Kuala Lumpur is undoubtedly one of the most visited destinations in Asia, Very famous destination, chances are that if you decide to visit Malaysia, your flight will land right here.
But not only. Kuala Lumpur is also an excellent stopover and one of the busiest, for flights that then go to other countries in Southeast Asia or even to Australia.
I visited it last year (2019) in occasion of Chinese New Year (Tuesday 5th February), and I spent a whole week there.
Dates of Chinese New Year celebrations vary between late January and early / mid February, depending on the year.
Whatever the purpose of your visit, whether it's a stopover, a stop on your Southeast Asia itinerary or a stopover, I've put together a list of all the things to see and do in this incredible city (in 2021).
Introduction to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur literally translated means "muddy confluence". Not the most attractive name for a city, is it? Its name derives from the fact that this incredibly modern metropolis is born among wild forests and often the air is humid and heavy.
In light of this, it is clear that "muddy confluence" is somehow quite a suitable definition.
The distinguishing feature of this city is its diversity. It is a city that Malaysians, Indians and Chinese proudly call "home": the local cuisine is a delicious blend of all three cultures.
In fact, Malaysia was conquered by the English, Dutch and Portuguese and each of them left a very distinctive mark, also and above all for what concerns religion: the official religion of the country is Islam, but you will also see hints of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.
Walk around the city and you will see i modern skyscrapers next to mosque in traditional Islamic design.
In my experience I have explored, had adventures and eaten a lot and can't wait to explore more of Malaysia. And you can find affordable hotels too, so rest assured your wallet will be pretty safe too.
From typical tourist destinations to well-traveled sights, here's my list of the best things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur.
1 - Petronas towers and the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center)
How not to name first the only and undisputed symbol of Kuala Lumpur? The Petronas Towers (this is the official website), the twin towers, you can see them everywhere, on blog articles, on google and on all social networks.
In short, you can't not know them, even if you've never been to Kuala Lumpur: their image is practically everywhere.
If you want to see them from the best point of view then go to KLCC Park, a 50 acre garden around the luxury shopping mall Suria Mall KLCC and it is one of the best places to see the Petronas Towers… even all the locals know it and if you ask them you will see that they will confirm what I am saying.
Regardless, KLCC Park is also a great place to stroll, especially in the afternoon when everyone is out enjoying the waterfalls, lakes, and ponds scattered around the park.
Even better are the fountain shows of the Symphony Lake in the evening.
Of course, you'll also want to climb the Petronas Towers, which are the tallest twin towers in the world!
You can buy Petronas Towers Observation Deck tickets - they cost RM80 and it's best to buy your ticket at least two weeks in advance, so be sure to book them if you want to include this activity in your KL layover.
Beware, that queues can be horribly long especially during the high season, on weekends or around sunset time, but you can work around this and save some time by purchasing a “Skip the Line” ticket.
However, I believe the neighbor KL Tower both a much better option for views of the Petronas Towers from its Skydeck and there are generally no queues.
- ☞ Click to view Skip-the-line ticket delivered directly to the hotel (the most sold and refundable up to 24 hours before)
- ☞ Click to view Skip-the-line ticket delivered directly to the hotel (cheaper but not refundable)
- ☞ Click to view KL Tower and Petronas combined ticket (with delivery directly to the hotel)
- ☞ Click to view Ticket for KL Tower and observation deck only
2 - Vivi l'Hari Raya a Kampung Baru
Head to the neighborhood of new village to explore the cultural and historical center of KL which is unlike anywhere else in the city. You will see some of the last remaining traditional Malay houses in the city alongside the modern skyscrapers, which is quite interesting.
I was told that in the next few years, most of the traditional Malaysian houses will be shot down for new real estate projects, so if you're lucky enough to be in town before that happens, be sure to check it out and don't miss out on these last reminiscences of yesteryear.
And be sure to stop and try street food. This is a great place to experience local flavors without other tourists (and obviously without tourist prices) particularly during the days of theHoliday (Ramadan) when banquets full of food and sweets appear in the evening.
A very important holiday that is celebrated in Kampung Baru is the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the end of Ramadan, which in 2020 was held on 24, 25 and 26 May.
3 - Take a boat ride on the Selangor River
If like me you prefer nature to big cities, this is it an idea you might like.
There are few places in the world where you can experience the magic of synchronous fireflies (lots of these magical bugs that glow in unison).
It is such an enchanting sight, in fact, that when I heard that these particular fireflies that glow in sync are located just outside Kuala Lumpur, near the seaside village of Kuala Selangor, I decided to dedicate a day to see them.
