Kuala Lumpur: Main Sights
Easier to negotiate than Bangkok, less cosmopolitan than Singapore and more eclectic than Hanoi
Kuala Lumpur with its delightful mix of cross-cultural influences and traditions radiates an exciting and enticing charm. Discover the blend of the old world with modern skyscrapers. Kuala Lumpur sights will captivate your interest and keep you fascinated all day long.
Dataran Merdeka or Merdeka Square
The word Dataran means square and Merdeka means independence which is why Merdeka Square is a place of significance. It was the place when Malaysia’s first Prime Minister declared independence from Britain in 1957. It was here that the Union Jack was lowered and replaced with the flag of Malaysia. Now a 95 metre flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, stands proudly flying the flag of Malaysia. Merdeka Square is situated in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a Moorish architecture beauty which used to house several important government departments during the British administration. Besides the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, surrounding the square are also many buildings of historical interest, one of which is the Royal Selangor Club Complex, a Tudor Style building, built in 1890 and a place to watch a game of cricket on a Sunday afternoon. Situated on one end of the square are the National History Museum and the Memorial Library building dating back to 1909, St. Mary's Anglican cathedral, a Gothic style building which is more than a hundred years old and the impressive modern Dayabumi Complex. The Square is a venue where many events are held. The National Day celebrations and New Year countdown are some of the events held here. There is a big screen for live telecasts and a well maintained beautiful garden, terraces and fountains providing a good photo opportunity for visitors.
The Petronas Towers is a well known landmark in Kuala Lumpur and a symbolism of the city’s progress. It is the second tallest twin building in the world. The steel and glass facade is designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art. Visitors can go up to the Skybridge on the 41st and 42nd floor to get a good view of the city and experience an exhilarating ‘top of the world’ feeling. The Skybridge connects the two towers and it symbolises the gateway to the future. As only 1700 people are allowed on the Skybridge per day, free passes are given out on a first come first served basis. The Petronas Towers also house a shopping centre, restaurants and a petroleum museum with interactive exhibits. In the surrounding grounds of the towers KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) has beautifully landscaped gardens complete with a children’s playground, wading pool and fountains.
Old Railway Station
The Old Railway Station was designed by British architect A.B. Hubbock in 1886 and built in 1910. This heritage building is a fine adaptation of Moorish architecture. The arches, domes and minarets make the Old Railway Station in Kuala Lumpur one of the most photographed railway stations in the world. The best vantage point for photographs is from the building across the road also designed by the British architect. The Old Railway Station in Kuala Lumpur was extended in 1967 to make room for additional office space and the Heritage Station Hotel. In the 1980’s extensive renovation was carried out to provide air-conditioned comfort and modern facilities for rail passengers. The station was intricately renovated so as to preserve the station’s original design. Although the Old Railway Station only serves the suburbs and local commuter lines nowadays, this is a unique railway station, steeped in history and beautiful architecture and is well worth a visit.
The Masjid Jamek Bandaraya is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. It was built in 1909 by British architect A.B.Hubback, who sought inspiration from Moghul mosques in India. There are three domes that surround the prayer hall; the central dome is 21.3m (70 ft) high and is flanked by two lower domes. At the corners are two red and white striped minarets and a number of small chatris top the entrances and corners of the Mosque. Situated amongst palm trees and on the bank where two rivers, Klang and Gombak meet, Jamek Mosque provides a tranquil setting for prayer and contemplation. It is also at this very place where the history of Kuala Lumpur started. Masjid Jamek was the main mosque of Kuala Lumpur until 1965. Friday is the busiest time at the mosque and is probably not an ideal day to visit Jamek Mosque. Commonly referred to as the "Friday Mosque, the place is usually over crowded with people on Friday for their prayers. Visitors are advised to observe the rules of dressing and decorum which are listed at the entrance. They should be appropriately dressed. Suitable attire will be provided at the main entrance if required. The mosque is open to visitors except its main prayer hall where only Muslims are allowed to enter. Arms and legs must be covered and women must cover their hands too. Gowns are supplied free of charge and shoes must be taken off before entering.
Kuala Lumpur Tower
The Kuala Lumpur Tower, also known as Menara Kuala Lumpur stands prominently in the city skyline. The tower is used for communication purposes and has an antenna that reaches 421m (1,382ft) making this tower the fifth tallest building in the world. Visitors can enjoy the view of the city’s myriad architecture and lush greenery of Kuala Lumpur from the 335 metre high observation platform. Alternatively, you can have a 360 degree view of the city in the comfort of the Seri Angkasa Revolving Restaurant. Visitors to the Kuala Lumpur Tower will be amazed to know in the midst of concrete skyscrapers and modern buildings that they are not too far away from nature. The Bukit Nanas Forest reserve, also known as the ‘Green Lung’ of Kuala Lumpur city, is located just beside the Kuala Lumpur Tower. Escape into a concentration of ancient rainforest walking trails and explore the flora and fauna that is indigenous to Malaysia. Look out for colourful butterflies, insects, monkeys, squirrels and exotic birds in their natural habitat right in the midst of the city.
