The Yogyakarta Kraton sits in the middle of the city, and represents the cultural and political heart of Central Java in Indonesia. Yogyakarta's attractions radiate away from the Kraton, proceeding from its northern Alun-Alun Utara civic square to Jalan Malioboro due north. After visiting the Kraton, a number of museums and attractions can be reached within minutes, either by foot, by horse-drawn carriage (andong) or by rickshaw (becak), without ever needing to enter the Kraton's Regol Keben gate.
The large ceremonial square north of the Kraton entrance serves as a venue for Yogyakarta's biggest civic celebrations: pasar malam (night markets) are conducted here to coincide with various Indonesian festivals (read our article on Ramadan and Aidilfitri in Southeast Asia), but particularly for Sekaten on Muhammad's birthday.
Even without the pasar malam around, Alun-Alun Utara is worth visiting, if only to tuck into the food served at the warung (open-air eateries) skirting the square's perimeter.
The Alun-Alun Utara serves as a useful frame of reference for most of Yogyakarta's main tourist attractions: Jalan Malioboro begins at its northern side and extends north, while the Masjid Gede Kauman, Sonobudoyo Museum, and Fort Vredeburg are located around it.
- Location of Alun-Alun Utara: 7°48'14.6855"S 110°21'55.2341"E (GeoHack)
The Royal Carriage Museum, or Museum Kereta, collects the Yogyakarta Royal Family's 23 ornate carriages in one place. The museum also displays the regalia associated with the carriages - saddles, riding gear and all. The oldest carriage in the collection dates back from 1750, and is older than the Kraton itself. The royal stables still exist, and stand next to the Museum Kereta.
The museum is open all week except Mondays, from 8:30am to 2pm. An IDR 7,500 (about $0.75) entrance fee is charged at the gate.
- Location of Museum Kereta: 7°48'19.6398"S 110°21'46.0595"E (GeoHack)
The Taman Sari is a "water palace", a swimming and bathing complex built exclusively for the royal family's use. In the days when the Sultan had a harem of his own, the Taman Sari was where he could take his pick of the ladies. (In the spirit of modernization, the present Sultan is faithful to one wife.)
Today, only the central bathing complex is in decent repair; the rest of the complex has now been settled by a community known for its batik production.
The Taman Sari is open every day from 9am to 3:30pm. Entrance fee will cost you IDR 7,000 (about $0.75) at the gate, but the services of a guide are billed separately - the latter will cost about IDR 10,000 to 20,000 (about $1-2), depending on your negotiating abilities. You may be billed an additional IDR 1,000 for a photo permit.
- Location of Taman Sari: 7°48'36.1706"S 110°21'33.5261"E (GeoHack)
Masjid Gede Kauman
The Sultan's primary mosque - something like the Sultanate's version of Westminster Abbey, but way smaller - is located on the western side of the northern square. The Masjid Gede Kauman was built in 1773, and has been rebuilt and renovated several times since. The roof over the central prayer area is supported by 36 teakwood pillars; the rest of the compound Is occupied by offices and sleeping quarters for the courtiers. (Find out about the dos and don't's when visiting mosques.)
- Location of Masjid Gede Kauman: 7°48'14.1628"S 110°21'45.7312"E (GeoHack)
The Sonobudoyo Museum (sonobudoyo.com) north of the Kedaton collects a variety of Javanese artifacts representing the lives of both noble and commoner classes in Yogyakarta. Most notably, it showcases one of the most extensive collections of Javanese swords, or keris, representing martial cultures from all around Indonesia. You can also catch wayang kulit performances at the museum, performed by experienced puppeteers.
The museum can be found at Jalan Trikora 6, Yogyakarta; an entrance fee of IDR 5,000 will be charged at the entrance.
- Location of Sonobudoyo Museum: 7°48'9.1739"S 110°21'49.8449"E (GeoHack)
Fort Vredeburg Museum
Just north of the Kraton, you'll find the Museum Benteng Vredeburg (bentengvredeburg.blogspot.com), a 22,600-square-foot Dutch stronghold that was built in 1765 and was used to host the colonial forces in Central Java. In its heyday, the stout fortifications, star-shaped design (Wikipedia: star fort) and cannon emplacements allowed the Dutch to hold a military edge over hostile Javanese forces.
Post-independence, Fort Vredeburg now serves as a museum that preserves the Dutch-built structures and hosts a series of patriotic exhibits, including a diorama that shows the history of the Indonesian struggle against colonization.
An admission fee of IDR 3,500 will be charged at the gate. The entrance can be found at the east side of Jalan Jenderal A. Yani No. 6; you can call ahead at +62-274-586934.
- Location of Fort Vredeburg: 7°48'1.1693"S 110°21'55.1581"E (GeoHack)
Sentra Gudeg Wijilan
You simply can't leave Yogyakarta without trying gudeg, the royal city's iconic dish: a jackfruit-based savory preparation served hot with rice. (Wikipedia: Gudeg) To eat gudeg the way Yogyakartans do, visit Sentra Gudeg Wijilan, a clump of eateries located east of Alun-Alun Utara along Jalan Wijilan.
Gudeg is common to most of Central Java, but Yogyakarta's gudeg is different - it derives a reddish flavor from the addition of teak leaves. You'll also be served with side dishes to go with your gudeg meal: tempeh (fried, fermented soybean), sambal krecek (beefskin stew), and eggs go down well with this Yogyakarta staple. Some stalls will even allow you to watch the gudeg being made.
- Location of Sentra Gudeg Wijilan: 7°48'14.261"S 110°21'59.8025"E (GeoHack)