What are things to do in Kuala Lumpur? This is the first thing I get asked by anyone passing by this part of the world – whether it’s a transit or a vacation.
While Malaysian capital might not be as fun and eventful as neighbouring Singapore or other capitals in South East Asia, there are still a few places worth visiting in Kuala Lumpur (or KL) if you happen to be around.
And since I’ve been based in Kl for about 7 years, I think I’m more than qualified to answer this question while skipping the generic tourist-trap kind of answer Google gives.
1 Hike & Catch Sunrise From Bukit Tabur
Alright. I know that bringing ‘hike’ activity as the number one suggestion on this list is likely a shocker for all of you couch potatoes.
But even though this might be the most difficult thing on the list, I personally find this one also the most rewarding for the stunning view that awaits you on the top.
This is not kind of place where porcelain ladies from the city come to take a pic for the “gram” in full-on make-up and high heels.
While Bukit Tabur – also known as Dragon Trail – is highly ‘Instagrammable’, it is also a pretty steep 1-hour hike through the jungle that towards the end turns into a real adventure where actually have to grab ropes attached on the path to reach the top.
You might (and likely will) get muddy and definitely break some sweat. However, unlike the majority of other hikes around KL, this one actually has a pretty stunning view at its end.
If you manage to wake up early enough and catch the 7 am sunrise, you will be greeted with a glorious reflection on the lake below (technically it’s a dam).
- Wear good shoes (definitely not flip-flops)
- Mosquito repellent
- Bottle of water
How to get there?
- Bukit Tabur is on the very outskirts of KL, so you might need a friend with a car or use Grab, which will cost you around 50RM to get there.
- As a destination put into your GPS ‘Bukit Tabur East Trailhead’
- After crossing the bridge, turn right and go underneath the big water pipe. Follow the uphill continuously narrowing road.
- After about 10mins of walking, you should see on your left a little bamboo hut on the meadow. Find the little path with a gate right next to it and then walk pass by it all the way up (towards the east).
- NOTE: There’s also a West Trail, which leads to a different peak nearby. That one is equally scenic, but it was officially closed a few years back due to an accident. And by “closed” I mean that officials put a ‘do not enter’-kind of tape across the path which doesn’t really stop anyone (if it even survived till today). Definitely not encouraging, just saying there’s another peak too 🙂
Address (starting point):
Taman Melawati, 53100 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
2 Artisan Tea Tasting & Teaware in Chinatown
You might not be as hardcore tea-lover as I am to get at least a little bit excited about tea tasting in a several specialized shops around Chinatown.
Because these shop sellers are typically very knowledgable tea connoisseurs & walking encyclopedia on everything related to tea. And trust me – there is a (hi)story to every tea, the way how it’s harvest, prepared or consumed.
Tea shop clerks will gladly share all the knowledge with you – after all, knowing all about the tea they sell is a critical aspect of their sales pitch. And you can bet you’ll get to try samples of only upper-priced artisan oolong, pu-erh or white tea in hopes of scoring a sale.
Needless to say, they do their job indeed very well since every my visit turns into unplanned spending spree easily climbing to $100 😀
But quality of the tea is fine.
Tea tasting doesn’t have any set time duration but usually takes anywhere between 30min to 90mins. It also doesn’t bear any purchase obligation by default. But if you don’t plan to make any purchase at all, I’d suggest not to hog tea clerks’ time.
After all, they are in for a business.
And if you don’t feel like a cuppa of tea – they do have a ton of beautiful tea-ware on their shelves too!
My favourite shop (isn’t on Google Maps)
Le Ye Xuan Da Hong Pao
Address: 21, Jalan Sultan, 50000, Kuala Lumpur
(right next to Nu Lycie)
万年青茶艺中心 Evergreen Tea House
Address: 62-66, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Kong Wooi Fong Tea Merchants
Address: 72, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Selangor
Google Maps |kwftea.com
3 Have A Dim Sum for Breakfast
Done with your hiking? Great. Now you deserve some carbohydrate bomb in form of dim sum treat.
There’s a bunch of places around the town, but quality varies a lot. Traditionally, the best dim sum is typically found in the least desirable locations, away from looking shiny shopping malls.
My personal favourite with consistent quality is Jin Xuan Hong Kong chain of dim sum restaurants, that is typically located in traditional low-cost shop lot areas, nearby residential neighbourhood.
There are about 7 of Jin Xuan Hong Kong restaurants, mostly around Petaling Jaya area. I ate most dim sums at Uptown Damansara’s branch
Address: Jalan SS 21/60, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
web: http://jinxuan.com.my | Google Maps
Opening Hours: 7 am – 11 pm (depends on the branch. Also, there’s typically afternoon break between 3 pm to 6 pm)
4 Cafe Hopping in Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur is pretty big on coffee culture and weekend brunch is the major weekend activity for the local youth.
There are dozens of hip cafe joints spread all around the town, but the highest concentration of caffeinated drinks can be found in Chinatown, Petaling Jaya and Bangsar.
Since cafes of each district is a topic on itself, for this post I’ll list down only the must-does in Chinatown.
Nearest Public Transport: Pasar Seni LRT & MRT station
One of the most iconic and Instagrammable cafes in Kuala Lumpur. It’s situated in the old colonial building with walls that breaths of old times.
Weekends are pretty much always packed with couples trying to score that one #instafamous moment. The coffee is decent and they have some interesting food fusions as well – even though, might not suit everyone as it’s mostly greasy and far from healthy.
It’s definitely worth visiting but to avoid frustration from crowds, go on weekdays or early in the morning.
At night the bottom floor turns into a speak easy hidden bar, which is my favorite!
Down the street from Merchant’s Lane is a cafe/restaurant with a similar concept. People come here mainly for food, which is an interesting fusion of local cuisines and if you ask me – much tastier than the one served in the previously mentioned cafe.
