If you are looking for a place to relax, learn more about Asian culture, indulge in some amazing dishes and enjoy some drinks on rooftop bars, you need to visit Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s capital!
Malaysia is a beautiful country that hasn’t yet been overrun by tourists and has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This makes the local magic interesting and intriguing at the same time because of the combination of Malay, Indian, and Chinese culture blended together and reflected in Malaysia’s history, and landmarks.
I visited KL for only a couple of days, so I didn’t have time to see everything but my first reaction was, probably like everyone else’s, to stop and gaze at the Petronas Twin Towers’ presence, size, and very expensive surroundings. Thankfully, there is more to the city than just the towers, however it is a good starting point and you can see how the rest of the local landmarks are equally as impressive but with their own design and style.
Already thinking about the idea? Great! But first, before packing, you need to know what the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur are.
So, let’s find out what to do in Kuala Lumpur, what I recommend stopping by to see and what some of the most awesome activities to do in the city are, based on my trip!
NOTE: KL is the abbreviation for Kuala Lumpur, and KLCC is Kuala Lumpur City Center.
Here’s my list of top things to do in Kuala Lumpur that you shouldn’t miss:
- 1. Go up Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park
- 2. Climb Menara Kuala Lumpur TV Tower
- 3. Stroll around Merdeka Square
- 4. Visit Chinatown and Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- 5. Try the delicious local food
- 6. Do some shopping in KL
- 7. Join a KL sightseeing tour
- 8. Enjoy a drink with a rooftop view
- 9. Pay a visit to the National Mosque of Malaysia and Islamic Arts Museum
- 10. See the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
- 11. Leave the city and visit Batu Caves
- 12. See the impressive Thean Hou Temple
- BONUS 1: Things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids
- BONUS 2: Extra Things to do in KL
- BONUS 3: Day trips from Kuala Lumpur
- Useful information for your trip to Kuala Lumpur
1. Go up Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park
Did you know that the Petronas Towers were built using only Malaysian produced materials? Instead of steel, the architects used high-strength reinforced concrete specially designed for these towers.
One thing you will recognize is that KLCC or KL is written and used for everything, and as you guessed, it stands for Kuala Lumpur City Center and Kuala Lumpur respectively. It might seem obvious to you, but the first time I saw them, I did not understand what the acronyms were for!
The Petronas Twin Towers are two buildings with 88 floors, which were considered the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004. Their record was then beat by Taipei 101, then the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is twice its height. The building name is short for Petroliam Nasional Bhd, the local petroleum corporation, which has added to its portfolio as an oil and gas company present in 35 countries around the world.
The towers have a “bridge” between the 41st and 42nd floors known as the double-decker Sky Bridge. It is a glass platform that gives you a great view of the surroundings. All tickets include going up the towers, stopping at the Sky Bridge, and then heading over to the 88th floor where you get to the Observation Deck and basically see the city map at your feet!
The towers are primarily used as corporate headquarters. The Petronas Twin Towers not only offer a great view of the city up on the Sky Bridge and Observation Deck, but also have a mall right below the building, as well as Petronas Art Gallery and Petrosains Science Center which is an interactive science discovery center.
NOTE: Tickets to go up the towers are limited because only 1,000 people per day can enter. So, if you want to purchase tickets to climb up the towers and to the observation deck, the ticket office opens at 8:30AM; keep in mind many people get up at 6:30AM to wait in line to get tickets. You will need to wake up crazy early! Or, even better, buy your tickets online (and do so 2 weeks before at least!)
P.S. Since you are in the area anyway, I highly recommend also checking out the KLCC Park – a 50-acre garden surrounding the Petronas Twin Towers where there is a big children’s playground, a 1.3km jogging track, some benches, sculptures, and even a public children’s swimming pool.
OPENING HOURS: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9AM to 9PM. You can check the updated schedule here.
2. Climb Menara Kuala Lumpur TV Tower
Menara KL Tower is actually taller than the twin towers, giving an even more amazing view of KL and the Petronas Towers!
