander through its hidden gems, we have them all under one roof. So, prepare yourself and walk till you drop.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and KLIA2 (KUL) are the main airports in Kuala Lumpur. If you are flying on a budget airline like Air Asia and Scoot Air, your flight will land on KLIA2 Although both airports are separate terminals, you can get to KL city center, which is about 50 kilometers away by train, bus, or e-hailing car (Grab or Air Asia car).
The fastest way to get into the city center is by KLIA Ekspres line, which takes about 30 minutes and costs RM 55 per person one way to KL Sentral, the transportation hub of Kuala Lumpur. The train departs every 15 minutes, from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. the next morning.
Buses are also available and operated by different bus companies. However, bus timing and the fare vary depending on the operator. The journey from the airport to the city takes about one and a half-hour and will drop you off at KL Sentral or Terminal Bus Selatan -TBS (the city’s main bus terminal). If your drop-off point is at TBS, you can take a Grab or Air Asia e-hailing car to your hotel.
Alternatively, there are e-hailing services at both airport arrival halls that take you directly to your hotel doorstep. Whether you are a solo traveler or travel as a group, e-hailing car offers the choice of sedan or van to suit your transportation needs. The fare starts from RM 65 per way (Remember to download Grab or AirAsia Super App to your phone beforehand). It is better to use an e-hailing service rather than taxi because most taxi drivers are reluctant to use taxi meters and charge passengers a higher price.
Traveling around Kuala Lumpur can be very easy, thanks to the much-improved transportation system over the years. The cheapest way to get around the city is by local public train (LRT, MRT, KTM Komuter, and Monorail). There are all interconnected with each other and you can approach any friendly staff in the station for direction.
What’s more? Look out for the free shuttle buses called GOKL City Buses. They have blue, red, purple, and green-line buses which travel to many sights, including KLCC, KL Tower, KL Sentral, and Merdeka Square.
Another option is the KL Hop On-Hop Off bus that runs through the tourist spots and the ticket can be purchased to use for 24 or 48 hours. Another alternative to get around the city is either Grab or Air Asia e-hailing car, which is easy to find around the city center
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has many heritage landmarks, impressive skylines, and beautiful places of worship worth visiting. Spending 3 full days in the city will be ideal to explore this big metropolitan city.
1. Marvel the tall Petronas Twin Tower
Visit the iconic Petronas Twin Towers situated at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. These twin towers once held the title for “The Tallest Building in the World” from 1998 to 2004 and today still hold the title of “The Tallest Twin Towers in the World”. It stands at 452 m tall with 88 floors in total.
These cool and impressive towers were constructed with reinforced concrete, steel, and glass facade. It is a spectacular sight in both daylight and after dark when the towers are lit with hundreds of lights visible from all over Kuala Lumpur.
You can access the first observation deck on the 41st-floor to experience the walk on the Skybridge that connects both sides of the towers. Then, continue your way up to Level 86 (360 meters) and enjoy a 360-degree panoramic city view. Also, you can learn some quick facts about its architecture and city history.
This iconic megastructure is home to a six-story Surian KLCC shopping mall with countless shops, a science museum, an aquarium, a concert hall, and an exhibition center. The best time to view is when the towers are lightened at night and sometimes brighten up colorfully in conjunction with special events.
Tips: Do make a booking in advance for the tickets due to limited tickets for each time slot [visit website].
Getting There: Get off at the KLCC Station on LRT Kelana Jaya Line or the last stop of the free Green GOKL City Bus. There is also KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus and you can alight at KLCC Stop. The entrance of the tower is located about a 10-minute walk from those stations
Opening Hours: Every Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm. The last admission is at 5.30 pm.
Entrance fee: Local: Adult: RM28/ Children and senior citizen: RM14 and Foreigner: Adult: RM80/ Children: RM33/ Senior citizen: RM42
Walk around KLCC Garden
After completing the visit to the twin towers, take a walk or just relax in this 50-acre KLCC garden located just right outside Surian KLCC shopping mall. This is the perfect spot to view the towers and other tall skyscrapers around.
