Top Attractions in Kuala Lumpur
Few countries spell out diversity as boldly as Malaysia does, a characteristic which is strongly reflected in its capital city. The foundations of Kuala Lumpur are not clear, but Chinese and Malay influences are everywhere. Mix that with British colonial history and a strong Indian presence, and sprinkle some western modernity over the lot, and you get the beautiful concoction that is Kuala Lumpur today. The city has undergone huge developments in recent years, and is considered to be a metropolitan city in its own right. The area is huge and serviced by a series of trains, a monorail, and a rather efficient bus service. Since the city’s attractions are many, with some being quite far off from the others, we have narrowed them down to a selection of our favourites in this post. You may have to spend several days in the city to visit all the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur. Our list is comprehensive but hardly exhaustive!
Top attractions in Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Towers
The Petronas Towers is undoubtedly the structure you have to visit when you are in Kuala Lumpur especially if, like Nikki, you are a fan of engineering marvels. Constructed in 1996, the ‘KL twin towers’ stole the 25-year title for the tallest building to the Willis (Sears) tower in Chicago. The Petronas held this title for a good six years, until Taipei 101 came along.
Like all high-rise landmarks, it is possible to visit the upper floors yet this is limited to the sky-deck (the bridge connecting the two towers). Due to a combination of lengthy queues and a hefty entrance price, we decided not to venture up, but instead opted for a visit to the KL tower (more of this below) whose viewing deck, we later found out, is at a higher altitude.
This Skydeck is not the main reason to visit the Petronas Towers however. Often overlooked, the towers are home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (formerly known as DFP), a state of-the-art concert hall. For those who love to shop, the complex houses a shopping mall with all the top brands at the lower levels.
Symphony Lake at the KLCC Park
The Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), is a huge development inclusive of hotels, shopping mall, office and residential space, a mosque, and a sizeable park. The Petronas Towers is probably the most noticeable structure within this area.
At the centre of the park is a water fountain which lights up to popular tunes in a free show which entertains the waiting audience. It is smaller than its Dubai or Singapore counterpart, yet the show is known to be more frequent and lasts longer. We would recommend you go by night to truly appreciate its colours! Check the KLCC official page for the show times, so as to avoid missing this top attraction in Kuala Lumpur!
If you are a regular follower of our blog, you will know how much we love food, so it is not surprising that Jalan Alor was our favourite street in all of Kuala Lumpur! In reality, we believe that in no way is Malaysia’s diversity better represented than through its food, and Jalan Alor acts as the best Malaysian food ambassador! Located right in the middle of Bukit Bintang, the liveliest district in Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Alor is a stretch of road which becomes an open-air market by night, welcoming a variety of food stalls along its length. Malaysia’s street food is varied and we have covered it extensively in this post. Although it may be tempting to just stop at the first stalls at either end of the road, we would recommend that you proceed to the middle sections as the food is slightly cheaper and just as tasty there!
Dining at the top of the KL Tower
The Petronas towers may be the best to “look at”, however the KL tower is certainly the best to “look from”. Although the KL tower is shorter (421 metres vs. 452metres) than the Petronas, it is built over Bukit Nanas, a hillock which bumps it up a further 94 meters above sea level.
The viewing platform of the KL tower is almost at the top of the structure (just below the communication antennae), whereas the Skydeck of the Petronas Towers is only about half way up. In conclusion, the views across the city are way better from the KL tower. The ticket price is also cheaper and surprisingly the queues are shorter, thus making the choice of which viewing deck to visit very easy.
What really seals the deal though, is that the price difference between the regular entrance fee and the cost of a buffet lunch in the rotating restaurant located at the top of the structure is marginal. The meal lasts for about an hour, just enough for the restaurant to rotate 360 degrees and sufficient time to treat yourself to some authentic Malaysian cuisine, whilst enjoying breath-taking views. We would have actually loved to stay longer!
Be aware that you need to book ahead and a dress-code is enforced. There is also a buffet dinner served, but this is twice as expensive. After the meal is over you also get a complimentary visit to the upper viewing deck. Needless to say, this has been our favourite top attraction in Kuala Lumpur.
KL Eco Park (Canopy Walk)
A unique feature of KL is a natural 9-hectare rain forest right in the middle of the city, more specifically at the foot of the iconic KL tower. The conservation area is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, giving the city a much-needed green lung. Much to the joy of its visitors, a 200-metre canopy walk has been installed at the southern part of the park, taking the visitors in a walk through a series of endemic tree species from a different viewpoint, thus giving a different perspective to the park. Entrance is completely free and we found the walk to be very pleasant.
One of the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves consists of an important Hindu shrine composed of many individual temples. The centre piece of the shrine is a 43-metre tall statue representing Lord Murugan. Adjacent to it is a 272-step strong staircase leading to the main Temple Cave, a geologically impressive formation, housing in its interior a number of temples. The cave formation is also home to a variety of flora and fauna, well represented in a specially Dark Cave Conservation Park, half way up the stairs.
Although not a walkable distance from the centre, Batu Caves is well connected by the KTM train, about 30 minutes ride from the KL Sentral Station. The entrance to the main cave is free of charge, however there’s a fee to enter the smaller and fancier shrines, like the Ramayana Cave on the far left, an illustrative depiction of the story of Rama. To be honest, many of these secondary shrines bear a resemblance to a kitsch theme park and you might be forgiven for not realising that they are places of worship. Overall, considering the travel time required, we would suggest that you visit Batu Caves only if you have time to spare.