Menara, which means “tower” in Malay, has a viewing deck that’s 100 meters higher than the Petronas Twin Tower’s Skybridge. You can get a great view by day, and by night everything looks like an entirely different landscape with the whole sparkling city center. The Skybridge is made out of glass so you will be able to see it all and take amazing pictures!
Its primary purpose was to be used for communications infrastructure and its architecture was designed to reflect Malaysia’s Islamic heritage as it has Arabic scripts, Islamic tiles, and archetypal Islamic floral patterns.
On the upper floor there are three different viewing points for which you can pay individually or as a combination to visit. There is the indoor Observation Deck, the outdoor Sky Deck, and the Sky Box, which is a glass “box” that extends from the Sky Deck.
Another great way to see the fantastic view from KL TV tower is visiting on of the tower’s restaurants! We decided that sipping on a cocktail and enjoying the view is better than being in the crowd and opted for Atmosphere 360, a revolving restaurant.
The prices in Atmosphere 360, the revolving restaurant, start from 76MYR (~US $18) per person for an afternoon tea (you can stay for 2 hours and that is enough time to make the full circle and see the whole view of the city). We visited for lunch and there was a great choice of both local and international dishes, I can totally recommend it!
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9AM to 10PM. Check the updated opening hours here.
PRICE: 33 MYR (US $8) for the Observation Deck / 81 MYR (US $20) for Observation Deck + Sky Deck + Sky Box. These prices are from Klook which I found has much cheaper prices than the official website (where it would be 49 MYR just for Observation Deck), both individually and as a package.
3. Stroll around Merdeka Square
Merdeka Square, also known as Dataran Merdeka in Malay, is where the Malayan independence was declared. It holds one of the tallest flagpoles in the world with a height of 95 meters. During the British-rule era, the green lands were used as a Padang (field) for cricket. Around the Square you will find architecture reflecting Malay heritage such as Sultan Abdul Samad Building and St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral.
A great way to learn about the Merdeka Square’s history, the historic buildings around it, and main attractions (such as the National Museum and the Petronas Twin Towers) is by joining a tour. I recommend an organized tour – you can choose between joining a group or having a private tour around the city to learn the best facts about the attractions!
PRICE: starting 33 MYR (US $8) for the guided tour
4. Visit Chinatown and Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Chinatown is an area that pretty much never sleeps, colorful and slightly bigger and more glamorous than KLCC and Bukit Bintang. The Oriental culture and history is in every corner of Chinatown and it is also a perfect place to find great bargains, go for the best Chinese herbs or just stop to see some imitation goods.
By night, Petaling Street turns the entire city into a new place, more lively than during the day with a vibrant night market (Pasar Malam Petaling Street) and hundreds of stalls that have all kinds of foods at really cheap prices!
Here in Chinatown is where you can find Sri Mahamariamman Temple, probably the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, founded back in 1873!
Sri Mahamariamman Temple was created as a place for worship for all the early Indian immigrants and became part of their cultural and national heritage.
The extravagant decoration of the temple includes a mix of Spanish and Italian tiles and even some precious stones. While walking into the temple you will feel a sense of serenity from the cool floors and the positively charged air scented with flowers that transport you to a calm place.
Among the decorations you will find about 228 Hindu idols all placed in different scenes from the Ramayana!
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 6AM to 12PM and 4:30PM to 9PM
PRICE: Free to visit the temple (but visitors are encouraged to leave a small donation)
NOTE: You are not allowed to enter with shoes, so there is a place to store them for a few ringgits while visiting the temple.
5. Try the delicious local food
There are many options of places to eat in KL, whether you are looking for local traditional food or you’re in search of international dishes. Trying out some local food is definitely part of my list of what to do in KL, so here are some local dishes not to be missed, plus the best places to try each of them:
- Nasi Lemak – this is among the most traditional dishes in Malaysia! It’s basically rice cooked with coconut milk, usually served with eggs, fried fish, and some kind of curry. You need to try it so you can actually say you visited the country! Get the best nasi lemak at Charlie’s Café & Bakery.