The whole experience, by boat in the silence, lasted about 20 minutes, and it was very nice to see the fireflies lighting up the mangroves in unison. If you want to get out of the busy city and see a small fishing village and Mother Nature at its best, this could be a nice addition to your visit to Kuala Lumpur.
How to do it without an organized tour:
I honestly didn't find much information about this online.
We considered the idea of take public transport, but the last bus of the day to KL leaves Selangor around 18pm, which makes it impossible to see the fireflies.
One choice would be taxi or Uber.Generally it is much better to take a tour like this which includes giro in barca, le Batu Caves (see later) e a seafood dinner in the fishing village of Kuala Selangor.
La gita in Kuala Selangor it lasts just over an hour and if you stop even at Monkey Hill and have a seafood dinner, expect the excursion to last about 5 hours in total.
4 – Batu Caves
Deep in a limestone mountain, just outside the city of Kuala Lumpur, is a cave. More than a cave, it is actually a huge natural cathedral with walls that extend almost to the sky, with birds flying high and wild monkeys running up and down the cliffs.
These are the Batu caves, the most important Hindu temple outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan, an Indian deity. In fact, the caves that house the Hindu cave temples are 5.
These caves are also where theKL's amazing Thaipusam festival.
To the left of the stairs is the world's tallest statue of Lord Murugan (43 meters tall), which shines so much in the sun that you have to wear glasses to look at it.
The statue was an ambitious and expensive project:
Cost: about 24 million rupees (392 US dollars)
Composed of: 1550 cubic meters of concrete and 250 tons of steel bars
Golden paint: 300 liters
All materials they were brought from Thailand
The Batu Caves have become a place of pilgrimage not just for Malay Hindus, but for Hindus around the world from countries like India, Australia and Singapore.
We loved the Batu Caves and it is definitely one of the highlights of Kuala Lumpur. But be prepared to climb 272 steps to get to the cave… a good exercise!
At the top, enter and climb a shorter flight of stairs, which leads to a series of Hindu statues and shrines. There are lights inside and a large opening that lets in natural light, so you don't need to carry a flashlight or anything.
Where are: 13 km a nord in Kuala Lumpur, in Malesia
How to get: take the no. 1 KTM Seremban Line station to Batu Caves (30 minutes by train from KL Sentral station)
How much: free
Opening time: the temple cave is open from 08:00 to 20:30
What to wear: you must wear clothes that cover the knees and shoulders. Wear comfortable shoes to climb 272 steps! Remember to bring water (or buy it ashore before starting to climb).
Dispassionate advice: avoid taking a taxi, as they are known to take you a long way. This happened to us, and our rate was more than triple what it should have been.
- ☞ Click to view Organized tour to the Batu Caves with hotel transfer (only 13 euros!)
5 - See the Museum of Islamic Arts and the National Mosque
Located right next to the Perdana Botanical Gardens, another wonderful green space in KL, la National Mosque and Museum of Islamic Arts (IAMM) they are a great way to spend a few hours especially when it rains.
Il Museum of Islamic Arts showcases incredible examples of Islamic art and crafts through the ages, with galleries housing textiles, pottery, armor and weapons, metalwork and more.
Whether or not you have a specific interest in Islamic arts, this museum is worth a visit for its beautiful architecture, large bright spaces, and the fact that it is not overrun with tour groups. Admission is a bargain at just RM14.
Right next to the Museum you will find the National Mosque, built in 1965 and a real sight with its glistening marble floor, colonnaded foyers and large prayer hall. Admission is free but not allowed during prayer hours - visit in the morning from 9 to 12 to make sure you find it open and avoid Fridays when it's crowded with worshipers.
6 - Melawati Hill (Monkey Hill)
I am very torn on the Monkey Hill. Most tour groups stop here on the tour to see the fireflies.
We didn't actually intend to go there, but our driver told us halfway through the ride that we would stop at Melawati Hill to see monkeys (with which I generally have a bad relationship).
Note of responsible travel: It's always best to avoid feeding wild animals and so places like this I don't really like at all, but since we were there, I put my heart in peace and watched the monkeys.
Honestly, I enjoyed seeing the monkeys, but seeing the tourists feeding them made me deeply uncomfortable. I would not recommend going there, but if you are planning to see fireflies in Kuala Selangor this stop is sometimes included in the tour.
7 - Explore a real forest at FRIM!
If you decide to spend a few days in Kuala Lumpur you will also have time to visit theForest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) after going to the Batu Caves, as the two attractions are only a 10 minute drive from each other.
There is no public transport to the FRIM but if you decide to go there and take a taxi from the Batu Caves, be careful not to get fooled.
