Kuala Lumpur is as diverse of a city as they come. The capital of Malaysia is at the crossroads of different cultures, including Tamil, Chinese, Malay and the indigenous. It’s the country’s most populated city, so it’s no wonder that there’s an insane amount of things to do here for every type of traveler and any type of budget.
We spent about 3 days here and found the time to do quite a lot, despite the rainy weather and intense heat. Because tourism is such an important focus for the city, you will really find plenty to fill your days here. Feel free to go off the beaten path, explore anything between the very traditional to the ultra-modern, enjoy the party life or create memories as a family. Seriously, this city has it all!
Chances are, you will be flying into to Kuala Lumpur. It’s a major airport in South East Asia and a layover stop for many flights around the area. There are 2 major airports in the city, KLIA and KLIA2. Both are close to each other and not that far from the city centre. There is a free shuttle that takes you from one airport to the other.
Getting to the centre of town is actually quite easy. There are a few options for you:
Public transportation: You can either take the express train to Sentral station. It will cost you RM55 and take about 30 minutes. The train passes every 15 minutes during peak hours. You can also take the bus, or Airport coach, that costs RM12, but takes about 1 hour. From Sentral, figure out where your hotel is and take the super convenient LRT to get there.
Taxis: They are also a cheap option to getting around! To get into the centre should cost between RM80-100 and take about an hour in all. For an even cheaper option, you can take a Grab, the equivalent of Uber in South East Asia. It will cost a fraction of the price!
Getting around KL
Did we mention how tourist-friendly this place is? The public transportation makes it super easy and convenient to get around the city. We ended up taking the LRT everywhere, or even just walking. Our hotel was so conveniently located that it made walking around easy. Also, because it was a stone’s throw away from the Masjid Jamek LRT station, we found it was so easy to get around that way as well.
There is a 2-day tourist pass available for the LRT to visitors, but make sure you will using it a lot before buying it. Because we could walk to most destinations, this wasn’t necessary for us.
Another great way to get around, especially if where you are going is not near public transportation is Grab. For those who don’t know, Grab is Uber in South East Asia – They actually bought out Uber in this part of the world. You get all the convenience, like knowing in advance how much your taxi ride will cost. It’s cheap too, which is a good bonus!
Things to do
Petronas twin towers
Obviously, this is the first thing on the list. I know we usually do things our way, but you just can’t miss these monumental towers when you’re in town. They’re Derek’s favourite buildings so we just had to come see them for ourselves!
Standing at an impressive 451.9 meters and 88 stories high, the Petronas twin towers are the pride of the city. You can spot them from miles away all across the city, but you can’t just take one glance at them. They are so different by day and by night that they are worth visiting twice. We actually went before sunset and then later at night, in the same day. The Suria KLCC mall is right there, so a perfect place to spend some time between visits.
For budget travelers like us, taking your picture downstairs is already quite impressive. Be warned, there are a TON of people there. A little tip: we found the best spot to take your pics are from the side – the middle is insanely crowded and someone will always be in your shot.
If you have some time and money to spare, you can go up the towers and onto the Skybridge. This is the world’s highest 2-storey bridge that connects the 2 towers. This will set you back 85RM per person.
Getting here: Super easy! Jump on the LRT train and get off the KLCC Station.
Whether you are looking for the fanciest of fancy things, to watch a movie, to spend time at an art gallery or just to window shop, this is the mall for you. With 7 storeys of shops, you can find anything and everything you could possibly need at Suria KLCC.
We’re not big shoppers, so we spent our time here at the Galeri Petronas, admiring the works of art on display. The best part about the gallery – it’s free! Perfect way to get cultured during one of our rainy days.
Another awesome way to spend your time not shopping is eating! The Suria KLCC food court has something from all four corners of the globe. The best part is that there are plenty of vegetarian options available. Bon appetit!
Getting here: Easy! If you were at the Petronas towers, just walk into the mall. If not, head to the same KLCC station as the Petronas towers.