- Ikan Bakar – this is grilled fish marinated in local spices, then wrapped in banana leaves and left to grill on charcoal. The dish is served with a side dish of hot rice, vegetables, and curry sauce. A great option for Ikan Bakar is at Kak Jat Ikan Bakar. You can also find one of the best dishes at Sambal Hijau Restaurant.
- Roti Canai – this is a type of fried bread with a clear flatbread Indian influence. The dough is made with wheat flour, butter, and oil to make it fluffy and it is fried perfectly golden, then served with curry sauce! It is a popular snack and a great way to calm your hunger; you can have it plain or even find it with fillings such as egg, onion, or cheese. Get your best roti canai at Valentine Roti!
- Char Kuey Teow – The local name means “stir-fried rice cake strips”, and they are a favorite not only in Malaysia but also in Singapore. This dish has rice noodles, garlic chives, eggs, bean sprouts, and shrimp as main ingredients. If you like spicy food, add some chili sauce to the mix. Find this dish at Mamu Penang Char Kuey Teow.
- Cendol – this is the most typical and popular dessert in KL! It looks like green worms but it’s really sweet noodles made with rice or bean flour mixed with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, all on top of shaved ice. Believe me, it sounds weird but the combination is pretty good, although a bit too much if you are not much of a sweet person. Try it at Grandmama’s.
And here are some restaurant recommendations on where to try these dishes:
- Grandmama’s is a nice, friendly and lively local restaurant found in the Pavilion Mall where you will find the most traditional flavors of Malaysia. Their dishes are only made with the best and freshest ingredients just like grandma would do in our homes. It is a great place to try out new and local food with friends and family, an ideal spot to relax.
- Tapak Street is a night street that has food and a night market, perfect to enjoy the rich and delicious local street food. There is no way of getting bored because they are constantly mixing up their food menu!
For a very different culinary experience, I recommend you go for the dining experience at Plane in the City; it is a fun and unique three-course dinner inside a Boeing 737 aircraft! As for dinner with city sky views, you can go over to Dinner in the Sky or Atmosphere 360.
6. Do some shopping in KL
There are so many shopping malls with a combination of budget and luxury brands that you will definitely want to stop by these, even if it is only for some window shopping! A general note is that most of the stores are open until 10 PM.
Now, here are the main shopping areas and malls I recommend you visit:
1. Suria KLCC and Pavilion Mall KLCC
If you love shopping or just like browsing around the stores, you should know that the best Kuala Lumpur shopping malls are Suria KLCC and Pavilion Mall. They are both located in the Bukit Bintang area and that is where you will find the fanciest and most chic brands ever!
Pavilion Mall is filled with haute couture shops and there is even white marble as part of its indoor and outdoor shopping stores! At the entrance you can also find the Crystal Fountain that is similar to Rome’s Trevi Fountain. You can toss your coins for a wish and these will be later collected and donated to charity.
Both options also have a good selection of restaurants and small food kiosks.
2. Central Market
Go over to the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur which is a brief walk over from Petaling Street to find a variety of handicraft and souvenir stalls, some authentic Malaysian batik prints, and more! The market is inside an art-deco style building with “Baroque” touches.
In other words, the Central Market KL is the core of Malaysian culture, arts and crafts in the city center! Plus, the history of the architectural building tells itself.
NOTE: Right next to the main Central Market building is the Kasturi Walk, an entirely pedestrian road that has even more stalls with local snacks and exquisite as well as unique souvenirs; you should check it out as well if you can!
3. Bukit Bintangis good for all budgets
It is the core of some of the most high-end brands located in malls such as Starhill Gallery, but it also has budget-friendly department retailers and indie labels. There is a great diversity of stores, products, and of course prices, to fit every customer’s wallet. Find everything you could think of, from the best cheap fashion finds to the latest technological gadgets!
4. Little India is good for cheap souvenirs
The district of Brickfields is also known as being Malaysia’s official Little India, a small residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur city center. In time, it has been transformed into a wide street filled with Indian stores and restaurants.
Here, you can find shops with everything related to traditional Indian goods, from saris and spices, to Bollywood music. It is also a perfect place where you can find cheap souvenirs!