FRIM is one government forest reserve of 500 acres, which allows visitors to experience the beauty and biodiversity of Malaysia's rainforests without having to leave the city.
This is not just a city park - you will find old trees, a river, trails, an area with traditional houses and even a walkway, the highlight of the FRIM for most visitors.
8 - Walk on the suspension bridges of KL Forest Eco Park
located in forest in Bukit Nanas, the eco-park was created to preserve the natural environment and forest in the center of Kuala Lumpur. Think of a real jungle set in a concrete jungle.
There are apparently free animals, such as monkeys, on the reserve. However, when we visited, we didn't see one.
You have to walk up and down the stairs to get to the top. Overall it took about 30-45 minutes to complete the walk, including photo breaks!
What to wear: wear comfortable walking shoes and something breathable, as you have to climb and in the oppressive humid heat, you sweat a lot. Bring Bug Spray: You're surrounded by lush green forest so there are mosquitoes.
Visiting hours: from 7:00 to 18:00 every day including weekends and holidays.
9 - Laugh the night at Crackhouse Comedy Club
If you are looking for a fun place, go to Crackhouse Comedy Club. The shows are every Friday and Saturday night, as well as on Wednesdays. At only MYR 20 on a Wednesday this is a fairly affordable night, and the shows are in English.
This is my big regret, since we weren't able to go there (due to the timing), and will definitely put it on our list for our next visit to Kuala Lumpur.
10 - Have high tea
Being that Malaysia was colonized by Britain, it is not surprising that thetea time both a tradition that caught on with the Malay people and is still practiced today.
There are many places in the city where you can try high tea - complete with your favorite blend and a variety of treats and appetizers!
11 - Try Street Food
Malaysia is known for food, and let's just say this was one of the things we most expected. With Chinese, Indian and Malaysian options around the city, it's hard to stop eating in this country.
Interesting fact: Malaysia has the highest obesity rate in Southeast Asia, and I can see why! Everywhere you eat and find delicious dishes!
Where to find Street food:
The two places I read about online to find Street food are Hutong 10 e Jalan Alor. I'll say they both seemed much more tourist-oriented than locals-oriented, and the prices mirrored that.
Still, it's a fun place to try or grab a beer and the food is definitely good, even though the restaurants almost all offer the same menu.
You are looking for a food tour? the I recommend this one here on Getyourguide which in my opinion is very interesting as you will be accompanied by a local guide expert who will explain a lot of things to you.
If you want instead learn to cook a real Malaysian dish here you can find this tour with a tour of the market and cooking class with a local host!
Where the locals go: there are many other places that are frequented by locals, but one area in particular that we found we had a great choice was the street Jalan Raja Muda Musa in Kampung Baru. And unlike Jalan Alor Street, we were the only foreigners in sight.
But don't stare at eating here. A wise piece of advice we got about KL was this:
"Don't go too far to find a specific restaurant, because there are 10 equally good places on the road."
There is no shortage of great places to eat in this city. Just walk into a restaurant crowded with locals and you will probably have some good food!
What to taste, then?
Lemak rice: Known as Malaysia's national dish, this is worth a try (if you eat meat!). Soft coconut rice is served with traditional chili paste, fried chicken, hard-boiled (or fried) egg, and crispy anchovies. It is usually eaten for breakfast, but you can find it practically at any time of the day.
Putu Bamboo: We probably would have skipped it if we hadn't tasted it on our free walking tour. These tasty treats are made of rice flour, brown sugar, a pinch of salt and served with grated coconut. The green color is given by the pandan leaf. They are steamed in a hollowed-out piece of bamboo and are really delicious!
12 - Have a drink with a view at a rooftop bar
Kuala Lumpur certainly has no shortage of nightlife, and two popular places to enjoy a drink with a view are theHeli Lounge Bar and Sky Bar al Traders Hotel.
Visiting a sky bar is a very popular thing to do in Bangkok, and it has become an attraction for KL as well.
Budget Tip: If you're on a tight budget, try going to these bars during happy hour for the best drink prices.
Sky Bar al Traders Hotel: Daily specials from 11am to 00pm, Wednesday is "Ladies Night" and women can enjoy pre-selected cocktails for free from 21pm to 00pm
Heli Lounge Bar: Happy Hour every day from 7:00 to 21:00
No Black Tie: The bar at the top of Reggae Mansion, No Black Tie, is located just behind the pub street (Changkat). Live music tickets cost around RM50-RM100 and the price includes 1 drink of your choice.
