What to See and Do in Kuala Lumpur

21 Great Ideas for Enjoying Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Petronas Towers
••• The Petronas Towers are a must-see in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Greg Rodgers

There are plenty of fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur -- Malaysia’s thriving, multinational capital. Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, but you’ll also find plenty of Persian, Indonesian, and other ethnic influences. Even major attractions aside, you can spend days simply wandering around the various neighborhoods, sampling street treats, and taking in an exciting mix of cultures.

  • First, see this guide to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to better understand the city.

Just Exploring

  • Stroll the Bintang Walk: Everyone who visits KL eventually ends up strolling along Bukit Bintang, what is essentially “The Strip” in Kuala Lumpur. You’ll find plenty of malls, spas, restaurants, nightclubs, street performers, concerts, and a myriad of distractions vying for your money!
  • Take a Walk Through Little India: The spicy smells and vibrant sounds of Little India make it well worth exploring. Fragrant curry power literally hangs in the air as the sounds of Bollywood help you keep pace.
  • Petaling Street: Petaling Street is Kuala Lumpur Chinatown’s clogged, hectic market full of fakes for sale. But while good bargains are hard to find, there are plenty of outdoor tables for grabbing a beer and watching the throng pass by. The infamous Reggae Bar, a favorite of backpackers, is just around the corner.
    • Hop a Free Bus: The Go KL City Bus is a free way to move around and see more of the city than you could have otherwise. See more transportation options in KL.
    • Try a Fish Spa: Ever had small fish nibble the dead skin off of your feet? The sensation is eerie. You’ll find fish spas in the Central Market and dotted along Bukit Bintang.

      Major Sights in Kuala Lumpur

      • The Petronas Towers: Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. You’ll find a posh mall in the bottom and a pleasant viewing park outside. Arrive before 9 a.m. to secure a free ticket (quantities are limited) that allows access to the skybridge. The towers look even more impressive once lit in the evening; plan to come back at night.
      • Perdana Lake Gardens: This quiet respite acts as the green lungs for what is otherwise a hectic city. Inside the lush gardens you’ll find the KL Bird Park, orchid gardens, national planetarium, outdoor art and sculptures, and other pleasant ways to relax.
      • Menara KL Tower: Start walking toward the towering space needle that can be seen throughout the city and you’ll find the Bukit Nanas forest reserve at the bottom, home to monkeys and a relaxing trail system. Inside the tower, you’ll find shops, restaurants, and coffee shops with excellent views. A zipline is on site for the adventurous.
      • Aquaria KLCC: Located in KLCC, the city aquarium is home to more than 5,000 species of fish.
      • Merdeka Field: The green field now serving as a soccer pitch was the site where Malaysia first declared independence. The old colonial buildings in the area are beautiful, and you’ll find the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery nearby.
        • National Mosque: Known as Masjid Negara, the minaret of the national mosque can be seen from afar. You must be suitably dressed to enter. Address: 50480 Jalan Perdana.
        • Pasar Seni: Pasar Seni is KL’s Central Market, a sprawling, multi-floored complex of shops and vendor carts peddling all manner of things. You’ll find cheap and not-so-cheap souvenirs. Bargaining is the key to victory.
        • KLCC Park: You’ll find KLCC park near the Petronas Towers in KLCC. Enjoy the waterfalls, walking path, children’s playground, and beautiful landscaping.
        • Thean Hou Temple: This Hainanese temple isn’t very old, but it’s lovely to explore. The grounds are often used for weddings.
        • The National Museum: You’ll learn plenty about local culture inside this three-story building that’s just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. Find the National Museum just south of the Perdana Lake Gardens.
          • Batu Caves: The Batu Caves are eight miles north of the city, but thanks to a new line just opened, you can now take the train. The Batu Caves are a major Hindu shrine and are very impressive geologically -- well worth the time to visit.

          Eating and Drinking in Kuala Lumpur

          • Nibble Along Jalan Alor: Located near the Bukit Bintang area, Jalan Alor is a food street from end to end. Expect plastic tables and chairs in the street, a big evening crowd, and lots of hecklers trying to pull you into their restaurants. Luckily, the food is both cheap and excellent, as is the people watching.
          • Try Claypot Food: Claypot chicken rice is a unique and popular dish that can be found in Chinatown. The fire-heated clay pots keep toasting your rice and chicken as you eat it.
          • Enjoy a Kopitiam or Mamak Eatery: As part of the local culture as anything, Kopitiams can be found throughout the city. These open-air coffee shops and restaurants are social hubs for gossiping, watching sports, eating cheap snacks and food, and enjoying teh tarik.
          • Try a Padang Eatery: Indonesian-style Padang restaurants are found everywhere in KL and can be cheap, as long as you don’t get too greedy! Regardless, it’s a great way to try lots of new things. Food is cooked in advance and displayed; you point to what you want and are charged for what you add to your heaping plate of rice. Try some of the tempeh offerings for a real treat.
          • Smoke Shisha: You’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, and lounges serving up beautifully decorated water pipes. Try the Persian take for an enjoyable experience.