2 days in Kuala Lumpur
The Malaysian capital is a thrilling contrast of bright and gritty, traditional and cosmopolitan. Here’s why colourful and chaotic KL is a must-visit.
Monkeys and skyscrapers, temples and neon lights – Kuala Lumpur has a host of treasures to offer. It’s the perfect stopover point from Australia to many destinations around the world, and with its colourful nightlife and balmy atmosphere, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy yourself.
Soak up the flavours, colours and traditions of a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences in a city that blends cosmopolitan lifestyle with rich culture and heritage. Whether you’re in the mood to shop up a storm, indulge in a local feast, relax by the pool or explore the rainforests, there’s something for everyone.
Here’s our pick of the top ways to spend a lay-over in KL.
If you like a bit of retail-therapy, Bukit Bitang is your Mecca. With nine major shopping malls (not to mention a spattering of bars, al-fresco cafés, markets and even more shops), the district is a treasure trove of local and international brands, with high street stores like H&M alongside ritzy, high-end designers like Prada, Versace, Bulgari, Coach, Burberry and more. One of the best and most popular malls is Pavillion, a gleaming, seven-storey haven of luxury labels, delicious food courts and entertainment. Even if that designer handbag isn’t quite in your budget, just walking around and window-shopping is an invigorating way to while away an afternoon.
Get a real taste for the local cuisine with a stroll through the night markets of Jalan Alor, KL’s famed street food destination. Vibrant and buzzing, the street comes to life at twilight, when many of the city’s best hawkers set up shop to serve up a delicious array of food. Breathe in the fragrant goodness of the satay grills and sample chicken and beef skewers, flavoursome noodle dishes, grilled fish and more – and if you’re game, try some more exotic delicacies like fresh durian, stingray, or fish porridge.
Glittery, modern and just the right amount of cheesy, the Skybar atop Traders Hotel definitely deserves a place on your night-time itinerary. Located on the 33rd floor with sweeping views, this is one of the best ways to see the city. Sip cocktails against the backdrop of the stunning Petronas Twin Towers and absorb the beauty of the lit-up skyline. With large sunken alcoves, plenty of huge windows and – strangely – a pool stretching along the middle of the space, the ultra-contemporary design of the bar is a feast for the senses. And, hey, the nostalgic 80s and 90s pop music isn’t so bad either…
A series of peaceful caves and temples set on a limestone hill at the edge of the city, Batu Caves is a sacred Hindu site and one of KL’s most impressive geographical features. It’s a steep 272-step climb to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the KL skyline, and the cool vastness of the caves is a gorgeous place to rest. Admire the unique limestone formations, see paintings of Hindu gods, and watch out for some cheeky monkeys frolicking about. (Lifehack: hold on tight to your food!)
When you’re tired of the sparkling designer malls, Central Market offers a more bohemian shopping experience. This huge gifts emporium is housed in and around an Art Deco building near Chinatown, and is home to a fantastic array of stalls offering handicrafts, shoes, clothing, jewellery, and various trinkets and souvenirs. You can spend hours poking through all the different nooks and crannies and seeing what treasures you might discover. Street artists and portraitists can be found on the ground floor, and you can watch various artisans at work. Then when you get hungry, the outdoor mall area offers plenty of yummy street food to sample.
If you still have room after all the street food you’ve been feasting on, there’s plenty more deliciousness to discover in KL’s restaurant scene. With a diverse blend of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Western cultural influences, food in KL is a vibrant mix of flavours, with something for every palate and price range. Some of the best cheap eats are found by pure chance, wandering around back alleys and night markets or around colourful Chinatown. For a delicious mid-range experience, Songket in the heart of the city offers the perfect balance of delectable Malay dishes, sophisticated al-fresco atmosphere, and culture entertainment, with some impressive traditional dancers keeping you amused while you sip your wine. Or if you have room in your budget for a slice of luxury, Thirty8 restaurant at the Grand Hyatt is the perfect place to enjoy incredible food, with a 360-degree view of the city as your backdrop.
Get more KL travel ideas at tourism.gov.my