A juxtaposition of old and new, Kuala Lumpur is bursting at the seams with charming monuments, glitzy skyscrapers and a world-class culinary scene.
Travel junkies, we’re finally seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel. The borders are opening up to more destinations and soon, travelling to our favourite destinations will be way easier (without the need for VTLs from 1 April 2022). But maybe you’re not ready to travel too far yet. How about booking a flight to Kuala Lumpur?
You already know KL for its lip-smackin’ good food, but this modern city has more to offer than roadside chow and glitzy shopping malls. From traditional arts to kampung life in the heart of town, KL is a hub of activity that’s always worth a weekend gander. We’ve handpicked a list of top things to do in the mega capital of Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur travel guide: Attractions and things to do
1. Batu Caves
The marvellous Batu Caves are located outside of KL, but it’ll be a crime to miss this. Feast your eyes on magnificent caves filled with limestone cliffs and cave temples. The place serves as a pilgrimage site for Hindu devotees during Thaipusam with a procession that ends at the top of the colourful 272-step stairway. The massive statue of Lord Murugan is also quite a sight to behold.
Batu Caves, Gombak, 68100 Selangor, Malaysia
2. Masjid Jamek
Visit KL’s oldest mosque (built in 1909), Masjid Jamek, and be bowled over by its quiet grace and beauty. The mosque is known for its unique Moorish and Indo-Saracenic design.
Masjid Jamek, Jalan Tun Perak, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3. Sky Deck at Kuala Lumpur Tower
Sure, it can be a hotspot for tourists but this sky deck located 300 metres above the ground is probably the best spot to view KL’s cityscape in all its glory. If you’re comfortable with heights, queue up for the skybox, a glass pod that extends out from the Sky Deck ledge.
Sky Deck at Kuala Lumpur Tower, Menara Kuala Lumpur No. 2 Jalan Punchak Off, Jalan P. Ramlee, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
4. Little India Brickfields
Unlike Singapore, KL is home to various enclaves that are populated by the Indian community. The biggest one is Little India Brickfields. Expect a colourful trail of decorated arches, banana leaf restaurants and textile, retail and flower shops. Hungry? Park yourself at Seni SattiSorru, Restoran Chat Masala, Dindigul Thalappakatti Restaurant or Mr Naan & Mrs Idly.
Little India Brickfields, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
5. Petaling Street
KL’s answer to Chinatown is gleaming with buzzing restaurants, street food stalls, small retail shops and even a flea market. You can definitely put your haggling skills to the test here. Of course, we foodies can’t ignore stalls like Sin Kiew Yee Shin Kee Beef Noodles, Restaurant Kim Lian Kee, Hon Kee Porridge Petaling Street and Merchant’s Lane.
Petaling Street, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur travel guide: Cafes and restaurants
6. LOKL Coffee Co
Add this to your cafe-hopping adventures and be treated to brunch with an Asian twist and excellent coffee picks. The usual suspects include Thai omelette breakfast, truffle croquet madame and smashed burger. You’ll get your fill of Western-style and local coffee here too, from cappuccino and latte to kopi.
LOKL Coffee Co, 30, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7. Wizards at Tribeca
This cafe has put a spell on us thanks to interesting dishes like matcha ravioli, shiitake truffle somen, unagi bao with kyuri and salted egg crumble, and seared foie gras with brioche. Enjoy your dishes at the lively spot with lots of natural lighting, green decor and an all-around chic vibe.
Wizards at Tribeca, 215, Jalan Imbi, Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
8. Jalan Alor Food Street
Jalan Alor is popular with both tourists and locals alike, a testament to the excellent food it puts out. This food strip serves quintessential Malaysian food at street prices. Don’t leave without having a meal at Wong Ah Wah Restaurant for succulent grilled BBQ chicken wings, satay, grilled stingray, cereal prawns and the whole shebang.