7. Join a KL sightseeing tour
Most of my travels start with walking around the city or taking the hop-on hop-off bus. Why? Because it’s the best way to see a new destination and get to identify the main attractions. Since not all places are at a friendly walking distance I went for a KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus – perfect for Kuala Lumpur sightseeing!
There are two lines that take you around the most well-known Kuala Lumpur tourist spots. The red line stops at the main city center landmarks such as KL Tower, KLCC, and Aquaria, while the other line is mostly focused on the Gardens, which includes the National Palace, Merdeka Square, Bird Park, and more. To completely understand the stops, check your map before or during the bus ride and be sure to keep an eye on the clock so you manage to see all the sights you want!
You can ride during the day on the double-deck bus, or maybe decide to go on a night-time tour bus. If you are not keen on Hop On Hop Off bus tours, I recommend opting for this half-day private tour instead!
PRICE: 50 MYR (US $12) for 24 hours / 79 MYR (US $19) for 48 hours
8. Enjoy a drink with a rooftop view
An amazing fact in KL is the impressive and beautiful skyline you get of the city every night and you will not know how to get the best view. Because of this you will find many bars and restaurants up on the upper floor or with rooftop access so you can enjoy a meal while having an awesome view.
This activity is probably one of my favorites in the city!
1. Heli Lounge Bar
If you are wondering where to go in Kuala Lumpur for a drink with the best view this is one of my suggestions. I do recommend to arrive around 6 PM at the Heli Lounge Bar to secure your spot up at the helipad or at the lounge inside the building, on the 34th floor (two floors below the helipad).
The magic of the Heli Lounge Bar is the 360-view on an entirely open and airy terrace, which surprisingly is used as a helipad by day.
NOTE: You must consider that there are no rails or walls, so not recommended if you have a fear of heights, unless you like me are willing to overcome your greatest fears for this view! 🙂
If you go closer to the opening time, you will have no problem grabbing a seat and enjoying the sunset, while waiting for the place to be filled with the crowds. It is a stop worth making because of the great view and the calm environment – a perfect combination different from the classic tourist activities!
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 5PM to 1AM
NOTE 2: If it is raining the helipad will be closed, but don’t lose hope, stay inside enjoying some snacks or a beverage, and as soon as the rain stops you’ll get your chance to climb!
2. Sky Bar
My other top recommendation is heading over to Sky Bar! This one is a fancier cocktail lounge on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel. This location has more of a nightclub vibe so you can enjoy the city view while sitting at a “cabana”, sofa, or high tables around the SkyBar pool.
The local DJs will spin the night with some techno music, jazz, easy listening, and even modern pop hits on different nights, but not so loud that you can’t hear your friends’ conversation.
PRO TIP: The best bar deals are with their Retro Happy Hour which is on Mondays and Tuesdays.
OPENING HOURS: Mondays to Saturdays from 10AM to 1AM. You can check the updated opening hours here.
If this is not enough, here are some other great rooftop bars in the city:
- Marini’s On 57 | Rooftop Bar, Italian Restaurant & Whisky Lounge
- Canopy Rooftop Bar
- Fuego, Troika Sky Dining
By the way, you can find more information on the nightlife in KL in the bonus section below!
9. Pay a visit to the National Mosque of Malaysia and Islamic Arts Museum
1) National Mosque of Malaysia, also known as Masjid Negara Mosque is a great Islamic symbol that has a main prayer hall with 48 smaller domes around it. The inside has many abstract shapes and a geometric lattice on the roofing and ironworks, as well as a capacity of fitting up to 15,000 people. Among the most impressive sights of the Mosque are the Grand Hall decorations that have verses of the Koran written along the walls.
Part of the architectural beauty of the Mosque is the main dome with a contemporary-styled star with 18 points; these represent the 13 Malaysian states and the five pillars of Islam.
NOTE: If you want to visit the inside of the Mosque, know that it can only be when prayers are over and you must be appropriately dressed, meaning no sleeveless shirts or shorts. In case you don’t have appropriate clothes, you can borrow robes and headscarves at the entrance.