If the weather is nice, you can grab you bite to eat as a takeaway and head down to the KLCC Park. Situated within the KLCC precinct, it’s a “lush, 50-acre urban sanctuary” as they describe it. We would tend to agree with this. Perfect for people-watching and just chilling in the middle of the city, this park has something for everyone. It boasts a two-acre children’s playground, wading pool and jogging track, shelters and benches, patterned footpaths and sculptures.
Getting here: Again, easy if you were at the Petronas towers of the mall. Just walk outside! If not, head to the same KLCC station as the Petronas towers.
KL Forest Eco-Park
A quick refuge from the city, this Eco-Park is a nice place to visit to get away from the city. Great for adults and kids alike, there is an awesome 200m canopy walk that lets you get awesome views of the city and of the Menara Kuala Lumpur. This park is the only remaining stretch of tropical rainforest within the city and has plenty of paths for jogging and trekking.
Entrance to the park is free (yay!) and it’s right next to the Menara Kuala Lumpur, so you can visit both quite easily. The park is open from 7AM to 7PM daily.
Getting here: If you are taking the LRT, Dang Wangi station is a short walk from one of the entrances.
Menara Kuala Lumpur
Welcome to the 7th tallest telecommunications tower in the world. With a height of 421m, Menara Kuala Lumpur is an impressive sight to see. Although the Observation Deck is at 276m, it still offers great views of the city when you make your way up there.
On top of the views, there are also a ton of attractions at the Menara Kuala Lumpur, like a rotating restaurant, an upside-down house, an aquarium and a zoo. Being animal lovers, we would say to avoid the last two because animals belong in the wild, not in boxes, but you do have those options.
Getting here: From the Eco-Park, you can see the tower and just walk to it. If not, you can also get off at either the Masjid Jamek station or the Dang Wangi station and make your way there. Both are about 15 minute walks.
Walk around Chinatown
What major city doesn’t have a Chinatown! KL’s is quite impressive, complete with temples, delicious food stalls, and endless shopping. Based on Petaling Street, it is one of the most popular tourists sites, as much by day as by night. If you have some decent haggling skills, put them to the test at one of the stalls here, although most of what you find is already pretty cheap.
The stalls here sell everything from Chinese herbs, to gadgets, imitation goods (we would recommend you avoid those) and anything else you can think of. We’re not big shoppers (long-term travel will do that to you) and we’re minimalists too, but it was still fun to walk around and see what each vendor offers, if only to make some fun conversation with them! The market is open every day, from 10am to 11pm.
Getting here: From the 1000 Miles Hotel, it’s a quick 10-15 minute walk to Petaling Street (Jalan Petaling). From Bukit Bintang, it’s also about 15 minutes. If not, you can take the Monorail to Maharajalela station which is around the corner of the southern end of Petaling Street. If you are coming from KL Sentral or KLCC, you can take the LRT and get off at Pasar Seni. The Pasar Seni station is just to the west of Chinatown.
Guan Di Temple
While you are in Chinatown, don’t forget to check out Guan Di Temple, one of the most impressive and oldest Chinese temples in Kuala Lumpur. This temple is home to the legendary 59kg copper Guan Dao (Chinese pole weapon) that many believe it possesses a special power to bless and protect the person who touches or lifts it. Some even believe that it has an inner force that can magically turn a person’s luck around as well. Worth trying for sure… unless you have good luck already!
How to get here: Just walk to Jalan Tun H. S. Lee, a small street parallel to Petaling Street and you will find it.
This is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. It is extravagantly decorated, with tiles from Spain and Italy, precious stones and gold. It was founded by Tamil immigrants from southern India, who arrived in Malaysia as contract labourers to build the railways and roads or work in the rubber plantations – its primary purpose was to serve as a solace from the rigours of their working life.
Although construction began in 1873, there has been plenty of restoration and embellishment occurring over the years. It was still under renovation when we visited!
You will have to remove your shoes before you enter this temple. They stall at the entrance will charge you 2RM per pair to keep them.
How to get here: If you were just at Guan Di Temple, walk across the street!
