Top things to do in Kuala Lumpur: What to explore and where to eat in the Malaysian capital city

Photo: Ishan @seefromthesky/Unsplash
Photo: Ishan @seefromthesky/Unsplash

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s capital city, and the largest in the country – is a bustling metropolis full of natural beauty and cultural charms. Amidst the glittering skyscrapers and heritage buildings, there’s plenty to do, see, and explore, no matter if you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local. From trendy cafes and famous street food stalls to shopping hotspots and wildlife wonders, here’s the lowdown on the best things to do in KL.


Admire the arts scene

First stop, the National Museum. After all, that’s where you’ll get a general overview of the history and culture of the country. If you’re more into niche interests, try the Telekom Museum to wind your way through the evolution of telecommunication, or the National Textile Museum to admire displays of embroidery, batik paintings, and traditional apparel. There’s also the Islamic Arts Museum, which showcases the beauty of Islamic art with displays of artifacts, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry.

For something on the quirky side, try the Selfie Museum, a dessert pop-up dedicated to, well, the art of shooting selfies. Or check out the Museum of Illusions for some trick eye snaps.


Café hop your way through the city

Photo: Brooke Lark/Unsplash
Photo: Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Café-hopping is basic, sure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat your way through KL’s top brunch joints, because they’re pretty damn good. From industrial warehouse types and rustic alcoves to homely patisseries and eclectic spaces, our recommendations include VCR, Merchant’s Lane, Dotty’s Pastries & Coffee, Breakfast Thieves, Birch, and Lokl.


Chow down on street food

Jalan Alor. Photo: Job Savelsberg/Unsplash
Jalan Alor. Photo: Job Savelsberg/Unsplash

KL’s a foodie city, so you won’t want to waste any calories here. Just follow the savory aromas to hotspots like Jalan Alor, Taman Connaught, Tapak Urban Dining, Petaling Street Market, or even Hutong in Lot 10 mall.

The no-frills culinary adventure will take you from roadside stalls to night markets to food trucks, where you’ll sample a scrumptious variety of satay (meat skewers), nasi lemak (coconut rice dish), rojak (shrimp paste salad), Ramly burgers (wrapped in egg), assam laksa (rice noodles in tamarind fish broth), and chendol (coconut milk dessert).


Go to the top of the world’s tallest twin towers

Photo: Sadie Teper/Unsplash
Photo: Sadie Teper/Unsplash

We admit, this one’s a touristy suggestion. But really, can you say you’ve been to KL if you failed to visit its famous Petronas Twin Towers? (It’s like saying you’ve been to Singapore but never set eyes on the ship-shaped Marina Bay Sands.)

At the top of the world’s tallest twin towers, you can take in the city skyline from the observation deck or skybridge. For a better view though, we recommend admiring the iconic structure from KL Tower, since it’s such a magnificent sight to behold. However, if heights aren’t your thing, head to the nearby Aquaria KLCC to hang with marine creatures or stroll around KLCC park for some outdoor family time.


Hop on a firefly boat ride on the Selangor River

An hour’s drive away from the city, the coastal village of Kuala Selangor is known for the famous twinkle of its firefly colony along the river. To immerse yourself in the magic of it all, take a boat out to Kampung Kuantan in the evening and bask in the glow among the mangrove trees.


Journey out to the caves

Photo: Laurentiu Morariu/Unsplash
Photo: Laurentiu Morariu/Unsplash

A limestone hill hiding a maze of caves, the majestic Batu Caves is home to elaborate Hindu shrines and temples, which crowds gather to during Thaipusam. Cathedral (or Temple) Cave is the biggest – you’ll have to climb over 200 steps next to the towering status of Hindu deity Murugan just to get there – so start your day early if you’d like to avoid the hordes.

To try your hand at spelunking, check out the Dark Cave and its labyrinth of nooks and crannies. Otherwise, browse through the carvings and wall paintings of Hindu legends at the Art Gallery Cave. But beware the monkeys that have been known to swipe stuff from oblivious tourists.


Laugh out loud at a comedy club

Crack a smile at Malaysia’s “first and longest running” comedy club, Crackhouse, where the show goes on six nights every week. Open since 2014, the place spotlights local, regional, and international stand-up talents with everything from improve to open-mic sessions.


Paint the town red at night 

Photo: Fred Rivett/Unsplash
Photo: Fred Rivett/Unsplash

Ready those dance moves, because the city welcomes all sorts of midnight madness once the clock strikes 12. Places to bump and grind include Kyo, Zouk KL, Groove the Disco, Jiro, Six, and Fuze. But if you prefer a quieter watering hole to sip on solid cocktails, make your way to bars such as Coley, JungleBird, Coppersmith, or Hyde.

Those in the know can also hunt down hidden speakeasy-style spaces like Omakase + Appreciate, Skullduggery, The Attic Bar, The Vault, and The Pawn Room, while visitors on the lookout for stunning views of the city can try Heli Lounge Bar for panoramic pictures, Bar Trigona in Four Seasons KL for cityscape sights, and Wet Deck on the 12th floor of W Kuala Lumpur for a poolside glimpse of the Petronas Twin Towers.


Shop your way across the malls and markets

Photo: Marcus Loke/Unsplash
Photo: Marcus Loke/Unsplash

Sleek and shiny malls are abundant in KL, so if your shopaholic tendencies are begging to be unleashed, head to retailers like Mid Valley Megamall, The Gardens Mall, Pavilion KL, Suria KLCC, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, or Fahrenheit 88. Those on a budget can browse for bargains at Central Market, pop by Pasar Lambak KL night market for vintage goods, or squeeze your way through the bustling Chow Kit Market past the wet market stalls, for apparel, shoes, textiles, and more.


Snuggle up to Mother Nature

Green is good, and sometimes you just need a break from the city. One of the places where you can be at one with nature is KL Forest Eco Park, which houses a 200m-long canopy walk for you to walk amongst the treetops. Besides that, there’s the Lake Gardens, a central spot of flora for a breath of fresh air in the city. Further afield, Bukit Tabur warrants a day trip out to hike the thrilling trail and take in vistas of the Kluang Gate Reservoir and the city skyline beyond.


Spend a day with the animals

KL’s got no lack of furry friends, most of which you can find in the National Zoo, which houses over 470 species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians just outside the city. On a smaller scale, Farm in the City in Seri Kembangan allows little ones to get up close with the animals in the petting zoo, and KL Tower Mini Zoo offers a peek at wildlife like meerkats and llamas.

If you aren’t bugged out by insects, the KL Butterfly Park is one of the country’s largest tropical greenhouses, with over 5,000 varieties of fluttering winged creatures. Next door, the KL Bird Park has peacocks, flamingos, hornbills, and other avian species soaring around in their natural habitat.

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