OPENING HOURS: Saturday to Thursday from 9AM – 11PM, Fridays from 2:45AM to 6PM. Check the updated schedule here.
2) Less than a 5-minute walk from the National Mosque you can find the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, featured as one of the most popular Kuala Lumpur attractions!
In the Museum you will find a large collection of Islamic decorative arts and an impressive architectural building with a blue-turquoise dome! There are about 7,000 artifacts and there are permanent galleries on the higher floors with themes such as the Quran & Manuscripts, Malay world and textiles, coins and seals.
The Museum also has extra rooms with activities like a children’s library, a storytelling session every Saturday, and arts-and-craft lessons.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9:30AM to 6PM. Check the updated schedule here.
PRICE: 14 MYR (US $3.40) per person. Purchase tickets at the Museum entrance.
10. See the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Sultan Abdul Samad Building is located in Merdeka Square (no. 3 in the list above) and it was built to serve as the secretariat of the colonial British administration; then it housed the superior Malaysian courts before they all moved to Putrajaya.
Although most visitors just admire the building exterior, you can also visit the inside for free. There are currently no formal guided tours offered but you can still ask at the tourist center information location, maybe it has changed since I was there.
OPENING HOURS: All-day
11. Leave the city and visit Batu Caves
As part of the most important places of interest in Kuala Lumpur, going to Batu Caves is a total must-do!
Batu Caves are actually limestone hills with many caves and cave temples located in Gombak. Gombak is a district up north from Kuala Lumpur, only a 20-minute drive away.
Batu Caves hold a 100-year old temple that has many idols and statues inside and around the cave. The decorations include additional limestone formations on the inside that are more than 400 million years old. You can follow the colorful steps (272) until you reach the heart of Batu Cave. As part of the Batu Caves you have the Cathedral Cave, which has many Hindu shrines under its 100-meter-high arched ceiling.
HOW TO GET THERE: The best and easiest way to get to the Batu Caves from KL is by train. Take the KTM Komuter from KL Sentral and you will arrive at Batu Caves Station in about 40 minutes and for no more than 2 MYR (US $0.50) one way, or 4 MYR (US $1) for a round trip ticket.
If you don’t want to deal with using public transportation and would like to learn the history of the place from a qualified guide, taking a tour would be your best option! I recommend you go for this Batu Caves and Suburbs tour where you will not only get to see and climb the Batu Caves themselves, but you will learn how the ceremonial pewter is made at Royal Selangor Pewter.
You can also pay a bit more for a private tour for a personal guide and driver around the lands!
PRICE: Free entrance for the Batu caves / 42 MYR (US $10) per person for an organized tour
12. See the impressive Thean Hou Temple
Thean Hou Temple is a large structure with more than six tiers and although it may look old because of the decorative facade, up close you can see some modern influences. The temple was used to worship Tian Hou, the Goddess who protected the fishermen, and Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Around the temple lands there is also a Chinese medicinal herb garden, a Boddhi tree, and a lovely tortoise pond.
BONUS 1: Things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids
The section below is obviously not only just for if you are traveling with kids because it can also be a lot of fun (a lot!) if you are traveling solo or as a group of adults. However I am giving it a special section and will call it “for kids” (but we both know who it actually is for ;)):
1. Visit the local Bird Park
KL Bird Park also known as Taman Burung Kuala Lumpur in Malay, is an area of about 21 acres where more than 3,000 birds live. It receives over 200,000 visitors each year that go to see the more than 200 species of birds, 90% of them local.
The bird park is divided into four areas and it can take you about 3 hours to see them all. You can even get the chance to stop by during feeding times to see the birds up close!
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9 AM to 6 PM. View the updated opening hours here.
NOTE: If you want to visit the Butterfly Park and Bird Park as part of an organized tour that will explain each park’s secrets, I recommend you go for a group tour that includes both parks. You will learn a lot of interesting things and you will be able to ask as many questions as you want.
If you want a private tour instead, you will be best off with this 3.5hr-private tour around the parks.