Families love to spend their weekends here to have picnic and relax in this tropical urban park planted with 1,900 indigenous trees and palms. Joggers and sports lovers come to enjoy their running or light exercise in the morning or late evening. If you happen to be around the mall after dinner, you can stay back and watch the spectacular ‘Lake Symphony’ which starts at 8 pm with the musical water fountain performance.
If you are here at night, don’t miss the Lake Symphony Fountains that play every night at 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm.
Opening Hours: Daily, 24 hours
Entrance fee: free
Wander through KL Forest Eco Park
Step into one of the country’s oldest permanent forest reserves and you will immediately feel like enter another part of the world. Hidden in the heart of the city, the quietness of the jungle brings the sound of the birds singing and insects chirping. This forest is accessible with two easy walking trails that give a sweeping view of KL skyline from the Canopy Walk and will lead right up to KL Tower. So, why not take a little pleasure in nature while you are still within the city area?
Tips: Do bring insect repellent and wear comfortable shoes to hike along its easy trail tracks.
Opening Hours: 7 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: free
Getting There: The closest rapid transit stations are Bukit Nanas Monorail Station and Dang Wangi Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line. The walking distance from those stations is 1.5 km away and takes about 20 minutes to walk. Alternatively, you can get there by e-hailing car or free Purple GoKL City Bus from Pasar Seni Station along LRT Kelana Jaya Line.
Soared up to KL Tower
If you are thinking of viewing the city from a different angle, my best beat is KL Tower (Menara KL). It is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world.
This tower stands 421 meters high with an Observation Deck at 276 meters above the ground as well as an Open Air Deck and a revolving restaurant, the Atmosphere 360. Its top four floors of the tower are used for communication purposes and TV and radio broadcast stations.
You can also walk up the 2000 steps to the tower, but are required to pre-book under a group of a minimum of 20 people. An annual running competition will be held at the tower where participants get to race up the stairs to the top.
Tips: The Open Deck will be closed when it is raining, lightning or thunderstorm.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 11 am to 7 pm with the last admission at 6 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 10 pm with the last admission at 9 pm
Entrance fee: Local: Adult: RM25/ Children: RM20 and Foreigner: Adult: RM36/ Children: RM21 for observatory deck only(click here for other promotion)
Getting There: The closest rapid transit stations are Bukit Nanas Monorail Station and Dang Wangi Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line. You can either take another 15 minutes walk or take an e-hailing car to the tower from those stations. If you are taking KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus, alight at KL Tower Stop.
5. Visit the National Monument
The National Monument located in Jalan Tugu was built in 1966 to commemorate the soldiers who sacrifice their life to defend the country against the Japanese forces during World War II and the 12-years Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1960 which claimed 11,000 lives.
This site has a garden that makes a great place to take a break. The compound is planted with unique flora and surrounded by shady trees. It offers a panoramic view of the city and the Parliament Building.
Opening Hours: Daily from 7 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: Free
Getting There: There is no direct public transport to the monument. The nearest LRT Kelana Jaya Line is Masjid Jamek Station and takes 25 minutes to walk along Jalan Parliament towards Jalan Tugu. You can also take an e-hailing car to the site. If you are using the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus, alight at the Lake Garden Stop.
Admire the beautiful Masjid Jamek
Masjid Jamek Mosque, also known as Friday Mosque, is the oldest Islamic place of worship in Kuala Lumpur. It was built in 1907 to serve as the main center of worship for the local Muslim community until the replacement of the National Mosque in 1965.
The mosque was designed by British architect, Arthur Benison Hubbuck with a combination of ancient Moorish, Islamic, and Mughal styles. It is beautiful both from the inside and outside and consists of three onion-shaped domes, a pair of stylish minarets, and Chhatri pavilions. Floral elements and motifs are the common features of the mosque. There is a big courtyard with a lovely fountain in the middle, a pretty garden, and some old gravestones near its garden because the land was previously used as the first Muslim cemetery.
