by Farah Zamri in Lifestyle on 24th April, 2023
Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, I have a deep affection for this vibrant metropolis that I’m proud to call home. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly appreciated the city’s unique beauty and character. Upon returning to Malaysia, I made it my mission to explore all parts of the city I had overlooked. With so much to do and see in Kuala Lumpur, I have compiled the best attractions and experiences you can include in your next Kuala Lumpur travel itinerary, so you can fill your trip to Malaysia with wonderful memories!
Did you know that Kuala Lumpur literally translates to “Muddy confluence”? Once a small tin-mining town in the late 1800s, founded at the confluence of two rivers and derived its name from the Malay words for “muddy confluence”. The city has since evolved into a vibrant metropolis that is a confluence of diverse cultures and heritages. This is reflected in the city’s unique architecture, which ranges from pre-war buildings to British colonial structures and modern skyscrapers. Despite its colonial past, Kuala Lumpur or as the locals refer to it, KL, retains its unique cultural identity and diversity, reflected in the city’s food scene, attractions, languages, and traditions.
Kuala Lumpur offers a wide array of accommodation options to suit every preference and budget, ranging from cozy Airbnb apartments to luxury hotels and boutique stays.
If you’re searching for a unique accommodation experience in Kuala Lumpur, complete with halal food options, located in a conventional and safe area, here are some of my top recommendations:
The one and only luxury heritage hotel in Kuala Lumpur built in 1932 with classical colonial architecture that takes you back in time. While you are here, stop by their iconic botanical Orchid Conservatory for an afternoon tea- surrounded by over 1000 orchids from around the world!
Escape to Villa Samadhi, the only tropical resort located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. This rare gem offers a resort experience typically found outside of the city. For a truly luxurious and complete privacy, book The Loft room, which features a private pool overlooking the Kuala Lumpur skyline.
Located in the heart of the city, RuMa Hotel is a luxurious oasis that caters to families, offering a family-friendly atmosphere and spacious Family Studio option. Every room at RuMa Hotel has its own deep-soaking bathtubs with complimentary bath salts too!
KLoé Hotel is a new and trendy hotel with bespoke theme room experience designed by local artists & makers. There are 5 different artist lofts- Room to Draw, Room to Taste, Room to Listen, Room to Grow & Room to Read. Each loft is tailored with activities according to the theme!
Nestled in the historic Lee Rubber building in Chinatown, Else Kuala Lumpur is a newly opened luxury urban hotel. With only 49 suites, each room features soft palettes and curated art pieces by local artists, adding a touch of sophistication to your stay and the perfect setting for exploring the city’s history.
Discover the award-winning and affordability of The Chow Kit Hotel, a boutique hotel inspired by the rich local stories of the Chow Kit area. Immerse yourself in the retro vibe decor that reflects the history of Kuala Lumpur and indulge in local cuisine with a twist at The Kitchen and Bar, which features a halal menu.
MoMo’s is a cozy Japanese inspired budget friendly hotel located in The Chow Kit area. Instead of staying at a hostel where you have no privacy, MoMo is a better alternative, complete with your own private room, bathroom and a comfortable queen size bed!
Kuala Lumpur has so much more to offer beyond its famous KLCC landmark. Discover the perfect mix of cultural experience, nature sightseeing, and fun city exploration with the list of must-visit places below. From historic landmarks to lush gardens and serene lakes, here are my top recommended places to include in your Kuala Lumpur Itinerary:
The Islamic Arts Museums in Kuala Lumpur is one of the best museums I have ever been to, with 12 galleries holding Islamic artifacts from various regions such as the Malay world, China, North Africa, the Middle East, and India. You can also explore the museum’s impressive collection of Quranic manuscripts. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in Islamic arts and culture.
Near the Islamic Arts Museum is the biggest park in the city center of Kuala Lumpur. The Perdana Botanic Garden offers vast tropical rainforest greenery, herbs & spices garden, Heliconia garden and more! It’s a great park to go for a morning stroll or an afternoon picnic.
