The Malaysian capital is a fascinating melting pot of Malay, Indian and Chinese culture, dotted with colonial relics, magnificent mosques and towering skyscrapers. This is a city to enjoy at leisure, exploring energetic markets, atmospheric colonial quarters, and sampling some of the finest food in all Asia.
Taxis whisk travellers around Kuala Lumpur in air-conditioned comfort, but the city’s mass transit system – with trains, buses and a monorail – provides easy access to every quarter of the city. Prepaid Rapid KL tickets cover travel on buses, the monorail and LRT trains, while KTM Kommuter trains link the centre to attractions in the suburbs.
Kuala Lumpur is a city made up of villages, from bustling Chinatown to the spice-scented streets of Little India. Exploring KL is a journey through the culture and flavours of Malaysia’s constituent communities: noodles and Confucian pagodas in Chinatown, curries and Hindu temples in Brickfields and Little India, and exotic stir-fries and mosques in the Malay enclave of Kampung Baru.
From the old colonial quarter, the skyline rises dramatically to the top of the Petronas Towers, one of Asia’s most iconic landmarks. The Skybridge on the 41st floor and the Observation Deck on the 86th floor offer spectacular views across the cityscape.
Some of Kuala Lumpur’s best shopping and nightlife takes place out in the suburbs, easily accessible by public transport. Bangsar, to the south of the colonial quarter, serves up delicious dining and relaxed café-bars, while Desa Sri Hartamas is crammed with lively pubs, clubs and cocktail lounges.
To the north are the Batu Caves, where a gigantic gold statue of Lord Murugan guards a warren of limestone caves studded with Hindu shrines. Just beyond are the Genting Highlands, a cool retreat from the city hubbub. For a calm escape in the centre, visit the sprawling Lake Gardens, or the pocket-sized rainforest in the KL Forest Eco Park.
Shopping is a Kuala Lumpur obsession, but there’s more to the city than the Art Deco Central Market. Bazaars spill out into the streets across the city, from the Jalan Petaling street market in Chinatown to the narrow passages of Bazar Baru in Chow Kit. Rooftop bars crown every other building in downtown KL, but for something different sip a cocktail at the Heli Lounge, with tables on the helicopter landing pad atop the Menara KH tower. To really get under the skin of KL, join the diners at the fastfood canteens on Jalan Raja Muda Musa in Kampung Baru, where everyone seems eager to strike up a conversation.
Night market dining is an essential KL experience; every evening, stalls crowd the pavements in key locations such as Chinatown, Imbi Market, Jalan Alor and Kampung Baru, serving everything from claypot chicken to ikan bakar (grilled skate) and roti canai – delicious flatbread with curry dipping sauce. Look out for bustling Nasi Kandar canteens, run by KL’s Mamak (Tamil Muslim) community; Nasi Kandar Pelita near the Suria KLCC complex is a top recommendation. For fine-dining, just pick your cuisine; try Lafite and Cilantro for elegant European dining, Li Yen and Shang Palace for dim sum, and Enak and Bijan for fine Malay cooking.