Talk to any Jakartan and they’ll tell you that the chaos of the Big Durian is a beautiful one. The best of Jakarta is the epitome of hi-low – from the perfect boutique hotel to the cheapest possible street bites. The vibrant capital has an exciting myriad of activities – a bustling city where you can grab a bespoke cocktail in the CBD, and then explore the streets for a late-night satay. Watch the video above for our take on the top things to do when you only have 24 hours in the Big Durian.
Stay at luxury residence The Gunawarman
Forget the usual hotel chains – feel right at home at The Gunawarman, a 35-room boutique hotel that is one of the most fashionable stays in the city (the space even displays artworks by Vogue illustrator Donald Roberston!). The design driven hotel has three floors, each with a different personality: White, Wood, and Mansard. The stylish rooms have a classic European feel, and are beautifully dressed with sleek custom made furnishings. The Gunawarman Suite is the largest in the building, with a separate luxe living room and free standing bathtub. Have breakfast at the lobby lounge, Sofia, which also attracts a cool crowd after sunset.
Start the day off with a local brew at Filosofi Kopi
For a jolting java to get things started, take a quick ride over to Filosofi Kopi, an eclectic coffee shop based on a popular book-turned-movie that coincidentally at the time of print was filming its sequel coming out later this year. Try their famous kopi tiwus from West Java served in the local tubruk style. Filosofi Kopi notably does not have any Wi-Fi, forcing you to actually ~gasp~ converse with your companion, a refreshing rule in a city that is always as on as Jakarta.
Explore the historical Kota Tua
For a different side of Jakarta, venture into Old Town Batavia, where a lot of Dutch colonial architecture still stands. There’s the bustling Fatahillah Square, where you can bike around on novelty bikes and take pictures with street buskers, but we recommend staying away from overcrowded tourist traps as most museums are actually underrun with nothing special to see. Instead, make your way to Gedung Olveh, a recently restored Dutch colonial building which now functions as a traditional tea house. Some weekends, you’ll even see a pop-up market where you can find crafts and knick-knacks made by the city’s young creativepreneurs.
Have an authentic Manadonese lunch at Sulawesi
Named after the island, Sulawesi serves authentic Manadonese food that locals love for its fresh seafood and extreme spiciness. The casual restaurant is definitely not for those who cannot handle the heat – Sulawesi has 15 different types of sambal on the menu! Eat your fill of grilled fish, lobster, and prawn, and make sure you try Manadonese delicacies like hot and sour soup and nasi goreng merah kepiting – Makassar’s famous red fried rice topped with crab meat. Delish. (This all pairs great with an ice cold Bintang if you’re starting the drink early.)
Nab unique Indonesian trinkets at KOI Gallery
KOI Gallery is a treasure chest of local gems, a shop where you can feast your eyes on everything from traditional daggers to wayang figurines, and batik throw pillows to hot pink Durian jars. Snag quirky souvenirs like prints with charming illustrations of Bintang beer and bajaj to always remind you of Jakarta.
For an afternoon snack, Martabakku Menteng is a must
If there is anything that visitors must try while in Jakarta, it is the unspeakably good martabak. This traditional snack comes in two forms: sweet and savoury. First-timers should definitely order up the traditional martabak manis, a thick, pancake-like sweet that is made cooked-to-order with globs of butter and topped with a generous serving of chocolate sprinkles and nuts. At Martabakku Menteng, you can also opt for gourmet versions with Nutella, melted cheese and nuts, and even a red velvet and Oreo base. Those whose tastebuds lean savoury should also try martabak telor, an omelette-like snack with your choice of topping that includes beef rendang, chicken, abon or cheese.
Get pampered with a view at The Westin’s Heavenly Spa
After a long day of sightseeing (and possibly sitting in traffic), you’re going to want to indulge in some R&R. Spa treatments (even the luxe ones) in Indonesia are always top-notch and at relatively wallet-friendly rates. The Westin’s Heavenly Spa is just the ticket. Their expert therapists have a gentle-loving touch that will leave you feeling refreshed in no time at all. At 50-storeys high, Heavenly Spa is the tallest spa in town, so while you’re enjoying that mood enhancing Balinese Coffee Scrub, you can also look out across the sprawling cityscape of Jakarta.
Have an Indonesian feast fit for royalty at Plataran Menteng
For upscale Indonesian cuisine, mosey on over to the heart of Menteng, where Plataran Menteng sits inside an elegant Dutch colonial house. You’ll be wowed from the second you enter, as its piece-de-resistence is its showstopping courtyard. With three-storeys to choose from, diners have their pick of private dining areas, a rooftop bar, and cigar room. Be sure to bring your appetite as Plataran serves a delicious range of Indonesian cuisine from all around the archipelago. Be sure to sample their Nasi Goreng Kemangi (green basil fried rice), gurame with mango and pomelo dressing and soft shell crab with salted duck egg.
Start the bar crawl al fresco at bART at Artotel
Nightlife is serious business in Jakarta, where Jakartans start off with a drink at dinner and end stumbling out of a super club at 5AM. Kick off the bar crawl at bART – Artotel’s snazzy al fresco rooftop bar, where bartenders are whipping up signature concoctions every night of the week.
Try Indonesian-inspired bespoke cocktails at Potato Head
Before there was the beach club, Three Buns, and Kaum, there was the OG Potato Head Jakarta, where you’ll find the best Indonesian-inspired tipples in town. Even after all these years, this cosy spot is still our default watering hole in the CBD as we can’t get enough of their Indonesian twist on classic cocktails. Our favourites include the Pandan Martini and PTT Mojito, but don’t just take our word for it – try it out for yourself.
End the night with a late-night street bite at Sate Taichan
If the mystery meat in nasi gila (literally translated as crazy rice) is too scary for you to fathom, try sate taichan instead. This relatively new roadside trend is a “healthier” option (as healthy as street food can be) that consists of grilled skinless chicken skewers that are generously seasoned and smothered in sambal, served with lontong (rice cakes). Spicy and oh-so-satisfying! You can find rows upon rows of sate taichan carts along Senayan – just pick the one with the biggest crowd and you’re golden.