2. See more animals at Aquaria KLCC
Aquaria is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia where you can see tiger sharks, stingrays, tiny seahorses, and more!
Aquaria KLCC (built beneath KL Convention Center) has two levels with an underwater tunnel in which you will find about 250 species of fish and more than 5,000 land and aquatic animals!
The venue is made in such a way that you go through different landscapes, from the highlands and jungles of Malaysia, to the Amazon basin and open ocean, each one with their native animals.
If you were also going to visit the Petronas Towers, then I recommend this combo option here.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 10AM to 8PM. Updated operation hours here.
PRICE: 47 MYR (US $12) per adult / 37 MYR (US $9) per child. This price is for the skip-the-line tickets on Klook, which I found to be cheaper than on the official website!
3. Awake your inner child at the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park
Going to the Sunway Lagoon Club is a great idea if you are searching for things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids or with your group of friends! It has six parks: the Amusement Park, a Water Park, a Wildlife Park, an Extreme Park, a Scream Park, and the Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon. You won’t even know where to start!
The tickets are valid for all 6 parks, so you will have to decide if you are going for a bungee jump or kart race first, getting on the gold scream coaster, seeing the greatest animals up close, or going straight for the water rides at the Water Park and Nickelodeon.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 10AM to 6PM. Double check the updated opening hours here.
4. Take a walk at KL Forest Eco Park
At the KL Forest Eco Park you will find many walking trails of about 300 to 500 meters long. The trails are designed for all ages, including children and beginners!
The most visited site here is the Canopy Walk, an aerial bridge about 200 meters high which goes above the forest from where you can see the Menara KL Tower and the city skyline.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 7AM to 6PM. Double check the updated opening hours here.
5. See the colorful butterflies at the Butterfly Park
Not far from KL Bird Park, you will find Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park. It is a secret paradise where you can see dancing butterflies in between scented flowers and flowering vines. The entire garden has more than 5,000 live butterflies, exotic plants, and of course butterfly-host plants that complete the natural and lively environment for the butterflies.
Inside the park there is also a museum with a big collection of insects and butterflies from around the world.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9 AM to 6 PM. See the updated Butterfly Park opening hours here.
PRICE: 25 MYR (US $6) per adult / 13 MYR (US $3) per child. You can book your tickets here.
If you want to visit the Butterfly Park and the Bird Park (number 1 in the list above) as part of an organized tour that will explain each of the parks’ secrets, I recommend you go on a group tour that includes both parks. You will learn a lot of interesting things and you will be able to ask as many questions as you want.
If you want a private tour instead, you will be best off with a 3.5hr-private tour around the parks.
6. Visit Negara Zoo and Aquarium
Kuala Lumpur Zoo and Aquarium, also known as the Zoo Negara Malaysia, houses about 476 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish from both Asia and Africa. The entire property includes a “Children’s World” area where kids can get close and pet animals.
To get around the entire zoo can take you about 3 hours, so it’s recommended to take a tram ride inside the property. (8 MYR adults / 6 MYR children).
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Check out the updated opening hours here.
PRICE: 69 MYR (US $17) adult / 36 MYR (US $9) child. These prices are from Klook, a website that I found offers cheaper prices than the official website (it is 82 MYR for adults and 43 MYR for children on the official website!) and includes a visit to the Panda Center as well!
7. See the beauty of Perdana Botanical Gardens
Perdana Botanical Gardens also known as Lake Gardens is found in the local Heritage Park and it has the most varied collection of flower gardens and animal parks in KLCC!
If there was one thing I especially enjoyed there, it was the Orchid Garden. I actually ended up here because the Bird Park had such a long line I got tired of waiting and opted for a more peaceful walk among nature.
If nature is your cup of tea, you can also move over to the Hibiscus Garden to find Malaysia’s national flower in full bloom. Inside a colonial-era building is a cozy tearoom and gallery that showcases the history of the hibiscus flower.
OPENING HOURS: Everyday from 9AM to 6PM. Check the updated schedule here.
