I’ve wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur since a colleague told me about it 20 years ago. It stayed with me for years as a dream destination. I finally went there this year and got an idea of its allure. A blend of old heritage sites and modern buildings mixed with a blend of cultures creates a sensory experience everywhere you go. Learning about the tin-mining history that helped create the multicultural dynamic is fascinating.
Here are 15 of the best things to do when you visit Kuala Lumpur.
1. Petronas Towers
You can’t go to Kuala Lumpur without visiting these towers. You can see them from around the capital. For me, having lost my towers (I’m from New York City), I found it comforting to see these towers and explore them. You can certainly enjoy photos from different angles around the base of the towers, but there are two extra activities I’d recommend:
Walk The Sky Bridge
You have to purchase tickets for this experience. With prices in Malaysia generally cheap, this activity is a little expensive, comparatively. But, it was completely worth it. Sky Bridge is on level 41 and 42 of the towers. You have about 15 minutes to enjoy walking the bridge and taking photos before you head up to the top of the towers for some amazing city-wide views.
Attend An Evening Light Show
Every night at 8 p.m., there’s a light show at the back of Petronas Towers. It’s around a lake. If you don’t see the lake, you’re on the wrong side. Just walk through the tower you’re in, and on the other side, you should find that lake. Everyone gathers around to watch. I particularly liked sitting on the grass mound; there’s only one and you can’t miss it. Somehow, it felt like a night at summer camp with the heat and entertainment.
This is one of Kuala Lumpur’s main areas with good reason: You can walk through and enjoy delicious foods. In fact, I did a free walking tour my first day there and ate a tea egg. It’s the most delicious egg I’ve ever eaten. Chinatown also offers beautiful street art and a temple where locals pray for their children to pass their exams. (I wondered why the children don’t go to that temple and wish for their exams to be canceled!)
Otherwise known as “Little India,” this is a fun area to walk around and feel like you’ve been transported to another country. One store has loud Indian music playing that’s so happy, I almost started dancing in the street. There are many stores where you can buy food items and Indian clothing. Of course, while there, treat yourself to some Indian food!
4. Central Market
This was my favorite market to shop in. On the bottom floor are mostly high-quality crafts and goods, many of which are hand made. On the upper floor is some of the least expensive clothing I found in Malaysia. I needed some attire to tolerate the heat and was impressed with the quality for so little money. It’s also next to another place not to be missed: the mouth of the Klang River. There’s a beautiful view, and if you walk around the river, you can visit a mosque, if it’s during opening hours.
5. National Mosque Of Malaysia
I find it fascinating to visit mosques, temples, and churches when I travel. I arrived at the National Mosque of Malaysia near closing time and chatted with a lovely woman who works there. She quickly found three men to give me a tour. I had to don a full robe complete with a hood which, in the Malaysian heat, is not the most comfortable experience. The tour was excellent and I was allowed to watch one of the prayer sessions. The best part was being allowed to ask my guides all the questions I wanted about their religious practices. I was given a copy of the Quran as a gift.
6. Perdana Botanical Garden
This botanical garden is quite large. In fact, I thought I had seen the whole garden, until a week later, I ended up finding an entirely other side of it! There’s a lake, a small herd of deer in an enclosure, and enough nature to enjoy an afternoon.
7. Nighttime Bus Tour
This is a city that literally lights up at night. Make sure to take one of the evening buses around the city to drink in all the neighborhoods and how they dazzle in the lighting. The bus guide will provide some historic information and you’ll be given a few minutes to get off the bus at a few locations.
Pro Tips: Arrive early if you want to sit on the upper deck. Upstairs offers both covered and uncovered seats. Another tip, if you do sit upstairs and want to keep your seat after getting off the bus, consider leaving something on your seat.
8. Walking Food Tour
There’s a lot of food to try in Malaysia, in general. Frankly, I found it overwhelming. I was delighted to find a walking food tour with a lovely guide. She took us around Chinatown and we tasted sweets and durian, drank cocktails on a hotel roof with a view, and ate one of the most delicious chicken pot meals I had while in Malaysia.
9. Bukit Bintang
I loved this area of Kuala Lumpur. Between the beautiful street art, Jalan Alor food market street (which comes alive at night), and Times Square (where all the shopping centers converge), you can spend hours discovering wonderful places. If you want a foot massage, there’s several shops on your way to Jalan Alor, and there’s a restaurant row as well, if you prefer.
10. Heli Bar
This is definitely touristy and over-priced, but another “worth it!” experience. I found it magical to have the entire city surround me at that height, lit up majestically at night. You can grab a table and stare, and later, walk around the circular roof and take loads of photos.
This is a wonderful way to spend an hour. On the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur is a place where you can spend an hour with about 10 huskies. You can pet them, sit on the couch with them, learn about the breed, and smile a lot. It’s not just for kids. The owner is a 26-year-old entrepreneur and takes excellent care of the dogs. Yes, they have plenty of cold air, which is important in Malaysia!
12. KL Forest Eco Park
Another surprise is this large park with walkways throughout. It was so large I didn’t get to visit all of it. You’ll have nature all around you because you’re actually walking through the only rainforest in Kuala Lumpur! It’s located right next to KL Tower.
Pro Tip: The park is sometimes closed during or after inclement weather. This is because there are some areas with fairly steep slopes.
13. Royal Selangor Pewter Factory
You may know that tin mining put Malaysia on the map. You may not know there’s a pewter factory in Kuala Lumpur. Take the free tour, discover Royal Selangor’s history, and see how pewter items are made at the factory. The real treat, in my opinion, is that you can make either a pewter bowl or jewelry while there! I decided to make jewelry and was fascinated to see how quickly pewter cools. The teacher showed us how to use molds and pour our own creations. I did both and came away with a necklace, a bracelet, and a keychain.
Kuala Lumpur surprised me. It’s a wonderful blend of cultures, food markets, and neighborhoods. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll have a hard time fitting it all in! Check out my videos on Kuala Lumpur if you want to see, rather than read, my experiences.
Pro Tip: The subway system takes some getting used to and Uber is so inexpensive you might skip the subway and just take a rideshare.