My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta (Updated in 2018)
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Understand
Jakarta is a sprawling metropolis that just recently started to become more 'modern'. It's somewhere in-between Manila and Kuala Lumpur in terms of development.
Jakarta is not a pleasant city but it will reveal its beauty eventually if you are patient enough. The city has its quiet places, good coffee and is the capital of the country with the world's most friendly people.
Jakarta is also the capital of the world's biggest Muslim nation but unless someone tells you, it's not obvious that you are in a Muslim country most of the time.
Jakarta is more a suburb than an urban place and you will find the roads crowded but the rest of the city completely empty at most times.
Jakarta is noticeably more expensive than other Indonesian cities or several Southeast Asian competitors. Good chain hotels are in the $150 range and food and coffee are more US levels. Transport is cheap though.
Jakarta has tropical weather with hot afternoons and often strong downpours. There isn't much variance in temperature.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Get Around
Jakarta's bad reputation for horrible traffic is well-deserved. The city is gridlocked from 6AM-10AM and 2PM-8PM every weekday. The average speed easily drops to less than 5 miles per hour at rush hour.
Jakarta has embarked on a number of ambitious, high-profile infrastructure projects including an MRT, airport train (that recently opened) and many, many new city roads. The result? The city is a gigantic construction site and traffic is even more chaotic than before.
To deal with this you can either be very patient, travel only at night or around lunchtime or decide to walk. Sidewalks do exist in some places but expect to share them with trucks, motorbikes and just about anything else under the sun.
The existing public transport is unable to cope with the masses, though the new MRT project may change that once completed.
Uber is in town and it's cheap and drivers have become visibly more experienced in the last two years. Blue Bird taxis are aplenty and while rather dirty, they are honest and cheap, so this is often the best way to get around.
Walking can be an option if you have Dri-FIT-type clothing and can find a walkable sidewalk.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Safety
As with most of Indonesia, crime is not a major issue. By the low crime standards of Indonesia, Jakarta is probably a 'high crime' city. However, you need to do something really stupid to become a victim of crime here. The biggest threat is being hit in the manic traffic. There is the occasional scam artist but nothing to worry about if you have some experience.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Connectivity
Jakarta had a reputation for some of the slowest Internet connections on the planet but things have markedly improved and some coffee shops have upgraded to 10 Mbit or more. The Internet still varies a lot in speed but at many co-working places, 50 Mbit isn't a problem.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Pollution
Air pollution is a big problem and the city is engulfed in a smoggy haze most of the time.
If the winds are strong then after the rain the air is much fresher (also on Sundays). The good news is that there are precious few 'big particle' trucks and buses that pollute the immediate road environment.
The city has also gotten a big noise pollution issue as the gridlock encourages drivers to honk constantly and remove their exhausts to create constant engine sounds to 'warn off' other drivers.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Sights
Jakarta's sights don't come easy and you can't just get on a red bus to tour them. Touring Jakarta is really sweaty work and a traffic nightmare. But you will get the feeling you are the only person who is
MONAS is a park around the independence obelisk with the same name. It does not look like much but on a weekend everyone comes out for a sunrise/sunset view in the park. It's a great urban retreat that gets you away from all the noise and pollution.
Museum Nasional Indonesia
Just a few steps further is the National History Museum - for IDR 10,000 you can join the party.
Kota Tua is Jakarta like it looked 100 years ago, with many historic buildings and museums.
Jakarta History Museum
The Jakarta History Museum is a great way to explore more of Indonesia's heritage. It gets really crowded with school field trips though!
Jakarta Contemporary Artspace at Jakarta Post Office
The Jakarta Post Office in the same square has been converted into a contemporary art gallery which was my favorite thing to see in Kota Tua. It's IDR 50,000 for the entrance fee. Ask around if you can't find the entrance - it's right next to Cafe Batavia.
Northern Jakarta is a poor neighborhood but at its very end, you can go out to the Jakarta Marina. Yes, it's rather dirty and there is a lot of trash but the sunset views are awesome. The many yachts and high-rise apartment buildings look as much out of place as the supercars vying for your attention. Getting to Northern Jakarta can take a long time for the few miles; go there first and track back to Kota Tua.
Kuningan is the most affluent neighborhood in Jakarta. The roads are lined with trees and it's easy to think you are in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur - that is until you hit a main road again. The area is walkable on a cooler day.
Ciputra Artpreneur at Ciputra Mall
In the same neighborhood, Ciputra Mall has been making some serious investments into a gallery, theater, and museum. The gallery is a great place to stop by.
Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia malls
Central Jakarta is the main business district in town and the dual malls of Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia form the centerpiece of life away from the traffic and heat. Both have a number of places to eat and drink besides the oppressive chain shops.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Eat & Drink
Unlike other cities in Southeast Asia, Jakarta can't really pass as a foodie location. Most healthy and high-quality food happens to be delivered by a few chains that have outlets in the gigantic shopping malls.
The good news though is that Jakarta is an amazing coffee destination with tons of high-quality coffee.
Tanamera Coffee Roastery (multiple locations)
Tanamera Coffee Roastery is a local mini-chain that makes fantastic coffee and decent food. I liked the location in Thamrin the most, despite its small size. The WiFi has been upgraded and is now clocking in at 20 Mbit.
The location further south is huge but is often empty despite the same eclectic coffee offerings.
