There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur — Malaysia’s eclectic, multinational capital!
Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot for Malay, Indian, Chinese, and many other cultures. Just by walking around the many interesting neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, you'll be treated to food, culture, and influences from all over Asia. With so many free things to do in KL, paying to go inside tourist attractions is optional — just begin exploring!
- Bukit Bintang: 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, hawkers, and a myriad of distractions vying for your money!
- Little India: The spicy smells and uptempo sounds of Little India are part of the experience. Fragrant curry power literally hangs in the air as the sounds of Bollywood help you keep pace. Plan to eat and check out some of the smaller shops.
- 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. Look for the colorful Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple and a Taoist temple in the area.
- Hop a Free Bus: The KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a way to move around and see more of the city than you could have otherwise.
Things to See 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 ticket (quantities are limited) that allows access to the skybridge. The towers look even more impressive once lit in the evening; plan to return at night at least once.
- Perdana Lake Gardens: This quiet respite acts as the green lungs for what is otherwise a hectic city. Inside the lush Perdana Lake Gardens you’ll find the KL Bird Park, orchid gardens, national planetarium (with daily shows), outdoor sculptures, a walking/running track, and plenty of places to enjoy a picnic.
- Menara KL Tower: Start walking toward the iconic space needle that can be seen throughout the city, and you’ll find the Bukit Nanas forest reserve at the bottom. The enclosed space is home to monkeys, a trail system, and even a free canopy walk. Inside the tower, you’ll find shops, restaurants, and coffee shops with excellent views. You'll have to buy a ticket to go to the very top of the tower.
- Aquaria KLCC: Located in KLCC, the Aquaria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur's city aquarium, is home to more than 5,000 species of fish. The aquarium is a good option if you don't have time to get to Tioman Island, Langkawi, or the Perhentians to see some fish in the wild.
- 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.
- Kampung Baru: This defiant traditional neighborhood sits in the shadow of skyscrapers near the Petronas Towers. Walking tours are available for exploring the neighborhood to find traditional houses and other interesting sights.
- 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. Haggling is necessary for scoring deals, but Pasar Seni often hosts free cultural shows on national holidays and weekends.
- KLCC Park: You’ll find KLCC Park near the Petronas Towers in the KLCC neighborhood. 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 temple is affiliated with Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
- The National Museum: You’ll learn plenty about local history and 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 you can take the train. The Batu Caves are an important Hindu shrine (especially during Thaipusam) and just impressive overall. The caves are well worth the time to visit despite the distance.
Eating and Drinking in Kuala Lumpur
- Jalan Alor: Located near the Bukit Bintang area, Jalan Alor is Kuala Lumpur's famous food street. It's hectic! 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 affordable 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.
- Kopitiams and Mamak Eateries: Very much ingrained in local culture, 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, a local tea drink poured with flair!
- Nasi Kandar: Nasi kandar restaurants are found everywhere in KL; most are inexpensive, as long as you don’t get too greedy! Regardless, eating at nasi kandar eateries is a great way to try lots of local specialties without committing an entire meal to one. Food is cooked in advance and displayed buffet style. You point to what you want and get charged for what you add to your heaping plate of rice. Try some of the Indonesian tempeh offerings for a real treat.
- The Helipad: The Heli Lounge Bar, more famously known as "the Helipad," is an actual...wait for it...helipad atop a building that turns into a bar at 6 p.m. every night. Locals, expats, and travelers mix to enjoy the city views from 34 floors up. Expect a crowd, pretentious service, and expensive drink prices — but the view at sunset is worth it.