Kuala Lumpur is often a stop-over city for those setting off to explore Southeast Asia. Do not make this mistake! The Malay capital is a bustling city with fascinating history, beautiful sites, delicious food, and more to explore. It is a city that truly caters to all types of travelers. I was in KL for six days but easily could have spent two weeks discovering the city and surrounding areas. There are many more things I’d like to do in the city such as the canopy walk at the Forest Eco Park and visit the nearby blush Masjid Putra so I’ll have to go back soon! If you’re only in Kuala Lumpur for a quick stopover try to squeeze in as much as possible. Here are 8 awesome things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
REACH NEW HEIGHTS
KL is a major commerce hub in Southeast Asia and has the skyscrapers to prove it! The cover photo for this post was snapped from the rooftop infinity pool of The Face Hotel. Unfortunately, to take in these views you have to be a guest, they don’t even allow paid day use of the pool. But don’t worry, I know the best spot to get unobstructed views of the Petronas Twin Towers. SkyBar at the Traders Hotel, part of the Shangri-La group, isn’t just the best bar in the city, with creative cocktails, delicious food, a swimming pool, and awesome throwback tunes. It’s also one of the only places open to the public where you can view the twin towers in their entirety. I was invited to experience SkyBar at sunset and had an awesome poolside sunken booth. Arrive early, at least an hour before sunset, to take in views of the towers by light, and then stay late to see them by night. You’ll have a birds-eye perspective of the famous fountain show. To make things better they also have frequent happy hours and drink specials, so this is one view in KL that doesn’t have to break the bank.
BEHOLD THE PETRONAS TOWERS
Now that you’ve seen these beautiful paired buildings from above it’s time to go take it some different vistas. You can go to the top to the viewing platform of the Petronas Towers, a walkway between the towers. The landmark of the city was once the tallest building in the world. You can bask in its glory for free by strolling through the adjacent KLCC Park. Make time to see the towers by day, and again after dark. In the night they glow like crystals crushing the skyline. Their elongated pyramid-like shape actually reminded me of a Hindu Gopuram.
EXPLORE THE BATU CAVES
You probably recognize the massive golden Hindu Lord Murugan, Commander of War and Victory, that stands guard at the entrance of the Batu Caves. Its glistening 140-foot statuesque presences beckons to photographers from around the world to capture its powerful stance in all its glory. After you climb the 272 steps to the mouth of the cave you’ll be greeted by Hindu shrines and temples. If you’re lucky and it’s a clear day from here you’ll be able to see a sweeping view of the KL skyline. Before you pay your respects to the Gods take the stairs further up to the left to reserve a spot on the guided tour of the Dark Cave. The Batu Caves have only been a sacred spot for Hindu pilgrims for the last 100 years or so. But it’s been a popular spot for locals to collect guano (yep, bat poop). During your exploration of the Dark Cave, you’ll get to see the goop up close, and maybe even a massive centipede, or two. You’ll learn about the local animal life within the cave and listen to the flattering of bat wings in complete darkness, it’s an experience not to be missed. Watch out for the monkeys, they’ll steal your coconut!
PAMPER YOURSELF WITH A MASSAGE
Kuala Lumpur has no shortage of available spa services–from foot massage parlors, luxury hotel spas, and lovely day spas. Services may be slightly more expensive than other Asian countries such as India or Thailand but they’re still wildly affordable when compared to western rates for similar experiences. Balinese style massages are the most common but you can also find specific spas offering other sorts of rub downs. My absolute favorite indulgence in KL was Donna Spa. If you want to really submerge into a day of pampering there is no better place than this traditional Balinese spot in central KL.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER CHILD
By spending the afternoon playing at the KL Upside Down House. These amusing galleries are the newest form of entertainment in Malaysia and KL location is the tallest in the entire country. The quirky attraction is literally a two-story upside down home, there’s even an upside down Morris 1974 automobile at the entrance. Inside you’ll find a fully furnished home with a living room, kitchen, playroom, children’s room, restroom, and more. It’s located next to the Menara Tower and boasts an amazing view of the looming building.
EAT ALL THE STREET FOOD
If you’ve gone on the Food Tour Malaysia eating experience around KL then you already have a solid understanding of what dishes are what in KL. If you haven’t done the tour you seriously should, it will pave the way for good eats throughout your entire Malaysia trip. You probably also already know that Chinatown markets are a big tourist trap and that no locals will be seen eating there. You’ve likely been advised that Jalan Alor is another tourist trap. This street food mecca was located near our hotel and was open late so we ate dinner here most nights and were never disappointed. I found everything to be fresh and the prices to be much more reasonable than surrounding restaurants. Our favorite stall was towards the end of the street called Restoran Lim Kee–be sure to try the eggplant!
EXPLORE STREET ART AND TEMPLES IN CHINATOWN
Just don’t eat at the touristy Central Market Kuala Lumpur. Instead, visit traditional Chinese temples such as the Taoist Sin Sze Si Ya which was built in 1864 and is famous for fortune telling sticks or the Guan Di Taoist temple just down the road. Head further south down Jalan Tun H S Lee and you’ll end up at the Hindu Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. It’s the oldest temple in KL and is well known for its colorful Gopuram. On the northern edge of Chinatown, you’ll find the aburn Catherdral of St. John, the Masjid Jamek and the Masjid India.
But there’s a lot more to Chinatown than its various religious structures – although it’s very cool to see Hindu, Tao, Muslim and Christian houses of worship in the same small vicinity. The highlight for me was discovering unique murals and street art along the corridors of the neighborhood and endless strings of Chinese lanterns.
BE DAZZLED BY ARCHITECTURE
There are many fantastic buildings in KL–from futuristic blocks of buildings to sky scrappers but my favorites were the historic buildings lining Independence Square, locally called Dataran Merdeka. There’s a flagpole here that bestowed the first flag raising in Malaysia but I was much more intrigued by the magnificent buildings around the block. My favorite of which was the National Textiles Museum with its red and white stripes and picturesque towers. If you’re fascinated by design as I am you must visit the gallery, which is free of charge. A lot of the structures here have Moorish influence. The most noteworthy is the massive Sultan Abdul Samad building which was built in the 1800s as a government building but is often mistakingly coined as being the Sultan’s former palace. The copper dome and clock tower that houses at 1-ton bell are spectacular. Visit the KL Tower for sweeping views of the city.
Have you been to KL? What were your favorite activities! Tell us in the comments so other travelers can add them to this list of things to do when planning their Kuala Lumpur adventure.
Thank you to Sky Bar, Donna Spa, and Food Tour Malaysia for hosting me and making my KL experience so memorable. All opinions and photos are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.