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Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Understand
Kuala Lumpur is a contemporary metropolis that is following the path Singapore has cut out for itself. KL has many areas that make it feel like a hyper-modern Asian city with gleaming skyscrapers and Singapore-style cleanliness, but it still features lots of historic elements.
This city is more diverse than other cities in Asia, both in terms of people as well as the environment. It boasts diverse, excellent food, world-class shopping and locals who speak a good amount of English. According to travelers, it’s one of the top cities in the world.
The biggest complaints from visitors to Kuala Lumpur are usually that the residents are a bit too happy about their state of life and things get a bit boring quickly.
Kuala Lumpur is great value at exchange rates of MYR 4:1 (or better) to the US Dollar.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Sightseeing
Since Kuala Lumpur is a a rather young city, it does not have a lot of historic sights to speak of; most fall more into the category of ‘made-up’ tourist attractions.
Lake Gardens Area
This area houses a number of KL attractions that you should not skip.
These parks are great ways to experience the Kuala Lumpur heat and Malaysian wildlife in a fun way.
KL’s biggest mosque comes with a lot of barren concrete; it’s not the prettiest, but worth a picture or two. It’s close to the Bird Park and Butterfly Park.
Just across the street from Masjid Negara is the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. The museum has several models of mosques of the world that feature outstanding Islamic architecture. It’s a great way to dream about other travel destinations (that have rough visa policies).
Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) Park area
You can access the Skybridge between the two towers, which is open for visitors between 8.30AM and 7PM every Tuesday to Sunday. MYR 80 is a lot of money for a view, though.
Do not miss the adjacent gardens that you can see from above; there’s a huge playground for the kids and lots of fountains.
The Suria shopping mall at KLCC is one of KL’s oldest and most expensive and it’s still fun to see.
The Menara KL Tower is quite a tourist trap. Kuala Lumpur’s weather does not usually allow for much of a view and MYR 49 for the pleasure isn’t cheap. However, for a first-time visitor, it’s a great way to get started with this city.
Brickfields is the Little India of Kuala Lumpur. It comes with a neat temple and blaring music and there’s plenty of Bollywood flicks on offer.
Note that the best Indian food in KL can be found in Bangsar (see below) but there are decent restaurants here, too.
Hit the malls!
I actually like the Berjaya Times Square mall the best. There is a good food court in the basement, with a decent Malaysian buffet on the left (you can’t miss it).
If you’re still looking for shopping, KL Sentral just opened a brand new mall attached to this major train station called NU Sentral and the Mid Valley Megamall next door was Asia’s biggest for some time.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Eat & Drink
I’m not a fan of either; they are not exactly hygienic and are overpriced, with lots of mediocre food options. However, it is a safe bet for many first timers in Kuala Lumpur.
VCR Coffee Shop (several locations)
This awesome new coffee shop is in a nondescript building just on the fringes of the Bukit Bintang shopping mile. The coffee is sublime, the WiFi fast and the service friendly. The menu is small but dishes are typically high quality.
This IS the definition of a hidden secret. The building is in a quiet and posh residential area and looks like an abandoned warehouse. Inside awaits you a mix of post-industrial and Bali dark wood interior design. The owners churn out delicious vegetarian food, there are both inside and outside areas and they have super-fast WiFi. Highly recommended.
Grizzly is in the same building as my favorite KL hotel – the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur. On the concourse level, Grizzly’s owners brew delicious coffee, share their super-fast WiFi and serve delicious carrot cake. Really like this place.
Bangsar is probably my favorite area in Kuala Lumpur. It’s more relaxed, not as touristy and offers a good mix of local and western businesses.
KL residents take their banana leaf rice seriously. The idea is to replace the plate with a banana leaf and serve rice with spicy veggie (or meaty) curries. Call me stupid but I always feel that the food tastes better and more fresh when served that way. It’s seemingly easy to trick our brains.
There are a number of other banana leaf places around, that capitalize on the long lines that form at Sri Nirwana Maju (which doesn’t take reservations). I also like the upstairs restaurant Devi’s Corner, which is just a block away.
For this city’s best tandoori, don’t look any further – it’s here. This night stall serves incredibly delicious chicken and Indian breads including its famous cheese naan. It can be pretty hot, though, and the area is a bit dirty.
This small chain serves Malaysian and Indian food and impresses with original service, good chicken tandoori and Malay curries. It’s sometimes not as hygienic as I would like, but it’s decidedly cheap and a good way to taste the local food.
This full-service Indian restaurant has classic curries and naans in a dark yet cozy environment.
Ikan bakar means grilled fish in Malaysian. This stall is part of a night market and grills awesome fish for lunch and dinner.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Day Trips
The KL commuter trains take you right into the Batu Caves. It’s a sacred Hindu site and lots of people descend on the temple at the weekend. It’s a fun place to be for an hour or two.
Another great option for a day trip is Malacca (also known as Melaka), which was a major trading port in the 15th and 16th centuries. This historical city has lots of influences from China and Portugal.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Where to Stay
One of the best deals is still the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur.
You generally find deals for 4 and 5 Star Hotels around $50 most of the time. The Grand Hyatt is also a lovely place if you need Hyatt stays for (relatively) cheap.