In 2015 I visited Kuala Lumpur for the first time. It was not my plan to go there, but my flight had an 8-hour layover in the Malaysian capital. My partner and I seized the opportunity to get a first impression of Kuala Lumpur. When I wrote this blog post for the first time, I said that KL had never been on my radar. In fact, Malaysia as a country was totally unknown to me. Something that definitely changed years later, when I lived there – unplanned – for almost a year. Unavoidably, I fell in love with the country and the people. In spring 2023 I was in KL for the third time and hope to have the chance to visit it many more times in the future. Today I am doing this virtually by sharing a list of wonderful Kuala Lumpur things to do.

1. See KL’s city icon: the Petronas Towers

When you think of Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas twin towers probably come to mind. With its 452 meters height, it is one of the tallest buildings in the world.  One of the best places to photograph the towers is from KLCC park, behind Suria Mall. In itself a great place for a walk (check out the Banyan trees), and every night you can watch the musical water show here. Of course, you also have to go up the Petronas Towers which means going to the Skybridge on the 41st floor and the observation deck on the 86th floor. I only did this myself during my last trip to KL. The visits before it was either cloudy or rainy.  Buy your tickets online in advance to make sure you can get in.

Left: 1st visit. Center: 2nd visit. Right: finally sun during the third visit.

Feeling hungry after visiting Petronas? Go to Signature Food Court (2nd floor Suria Mall) and see what speaks to you. I chose the lunch meal at Saravanaa Bhavan (best to share) and had cendol for dessert.

2. Walk under the lights at Pintasan Saloma

Since 2020, Kuala Lumpur has opened a new tourist attraction: the Pintasan Saloma. An interesting pedestrian bridge that connects village-like Kampung Baru with Jalan Ampang, the road towards KLCC and the Petronas Towers. It’s best to visit in the dark hours because that’s when the bridge deck is beautifully illuminated. Every ten minutes, a different design appears, with the Malaysian flag being the most recognizable. The design immediately reminded me of my trip to Georgia with the similar Peace Bridge in Tbilisi.

3. Relax on Merdeka Square

Historically, Merdeka Square is one of the most important squares in Kuala Lumpur. It was this location where in 1957 independence was declared, after having lived under British rule for 150 years. Merdeka, therefore, means Independence. The first time I visited this square it was pouring, so I hastily looked around before seeking shelter in the Dataran Underground shopping center. 

Kuala Lumpur things to do
Torrential rain during my first visit.

On my second visit years later, I made up for it. The square doesn’t have a lot of sights. It’s basically a large field with the Sultan Abdul Samad building on the side. Still, the architecture is beautiful and I really enjoyed taking my time to see all the details. There are also a number of museums here such as the City Gallery (with the red I Heart KL letters) about the history of the city.

Kuala Lumpur things to do
The weather during my 2nd visit was so much better.

4. Walk the River of Life

If you are exploring Merdeka square, I also recommend you to check out the River of Life. This is the riverfront where the Klang river merges with the Gombak river. What makes it stunning is the location of the Masjid Jamek mosque. It is on the river, surrounded by highrises from all sides. The river sidewalk also has some great murals. And at night, I heard that it is beautifully lit. 

Kuala Lumpur things to do

5. Stroll through Chinatown

Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur with the main street Jalan Petaling is the bustling heart of the city. Under the red lanterns, you will find many stalls and shops. In addition to the standard offer of tacky bags and T-shirts, you will also find local snacks such as mooncakes and apom balik (try the one at Ah Loh’s stand). Moreover, Chinatown is more multicultural than you think. In addition to Chinese temples, there is also a beautiful Indian temple located here: the Sri Mahamariamman temple. This is the oldest Hindu temple in the city with a beauty of a gateway. This gopuram (a south Indian monumental tower) is full of small statues depicting ancient myths and legends.

For a more hipster side of Chinatown check out RexKL, a former cinema turned into an artistic center with a food market and the cool BookXcess bookstore.

Kuala Lumpur things to do
Kuala Lumpur things to do

6. Filling up your tummy in brickfields

We’re staying with the Indian vibe. Another must-visit is Brickfields (often called Little India), a colorful area full of decorative lighting and cheerful arches along the street side. Especially in the evening, it is quite charming. When we were there we sat down at one of the many restaurants for a south Indian banana leaf dish. With this dish, you do not get a plate, but a large green leaf. On it, the curry, rice, and vegetables are placed in groups. Mix it all together with your hands, or ask the waiters for cutlery. This was so delicious!

Restaurant tips: in Brickfields I had a wonderful lunch at Nadia Cafe (fully vegetarian). Outside little India I can also highly recommend the South Indian restaurant Vinny Curry House near the Pasar Seni. A popular buffet place that quickly fills up around noon for the lunch break.

7. Check out the street art in Bukit Bintang & Chinatown

There is plenty of cool street art in a big city like Kuala Lumpur. The most colorful spot is Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang. In the past, this used to be an unsavory area like so many back alleys (“Jalan” in Malay) are in metropolitan cities. The city decided to tackle this problem by turning this area into an art project. The result: a fairy-tale landscape where walls and sidewalks are painted with cartoons, clouds, animals, and insects. It’s like walking around in a life-size comic strip. And this is not the only place in Bukit Bintang, there are more colorful streets such as Jalan Rembia and Tengkat Tong Shin. Update 2023: the colors on Jalan Alor have faded quite a bit and is now located next to a construction site.

Other places in the city to spot street art are Kwai Chai Hong, Petaling Loron, Jalan Pangging (the old man mural), and near Masjid Jamek mosque (on Jalan Gereja and Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin – Kiehl’s). 

