Kuala Lumpur, the stunning capital city of Malaysia, is known for its twinkling towers, nostalgic colonial buildings, friendly locals and a host of so many natural wonders.
There is lots to see and do in Kuala Lumpur that it might be a headache which place to choose to see first. Worry not, my ultimate travel guide to Kuala Lumpur shall make it all easier for you!
I will take you to see the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, dance you around to the pumping nightclub scene, and take you to the amazing 400 million year old Batu Caves and everything in between.
Ready? Read on, wanderers!
When To Visit
Malaysia, being a tropical country, is mostly dry throughout the year though it can rain anytime.
But if I had to choose, perhaps the best time of the year to see Kuala Lumpur is during the months of May, June and July when the sun is up and shining and there is a lesser chance of rain.
Getting Around Kuala Lumpur
You have a few choices on transportation around the city. There’s the ever present metered taxis, the extensive (and inexpensive) bus network, and the light rail commuter trains.
Mobile apps to get taxis such as Uber (click HERE to get your first ride FREE!) or Grab Car makes transportation an additional breeze. Be warned though of the traffic gridlock around the city during rush hours so stay away from taxis at these peak hours from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Top Sights To See
Petronas Twin Towers & Suria KLCC
Perhaps one of the reasons that put Malaysia on the map is the Petronas Twin Towers, a towering 88-storey skyscraper that once was the tallest building in the world.
This unique two-building architecture is connected via the Sky Bridge at the 41st and 42nd floors, which you can access through first-come, first-serve limited tickets to have a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. The entry fee is RM85.
Another reason to visit the towers is the Suria KLCC situated at the base of the twin structure. The Suria KLCC offers a full experience from shopping, dining, movie watching, art viewing, and they even have a concert hall and the enormous, world-class aquarium called Aquaria KLCC.
Your KL escapade is definitely incomplete without a photo on front of this iconic landmark. No matter which angle you choose!
Another historical site is the Jamek Mosque, the very place where KL’s early inhabitant erected their shacks.
The Jamek Mosque is the eye-catching red brick and marble façade and you’ll see hundreds of people making their way to here on Fridays. Entrance is free but they welcome donations.
If you are one for a natural wonder, then what’s not to miss in Kuala Lumpur are the Batu Caves. Upon your arrival you will be greeted by cheeky long tailed-macaque monkeys while walking up the stairs to the temple caves.
The limestone hill houses an array of caves with three major caverns and a handful of smaller caves. The biggest one is Cathedral Cave. You will be astonished by the spacious 100-metre-high dome that is home to a number of Hindu Shrines.
You can also visit the Art Gallery Cave and the Museum Cave to get to know the Hindu history of the place in a very natural setting.
Istana Negara is the country’s national palace erected back in 1928. This luxurious RM800 million compound is over 28 acres big and has a pool, lake, garden, golf course, and indoor badminton and tennis courts.
Although this palace is not open to the public, a picture by the entrance gates or with one of the guards still makes for a beautiful shot.
Merdeka Square is a historical spot in Kuala Lumpur. It is actually the city’s site of independence when back in August 31, 1957 at midnight, the Union Flag was lowered and in its place, the Malayan flag was raised for the first time.
You will not miss the super tall flagpole that stands 100 metres high and actually used to be the world’s highest flagpole which now stands in Saudi Arabia.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Situated right next to Merdeka Square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. The architecture itself is a rare sight in the bustling city. This Moorish-style brick architecture is an imposing and elegant building complete with a porch, elegant arches and colonnades, three gleaming copper cupolas, and a stately clock tower in the middle.
In the past, this building served as the seat of the secretariat for the colonial British administration. Now, it houses the workplace of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia.
Bukit Bintang or Bintang Walk is where all the action happens. This trendy shopping and entertainment district offers a thorough experience for locals and travellers.
If you’re up for some high-class fun, then drop by the upper-class Pavilion KL that is home to European luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent and many more.
If your nocturnal senses are craving for some partying, then check out the Changkat Bukit Bintang avenue and enjoy the live music scene, the classy nightclubs, or experience chic nightlife in one of the rooftop bars in the area.
On another note, if you prefer filling your tummies first, then the place to go is Jalan Alor where you can dine at Chinese seafood restaurants or roadside hawker stalls and savour some of the local delicacies.
