Malaysia’s capital is an easy city to explore thanks to efficient public transportation and streets that are much more easily traversed on foot than say, Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City. An abundance of green space and a good balance between modern and historic also add to the city’s many charms. Whether you’re interested in culture, history, shopping or simply stuffing your face with all the best street food you can find, KL (as it’s mostly known) will have something worthwhile to offer. Read on for some of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Visit the Petronas Twin Towers
The soaring, 88-story Petronas Twin Towers will likely be one of the first things you see on a visit to KL. And whether you head up to the dizzying height of level 86 or simply gaze up at the glinting steel and glass structure from below — it’s hard not to be impressed. Ascend 170 meters in the speedy elevator to see the Skybridge, the world's highest two-story bridge. Or keep going to the aforementioned level 86 for some seriously Instagram-worthy images of the city skyline. The building hosts a luxury shopping mall on the ground level and is always photo-worthy at any angle (even under cloud cover).
Shop Central Market
Anyone looking to pick up some local handicrafts should make a stop at Central Market. Built in 1888, the site originally functioned as a wet market, but it’s now one of the best spots to stock up on souvenirs in the city. The picturesque Art Deco building is home to over 350 shops and kiosks selling everything from Malaysian batik and jewellery, to artwork, accessories and home décor. Even if you’re not in the market to buy, it’s worth heading here to browse, and makes for a good half-day of sightseeing when combined with nearby Chinatown. If you get hungry, visit the mezzanine level for an array of local cuisine at wallet-friendly prices.
Eat Your Way Along Jalan Alor
Food is a big deal in Kuala Lumpur, and this collection of roadside restaurants that comes to life around 5 p.m. is one of the best ways to experience great food and the city's diverse cuisine. Stalls and restaurants start setting up shop in the late afternoon with tables and chairs being readied for hungry customers. By the time 5 or 6 p.m. roll around the street gets filled with locals and visitors alike ready to dig into the many Malay, Chinese and Thai dishes on offer. Don't miss the many satay carts on the street, wherein you can choose your meat, seafood or veggies - all displayed on skewers over ice - and then see it grilled before your eyes. Dig on on a red plastic stool with a cold beer among locals - what could be better?
Head to Batu Caves
If you want to visit a unique attraction around Kuala Lumpur, make your way to Batu Caves. Take a deep breath and climb your way up the 272 steps to this limestone hill, home to a series of caves filled with Hindu shrines and temples. The sacred site is pretty awe-inspiring and makes for a good half-day trip (and some epic photo ops). You’ll be amongst loads of monkeys here, too and while they may look cute, they’re notorious for stealing food, soda cans and even cameras — so be careful. Located about 13 kilometers north of the city centre, the caves can be easily reached by taxi or public transit.
Find a Bargain on Petaling Street
The centre of KL’s original Chinatown is one of the best places in the city to brush up on your bargaining skills. Head under the green awning covering the street and you’ll be greeted with stalls and kiosks lining both sides, selling everything from T-shirts and handbags, to shoes, watches and electronics. But be prepared to bargain since prices quoted usually have a fairly high markup. This is also a great area to sample some of the city’s best street food and there are several bars in the area.
Make Some Feathered Friends at KL Bird Park
Love birds? You’ll want to make time on your itinerary to hang out KL Bird Park, known to have the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary. Here you’ll find over 3000 birds of varying species from around the world, many of which are not in cages or enclosures. Zones one and two make up the free flight aviary, which feels a bit like walking through a tropical rainforest, complete with colorful birds flying above you. Make sure to have your camera ready.
See Some Undersea Life at Aquaria KLCC
Within walking distance from the Petronas Twin Towers you’ll find Aquaria KLCC, a massive aquarium covering 60,000 square feet and filled with 5,000 different aquatic and non-aquatic creatures from Malaysia and around the world. It’s the type of place you can go back to several times and still see something new. The efficient layout makes exploring easy and there’s something interesting to see everywhere you turn. One of the aquarium’s highlights is the 90-metre long transparent tunnel with a moving walkway filled with sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. This is a great attraction if you've got kids with you, but worthwhile for anyone interested in undersea life.
Go Back to Nature at KL Forest Eco Park
Sometimes you just feel like you need a bit of a break from city life and luckily, in Kuala Lumpur, you can do that without actually leaving the city. KL Forest Eco Park (formerly know as Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve) is a swath of tropical rainforest right in the middle of the city and it’s also one of the oldest permanent forest reserves in Malaysia. Explore one of several walking trails and (assuming you’re OK with heights), check out the canopy walk that takes you 200 metres above the forest floor for a bird’s eye view of the treetops as well as the city beyond. Bonus: it’s free to enter.
Explore Brickfields, KL's Little India
Immerse yourself in Kuala Lumpur’s colourful Indian community with a trip to Brickfields. Located just a short walk from Sentral LRT Station, the area hums with energy and the sounds of Bollywood music spill out from shops selling saris and aromatic spices. Fill up on delicious (and cheap) Indian food as you explore the vibrant area.
Bar-Hop Along Changkat Bukit Bintang
It always seems to be happy hour along Changkat Bukit Bintang, a short stretch crammed with bars, pubs and restaurants. The area comes alive at night, but it’s also worth visiting during the day if you feel like cooling off with a cold beer. Patios spill out onto sidewalks making this an ideal spot to people-watch. And starting at noon there are usually some good drink deals to be found including many two for one deals.