Chinatown is described as the old heart of Kuala Lumpur, known for its rich history of Petaling Street. Chinatown is pedestrian friendly in comparison to other parts of the city. It is best to walk around and admire the charming traditional shophouses dating back to the 19th century. While you are there, be sure to check out Kwai Chai Hong, a hidden alley behind shophouses. The alley is not only picturesque but also filled with interesting art installations made by local artists.
The Batu Cave is a popular Hindu shrine located among limestone hills, just north of Kuala Lumpur, and home to the world’s tallest 140-foot golden statues of Lord Murugan. Apart from its spiritual significance, Batu Cave showcases the awe-inspiring beauty of Malaysia’s natural heritage. Climbing the 272 stairs to the cave entrance is a must-do, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes! Beware of mischievous macaque monkeys when visiting, they are harmless and not a threat to visitors, but do watch out for your belongings as they may snatch food or drinks from you.
The Merdeka Square is an important historical landmark in Kuala Lumpur, this was where Malaya was declared independence from the British in 1897, and later became Malaysia in 1963. Around the square, you can sightsee colonial heritage architecture, The Sultan Samad building, and also visit the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (KLCG) nearby, where you can learn a brief history about the city for free!
Take an easy hike at Taman Tugu, a break from the city crowd and enjoy the tropical forest scenic trail. There are five trails in Taman Tugu that span around 1.6km each. You can relax at a local cafe near the entrance after your hike. I highly recommend coming during the weekdays to avoid the weekend crowd.
Taman Tugu Hike location: Google Maps
The Federal Territory Mosque, also known as Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, is a must-visit Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, known for its impressive modern Islamic architecture and serene atmosphere. The mosque’s design is influenced by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, with a mix of Ottoman and Malay architectural styles. You can also explore the beautifully manicured gardens and fountains around the mosque.
For a contemporary art experience, the Godown Art Center features a temporary exhibition showcasing Malaysian arts and architecture. There is no permanent exhibition, so it is best to stay updated on their website for the latest exhibits.
Experience a glimpse of traditional Malay village life preserved in the heart of the city at Kampung Baru. Immerse yourself in the slower-paced lifestyle, savor delicious Nasi Lemak from the local vendors, and admire the charming traditional Malay houses set against the backdrop of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. To enhance your experience, I highly recommend booking a walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide to learn more about the village’s history and experience the local hospitality!
In Malaysia, food is the love language shared by many, including myself. With a melting pot of cultures, Kuala Lumpur offers diverse cuisines that are bound to tantalize your taste buds.
Due to the large Muslim population in Malaysia, Halal food is easy to find around Kuala Lumpur. To be sure, you can look out for the Halal certified logo by the restaurant’s entrance or simply ask the staff. However, some restaurants may not have the Halal logo but still serve halal food. Look out for signs that say “No pork” as these indicate that the entire menu is halal. Keep in mind that some restaurants may not be Halal certified in Malaysia due to factors such as serving alcohol in their drink menu.
Just thinking about the places you must try in Kuala Lumpur got me excited! Get ready to indulge in some of the best Halal food the city has to offer with my top recommendations:
Indulge in a modern twist on traditional Malay cuisine at Malay Garden in Chinatown. Their menu features a mix of traditional and contemporary Malay dishes, and their Malaya Curry Laksa is a must try! If you are planning to come on a weekend, be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Savor traditional Indian banana leaf rice at Big Leaf BLR, served on fresh banana leaf with side dishes and curries that can be topped unlimited times. Must try dishes include mutton masala and their crispy fried squid, a perfect meal for lunch or dinner.
Finding authentic Chinese food that is Halal can be tricky in Kuala Lumpur. Yun House at Four Seasons Hotel checks both of these boxes. You can enjoy a delicious assortment of Dim Sum with a view overlooking KLCC! Highly recommend booking at least 2 weeks in advance!
