My Favorite Things to do in Bandung
Following another visit to this city in August, 2017, we have now updated this Things to do Guide.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Understand
Bandung is Indonesia's third largest city and sits in a mountain valley surrounded by active volcanoes. It's often much cooler than the 2,400 feet of elevation would suggest, as the hot, supercharged Indonesian coastal air does not make it above the mountains.
Bandung has a good amount of Dutch colonial history and the Dago area has many tree-lined streets with tons of artsy and interesting buildings. Unique for Indonesia, you can actually walk through a few of the neighborhoods.
Bandung has a real coffee culture and good food and the people are even more friendly when compared to other Indonesian cities. It is as incredibly cheap as other cities in Indonesia. Bandung really grew on me and is now my favorite city in this archipelago.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Get Around
As with most places in Indonesia, there is no real public space - there are private businesses and houses and there's traffic. Traffic encroaches every single cubic foot of public space here. Mopeds, cars and huge buses and trucks share the same space with pedestrians. Drivers are incredibly kind and patient but I doubt you will be. Traffic is constantly jammed up, even at night. There isn't a lot of honking but the race is on for the loudest exhaust on the planet; believe me, everyone here competes.
Traffic is often very slow - clearing a city block can take 30 minutes because of an inaccessible intersection. Never plan road trips if you are stressed for time.
There is no public transport here except for minibuses that are extremely slow and sit in the polluted traffic for a long time.
Uber is in town and works well. However, there are not as many drivers and given the constant gridlocks, it can take a long time to be picked up. Some drivers seemed to get lost constantly as well.
I started using GrabCar instead and was much happier. It tends to be a bit more expensive but rides are just $1-$2 anywhere in the city. Drivers on average were much faster; spookily, often the driver was in the outside parking lot of a restaurant before I got there.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Safety
As with other Indonesian cities, crime is not an issue unless you really make yourself vulnerable. The biggest issue is the manic traffic, with motorbikes on every inch of road and sidewalks. Walk against the traffic (traffic is on the left here) and keep a watch out. Drivers are generally courteous and swerve around you but there is a reason there are so few pedestrians in Indonesia.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Connectivity
Internet is usually slow in Indonesia and Bandung isn't any better. Expect about 1 Mbit at most coffee shops and in your hotel. The only place that is usually consistently better is Regus, that keeps up a 10 Mbit or more connection for all Regus lounge users.
Prepaid SIM cards are easily available everywhere and T-Mobile includes this country in their Simple Plan.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Hassle Factor
Indonesians are the world's friendliest people but they are neither the best educated nor the most efficient. You need to be extremely patient here and you CANNOT apply standards from Europe, Australia or the US. Just crossing the street often takes 20-30 minutes on major thoroughfares.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Sights
The entrance fee is IDR 1,000, which gets you a decent museum. It's much smaller than what you'd expect and most exhibitions are in Indonesian only. It traces the steps of mankind and has a prominent exhibition about the geological make-up of Indonesia.
When I visited on a Sunday around lunchtime, hundreds of school students were in the same building, making it impossible to see much.
This impressive building once housed the Dutch East Indies department of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in colonial days and is now the seat of the West Java governor. There is no way to enter as a tourist but there are a few spots outside where you can take good pictures.
Masjid Raya Bandung
The impressive downtown mosque is boxed in by the incredible hustle and bustle of downtown Bandung's bus station and crazy traffic.
Kawah Ratu (Queen Crater) at Halimun Salak National Park
Just about 6 miles from the city center of Bandung reigns Kawah Ratu - an active volcano! The crater rim is beautiful and allows you to walk around, right along the edge.
The national park has a number more craters that you can see on a guided hike, too.
The drive out to Kawah Rutu is not exactly direct, as you climb up to 4,500 feet. The tiny roads also allow for slow traffic only, so expect to spend 70 minutes from Bandung in an Uber and spend IDR 120,000 one-way. The entrance fee to the park is just IDR 20,000 for locals or a hefty IDR 200,000 for non-Indonesian citizens.
Your biggest issue with this trip will be the weather - the area gets fogged up badly once the midday clouds come up. So come here early in the morning to actually see the crater or pray for a sunny day.
This is a very popular attraction in Indonesia and you will find dozens of entire schools up there for a field trip. There are also a huge number of rather aggressive sellers (aggressive by Indonesian standards) that want to make sure you spend every Rupiah you brought with you. I plugged in my headphones and stubbornly looked the other way. If that all sounds familiar, it is - the Mount Bromo sunrise viewing area has a very similar vibe.
On your ascent to the crater you will pass through Lembang. Stop by Imah Kopi, Croissanterie et Coffeenery, which is a fantastic place for coffee and breakfast, especially given the rural character of Lembang.
ZEN Family Spa (multiple locations)
Zen is consistently rated the best spa in Bandung and it only takes one visit to realize why. The therapists are superbly friendly and skilled and the treatments are under $20 for 90 minutes. It can get addictive!
This brand new mall is a great mix of upscale and mid-range shops. There is also a food court and an outdoor shop area vying for your attention. It makes for a great hot afternoon or evening stroll.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Eat & Drink
Bandung is ground zero for Sundanese food - a delicious variant of Indonesian food that consists of fried meat and marinated vegetables. Even better, Bandung has a real coffee culture, with relaxed, cheap and diverse coffee shops all around the city.