Chinatown (Petaling Street)
Another part of town frequented by locals and travellers alike is the Chinatown located along Petaling Street, also called Chee Cheong Kai meaning Starch Factory Street.
This vibrant and bustling area is your best place to hunt for souvenirs, try out hawker style eating, and shop for anything and everything cheap.
Always try haggling the price as sellers usually quote you twice as much as the item should cost in the first place. Contrasting to the posh and luxurious neighbouring parts of KL, Chinatown really does stand out.
Little India & Brickfields
Another stand out amidst Kuala Lumpur’s concrete jungle is Little India & Brickfields (a part of Little India). The colourful items, the smell of Indian food, and the lively Bollywood music will entice everyone.
Behind the restaurants and stores here, you will find faces from India, Sri Lank, and Bangladesh greeting you. Here in Little India, you can feast your eyes at the rich colours of endless floral garlands, and spices.
What better way to experience India than through getting a taste of their cuisine. Savorr the vadai, thosai, banana leaf lunches, and more.
Also called Menara Kuala Lumpur, is the 421m high telecommunications and broadcasting tower visible on the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. The tower has an observation deck spread across two levels, of which the lower one is indoors and the upper deck can be walked outdoors.
If you are brave enough you can choose to walk the “Skybox”, which is a box entirely made of glass situated high above the ground. Yes, you can see all the way down to the ground. So cool!
The tower is over 365 days a year from 9.00am to 10.00pm.
Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
My best description of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is a fairytale palace meets Moorish-style architecture with its white and imposing facade.
The interior is more laid-back with its glass and iron Victorian-era English design. This structure used to be the main train station before the operation of Kuala Lumpur Sentral.
On the ground floor you can find the Heritage Station Hotel, restaurants and souvenir stalls.
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
If you are interested in getting to know the beginnings of Kuala Lumpur, then head to the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery. This museum is housed in a magnificent colonial-style structure that is over 114 years old. Entrance fee is only 5RM which you can spend at the café afterwards too.
This cultural centre features KL’s milestones throughout history through a creative timeline. It starts with KL’s beginnings way back the 1850s and until now.
Drop by the gift store to get local souvenirs like rugs, batik and pewter sculptures. Kuala Lumpur City Gallery also provides a free KL map that highlights must-visit landmarks.
In front of the gallery, you will find the infamous “I Love KL” sign which is worth a snap.
KL Bird Park
This next destination is a paradise for bird and nature enthusiasts. The KL Bird Park, based in the Lake Gardens, is the biggest free-flight, walk-in aviary in the world.
The Bird Park features over 60 species of both local and foreign birds. Its show-stopping birds are the Indian blue peacock and the crowned pigeon.
If you want a closer interaction with these winged creatures, you can meet and greet them in the daily bird shows and eagle-feeding programmes. Entry costs RM48.
You haven’t been to Kuala Lumpur without feasting on the yummy, exotic delicacies of Malaysia. Make sure you try any of the dishes listed below!
The Malaysian cuisine doesn’t only excite the taste buds of the locals but internationally. Rendang was even featured in CNN International’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods.
This local favourite boasts a spicy beef dish cooked slowly to perfection with a variety of spices. Chicken or mutton can also be used instead of beef. The rendang is offered in many Malay restaurants.
Nasi Lemak or fatty rice in English is another Malay dish not to miss. It is a rich rice dish cooked in coconut milk and later added with fried anchovies, spicy sambal sauce, cucumber slices, boiled egg, and fried ground nuts.
This can serve as a handy snack when wrapped in banana leaf or it can be served regularly as a rice dish on a plate. This typically costs less than RM5 but can reach up to RM15 when added with chicken Rendang and spicy squid with gravy.
Going around Kuala Lumpur under the sweltering heat of the sun can take its toll on the body. Cool off with the Malay traditional dessert called Cendol.
This cold and sweet treat is basically shaved ice with the green worm-shaped jelly, palm sugar and red beans. You will definitely spot a street-side stall selling this simple way to beat the heat. One of my favourites!
Staying Safe In Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is mostly a very safe place to travel to but it’s always good to be generally cautious in a big city like this.
This travel guide to Kuala Lumpur cites a few known scams to look out for. One that you might encounter first after stepping out of the airport is the taxi scam. Before going for a taxi ride, make sure that the cabbie agrees to a metered ride or you may also book your ride through Uber.