Naj & Belle is a local cafe located at Bangsar, famous for its watermelon cake! It’s the perfect sweet treat under the tropical humid weather. Besides cake, you can try their delicious Asian Fusion dishes like the mouth-watering Crispy Skin Salmon and Nasi Daun Pisang.
Taste the love and care put into each meal at this restaurant serving traditional Malay cuisine, particularly food from Johor region. This local favorite restaurant offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian options too. The eccentric decoration of the restaurant tells the story of Chef Adu’s life, making it a truly unique experience. Be sure to book in advance to secure a table!
Connaught Night Market is the longest night market in KL, spanning approximately 2km, and has around 700 stalls varying from foods, vegetables, home goods, and more! It opens only once a week on Wednesday, from 6:30 PM – 11:30 PM.
This night market is more popular amongst the locals instead of the night market at Jalan Alor. You can spend the evening trying out a variety of affordable Halal food, be sure to bring some cash with you!
Connaught Night Market Location: Google Maps
You can find premium quality Halal Wagyu beef here at Kampai Yakiniku along with other delicious selections of Japanese food! The authentic Japanese ambiance will leave you feeling like you have been transported to Japan. This is a great place for dinner and reservation is highly recommended.
Enjoy the quintessential Malaysian breakfast experience at Luckin Kopi in Chinatown. This modern version of a kopitiam offers delicious coffee and a great menu selection for breakfast and lunch. Kopitiam is a local word combination for coffee and shop, in Malay and Hokkien. Luckin Kopi is a great kopitiam experience, especially if you are a coffee lover!
Besides food, Kuala Lumpur is also known for its vibrant shopping scenes. You can shop from upscale malls to bustling street markets. Depending on your shopping preference, I’ve curated a list of the best shopping destinations in Kuala Lumpur for you to indulge in some retail therapy while exploring the city.
Getting around the city center of Kuala Lumpur is both convenient and affordable, thanks to its extensive rail system. With 12 rail lines available, you can purchase a one-way ticket at any station’s machine or a Touch & Go card that can be topped up for multiple trips. The Touch & Go card can also be used for public buses, parking tickets at malls, and tolls on highways. You can purchase the Touch & Go at convenience stores such as 7-eleven.
In addition to public transport, e-hailing taxi services like Grab, Maxim, and InDriver are widely used in Malaysia. Downloading one of these apps is highly recommended when in Malaysia, it is hassle-free and convenient to move around the city.
Finding a prayer space in Kuala Lumpur is convenient. In addition to the three main mosques in the city center (Federal Territory Mosque, National Mosque & Masjid Jamek Mosque), you can easily find a local prayer hall (Surau) in your area. If you’re out and about, all large shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur offer prayer room facilities, making it easy to perform prayers while exploring the city.
Malaysia is a tropical country, expect humid weather all year round. These are some of the essentials I highly recommend including in your packing list:
It is important to be cautious and take necessary safety precautions while traveling in Kuala Lumpur. Be mindful of your belongings at all times, especially in crowded areas. Advisable to bring a small bag that you can place in front of you at all times.
When it comes to walking around, do stick to well-lit areas and avoid walking at night alone. Lastly, avoid unlicensed taxi services, only use taxi services from e-hailing or license-marked taxis in the city.
Malaysia Emergency Response Service hotline number: 999
Kuala Lumpur is a safe and enjoyable travel destination when taking necessary precautions. Locals are friendly and English is widely spoken here, making it easy to navigate around the city and interact with the local culture.
From its mouth-watering cuisine to its rich cultural history and Muslim-friendly environment, Kuala Lumpur can be a fun and unforgettable experience! I hope you find this guide useful and will consider adding Kuala Lumpur to your next holiday destination!
Farah is a travel freelance writer & designer based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Born in Malaysia, she also lived in Doha, Qatar and aspires to visit all continents. You can usually find her petting every cat she sees on the street. She dreams of owning a house in the mountains somewhere in Malaysia to host travelers and learners to promote sustainable design and living.