Kuala Lumpur things to do
Kuala Lumpur things to do
Kuala Lumpur things to do
Kuala Lumpur things to do

8. Capture the colors of the Batu Caves Shrine

The Batu Caves are for most people the second reason to visit Kuala Lumpur. Unlike Petronas towers, the caves are located outside the city. I’ll explain how you get there in a minute. First about the place itself. The caves are an important shrine for the Tamil community. It is an ode to Lord Murugan – the immense golden statue at the entrance – who, according to the stories, defeated many devils. Next to the statue, the colorful stairs shape the path up to the limestone temple caves. Most tourists linger on these stairs, which is why the caves are much more relaxed.

The Batu Caves left me with mixed feelings. Yes, the colors are amazing, but the stairs were dominated by an army of monkeys (macaques). Of course, the jumping around of the animals is great for photos. But they also jump on people, on a mission to find food in people’s bags. A sad result of regular feeding by visitors. It has made these macaques largely dependent on people. So yes, mixed feelings.

Kuala Lumpur things to do
One of the most popular Kuala Lumpur things to do.

How to get to the Batu Caves

Getting to the Batu Caves is super easy. Take the KTM train from Sentral Station to Batu Caves station. The ride takes 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs 2.60 RM. Entrance to Batu Caves is free. It is recommended to dress appropriately. Or bring a sarong with you to quickly adjust your clothing.  

9. Do the canopy walk: KL Eco Forest Park

I love visiting parks in a city. Finding greenery in an otherwise brick space. In Kuala Lumpur, they take it a step further with an urban jungle. The KL Eco Forest Park is the last piece of tropical rainforest in the Malaysian capital. It is big! With a size of 10.5 hectares, there is plenty to do and see. Of course, there is the canopy walk, but there are also a few hiking trails through the forests. Keep an eye out, as you might easily spot a group of macaques along the way. The entrance ticket is 40 RM per person.

Kuala Lumpur things to do

10. Exploring KL Botanical Garden

Another beautiful green stop on the list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur is the Botanical Garden, the largest park in the city. It houses a bird park, butterfly garden, and a planetarium, but the reason why I came to this place was the Perdana Canopy. It’s a huge tree-shaped structure that provides welcome shade in a hot city like Kuala Lumpur. I immediately thought of Las Setas in Seville.

Getting to the Botanical Garden can be tricky, at least it was for us. We did a lot of unnecessary walking by following Google Maps. Don’t make the same mistake: take the MTR to Muzium Negara, follow the signs for ‘Botanical Garden’ inside the station, and turn right at the station exit. Walk past the National Museum and immediately turn right after the museum (small road) until you reach a tunnel. This is the entrance to the park.

Kuala Lumpur things to do

11. Visit Thean Hou, a magnificent temple

I only visited Thean Hou Temple during my third time in Kuala Lumpur, and I don’t understand why it took me so long. This is such an incredibly beautiful temple! The colors truly stand out, and the series of yellow lanterns complete the whole thing. We were there on a Sunday morning, a popular time for wedding photos. Not surprising, as the temple is an official wedding venue. For a quieter visit, weekdays between 8 and 9 in the morning may be a better time.

The best way to get to Thean Hou Temple is by taking a Grab taxi. The nearest metro station is a 25 to 30-minute walk away, and the temple itself is located on a hill.

Kuala Lumpur things to do
Kuala Lumpur things to do
Definitely one of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur.

12. Plan a day trip to Putrajaya

Lastly, for an interesting day trip, I recommend going to Putrajaya. This is the administrative capital of the country, as all government institutions are located here. It must be a bustling place on weekdays, but a rather surreal ghost town on weekends. Why then go there? For the Putra Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque or Floating Mosque. The best view of the building is from the Putra Bridge or the boulevard in front of the Zenith Hotel.

The mosque is free to visit and provides appropriate clothing at the entrance for both women and men. For a lunch spot near the mosque, I recommend Karyabhara Cafe. My boyfriend had a fantastic Nasi Lemak there! To get to Putrajaya, you can take the brand-new MTR Putrajaya Line for only 6 RM per person. From Putrajaya Sentral, Grab is the best option. The local bus is not very convenient as you have to change buses.

Kuala Lumpur things to do

Practical tips for Kuala Lumpur

Getting into the city from the airport is best done with the KLIA ekspres (a non-stop high-speed train). A one-way ticket costs 55 RM. The cheaper option though is Grab taxi. In the city, there is a lot within walking distance, and otherwise, there is always an MTR or LTR station nearby, or order a Grab.

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Kuala Lumpur

Kusa – mango sushi!
Blue Boy – known for its veg Char Kuey Teow
Sala at Avenue K mall – vegan Mexicaanse gerechten
Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery – gigantic lunch buffet. Come before noon because it gets busy! Closes at 2 pm.
Nadia Cafe – fantastic Indian food
Vinny Curry House – delicious buffet (ask which side is veg)
Putu Bambu Tradisie – good snack or dessert. They are best when they are warm.
Or join a street food tour in Kuala Lumpur. I joined Ruth’s food tour which took us to Pasar Seni, Chinatown and Brickfields. Recommended!

Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur?

Looking for accommodation inspiration in Kuala Lumpur? Check out these two sustainable hotels in Bukit Bintang: CitizenM (9.3 rating) and CeylonZ (8.2 rating). I stayed at the Travelodge City Centre and I really enjoyed staying here. The room was nice, breakfast was amazing and Vinny Curry House is right across the street for all other meals of the day. Click here for more accommodations in Kuala Lumpur.

And that is my list of Kuala Lumpur things to do. Have you ever been to this city?

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I earn a small commission without you paying extra for it. You can read more about it in my disclaimer.


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