13 - Shop at the Central Market
If you like markets, this is large and located in the center of the city. It's more of a tourist market than anything else, but it's still fun to try.
ll Central Market of Kuala Lumpur, Also known as Art market, includes several sections to reflect the various ethnic influences and backgrounds found in Malaysia, such as the Malay, Indian and Chinese areas which sell local products such as souvenirs and arts and crafts.
There is also a food court upstairs selling local delicacies and the area in front of the market is known for street performers and musical performances.
14 - Celebrate Independence at Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square it houses a giant Malaysian flag and a park, and is of particular importance to the Malay people as it is the symbol of the previous British occupation.
This is the place where the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, was lowered to hoist the Malaysian one, at the moment of independence, on August 31, 1957.
August 31st therefore marks the day on which the Federation of Malaysia gained independence from the United Kingdom and every year the national holiday of the Independence Day. The square is closed to traffic and the population goes there to see parades and events, until midnight, when the fireworks light up the sky.
The strong point of the square is however the art installation called “The Countdown Clock 2022”, which counts the time left to 2022.
It is a giant cascading "mushroom" that opens a crack when you stand in front of it.
You can then walk in it!
Note: the curtain opens only at certain times of the day. The hours of operation are from 9:00 to 12:00, from 14:00 to 17:00, from 19 to 21:00, from 21,30 to 24:00.
Opposite the square is one of the most beautiful buildings in Kuala Lumpur, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Indo-Saracen style.
15 - Visit Chinatown and Little India
The old city of Kuala Lumpur today Petaling Street and the surrounding blocks are known as the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, a swirling chaos of shops and stalls that come together to form a paradise for bargain hunters.
Fake designer items, low-cost prices (depending on your bargaining skills), and delicious old-world restaurants make this a great place to wander for half a day.
Brickfields, known as Little India, it is one of my favorite places in KL and the fact that it is right next to it KL Sentral makes it an ideal destination for a short layover in KL.
You can spend your time in Little India eating delicious vegetarian banana leaf meals, visiting colorful shops and visiting Hindu temples: the Brickfields Shivan Temple e Sri Kandaswamy Kovil they are right in the heart of the neighborhood.
You can also take a short walk or taxi ride to the beautiful Chinese temple Thean Hou, one of the best spots to watch the sunset in all of Kuala Lumpur (and where, during the Chinese New Year, the famous Lion Dance is held).
To get to Little India, take the subway to Kuala Sentral station and head south. After 5 minutes of walking, you will see a fountain and a street lined with permanent decorations. Follow that road (and the smells) and you'll be in Little India.
To get to Chinatown instead, find the Central Market and walk left (east on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) from the main entrance. After about 3 blocks, you will see the large sign marking the start of Jalan Petaling Street. This is the start of Chinatown and strangely it bears a strange resemblance to Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
16 - Empty your wallet in the Bukit Bintang Malls
Just a 20 minute walk from KLCC is located Bukit Bintang, the liveliest and most modern area of Kuala, where there are clubs and shopping centers, among which it is certainly worth mentioning the Pavilion.
The main street Jalan Bukit Bintang, is part of the so-called Golden Triangle in Kuala Lumpur, the center of entertainment and the commercial soul of the city (and which extends into the areas between Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Ampang, the northern part of Jalan Pudu and Jalan Tun Razak).
Here you will find luxury hotels and restaurants, night clubs and shops of all kinds.
17 - Visit the Butterfly and Bird Park
credit Nicoletta Anita Umlauft
A green addition to Kuala Lumpur is the KL Butterfly Park, a delightful insect greenhouse and museum created within a garden. Like the nearby KL Bird Park (below), this specialized small zoo uses an outdoor method to allow its inhabitants to roam freely in a natural habitat.
Il KL Bird Park it is home to 200 bird species from all over the world. Its free flight concept allows birds to fly (which they do if the weather isn't too hot). My favorites are the dancing flamingos and the chattering macaws.
And I was also chased by a herd of storks!
You can buy together tickets to the bird park and the butterfly park, together with the visit of the Orchid and Hibiscus Garden. For more information can be found here.
18 - Fotografa ilMyBalloonFiesta a Putraya
Putraya it is not located in Kuala Lumpur, but a few kilometers away and is called the city of the future, as it was built in 1990 to replace Kuala Lumpur as a government and administrative center.
Il MyBalloonFiesta (Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Party) is an annual event in Kuala Lumpur which is definitely a great opportunity to snap
It takes place in Desa Park City and is reminiscent of New York's Adirondack Hot Air Balloon festival. Expect to see plenty of teardrop shaped hot air balloons, as well as extravagant ones like Darth Vader head shaped ones, a cat, Doraemon, a clown, a pink elephant head, and even a giant peacock shaped one!