This is the main square in Kuala Lumpur, right in front of Sultan Abdul Samad Building (the former State Secretariat). It is the first place that the Malaysian flag was hoisted in 1957, and here’s a fun fact for you, it is still home to the tallest flagpole in the world at 95m! It’s a great place to take a picture, either on the fountain, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building, or the Royal Selangor Club.
Getting here: Take the train to Masjid Jamek station and walk around on the bridge. You can walk all around the square here, it’s just beautiful!
Mosques to visit
There are quite a few beautiful mosques in Kuala Lumpur that are worth visiting. But before you go, there are a few things to note.
When you arrive at a mosque, as a non-Muslim visitor, you will need to register and will receive a robe to wear over your clothes, as much for men as for women. This is to show respect to the members of the community here. In line with their traditions, women need to have their head and hair covered, as well as their arms and legs. Loose fitting pants are better suited than tight ones or leggings. Men also need to have their shoulders covered, as well as their knees. If not, they will also be given a robe, though they need not wear the hood.
When you are in religious places, whether they are mosques, temples or churches, it’s always important to act with integrity and respect for the people around. It was quite frustrating to see people put on photoshoots here, imitating and laughing at certain ways people pray or act in this religious place. We may not all believe in the same things, but it’s important that we treat others with respect, especially when they welcome us into their religious space.
Also, make sure you check opening hours for all mosques, as most of the time, they are closed to non-Muslim visitors during prayer hours.
Masjid Jamek, known as the Friday Mosque, was built in 1907. It’s the oldest mosque in the city and was built on the first Malay Burial Ground in Kuala Lumpur. The mosque sits at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers, which is also the birthplace of Kuala Lumpur. Quite a historic and significant place in the capital city.
The beautiful architecture of the mosque is a combination of Moorish, Islam and Magul. It is really a stunning religious site and a great place to walk around and learn about the religion. It’s important to note that the mosque is closed during prayer time for non-Muslims. It’s open Saturday to Thursday, from 08:30 to 12:30 & 14:30 to 16:30 for visitors.
Getting here: It’s a breeze! Just get off Masjid Jamek train station and walk across the street. You can’t miss it.
Masjid Negara is Malaysia’s National Mosque and a nationwide symbol of Islam. It was built in 1965 and is made of a main prayer hall with 48 smaller domes around it. Spread across 13 acres, the National Mosque is able to accommodate up to 15,000 people, though when we went, luckily, there were not so many people there. The Grand Hall is the most intricate part of the mosque with beautiful stained glass adorning its walls, as well as verses from the Quran.
Again, be aware of opening hours as non-Muslim tourists will not be allowed in during prayer time. The mosque is open from 06:30AM to 01:00PM, from 02:30PM to 04:00PM, and from 05:30PM to 07:00PM.
Getting here: We could easily walk here from our hotel, or Masjid Jamek, but if you take the LRT, it’s at Pasar Seni station. You will then need to cross the river by one of the pededstrian walkways. The signs to the Masjid Negara are quite clearly indicated.
Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan
To be honest, this mosque was not on our list at first, but we are so happy we made the trek here. It ended up being our favorite place of all. Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, also known as the Federal Territory Mosque, opened its doors in 2000 after 4 years of construction. Seeing the size of this mosque, we were impressed by how short this was but the volunteers seemed to think it was long. They should see how long construction takes in Montreal!
Masjid Wilayah is one of the largest and most modern of all the mosques in Malaysia. It incorporates design elements, motifs and architecture from Iran, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and more.
The best thing about our visit here was the free guided tour. Two volunteers took us around the mosque explaining its details and spoke to us about Islam. We had very interesting discussions about the differences between sexes, how women are treated and so much more… Maybe we should have warned them they were dealing with a feminist.
The free tours are available every day from 10AM to 6PM except on Eid Fitri and Eid Adha holidays.
Getting here: The Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Mosque is a little further than the center of town. The easiest way to get there is to take a Grab, it’s about a 10 minute ride from our hotel. You can also take the bus there, either from KL Sentral, Jalan Stresen Sentral 3 (U83) or from Pasar Seni (B115). Entrance into the mosque is free, with or without the tour.
