1. Petronas Towers
You can’t miss this pair of soaring skyscrapers off your list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur any more than you can miss their iconic silhouette as you go around town. Yes they are visited by a constant stream of snap-happy tourists but there’s a reason millions come every year. No visit to the city is complete without a picture of you standing in front of the Petronas Towers and afterwards enjoying the adjoining park, with its colourful fountains (come at night to see them in full swing). The sun goes down around 7pm in Kuala Lumpur so it might be a good idea to book your ticket online for this time if you want a sunset tour. Alternatively, exchange the 80MYR (around £15*) ticket fee for the price of a cocktail in the Sky Bar at the nearby Trader’s Hotel: you’ll still get spectacular views of the city, towers included.
2. Marini’s on 57
One of the hottest places to eat in Kuala Lumpur, Marini’s is divided into a lounge/bar section on one side and food service on the other side. Their Italian cuisine is absolutely incredible and a reservation is needed as this venue is in high demand with the locals. Marini’s has a spectacular view of the Petronas Towers but a formal dress code is required, so leave your flip flops at the hotel! Mains start from around £20, with a 7-course tasting menu at £110.
3. Food bazars during Ramadhan
Ramadan is one of the best times of the year to enjoy KL’s street food scene, as the quality and variety of dishes only increase during this month (check online to find out this year’s dates). Taste amazing Malaysian dishes on the many bazaars that pop up along the streetside; go for neighbourhoods like TTDI, Kampung Baru and Subang’s SS18. All bazaars have their own popular dishes and you will notice which stand sells the best food by the amount of people gathered round! Tip: go around 3 to 4pm as this is when the stalls start up and you will be able to get the freshest bites to eat.
4. Batu Caves
This Hindu temple and shrine is one of the best-known tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. Located about 10 kilometers north of the city, it’s known for its giant golden statue and 272 steps to reach the top. Batu Caves can be easily reached by train or bus from KL Central. The busiest day is during the Thaipusam festival (usually around January/February time) when around nearly one million pilgrims visit this site. Just watch out for the monkeys here as they are quite used to people and won’t think twice about stealing food or giving unwise visitors a nip!
5. Petaling Street/China Town
Whenever you’re craving a wonton, head for KL’s China Town, the lively area around Petaling Street (Pasar Seni station on the LRT). Any typical Chinese dish can be found here from roasted duck to hokkien mee (noodles cooked with prawns, meat and a dark sauce) and original clay pot dishes, and you can find delicious and filling food here 24/7. Touch up your haggling skills as well, as the street is also well-known as a shopper’s dream: there are lots of stalls offering discount clothing and anything and everything you could want as a souvenir.
6. Little India/Brickfields
Try on and customize your own sari, get decorated in henna at Vaani’s beauty salon (Jl Tun Sambanthan) or just come for the numerous curries, naans and other dishes that make the Indian kitchen a true favourite in Malaysia. If you want to get the full Brickfields experience then go to KL City Hall to enquire about the guided tour which is free of charge and held every first and third Saturday of the month.
7. Fraser’s Hill
Fraser’s Hill is located about two hours away from the city in the state of Selangor but is definitely one of the best places to visit around KL. A former British hill station because of the cooler altitude, you’ll now find a beautiful nature reserve in the Pahang mountains, with brilliant cycling and walking trails. If you’re feeling brave take a dip in the Jeriau waterfalls or stock up on locally-grown strawberries at the Taman Flora Bukit Fraser (Fraser’s Hill Garden Centre). If you’re enjoying the relief from the city heat, there are some good-value hotels in the area, including the friendly Puncak Inn.
8. Dip and Dip
Be prepared for a chocolate overdose when in Dip and Dip. Safe to say, this is a typical dessert restaurant where you should not think about your diet even for a moment, as the calories will come flying thick and fast via numerous wonderful dishes. Try the chocolate waffle with fruits – though you might have to fight through a considerable crowd to get it. Branches in Bangsar, the Curve Mall, Sunway Pyramid Mall and IOI City Mall.
9. Hit the malls
They’re impossible to avoid, whether you’re a shopping fan or not: KL takes retail to another level, from futuristic multi-storey complexes with elaborate themes, to the old-fashioned indoor market bursting with bargains. For a grandiose experience, go to the Sunway Pyramid which actually has its own sphinx outside, or try out your musical skills recreating Tom Hank’s performance in Big on the giant piano stairs at Berjaya Times Square. You can do anything from ice-skating to karaoke in a Kuala Lumpur mall, but if all the escalators, LRT trains and covered walkways are making you feel like you’re in a giant space station, escape to the roof garden on top of Utama 1 – it’s Asia’s largest.
10. KL Bird Park and Butterfly Park
These two parks are handily close to each other, on either side of Jl. Lembah (get the commuter train to ‘Old Railway Station’). There are regular feedings and activities through the day in the bird park and the feathered residents are so used to visitors that if you buy some food they will sit on your shoulder and pose for a picture. If that’s not a close enough wildlife encounter, stroll at leisure through the gardens in the butterfly park, while butterflies flutter around you. The perfect break from chaotic KLCC.
See more of stunning Southeast Asia, with these handy travel guides:
Six of the best places to visit and things to do on holiday in Malaysia, from colonial grandeur in Ipoh to the pure white coast of Langkawi.
Tired of Thailand? A holiday in Cambodia will give you equally magnificent ancient temples, stunning beaches – and plenty of cheap beer!
With its wild jungles, fantastic street food and white sandy beaches, Vietnam deserves to be on every traveller’s hitlist.
_Tripbod’s Kelly is adjusting to her life as a newly-found Malaysian, during her spare time she goes on a search for adventures in a country that boasts many unique sights. As food is the best thing to get introduced to the locals, this ranks high on her to-do list._
*Published October 2016. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.