Another safety tip is to look out for pickpockets and riding-on-tandem snatchers. Make sure to keep your valuable close and secure. Another known scam are fake monks or donation seekers. Don’t fall for this trick, just politely decline.
After an exciting day out seeing Kuala Lumpur, you will need a comfortable place to lay down your head.
Whatever your budget is, there is a place in Kuala Lumpur that will suit your needs.
For those with a mid-range budget, I recommend you stay at the Capri by Fraser Kuala Lumpur. This 33-storey complex is set in the lively Bangsar area.
It has an amazing rooftop pool and bar where you can swim, chill, enjoy a cocktail and look out over KL’s twinkling skyline. There is also a 24/7 fully-equipped gym, steam room, sauna as well as a games room and a work area.
The hotel is near to entertainment and recreation places including the NEXUS Mall and an easy 20 minute cab ride to the heart of KL.
Lowest rates starts at RM800+ for the studio deluxe room.
If you have a bit of money to burn, then lucky you! You will be staying in the posh Westin Kuala Lumpur. This 35-storey hotel has top notch service, 10 room types to choose from and fabulous amenities that will make you want to stay forever.
The Westin KL features a fabulous rooftop bar with a fountain, a fitness studio, and something for the kids, the Westin Kids Club, where enjoyable programs and activities are offered such as fun story-times and puppet shows.
Price range starts from MYR449 for the premium rooms and up to MYR1290 for the executive residences.
Another option for high-class staying in KL is the Grand Hyatt, situated in a prime spot within the Golden Triangle. It is a short walk to famous city landmarks such as the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and the KLCC Park.
The luxury mall Pavilion KL is also connected via a sky bridge outside the building. The well-equipped round-the-clock fitness centre and the relaxing Essa Spa are just a few great amenities that put the grand in Grand Hyatt.
If you are in search of a budget accommodation, you can check in to Reggae Mansion Hostel, set right around the corner of Chinatown.
You will stay in dormitory style but one of the most comfortable and private ones I have ever been to as the bed are pod-style with a curtain and your own safe, light, mirror and power plugs.
I have returned many times to this hostel and always loved it. The bed rate for a room of 24 people is MYR48. Don’t worry, 24 people sounds like a lot but it doesn’t feel like that because of the pod-style beds.
The additional plus is the cool rooftop bar which even gives you a view of the Petronas Towers in the distance.
Nightlife In Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is not just a place to enjoy during the daytime but its nightlife is very much alive too. So yes, this travel guide to Kuala Lumpur includes a few nightlife choices too!
SkyBar At The Traders Hotel
This airy and overlooking pool and bar is situated on the 33rd level of Traders Hotel KL.
The pool, the bar, and the city lights are perfect for a sunset drink. While you’re there, do not dare miss their signature drinks, the sweet Mata D’ Or and the tangy Selangor Sling.
The best time to visit the SkyBar is on Tuesdays for “Thirsty Tuesdays” when there is a free flow of selected wines on offer for only 160RM. Ladies swing in on Wednesdays for free flow cocktails between 6pm and 11pm.
Sino: The Bar Upstairs
Perfect for the sophisticated, social beings like you is the Sino: The Bar Upstairs at Bangsar. The spacious high-ceilinged room can easily accommodate up to 100 guests.
The place is great for socialising along with tunes of jazz, swing jazz, and lounge tunes as your background. The cocktails start at RM35 but it’s all very worth its impeccable décor and international musicians that will serenade every first Monday of the month.
Don’t forget to dress to the nines when you come here.
Changkat Bukit Bintang
The best place to visit in Kuala Lumpur when you are up for partying all night long is the Changkat Bukit Bintang avenue. A few ‘it’ party venues along this street are the Zion Club, the twenty.one kitchen + bar, and The Rabbit Hole. Ready yourself for a full night of neon-lit dancing and social drinking with friends and with the locals.
Kuala Lumpur will keep you busy with its daytime sights and nightly activities, that’s for sure! Your Kuala Lumpur experience will range from history and culture to souvenir hunting and luxury shopping to animal encounters and lively human interactions.
Kuala Lumpur has so much to offer, make sure to spend a few days in this vibrant city and simply enjoy and make memories in Kuala Lumpur’s arms.