Thean Hou Temple
Your visit to Kuala Lumpur would not be complete without checking out Thean Hou Temple. It’s one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia. Built in 1894, it’s located on a hilltop in the southwest of the city, so it offers some amazing views of KL. The six-tiered Buddhist temple is also known as the Temple of the Goddess of Heaven and is dedicated to Tian Hou, a goddess said to protect fishermen, and is also a shrine to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. It’s a beautiful and cheerful temple with tons of lanterns swaying around in the wind.
Getting here: This temple is not close to any LRT stations, so the best way to get here is to grab a Grab, get it?
The Batu Caves are one of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular tourist attractions and well worth the trek to get there. The caves and the 100-year-old temples there are situated about 10km north of KL and are actually at the top of a limestone hill. Yes, you will have to climb up some stairs, but the monkeys there will provide you with some entertainment along the way.
There are three major caves and a few smaller ones. The limestone formations are actually supposed to be around 400 million years old, so it is quite impressive to see. Cathedral Cave, the largest and most popular of Batu Caves, is home to many Hindu shrines. At the foot of Batu Hill are two other cave temples – the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave.
The Caves are free to visit and are open daily from 6AM to 9PM. There, you can see a great view of the city below. Because there are temples in the Caves, you will be asked to wear appropriate clothing – shoulders covered and a skirt or shorts that go below your knees.
However, there is a paying cave, known as the Dark Cave that you can enter for a 35RM fee. This will allow you to participate in a 45-minute guided tour where they will show you all the creepy crawly creatures that live in these caves. They actually use some of the proceeds from your ticket purchase to do conservation and research for the eco-biodiversity in this cave.
*Update: since we wrote this article, the Batu cave steps have undergone a radical transformation! There are now painted all types of vibrant colours, adding to its charm!
Getting here: First, you will need to get to Sentral station. From there, you will take a bus to Sentul then a train to Batu Caves. If the train from Sentral is running, then you can take the KTM train directly to the Batu Caves. The whole trek will take you about 45-minutes, but this depends on when the train leaves vs when you get there. This train will cost you RM4.80 per person to go and come back to Sentral.
Where to eat
TG’s Nasi Kandar: We went to TG’s more times than we care to acknowledge for some delicious Indian food. Can you really blame us? The food was cheap, delicious and easy to get to. Everything we can ask for. Our favourites here are the veggie murtabak, the cheese roti and the butter paneer marsala.
Alor street: This street transforms into a night market during the evening, every single night. Cheap eats can be found in food stalls all around, as well in the surrounding restaurants. Just make sure you check out prices before you sit. You will also have your fair share of entertainment here with all the street musicians around. An awesome place to walk around and take in all the sights, sounds and smells.
Waterlily: Unfortunately for us, we only found Waterlily the day before leaving KL, because we would have eaten here many more times! Being a vegetarian restaurant, this was perfect for us. At a very reasonable cost, they will serve you set meals consisting of tofu in soy sauce, 1 of 3 types of fake meat, vegetables, rice and a drink. Their fried noodles and steamed buns were also to die for.
Where to stay
This one is a no-brainer. We picked a super convenient hotel in the heart of the city. The 1000 Miles Hotel is a stone’s throw away from Masjid Jamek LRT station. Conveniently located between Little India and Chinatown, a short walk away from Merdaka Square and Masjid Jamek Mosque, it’s pretty much walking distance to most of the attractions you want to see.
As if it’s convenient location wasn’t enough, there’s also the fact that the rooms are super clean, the bed is comfy and the shower is amazing. The staff is always helpful and they have plenty of tips for when you make plans. Above that, they are just great people to chat with. The laid-back feel of the place made it super easy to meet new friends and the hang out in the lobby. Better yet, there is an awesome rooftop terrace where you can drink a beer at night and just hang out watching the amazing view of the city when it’s all lit up.
Seriously, this place has everything you can possibly ask for. It’s just awesome.
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