Unlike other cafes in town, Choca Foodstore has a cold-brew tea as an option, which for me as a tea enthusiast is a big thumbs up.
At the night the top floor opens for a sort of hidden but super cosy gin bar with one too many plants. That is probably why their space fits only a few thirsty individuals, so better be here early (or very late).
But more about booze escapades in a separate article.
Address: NO 156, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Google Maps | chochafoodstore.com
Vintage 1988 Cafe
Relatively new kid on the block that’s already gaining a lot of popularity. This cafe boasts with some hip interior design and ice cream shop at the front. The menu promises ice-cream in your coffee too if you’re fancy.
Jao Tim Cafe
a Nice and spacious cafe trying to echo art deco vibe with a more less regular live jazz events every Sunday.
Address: 61, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
5 Have A Picnic or Morning Jog at Lush Green Lake Gardens
Most of tourists overlook this gem of a park because they tend to flock around more famous Petronas Towers neighboring KLCC Park.
But if you crave some lush green serenity that will make you forget you are in the middle of 7 million urban agglomeration, this is might be the place to go.
Early mornings are for jog-enthusiasts, while late afternoon for pre-wedding shoots.
Bring a blanket, mandatory sunscreen and a frisbee and you’re off for a well-spent afternoon. Pick a spot on the grassy meadow or take over of one of the sparsely placed gazebos and your picnic is on.
And even if your attention span is on a shorter side, Lake Gardens (or Taman Tasik Perdana) has your back.
The whole complex is pretty large and offers quite a bit to see and explore; from a more touristy KL Bird Park to deer sanctuary to an old-school Planetarium Negara on the top of a hill with a daily interactive exhibition. Things are sort of falling apart over there, but it’s fun and worth of visit if you happen to be around.
How to get there:
Address: Jalan Kebun Bunga, Tasik Perdana, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/ZGCQJVK4hvhACkK28
Nearest Public Transport: Muzium Negara MRT
Opening Hours: 5 am – 8 pm (daily)
Lake Gardens has multiple entrances. You can enter from the south if you’re using public transport (MRT) or coming from National Muzeum of Malaysia – it’s about 5min walk to the gate of the park.
Alternatively, a more convenient option is to use Grab and put as a destination just ‘Lake Gardens’ and be dropped off nearby Royal Lake Club.
6 Uncover Hidden Speakeasy Bars in KL
First time I learned the term ‘speakeasy bar’ was in Kuala Lumpur.
For those who are not familiar, the speakeasy is a sort of genre on the field of boozy establishments. What it means is that bars like that are sort of hidden out of direct sight of the public – echoing the era of early 20’s prohibition in the US.
Bars get creative with how the mask the entrance – whether it is behind a revolving bookshelf or inside of disguised toy shop.
And KL is rife with this kind of places! Even though cocktails in these places are pricier, it’s the overall experience that adds the value.
KL speakeasy bars is a topic for the separate post, but here is a list of few my favourites around Chinatown:
Right below Merchant’s Lane cafe in Chinatown, the bar is disguised as a toy shop on the outside. And sometimes there’s even a guy standing on outside playing a game with you and asking if you’re looking for something.
The place gets typically packed, especially on Friday, so you might want to make a reservation or come early.
My favourite spot is in the hallway right after the entrance, which has more private cubicles and is perfect for a date (someone told me…:) ).
Tuesday – Saturday | 6 pm – 2 am
Sunday – Monday | 6 pm – 1 am
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/Dhw7b1KWyCd3tdGt8
Hidden bar also located in Chinatown area. To find it, look for Mingle hostel/cafe. On the counter ask for the access code. Then go out and find unmarked door with pin lock. Type in the code you got from Mingle and voila – welcome to one of the most creepiest bars in town themed around traditional Chinese funeral traditions.
Drinks here are a bit hit’n’miss, but what counts is the presentation. And I love the cozy open space concept under the sky.
My top favorite for its really quirky atmosphere and big screen playing obscure Chinese music videos in the background.
I can’t tell if it’s a bar that dabs as a tattoo parlor or a tattoo parlor that dabs as someone’s living room. But no matter what it is, this place has this very homey atmosphere – emphasized by the fact you have to take off your shoes upon entering. That is, if you find the entrance in the first place.
To get in, you have to look for the metal grill door like any other in the area. Then ring the bell and wait. If the door opens, you found it!
Opening Hours: 9 pm – 1 am
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/XG5FNvHitwuRqAVt5
Address: 177, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
7 Grab A Late Night Snack At Foodtruck Market in KLCC
By now I think it’s more than apparent that Malaysia is quite a lot about food. So it won’t surprise that among things to do in Kuala Lumpur Tapak Urban Street Dining will have its place.
Every evening between 6 pm – 12 am (on weekends till 1 am) a huge parking lot that is walking distance from KLCC Park turns into a massive food fair.
You can find the usual local favourites as well as Mexican burritos and anything in between of it since most of the food trucks – in the name of hipsterism – try to add a bit of twist in their offerings.
Not so surprisingly, patrons are predominantly local youth. But having a quick bite surrounded by city lights is worth of visit for anyone regardless of age.
How To Get There:
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/f4scoEDFqMYJngY7A
Address: Persiaran Hampshire, off, Jalan Ampang, Hampshire Park, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Nearest Public Transport: KLCC LRT (Kelana Jaya Line)
Monday – Thursday | 6pm – 12 am
Friday – Sunday | 6pm – 1am
Did I miss anything?
There are definitely many more things to do in Kuala Lumpur and I will keep updating this list with anything that comes on my mind.
Do you have any suggestion that should definitely be on the list? Comment below or send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it to the list!