PRICE: Free on weekdays. 1 MYR (US $0.25) each for the Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens on weekends
BONUS 2: Extra Things to do in KL
Here are some other amazing things to do in the capital of Malaysia that did not make it to the Top 12 list, but they are great to check out if you have more time or if you are interested in something in particular:
1. See what Malaysian life was like at the National Museum
The National Museum offers an overview of Malaysian history and culture. The facade has a combination of modern and traditional Malay elements. On the inside, you can find life-sized examples of ritual weddings, Malaysian life activities like farming or weaving, and even a traditional Malacca Baba house showing the original style of furniture and ornaments. Please note that they offer free guided tours by volunteer docents in English everyday at 10 AM, except Sundays. You can also walk around the museum freely without the need of a guide.
PRICE: 5 MYR (US $1) per adult. (Buy at the main entrance)
2. Learn about tin at the Pewter Museum
The most famous and still working pewter producer and brand that has its own museum is the Royal Selangor. Pewter is a mixed metal of tin, antimony, copper, bismuth, and silver with a low melting point. The visitor’s center is where you can learn about Malaysia’s history of being among the world’s biggest tin producers. At the museum you will also learn about the traditional pewtersmithing tools, antique pewter, and the tin currency.
3. Discover the great and oldest Jamek Mosque
The Masjid Jamek Mosque is also known as Friday Mosque and is the oldest Islamic mosque in KL. The building is a magical combination of ancient Moorish, Islam, and Mughal architectural styles, surrounded by the Klang and Gombak Rivers. Please note that visitors can only visit the mosque after prayer times which are listed here.
4. Enjoy the night time views at the Firefly River
Malaysia is home to seven of more than 20 species of fireflies, or “kelip-kelip” as locals refer to them!
There are different places where you can go to see these beauties create an amazing scene, but the most loved one is the Selangor River. Go down the river past the Kampung Kuantan mangroves, Pasir Penambang, or visit the Bukit Belimbing Firefly Park Resort. Please note that in order to avoid disturbing the fireflies, no pictures are allowed.
PRICE: Starting at 16 MYR (US $4)
BONUS 3: Day trips from Kuala Lumpur
If you are wondering about some exciting things to do outside of Kuala Lumpur, the good news is there are many smaller cities to visit nearby for you to enjoy! By the way, you can even go a bit further and reach some of the best Kuala Lumpur beaches or you can take a flight to the island of Langkawi like I did and try some adventurous things there!
Here are some Kuala Lumpur day trips I have selected for you as the most interesting to add on to your itinerary:
1. Historical Malacca (Melaka)
Malacca City is a historic city filled with breathtaking sights and rich heritage located about 2 hours from Kuala Lumpur and directly on the border with Singapore!
This 10-hour tour to Malacca, a UNESCO site, takes you on a journey to the starting point of the great country of Malaysia because of its location as a great trading port. There is a major Portuguese and Dutch influence that you see right away in their pink Dutch buildings used for government offices, the local museum, and their local cuisine!
While you’re there, don’t forget to go by the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, also known as the Temple of Green Cloud. It is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia, and probably the only place where you can find all the practices of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
The mentioned organized tour is also beneficial because it includes hotel pick up and drop off as well as the entrance tickets to the Malacca Museums and Cheng Hoon Teng Temple. But most importantly, you get to have a local guide share the most accurate facts about the trip!
2. Kuala Selangor Fireflies & Wildlife
This 8-hour tour through wildlife takes you to Kuala Selangor, located in the small village of Kampung Kuantan and home to one of the biggest colonies of fireflies. Start the village visit at the ex-Fort Altingsburg, now known as Kota Melawati, which includes a royal mausoleum and colonial buildings.
The experience includes a boat ride upstream during the evening where you will see some blinking trees which are actually fireflies dancing through the night.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to take insect repellent so you’re not scratching yourself all the time through the tour.
3. Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands are known for their jungle walks and tea plantations, but you will also find butterfly farms, strawberry farms, and vegetable gardens there. Be ready to visit them all!
Head over to these hills located 200 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur by taking this fun 12-hour tour through big green forests. During the trip you will learn about the natural esplanade, you can also go for walks or just enjoy the landscape of this display of hills.
