Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur (or KL for short) has developed from a peaceful, laid-back place to a fast-paced, cosmopolitan concrete jungle. But it’s still beautiful, even more so now. The people are always warm and friendly. And the food...well, the food is truly unbelievable. Here are some of the best things to do while in KL.

Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nasi lemak is a simple meal consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk, served with hard-boiled egg, fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, and sambal (a chili-based condiment). It’s eaten at breakfast and is usually sold wrapped in newspaper or brown paper, lined with banana leaves. You can find it in the mornings at almost any roadside stall around Kuala Lumpur. It’s probably the cheapest and quickest breakfast for people rushing off to work, but it’s not short on flavor.
The Durian is fondly known as the king of fruits in Southeast Asia. It’s a fruit that the locals love, but that many outsiders find to be an acquired taste. In fact, Andrew Zimmern, the presenter of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, (the guy who eats the world’s craziest and weirdest things) can’t stand durians. The name durian comes from the Malay word “duri,” which means “thorns.” Cutting open a durian is an art. You have to cut along certain lines created by the thorns, which are barely visible. If you get it wrong, it would be tough to open. Once cut, you use your palms to push apart the insides to reveal the yellow flesh. The smell of the durian is strong enough to make you salivate or faint, depending on which side of the fence you are on regarding it’s taste. If you’re ever in Malaysia, you must give it a try. Who knows? You could end up liking something that Andrew Zimmern himself can’t stomach!
Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Petaling Street is renowned for selling fake goods, everything from designer watches and bags to football jerseys and video games. Originally, the street was open to traffic, but it has since become an enclosed area, complete with transparent roof for protection against rain. Bargaining is the norm when buying, but nowadays stall owners have become so used to this ‘game’ that they’re reluctant to reduce their prices too low (like in the old days). Still, it’s a must visit if you’re in K.L. Even though it’s more crowded, it’s best to go at night when it’s cooler and there are more stalls. The top photo shows the main entrance to the street, and the bottom photo shows the view as you walk in.
Perdana, Jalan Lembah, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The largest collection of Islamic art in South East Asia can be found in the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. There are four floors, spread over 30,000 square meters. Two floors are designated for permanent collections, while galleries in the other floors are for temporary exhibitions. The museum has a lovely Middle Eastern restaurant and a wonderful gift shop. Not only can you buy souvenirs and books but also actual Islamic artefacts from around the world.
Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Right smack in the middle of K.L., beside the Twin Towers, is this little area consisting of tall trees. It’s at the corner of Jalan P. Ramlee and Jalan Pinang (“Jalan” here means street or road). I used to drive past this place all the time, but never noticed this little forest until recently. It’s a nice space to hang out if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the most iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur is the Sultan Abdul Samad building, located in front of Dataran Merdeka. It was built in the 1890s, and was named after the reigning Sultan at the time. The architecture of the building has a distinctive Moorish design, and the clock tower is like K.L.'s very own Big Ben. It was at Dataran Merdeka (or Independence Square), which the Sultan Abdul Samad building faces, that Malaysia’s independence from British rule was declared on August 31st, 1957. The building used to house the Federal Court, Court of Appeals, and High Court, but is now home to the Ministry of Information, Communications, and Culture. Malaysia’s Independence Day and New Year celebrations are often held here, with dazzling firework displays.
KL Bird Park, 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, Perdana Botanical Gardens, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Feathered Friends Photo Booth in the KL Bird Park gives you the rare opportunity to have your photo taken with some exotic birds. I had a go with my family and we were all very nervous having these birds perched on our arms and backs. We ended up having stiff poses and forced smiles but it was worth it! This lady who came in after us was very brave. She had seven birds on her!
Kampung Attap, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The old K.L. Railway Station on Sultan Hishamuddin Road used to be K.L.'s main station. At one time, it was the most important and busiest station in the whole of Malaysia. As a child, I remember feeling very excited when we went there to see relatives off or to board the train ourselves (which wasn’t very often). The station was built in 1910 and is an example of colonial-style architecture, heavily influenced by Moorish and Mughal designs. There used to be a famous hotel within the building called the Heritage Station Hotel. Sadly, it closed down a couple of years ago. The beauty of the building is what is seen on the outside. There is nothing extraordinary inside apart from a little railway museum. The station now serves only local commuter trains, and has lost its importance since the bigger and more modern K.L. Sentral Station was established not too far away in 2001.
Jalan Cendearawashi, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Located within the Lake Gardens, just across the road from the Bird Park, is the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Garden. There are approximately 800 species of orchids, spread over one hectare of land. Once you’re done walking around and admiring the flowers, pop into the nursery and buy some orchids to take home.
Lower Ground, Concourse Level, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the ‘must-dos’ for visitors to K.L. is to visit the Petronas Twin Towers. There are hourly sessions where you are taken up in groups, stopping first at the Skybridge on the 41st floor. The bridge links the two towers and is 170 meters above the ground. You’re given about 15 mins to walk about and take pictures. Then you’ll be taken up to the 86th floor, for one of the most commanding views in all of Southeast Asia.
Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
As Malaysia is a Muslim country, mosques can be found everywhere. One of the most famous mosques in K.L. is Masjid Negara (the National Mosque). It was built in 1965, and can accommodate some 15,000 worshippers. This photo is of the Mihrab. It’s a semicircular niche in the wall at the front of the mosque and it indicates the direction of Mecca, which is the direction that worshippers face when praying. The Imam (the one who leads the prayers) stands close to the Mihrab, and everyone else congregates in rows behind him. As can be seen here, the Mihrab is usually quite intricately designed and decorated with Islamic motifs.
11 Jalan Setiakasih
With a name like “The Bread Shop,” it stands to reason that the bread at this little establishment must be something special. And, sure enough, it is. This bakery cafe is located in the residential area of Bukit Damansara, hidden amidst a short row of shops. It’s far away from the malls and touristy areas. Still, when I went there with my wife for breakfast, the place was packed. The cheese and tomato toast pictured above was from a delicious multi-grain loaf. Another specialty of the bakery is their cranberry and walnut loaf. They also serve pastries and buns that are not commonly found at other places.
No. 2, Jalan Temerloh, Titiwangsa, 53200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For the best collection of Malaysian paintings and sculptures, the only place to go to is the National Visual Arts Gallery. It houses a vast collection, ranging from renown artists pioneering the Pop Art movement in the ‘50s right up to the grunge visual feasts of today’s up-and-coming talents. On the inside of the three-story building, the galleries can be visited by walking up a spiral slope, like a smaller version of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
3, Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
On the first and third Sundays of the month, certain streets in the middle of Kuala Lumpur are designated as “car free” from 7:00am to 9:00am. Not only can you find people from all walks of life cycling the streets of what are usually filled with traffic jams, but there are also those who rollerblade, skateboard, jog or simply walk. I’ve seen dads jogging while pushing their babies in strollers, guys in wheelchairs and even horse-drawn buggies. The atmosphere is made all the more fun with street musicians playing traditional instruments at certain sections along the route.
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