Jalan Alor Food Street, Jln Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
9. Fuego at Troika Sky Dining
Ascend 23 floors up to Fuego at Troika Sky Dining. The South American restaurant serves tapas, ceviche and grilled meat along with mezcal-filled cocktails that pack a punch. With a scrumptious feast on the table set against dreamy views of KL, you’ll wish the night never ends.
Fuego at Troika Sky Dining, Level 23A Tower B, The Troika, 19, Persiaran KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10. Restoran Muar
We received intel that this local favourite serves home-style cooking. Restaurant Muar has been around for ages and isn’t for fussy diners, but the service is incredibly friendly. The kailan – crispy, buttery and so umami-ish – is ridiculously good. And those eggs in kecap manis? *chef’s kiss*
Restoran Muar, No 6G, Tengkat Tong Shin, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, WP Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
11. Wong Ah Wah Roast Chicken Wings
This is a plastic chairs affair on the famous Jalan Alor food street, and is quite possibly the most famous chicken wing joint in KL. The sticky, smoky wings are some of the best in town. So it makes the list despite reports of dubious service and the guy smoking while flame-cooking those wings. We’ll turn a blind eye because it’s so damn good.
Wong Ah Wah Roast Chicken Wings, 1 Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
12. Bijan Bar & Restaurant Fine Malay Cuisine
Bijan is one of the few Malay fine dining places around. The food is unpretentious and delicious, paying close attention to traditional and modern flavours. Pick from a selection of kampung-style dishes like masak lemak ikan, ikan panggang and kerabu pucuk paku, or classics like rendang daging, cucur udang and ikan masak asam pedas.
Bijan Bar & Restaurant Fine Malay Cuisine, No 3 Jalan Ceylon, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
13. Tamarind Hill & Tamarind Springs
Yes, we have a Tamarind Hill here in Singapore but the KL branch is divine. Make your way up the paper lantern-lit steps to a swish, serene space in the city where Thai and Burmese cuisines rule. Ask for an outdoor table by the pool, and yes, you should go for the signature river lobster in Tamarind Hill spicy sauce. Perhaps even more charming is sister restaurant Tamarind Springs, which serves an extensive – and amazing – Indochinese menu. With its winding stone paths and traditional terrace house design surrounded by lush tropical greenery, this is one amazing dining experience you need to add to your list.
Tamarind Hill, 19A Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Tamarind Springs, Jalan 1 Taman Tun Abdul Razak, 68000 Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia
14. Village Park Restaurant
Nasi lemak needs no introduction, and neither does this eatery in Damansara. But we all know the best nasi lemak has to have a chicken leg that’s crazy crispy while still super juicy. Village Park nails it, and wins for its kickass sambal.
Village Park Restaurant; 5, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Believe the hype: the buzz around Nadodi’s modern South Indian menu is real. The fine dining restaurant adopts a concept of ‘nomadic cuisine’ that spans Tamil Nadu to Kerala and across to Sri Lanka. Chef de cuisine Sricharan Venkatesh is playful in his interpretations of childhood favourites, street foods from his hometown and regional dishes like you’ve never had before. In multicultural KL (the city of dosai and roti prata), this means familiar, comforting flavours arrive in unexpected – and spectacular – ways.
Nadodi, Lot 183, 1st Floor, Jalan Mayang, Off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur travel guide: Where to shop
16. Central Market (Pasar Seni)
First-timers in KL, head to the famous Central Market for some serious retail therapy – and we’re not taking about loots you can find in malls. Rummage through local handicrafts, textile, souvenirs and collectible treasures. Try to resist the vintage sunglasses and handbags – we all know good vintage goodies are like gold dust here in Singapore. Besides, who can resist a shot outside that baby blue art deco facade?
Central Market (Pasar Seni), Jalan Hang Kasturi, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
17. Batik Boutique
We love this independent boutique – and not just because it’s a fantastic social enterprise that works with local artisans and trains and employs women from low-income backgrounds. Check out the handmade shibori kimonos and beautiful batik homeware and accessories, from cushion covers and printed napkins to scarves and fun tote bags.