4. Kampar River White Water Rafting
This 8-hour rafting tour is perfect for sports enthusiasts and anyone that loves adrenaline rushes. The tour will take you to Gopeng, about a 2.5-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. The clear waters of Kampar River are ideal for people physically fit and who crave a mildly technical adventure while enjoying the rafting trip.
On the river, be ready to face exciting rapids and float down clear river water through a rainforest and past old mining plains. The rafting experience covers about 7 km with 9 big rapids and can take up to 2 hours.
PRO TIP: Take a spare change of clothes, a towel, insect repellent, and sunscreen.
Useful information for your trip to Kuala Lumpur
How to get from the airport to the city
The city has two airports: Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL/KLIA) and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SZB). The first one handles most of the international flights while the second is more focused on limited domestic flights or airlines from Singapore.
In this case, because more than 90% of the travelers arrive and depart from KLIA, I will share the best ways to get from that airport to the city center:
KLIA Express goes from KLIA airport to the KL City Air Terminal in KL Sentral district every 15-30 minutes. The train runs from 5AM to 1AM daily, the ride takes about 30 minutes and costs 59 MYR (US $14).
By airport shuttle
Star Shuttle runs every 30 minutes and costs 13 MYR (US $3); the journey takes 1h 15min to Kuala Lumpur city. Another option is an AeroBus Shared Bus – the trip is about one hour and it costs 12 MYR (US $3).
If you don’t want to share transportation, there are also private airport transfer vehicles which you can select based on the number of people traveling with you.
Airport Coach Sdn. Bhd bus services depart every 30 minutes and take 1 hour to arrive at the city, for a price of 13 MYR (US $3).
By taxi or Uber
The best option is taking the metered taxis found on Level 1 and 3 of the Main Terminal Building. You first need to purchase a 2 MYR (US $0.50) coupon at the “Airport Taxi ticket counters” before boarding the taxi that is used as proof of travel in case of any payment dispute or if items are lost. The fare is then established based on the km traveled – the first 1km or 3 minutes of driving is less than 4 MYR (US $1).
Most journeys take about 50 minutes and can cost between US $25 – $30, variable due to traffic. You could also go for Grab (similar to Uber) if you prefer; for a ride from the airport they charge around 65 MYR (US $16) .
How to get around KL
If you think you will be using a lot of public transport instead of walking or taking taxis, I recommend you go for a MyCity 1-day Pass for 25 MR (US $6) or the 3-day Pass for 55 MYR (US $13). These passes are valid for all monorail, train and bus rapid transit routes. You can purchase them at any Rapid KL Customer Service Office found at the train stations.
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) connects the city center with many of KL neighborhoods. The single-ride tickets start at a cost of 1.2 MYR (US $0.29) and up. You can buy individual tickets at the vending machines at the MRT stations.
KL Monorail goes straight from KL Sentral to Kuala Lumpur center. The price starts at 1.30 MYR (US $0.30) for one stop and the blue plastic coin-like tokens can be purchased at the dispensing machines – they will have to be used at the station before boarding the train.
The train you will use really depends on your destination – check a train map with the routes to determine which is your best choice!
Go KL City Bus are free buses which you can recognize by their purple / lilac color. They have 4 different lines that go around the most popular districts, train stations, and landmarks at 10-minute intervals throughout the day.
RapidKL Bus is a paid transportation service in the city. The ticket prices vary between 1 MYR to 5 MYR (US $1.20) and because they are going digital, the only way to purchase a ticket is by getting the Touch N’ Go MyRapid RapidKL card at any station. Once you charge at least 3 MYR into it you can use it on any of the bus lines.
It is not recommended to try to bargain a fixed price, just have the taxi use the meter for your convenience. Most of the taxis are colored red and white, or red and blue and charge 3 MYR (US $0.72) for the first three minutes and then add about US $0.10 for each 200m. A 10-minute drive of about 3 km can cost around 14 MYR (US $4).
But in general, I’d recommend GrabCar as being your best options.