Just at the back of the mosque is the convergence point of the Klang and Gombak rivers. It literally means “muddy confluence” in Malay language which is how Kuala Lumpur got its name.
Travel Tips: There is no entrance fee to the mosque. Robes and headscarves can be borrowed at the entrance for free and must dress respectfully. Also, wear shoes that can easily remove before entering the prayer halls (sleeveless shirts, shorts, or skimpy clothing are not allowed).
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday: 8.30 am to 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm
Entrance fee: Free
Getting There: Get off at Masjid Jamek Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line, Sri Petaling Line and Ampang Line. The mosque is right next to the LRT station. You can also get here with the free Red GOKL City Bus or KL Hop-On Hop-Off at Dataran Merdeka Stop.
Experience the River of Life
Enjoy the dazzling River of Life during nightfall near Masjid Jamek. The riverfront has been rejuvenated under the urban river restoration project to give a new life to the river and its surrounding. It was listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful waterfronts in the world!
You can watch the dancing fountains with splendid light shows and is known as the “Blue Pool”, thanks to the striking blue lighting that turns the river into brillant blue shade. The daily show starts at 9 p.m. with a Dancing Symphony Fountain, Blue Corridor, fog, and lighting effects.
Explore the Merdeka Square Area
Roam through the great path of “Merdeka Square Heritage Walk” to learn the history of Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur and admire the historic buildings in this area.
The country’s Independence Day was held here in Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) on 31st August 1957. The first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Malaysia’s independence by marking the end of British rule over Malaya and free from colonization by other countries. The enormously 100 m tall flag pole symbolizes the country’s freedom and has been flying high in the wind ever since.
Every year, it becomes an important venue to host the Independence Day celebration, parades, religious festivals, and international marathons. Including the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, which attracts thousands of participants annually from around the world.
Merdeka Square is surrounded by several notable historic landmarks. The Moorish and Neo-Mogul architecture-style Sultan Ahmad Samad building was built in 1897 and used as the British colonial administration and later converted into a superior court in the mid-20 century.
Standing next to this building are the National Textiles Museum, where you can learn about the textile-making of Malaysian traditional clothing, and the KL City Gallery and Tourist Information Center displays the model of historic sites and iconic buildings around Kuala Lumpur (entrance fee: RM10). The mega tall Merdeka 118 at the backdrop is the upcoming residential, hotel, and office building, which stands proudly at 679 meters and will be the second-highest building in the world upon completion in 2022.
Last but not least, you won’t miss out the most photographed structure in the whole KL. This huge I♥KL structure is located right outside of the gallery’s entrance where people take a long queue to snap this most Instagrammable icon of the city.
Opening Hours: Daily, 24 hours
Getting There: Get off at Masjid Jamek Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line, Sri Petaling Line or Ampang Line. Merdeka is just 5 minute walk from the station. You can also get here with the free Red GOKL City Bus or KL Hop-On Hop-Off at Dataran Merdeka Stop.
Go shopping at Central Market
Central Market is an authentic market about 15 minutes walk from Merdeka Square. It used to be a simple wet market when it opened in 1881, but in the early 1980s went through a massive renovation to transform into a handicraft outlet.
You can find lots of nice handicrafts, jewelry, Malay batik, clothes, shoes, souvenirs, gifts, and homemade cookies. There is a food court upstairs that served local food, including nasi lemak, roti canai, beef murtabak with Naan, and teh tarik. Festive events and local small exhibitions are occasionally hosted here and you can learn about Malaysian history, background, and different cultures.
Getting There: Get off at Pasar Seni Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line or MRT Sungai Buloh/ Kajang Line. You can also get here by the free Purple GOKL City Bus and the station is just 150m across the street.
Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 6 pm
Stroll through Chinatown
Chinatown also called Petaling Street, is just a stone throw away from Central Market, so you can easily explore together with the Merdeka Square Heritage Walk and the market just in one day. The Chinese immigrants founded this area in 1857 and used the river as a commercial trading center. It was easy for them to access by boat.