As with other coffee shops, this third generation coffee place comes with a huge outlet, fantastic interior design and coffee to die for.
However, the owners also serve food and free WiFi - both barely work and I feel it would be better not to provide them in the first place.
Giyanti Coffee Roastery
Giyanti likely has the most lively vibe of any coffee shop in Jakarta. The tropical courtyard is a fantastic place to linger and people-watch while you slurp up a macchiato.
Don't come here to work with the slow WiFi or eat any of the food though.
Anomali Coffee Roastery
Anomali is an Indonesian chain. Again, the interior design is excellent and the espresso drinks are fantastic.
You guessed it though - the food and WiFi need work.
Fillmore is named after the SF shopping street in the Marina District - no coincidence then that the owners came over from San Francisco a few years ago. The coffee shop is hidden in what looks like a former guard house for the security guards. Nevertheless, there is a cool vibe to it and the coffee is excellent too.
Lowey is a French-style Bistro in the Kuningan area. It's more pretentious than what I like but it has a fantastic patio where you can sit and watch it rain. The food is very French indeed (as are the prices) and the coffee is delicious too.
Social House is a chain of lounges/restaurants all over Southeast Asia. However, this location is certainly the best one in the empire. It's huge and has some fantastic views over the outside roundabout. The full-screen windows are often opened up and you can watch the rain fall outside with a drink in hand. The food is also decent (though overpriced).
The German Consulate is right across the street - no wonder this Munich-style beer house rocks. The attention to detail is incredible and the beer is brewed on location. The food is very German (it even comes with a German menu) and delicious. Expect to pay at least US prices if not more but it's worth it.
In the tower adjacent to Social House and Paulaner is SKYE - easily the most pretentious of all the places in Jakarta. However, it DOES have a fantastic view from the 56th rooftop terrace and serves great drinks. You can also eat here, though I don't think it's a good idea.
Tom Sushi is a good alternative where you can get fresh, yummy sushi. You can find it on the lower ground floor in the east tower of the Grand Indonesia Mall.
Also part of the mega shopping town of Grand Indonesia is this good coffee shop. It's somewhat separated from the rest of the mall with a lovely outdoor patio, which is air-conditioned. The coffee is great and the food is acceptable.
Grand Indonesia Food Court
The Food Court at the Grand Indonesia mall (now at Level 5!) has some great Indonesian food offerings that are a cut much above the rest.
Sushi Tei has been my favorite place to eat in Bandung and the Jakarta locations are also very well-rated. If you are looking for high-quality Japanese food, this place won't disappoint.
Crematology Coffee Roasters
Crematology Coffee Roasters comes with great interior design and great espresso drinks. The WiFi is fast but I wasn't happy with the food.
One Fifteenth Coffee
If you are looking for a coffee shop that does not just look fantastic and has great coffee (which is the usual M.O. of Indonesian cafes) but also has great food - your search is over.
Hands down the best 'Australian' brunch food in town, One Fifteenth serves fantastic avocado toast and granola that would compete well in Melbourne.
The staff are uber-friendly and the atmosphere is quiet. The WiFi is very unstable though, so this won't become your new office and the location is quite a bit away from everything. If you have the time, however, make this your daily breakfast routine!
Jet Ski Cafe
If you have made your way up to the Jakarta Marina, this the place to see the sunset and cool down.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Co-Working
Co-working isn't a big trend in Jakarta yet (unlike in Bali, which is ground zero for digital nomads). The biggest draw of co-working in Jakarta is the fast Internet, with up to 100Mbit to get things done quickly.
Regus has a number of locations in town that can be accessed for free with the Regus Gold Businessworld cards (though they have recently started to 'expire' the free memberships).
There are about a dozen Regus co-working offices around town. Most offer a free trial day and $5-$10 day passes. Monthly passes usually cost $200.
The uber-hip WeWork also plans a location in Jakarta soon.
My 31 Favorite Things to do in Jakarta - Where to Stay
I have tried these hotels myself but Jakarta is a fast-growing hotel market with a new generation of hotels coming online every month. Pick based on your budget and loyalty program (or promotion).
JW Marriott Jakarta
This hotel is now a modern fortress since the bomb attack in 2009. If you are a Marriott Gold or Platinum then this hotel is worth every penny, especially if you use points. High tea at the Executive Lounge was fantastic but the lounge breakfast wasn't good at all. However, the service was excellent throughout.
InterContinental Midplaza Jakarta
This hotel has since left the chain and is now called AYANA Midplaza JAKARTA. When I stayed at the InterContinental in 2016, the lobby was hard to find, the hotel seemed more like an office tower and the location was very busy with congested traffic. However, my room was rather big and everything worked well, including the Internet. The hotel grew on me and I liked that it was walkable to the center.
Holiday Inn Express Jakarta Thamrin
The Holiday Inn Express is a steal and a good base for exploration, as it's within walking distance of the city center. While there's no pool and the WiFi kept disconnecting me at the time of my stay, breakfast was good and the bed was of great quality bed and with fresh, crisp linen.
All Seasons Jakarta Thamrin
The All Seasons has a great central position and fantastic views across the city from the rooftop restaurant and bar. If you're after comfort and location in Jakarta, it's an excellent option, although right now the MRT construction right outside makes it an eyesore and the tiny gym is a bit of a letdown.