Malaysia’s National Museum is in Kuala Lumpur. The building is a palatial structure built in the style of Minangkabau architecture and is set amongst historical buildings and beautiful parkland. The National Museum in Kuala Lumpur consists of a large central main entrance hall that is flanked by two exhibition wings. The two large murals on the exterior of the exhibition wings depict the culture and customs of Malaysian and the historical episodes of the nation. The National Museum contain Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage and is the centre for imparting knowledge on the country’s historical past. Many exhibits are a reminder of Malaysia’s many influences: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Islamic and European. The National Museum in Kuala Lumpur has an impressive collection of artefacts on local history, culture and customs. Discover the art and handicraft of the different ethnic communities such as traditional Malay crafts such as kite designs, the art of shadow play and weaving. You will also learn about the indigenous flora and fauna of Malaysia, traditional Malay weapons and the transition of the Malaysian currencies in the National Museum. Examine the different wedding attire of the various races, musical instruments, and ceramics from the Ming dynasty.
The Lake Gardens lie in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and is a favourite rendezvous retreat for city dwellers. The garden is the brainchild of Alfred Venning, the British State Treasurer in the 1880’s. Visitors to the garden will never be tire of things to do. There are facilities for people who want to engage in activities such as jogging, walking and rowing. The Lake Garden is also a haven for nature lovers. There is the Bird Park which has the world’s biggest open aviary and home to more than 50 species of exotic birds. Follow the path inside the aviary and let nature overwhelm you with the colours it has endowed on its feathered counterparts. Only a stone's throw away from the Bird Park is the colourful and beautifully landscaped Butterfly Park. The park is home to over 6,000 butterflies from 120 species free to roam and fly in a simulated natural rainforest environment. You can learn about the life cycle and mating habit of the butterflies in the park. There is a nursery and breeding area, as well as an insect museum to enhance your knowledge about these beautiful creatures. There’s a wide variety of flowers, fruit trees and rare herbs essential to the diet and pollinating activities of the butterflies. The Kuala Lumpur Deer Park is another beautiful park located within the Lake Garden. The Deer Park is an area of well thought out landscape with lush trees and shrubs planted to ensure that the habitat is cooling and peaceful. The famous Malaysian rainforest mouse deer or Kancil can be seen roaming freely in the park. The mouse deer is the world’s smallest hoofed animal and a popular figure in local folklore due to its legendary wit.
Central Market in Kuala Lumpur is perhaps the best place to experience the multi cultural way of life in Malaysia. The stalls in Central Market are divided into zones with each zone featuring each race namely Lorong Melayu for Malays, Straits Chinese for Chinese and Lorong India for Indians. The stalls in Central Market sell Malaysian products such as handicrafts, art, kebaya, songket, batik and Malaysian cuisine. It was originally a wet market and is now a landmark for Malaysian culture and heritage. As you walk along the lanes in Central Market, you might get the chance to watch colourful Malaysian Traditional culture and arts events that are frequently held at the Central Market Outdoor Stage. The market also hosts different traditional festivals from each race such as Hari Raya Festival, Chinese New Year Festival, Deepavali Festival and Punjabi Festival. Besides traditional cultural events, you can also enjoy local contemporary arts.
The Batu Caves are situated 13 km (7 miles) north of the capital city Kuala Lumpur and were discovered in 1892. Batu Caves is a part of a grouping of caves formed out of limestone 400 million years ago. They consist of three main caves and a number of smaller ones. The Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave is the best known and biggest of the Batu caves. It is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Malaysia and is a popular tourist attraction. The ceiling of this cave is more than 100m above ground and is illuminated by daylight shining through holes in the ceiling. The temple cave holds a shrine of Lord Subramaniam, a Hindu deity and it is also filled with religious sculptures and artefacts. Climbing 272 steps to the temple cave can be quite a challenge but you will not be disappointed. Along the way, you will be greeted by long tailed-macaque monkeys. You can buy peanuts and bananas from the shops before your climb to feed the monkeys and perhaps grab a photo opportunity with them. However do be careful as the monkey could attempt to climb on you and grab your peanuts. Once a year, usually in the month of January or February, more than 800,000 Hindu devotees and visitors will head to Batu Caves for Thaipusam festival. Devotees carry kavadis, which are large, brightly decorated frameworks, combined with various metal hooks and skewers which are used to pierce the skin, cheeks and tongue as a way to show their penance or sacrifice. The procession starts on the evening before the Thaipusam festival at the Sri Mariamman Temple in the town centre of Kuala Lumpur. There is also a dark Cave below Temple Cave. This 2 km long cave contains a large number of endemic cave animals. As it is not open to the general public, permission is needed from the Malaysian Nature Society. The society makes two different tours daily and advance booking is necessary. There is the short tour which requires good shoes and physical fitness and the long tour which requires a change of clothes and shoes. After visiting the caves, visitors can also take a look at paintings depicting scenes from Hindu lore and statues of deities at the Art Gallery Cave which is located at the foot of the main staircase.