Batik Boutique, multiple locations including The Row and Desa Sri Hartamas
18. Riuh in the City
This is a monthly pop-up showcasing great local labels and independent design, so stalk Riuh in the City’s social media feeds and time your visit wisely so you can catch them at their next session! If you want to discover local talent and get into the modern street food scene, this is just your thing. In the meantime, there’s an online directory for you to locate some unique finds.
Riuh in the City, various locations around KL, follow them on IG for updates
19. Nala Designs
Set in a traditional house just off Jalan Kemuja, Nala Designs’ outlet at Kampung House doesn’t disappoint. You’ll spend far too long browsing fabrics, stationery and gorgeous homeware, fashion and accessories – and you’ll spend far too much on a haul to bring back to Singapore. If you’re hooked on the label, Nala Designs is available online or at the TheWYLDshop and Isetan Scotts.
Nala Designs, Kampung House, 18, Jalan Abdullah, 59000 Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
20. The Curiosity Shop
Got a soft spot for vintage furniture and homewares? The Curiosity Shop at the trendy Mont Kiara has a great selection of dining tables, chairs, lamps and more.
The Curiosity Shop, 1 Mont Kiara Mall, Level 2-12, No. 1, Jalan Kiara 1, Mont Kiara, Wilayah Persekutuan, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur travel guide: Where to stay
21. Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur
Right in the CBD near Petronas Towers, but with a peaceful garden view while you enjoy a buffet breakfast, Mandarin Oriental has that essential combo of great central location and luxe escape. Don’t we all love a five-star stay? You’ll appreciate that it’s also walking distance to Nadodi, so you can avoid that crazy traffic situation and arrive on time for your dinner booking. Grab a room with a view of the towers and take in the skyline by night.
Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
22. Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur
Now, this is an urban escape. Villa Samadhi is a serene little spot in the city you’ll appreciate after a hectic day of hopping from restaurant to cafe to market and back again. Think rustic resort vibes in the city. The property is under the same group as Tamarind Hill and Tamarind Spring restaurants, so you’ll enjoy a free shuttle service to your dining destinations. Foodies, this is the stay for you. And we have to say, the breakfasts are brilliant: the roti canai and nasi lemak are spot on.
Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur, 8, Jalan Madge, Taman U Thant, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
23. Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur
Luxe escape Banyan Tree is quite an urban oasis with stellar amenities – the swish rooftop bar Vertigo in the highest in the city. Of course, it’s all about the spa, and the signature treatment is dubbed the ‘Malaysian Bliss’, which involves an indulgent body scrub and Nusantara massage. There’s much to shout about the sanctuary suite, which includes a private pool overlooking the skyline.
Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur, 2 Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
24. The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur
The Majestic Hotel KL is centrally located right outside the major shopping belt so you can easily travel anywhere you want to go. It has a Majestic Wing (all colonial suites with no kids allowed) and a more modern Tower Wing for families. Make sure to try the fab hotel buffet – the dessert bar is sublime.
The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
25. Else Hotel
Need a respite from KL’s buzzing city life? Look no further than Else Hotel, opening in September 2022. Taking over the former Lee Rubber Building in the crux of Chinatown, the hotel beautifully embraces both old and new. All 49 rooms across the restored heritage building are furnished by independent, local and sustainable brands.
For a luxurious stay, pick the Else Suite, an expansive 84sqm retreat with a private balcony that stretches from the bedroom to the living area. You bet there’s a sweeping view of KL’s city skyline! They’ve got your dining covered too. Just make your way to Raw Kitchen Hall for a range of Asian to Mediterranean offers; or Yellow Fin Horse, an open-fire concept restaurant that offers international and Malaysian seafood over authentic flame cooking.
Else Hotel, 145, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, Wilayah Persekutuan, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, opens on 10 September 2022
Pack your bags and brace yourselves for an unforgettable adventure in Kuala Lumpur!