The best way to experience Chinatown is to wander the streets and have a look at all the old Chinese-inspired shophouses and temples. Some of the buildings had been converted into new classic-like cafes, cocktail bars, and cozy motels for backpackers.
Always packed with tourists and locals, the heart of Chinatown is filled with open-air stalls selling everything you need and the stuff you are not sure about! There is a good reason why this street is called bargain hunter’s paradise. Here you can find football jerseys, fake handbags, fake watches (not to mention Rolex as well!), sunglasses, flip-flops, caps, and toys.
If you are here for cheap souvenirs and gifts to bring home, Petaling Street is the right spot.
There are also a few nice street food options here like Hokkien mee, Bak Kut Teh (pork ribs dish in broth), Cantonese congee (rice porridge), curry mee, wanton mee, Bak Kwa (Chinese salty-sweet dried meat), steamed dumplings, stir-fried and egg tarts, to name a few.
If you are feeling thirsty, you can try herbal tea or soy milk drink. The stalls are easy to spot because you can see the queue and locate right in the center of Petaling Street. If you are looking for desserts or snacks, try one of the Muah Chee with various fruit flavors (steamed sticky dough coated with sugar and crushed roasted peanuts).
Getting There: Get off at Pasar Seni Station on the LRT Kelana Jaya Line or MRT Sungai Buloh/ Kajang Line. You can also take the free Purple GOKL City Bus, get off and walk 100m along Jalan Hang Lekir.
Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 9 pm
Go window-shopping at Bukit Bntang
Bukit Bintang or Bintang Walk is located at KL’s Golden Triangle and is packed with modern shopping malls that sell all kinds of Asian and international brands.
The Bintang Walk is the spot to shop until you drop with a countless number of stores in every shopping complex, all lined up next to each other:
- Pavilion (a luxury mall with huge food court Food Republic on the lower ground floor)
- Starhill Gallery (high-end expensive brands)
- Fahrenheit 88
- Lot 10 (mostly Asian fashion and an underground Chinese food court)
- Sungei Wang
- Low Yat Plaza (electronic items and gadgets)
- Berjaya Times Square (mid-range products and cheap items that you can and can’t think of)
Lot 10 is an Asian-theme shopping center that has a huge Don Don Donki department store selling Japanese snacks, fresh sushi, drinks, and cosmetic products, as well as an underground Chinese food court where you can sample Hong Kong and Malaysian food.
Getting There: Get off at Bukit Bintang Station along MRT Sungai Buloh/ Kajang Line or Bukit Bintang Monorail Station. You can also ride on the free Blue, Purple and Green GoKL City Buses and KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus and alight at Bukit Bintang Stop.
Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 10 pm
The best shopping malls located outside the city center are Mid Valley and the Garden (near Bangsar Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line) and 1 Utama Shopping Center (at Bandar Utama Station along the MRT Sungai Buloh/ Kajang Line) which claimed to be the largest mall in term of its size.
View the National Palace
The National Palace (Istana Negara) is the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the monarch of Malaysia. It is about 25 minutes drive from the city center. This majestic palace was completed in 2011 with the cost of RM812 million to build.
You can only admire the beautiful exterior of the palace from the front gate of the palace. It has a total of 22 domes with the main dome reaching up to 60 m designed after a betel leaf which is commonly presented at Malay weddings.
The National Palace has one thing in common with Buckingham Palace that makes it also a must-visit attraction for the same reason. You can catch the changing of horse guard at 1.30 pm
There is a guardhouse for members of the Royal Malay Regiment at the main entrance and two guards will stand on their post on each side of the gate. I was lucky enough to watch the changing guards, but it was overcrowded
Getting There: You can come here by the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus or take a ride with Grab car or MyCar which takes about 25 minutes (Inform the driver to take you to the National Palace in Jalan Tunku Abdul Halim (formerly known as Jalan Duta and do not be confused with the old palace in Jalan Istana).
