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Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

Suggestions for First-Time Visitors to Kuala Lumpur


Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Image © Ramasamy Chidambaram
Kuala Lumpur at night

Kuala Lumpur at night

Image © Greg Rodgers, licensed to About.com
Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Image © Siti Syakirah / Creative Commons.

Locally referred to as "KL", Kuala Lumpur is an excellent hub for visiting other parts of Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Although many people only pass through the city on their way to Penang or the islands, there are many enjoyable things to in Kuala Lumpur itself.

Kuala Lumpur is sometimes billed as the "New Malaysia", and for good reason. Towering office buildings and metropolitan nightclubs mingle easily with street food stalls and Hindu temples.

A collage of cultures has settled in Kuala Lumpur, creating a unique diversity rarely found in Southeast Asian cities outside of Singapore.

Plan to spend an extra day or two around Kuala Lumpur, there are enough things to do to keep you busy!

Places to See in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is an easy place to explore on the ground. (Read about transportation in Kuala Lumpur.) The smell of mysterious foods cooking in woks mingles with the sounds of a city alive with business; walking is the best way to get tuned into KL's electric vibe.

Most visitors proceed directly to the Golden Triangle, an area that includes Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. In the Golden Triangle you can get pampered in one of the numerous spas, visit galleries and shops, or simply sit in a street cafe to watch daily life unfold in an exciting Asian city.

KLCC is also home to Aquaria KLCC, a world-class aquarium home to more than 5000 species of fish.

Bukit Bintang is the "Vegas Strip" of Kuala Lumpur - a myriad of signs announce endless opportunities for dining and entertainment. The street comes alive at night with neon, traffic, and well-dressed locals queuing to enter hedonistic nightclubs.

The Bintang Walk area of Bukit Bintang is a popular stretch of shops, cafes, and restaurants. While strolling Bintang Walk you will often find outdoor concerts, street performers, and lots of eye-candy on the weekends.

A short distance away from the Golden Triangle stands Menara KL Tower - a space needle offering dizzying views of the city, shopping, dining, and even a zipline for the adventurous. The Tower rises from a small forest reserve with well-maintained trails that offer great photo opportunities of the macaque monkeys.

For something different, make a visit to the Thean Hou Temple - a relatively new Chinese temple with intricate architecture and beautiful murals on the walls. The temple is a popular wedding spot for Chinese couples.

To escape the noise and concrete, head to the Perdana Lake Gardens within walking distance of Chinatown. The KL Bird Park, orchid gardens, national planetarium, and several other low-cost or free attractions are set in a peaceful area hidden safely away from the chaos of the city.

Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

You will, no doubt, run out of money and energy before running out of places to shop in KL; the city boasts countless modern shopping malls as well as sprawling street markets.

  • KLCC: This classy shopping mall is located at the bottom of the famous Petronas Twin Towers (the tallest buildings in KL). The six floors of tastefully-decorated shopping attract both locals and tourists.
  • MidValley Mall: This 4.5 million square foot complex is a popular destination for dining, entertainment, and shopping.
  • Berjaya Times Square: Located in the heart of Bukit Bintang, this shopping tower houses both an IMAX 3D Theater and the largest Borders bookstore in Southeast Asia.
  • Pavilion KL: This new complex on Bukit Bintang is a site to see; inside you will find top-notch bistros, karaoke, and an ultra-modern cinema.
  • Petaling Street: This bustling, pedestrian-only street in Chinatown comes alive with frenetic energy and hawker stalls at night. Walking the street is an experience in itself; bold shoppers can haggle for bargains rather than paying the fixed prices found in the malls.

Chinatown and Little India in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is home to a very large number of Indian and Chinese residents which bring their own cultures, temples, and personalities to the city. No visit to the city is complete without exploring the hidden gems away from Bukit Bintang.

It is easy to loose yourself in a whirlwind of activity while strolling throughout Chinatown's winding streets and cafes serving steaming Malaysian noodle dishes.

Petaling Street is the heart of Chinatown and the lively night market offers you a chance to hone your bargaining skills. Popular with budget travelers, Chinatown contains numerous low-cost options for eating and accommodation.

Once finished in Chinatown, proceed to Little India for some teh tarik and a completely different vibe. The sweet smell of water pipes and deafening Indian music coming from the shops will make you forget that you are still in Asia.

Outside Kuala Lumpur

Just eight miles north of KL are the Batu Caves, a sacred Hindu site where you can enjoy some nature-time away from the city and even do some rock climbing or spelunking.

The Batu Caves are easily accessible from the city by train and merit a day of their own to explore.

When Formula One is in town, the Sepang Race Track is the place to be - a 45-minute drive from KL, Sepang is one of the key stops of the Formula One calendar, the setting for the F1 Malaysia Grand Prix race.

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