Dago is the area to look for artsy places with an independent vibe. At times in Dago, I felt like I was in Berlin's Mitte in the mid 1990s.
KoziLab Coffee Shop
KoziLab is the definition of a hidden secret in an old warehouse. There are no signs and most people I asked had never heard of it. The Google Maps and Foursquare markers are both correct - just keep asking until you find it, though it may take a while. The good news is that you will get fantastic coffee here (a cortado is called a majic) and you'll probably get the whole place and fast WiFi all to yourself.
Noah's Barn Coffeenery
On the western side of Bandung (beyond Chinatown) is this cozy coffee shop that serves excellent coffee and some decent food items (not too many, though).
HANGOVER Eat & Cheers
This bar has a surprisingly good vibe despite all the crazy traffic right outside. The beers are self-service from a cooler and there is plenty of choice. Only in Indonesia will you find bars a block or less from a huge mosque...
Lacamera Coffee could be great as it serves quality coffee and some yummy waffles. However, there are too many mosquitoes and the WiFi never works. Plus the other food items are not as good quality.
Two Hands Full
Two Hands Full easily has the best breakfast/brunch food in the city. It looks and works like a Melbourne-style coffee shop. You can get a good-quality smashed avocado sandwich (not as good as in Melbourne but close) for just $4. I also liked the muesli and the coffee is equally delicious. There is WiFi at 1 Mbit too. The only fault - a waffle order would take 50 minutes (!) whenever I asked.
One Eighty Coffee Music
Not the most creative name but this place rocks. I have yet to come across another cafe like this, where you sit inside the pool (albeit a baby pool). You can also sit on dry ground inside or outside if preferred. The crowd is very family-oriented but there is cheap, good food and excellent coffee. This place is a keeper!
This coffee shop/fast food chain is very well-rated by locals. I found the two locations I visited too loud, too infested by mosquitoes and the food just did not look healthy at all. Plus most locations only open at 3PM. Maybe I dismissed it too fast?
If you are craving ethnic food, Bornga Korean is out to rescue you (trust me - you will sooner or later!) All the traditional Korean dishes (including barbecue if you so wish) are here for a price tag that is just a third of the US. I loved the bibimbap and the many little appetizers for just $5.
Koffie Fabriek Aroma
This tiny little coffee roaster has been a Bandung institution selling excellent and cheap coffee for 85 years.
Thanks to the mild climate of Bandung, this coffee shop has a big outdoor area. The coffee is excellent and so are the desserts. The WiFi is fast as well and the vibe is decidedly alternative. The area is great to walk around and explore as it has a little less manic traffic.
Yellow Truck Coffee (multiple locations)
Yellow Truck Coffee has expanded and is now serving coffee all over town. The location on Jalan Linggawastu near to the Novotel is the best, with a beautiful outdoor patio. The coffee is fantastic and cheap. Just do yourself a favor and do not eat here - the food is just bad.
Blue Doors Coffee
Rounding out the impressive list of world-class coffee is Blue Doors Coffee which ticks all the right boxes for great atmosphere and great coffee in Bandung.
Sajian Sunda Sambara
Sajian Sunda Sambara became my favorite Sundanese food while in Bandung. You are able to select the meat that will be grilled for you. The veggies were aplenty and tasted fresh. It averaged around $7 for a very filing meal (which is expensive for Indonesia!)
RM Alas Daun
RM Alas Daun is close to Sajian Sunda Sambara, not just in location but also in food quality and ambience. This place delivers your fill for your Sundanese food adventure. Sundanese food tends to be more spicy and a bit more healthy but don't expect too much of the latter - it is still not exactly healthy.
RM Ma' Uneh
Rm Ma' Uneh is a hidden secret. This Sundanese restaurant will make you hike out to the outskirts of Dago and the restaurant's entrance is in-between a number of residences. There are signs but they are not the most helpful. The alleys leading to it are so small that eating a big dinner the day before will prevent you from passing through. Once I got there, I really liked the food, though there was less selection than in the two other RM food bastions. It was also much cheaper, with a good meal for just $3.
As if the other places in Dago did not exude much of the Berlin attitude already, BEERMART drives it home. It's a simple place where you sit on used beer crates under the trees and tents. It sells cheap beer inside (beer is heavily taxed in Indonesia and therefore rather expensive) and there are many food stalls serving delicious, cheap dumplings.
Hummingbird is an upscale restaurant that hides under the coffee shop label. The immediate area has a number of affluent eating places. On my last visit, I feel I dismissed Hummingbird too fast. I returned and had some decent food this time. The service is impeccable and the food menu is competitive while a little too far on the comfort side.
Sushi Tei (multiple locations)
Sushi Tei is a chain but does sushi very well. I liked the location on Jalan Sumatera next to the Crowne Plaza the most but the menu is the same in all of them. It is quality sushi at decent prices.
My Favorite Things to do in Bandung - Where to Stay
For my most recent stay in 2017, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza, the Novotel and the Holiday Inn - the latter of which is an excellent choice.
In 2016, I spent 3 nights at the beautiful Four Points by Sheraton, which is in a fantastic location.
InterContinental Bandung Dago Pakar
The InterContinental is a solid 45-60 minutes away from the town center. It is located on a big swathe of green hills outside of Bandung and features pretty views of the valley from almost everywhere in the hotel. Keep in mind, though, that you will spend a lot of time waiting for and inside an Uber if you choose to stay here.