Visit Thean Hou Temple
The colorful Chinese Buddhist Thean Hou Temple is located on the top of the hill with amazing views of Kuala Lumpur city. It is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. It is built by the Hainanese people who descended from China and is dedicated to Thean Hou, the sea goddess who protects and watches over the fishermen who go out to the ocean. The statue is located on the 3rd floor of the main temple together with the goddess of water (Shuiwei Shengniang) on the left side and the goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) on the right side. There are also some smaller Buddha statues.
Take the time to wander around the temple ground and appreciate the unique design structure that combines traditional and contemporary styles with cravings and murals. Red lanterns are hang from the edges of the rooftops and across the temple complex. It is one of the favorite places for pre-wedding photography and Chinese devotees come here to make their offerings to bring good luck and prosperity during Chinese New Year.
Getting There: Take the train to Bangsar Station along the LRT Kelana Jaya Line and take a ride to Thean Tau Temple with an e-hailing car.
Opening Hours: Daily 8 am to 10 pm
Entrance fee: Free, donation is most welcome to help maintain the temple.
Visit Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple here. This Hindu shrine was originally founded in 1873 by Pillai family as a private shrine before it opened its doors to the public in the late 1920s. It is named after Mariamman, the South Indian mother goddess also known as Parvatti.
Step into the 23-meters tall entrance to explore the shrine and admire the colorful statue of Hindu gods that were sculptured by artists from southern India. It is usually packed on Deepavali, the festive of lights, to offer their prayers on a holy day.
Climb up Batu Caves
Situated 13 km away from Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India and is dedicated to a Hindu deity, Lord Murugan. When arriving at the foot of the temple, you will be greeted by the world’s tallest 42.7-meter tall Murugan statue, which is made from 1,550 cubic meters of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars, and used 300 liters of gold paint.
Slowly climb up the 272 colorful steps to visit the shrines, view the rock formation, and enjoy the beautiful KL landscapes. The caves is also home to different native plants, long-tailed macaques, several species of bats, and spiders. A Hindu festival called Thaipusam is held every year and you can witness the devotees walking a great distance from Sri Mahamariamman Temple to the top of shrine at the wee hours to perform their prayer and ritual.
Tips: Do wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders. Also, wear comfortable shoes to climb 272 steps. Remember to bring water or buy some before heading up the temple.
Getting Here: Take a 30-minutes train ride from KL Sentral to Batu Caves along No. 1 KTM Seremban Line train. You can also take an e-hailing car to the temple.
Opening Hours: Daily, 8 am to 8.30 pm. Do watch out for the Thaipusam festival, which usually falls in January and the temple will be overcrowded
Entrance fee: Free
Dine-in at Jalan Alor
Craving for more Malaysian food? Or have a strong appetite for dinner? Then look not further.
Make your way to the most famous street food of KL, Jalan Alor. Travelers will flock here during the dusk to indulge themselves with delicious local food. Once the sun begins to set, the scene here will be totally different as it will transform into a bustling nightlife. There are plenty of restaurants that served seafood, stir-fried dishes, and Chinese Sze Chuan food.
If you are here on a budget, an open-air restaurant called Restoran Dragon View is highly recommended. You can taste a diverse range of food without breaking your bank because the price is affordable. Hawkers here sell smoky-flavored satay, oyster egg, Hainanese chicken rice, fried koey teow, roasted barbecue pork, and prawn noodles (to name a few). Also save your tummy for mouth-watering desserts: ABC, cendol, and ice kacang.
So by now, you should know why Kuala Lumpur (or Malaysia) is called a food paradise.
Opening hours: Hawker stalls start to open at 6 pm onward until midnight
- Avoid traveling by bus or taxi and use the train between 7 am and 9 am and 5 pm and 7 pm because these are the peak hours before and after work.
- Don’t carry too much cash at once on the street. Snatch thieves and robbery can be very common, especially in tourist spots.
- Remember to dress modestly as a sign of respect to other religions, regardless if you are visiting mosques, temples, or churches.
Going Elsewhere in Malaysia?
If you are planning to stay longer for more adventures in Malaysia, you can check out my other posts:
- Cameron Highlands
- Johor Bharu
- Tioman Island
- Kota Bharu
- Kuala Terengganu