Sepang Race Circuit
With the oil giant Petronas being a household name, it comes as no surprise that Kuala Lumpur is home to an international race circuit, hosting a number of high profile events such as the MotoGP and F1 (although the days of the latter are now counted). The circuit offers a guided tour at an affordable 53 Malaysian Ringgits (RM) or €11. The tour includes a visit to the main areas of the circuit, the paddock, the VIP viewing gallery, the track itself and a visit to a small automotive museum adjacent to the ticket booth.
Getting to the track when a racing event is on is very easy as the track is serviced by means of regular buses from nearby KLIA terminal on such days, however getting there on other days can be an issue as there are normally no buses servicing the area. The best way to visit Sepang on quiet days would be to get a taxi (Uber or Grab) from the city centre and back. Keep in mind that Sepang is on the very outskirts of KL and the ride could easily set you back in excess of 150 RM (€30).
Although the visit is listed with our top attractions of Kuala Lumpur, the tour well organised, and the guides brilliant, we recommend that you visit this attraction only if you are a hardcore Motorsport fan. Nikki had such a great time here that he forgot to collect Michelle (who was arriving on a later flight) from the airport!
The Walkable Centre – A collection of top attractions in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a huge city with multiple districts. Connections can be overwhelming and figuring out locations can be tiring. The following highlights are at a walkable distance from each other, thus a walking tour between the sights is pretty easy. The tour of these top attractions in Kuala Lumpur should preferably be spread out on two days but can be done in one (if you are a happy walker). For a map of the route, follow this link.
Jalan Petaling – Chinatown
Also known as Petaling Market, Chinatown is a paved road where you can purchase “original-imitations” of your favourite designer brands. Whatever your purchasing preferences, walking along this road is an experience in itself. Take a detour to the side roads to visit the vegetable and fish market, a unique opportunity to experience the more local Asian lifestyle. These little side roads were our favourite part of the Chinatown area!
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
A couple of roads away from Jalan Petaling is the very intricate Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in the city. The temple shines through for its five-tiered pyramid shaped Gopuram, an intricate design with carvings depicting various Hindu deities. The close proximity of this Hindu temple to the Chinese district (indeed almost opposite to the Taoist temple of Guan Di) is only a further testimony to the colourful integration of various cultures in Kuala Lumpur.
As is the case with many of the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur on this list, the temple can be visited freely, although visitors are required to go barefoot. We advise you to carry sanitary wipes to use before putting your shoes back on!
Kasturi Walk and the Central Market
Heading north, a few minutes walk from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, is the Central Market and the adjacent covered flea-market, called the Kasturi walk. This is a tourist oriented area offering higher quality handicrafts, souvenirs and of course, food. The building was originally a wet market, but was converted to accommodate an ever-changing metropolitan city.
Sin Sze Si Ya Temple
Making it to our list of top attractions to visit in Kuala Lumpur and loacted just a few minutes away from Merdeka square is this Taoist temple, reputed to be the oldest in the city. The temple is very popular with Chinese students, particularly prior to exams as it is home to Wenchang Dijun, the God of Education!
You can also have your fortune read by rattling a so-called ‘cookie jar’. A numbered stick will drop down, and an attendant will gladly decipher its meaning for you (for a token fee of course). We didn’t actually get our fortunes told for some reason that escapes me, because in retrospect it sounds like a fun thing to do!
Merdeka Square (and thereabouts)
Merdeka square is a huge open space, formerly a colonial cricket and rugby ground, which nowadays commemorates Malaysia’s Independence. Marking the original area where the Union Jack was lowered, stands a 95-metre flagpole, one of the tallest in the world.
The square is packed with visitors on both Independence and Malaysia Day (31st August and 16th September respectively) where a colourful parade is held to commemorate the events. The square is immediately surrounded by buildings of interest, and is at a reasonable walking distance from other top attractions in Kuala Lumpur, mentioned in the section.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Immediately overlooking the Merdeka grounds is the imposing late 19th century Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a colonial heritage building designed in a ‘Moorish’ style. This building housed many Government offices during the British rule and eventually, in more recent years, housed the Federal court. Although it is now home to the Ministry of Information and Culture, we still consider the beautiful building to be one of the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery and the Textile Museum
On the shorter side of Merdeka Square, closest to the flag, is the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, a collection of models highlighting the country’s history. Adjacent to the building is also a Textile museum, whose intricate architecture complements the neighbouring Sultan Abdul Building.
Very popular with tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur is this enclosed 7000-square metre landscaped garden, home to a variety of exotic and butterfly-friendly plants. The well-curated park is home to c. 5000 butterflies from different species endemic to Malaysia. The park is very well-maintained and offers a unique opportunity to get a better look at the flying species. One specimen would not fly off Michelle’s dirty shoe and she walked around with it stuck to the shoe for a good 10 minutes!
The Butterfly Park is located a few minutes away from the more popular Bird Park and about 15 minutes’ walk from Merdeka square. Entrance fee is a very reasonable 18 RM.
The Bird Park is the big brother of the Butterfly Park, an enclosed aviary built on a footprint of 21 acres and widely recognised as being a top attraction in Kuala Lumpur. The park is home to more than 3000 birds most of which (but not all) are endemic to Malaysia. Besides the obvious bird watching, there are a variety of activities organised within the facility, including an arena for displays, a hatchery and an ostrich feeding pen.
The park is huge and sufficient time (half a day at least) should be dedicated to visiting the various areas and species to truly appreciate this top attraction in Kuala Lumpur. At 67 RM per person, the entrance fee is not cheap (we were a little shocked at the cost), but in our opinion, the attraction is well worth the expense. We truly enjoyed its good vibes and relaxing environment – an oasis in the heart of Kuala Lumpur!