Kuala Lumpur in a flash
Whether you’re dropping in for a day, spending a night — or even two — we’ve got the lowdown on the must-sees and must-eats in the hip and happening Kay-Elle, no matter how much (or how little) time you have! Here’s how you can see, do, and eat the best of Kuala Lumpur in 24, 48, and 72 hours.
Have your morning cuppa at Merchant’s Lane
Before you brave the touting, crowded streets of KL’s Chinatown, pop in to Merchant’s Lane for a cuppa and some delish sustenance. The cafe is replete with old-school cane furniture that harkens back to the 60s and 70s, while its menu fuses modern-day librations that are equally fascinated with tradition, like a jasmine-infused coffee or charcoal-roasted oolong tea with cinnamon and chrysanthemum.
Address: 150 Jalan Petaling, Level 1
Operating Hours: Daily, 1200 - 2000
Enjoy a home-cooked lunch at Restoran Muar
It may not be a native Kuala Lumpur eat, but the home-cooked dishes here, inspired by the cuisine in Muar (a district in the state of Johor), are just unbeatable. Simple, yet satisfying fare is served here, and you’d best believe every dish is prepared according to the owner’s traditional family recipes spanning generations.
Address: 6G Tengkat Tong Shin
Tel: +603 2144 2072
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Take a walk at Lake Gardens
The stunning architecture of the Petronas Twin Towers really is something to marvel at, isn’t it? Escape the touristy crowd and admire the iconic buildings from Lake Gardens (also known as Perdana Botanical Gardens) instead, while enjoying the sights in this beautifully manicured park sprawled across 91.6 hectares.
Address: Jalan Kebun Bunga, Tasik Perdana
Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday, 7am-8pm
Get your portrait done at Pak Tai Studio
Want a souvenir from Kuala Lumpur that’s out of the ordinary? Skip the keychains and t-shirts, and visit Pak Tai Studio to get an old-school portrait photograph taken! The 60 year-old studio is still alive, but barely as urban redevelopment threatens its existence. No photo-editing here, so look your best.
Address: 104, Jalan Sultan
Tel: +60 3-2078 5491
Operating Hours: Daily, 10am-6pm
Wind down at Omakase + Appreciate
Grab a sunset cocktail concocted by resident award-winning mixologists Shawn Chong and Karl Too. This speakeasy, though a little hard to find, serves its cocktail programme omakase style, which means they make a bespoke cocktail for you, so you can rest your mind after a weary day.
Address: Lower ground, Bangunan Ming Annexe , 9 Jalan Ampang
Tel: +603 2022 2238 | Web: Facebook.com/OmakaseAppreciate
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 5pm-1am; Saturday, 9pm-1am
Sober up with supper at Jalan Alor
Now we know Jalan Alor may sound overrated, but it’s quintessential K.L. and we found it hard to exclude it from your itinerary. Given the location and the late night eating options, it’s a no-brainer!
The street is lined with stall after stall selling local Chinese, Malaysian, and even Thai cuisines that are popular with locals and tourists alike. Plus, being so close to the Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur on Bukit Bintang, it’s a great spot for that midnight craving. Our writer specially recommends the Hokkien mee and charcoal-barbecued chicken wings at Wong Ah Wah!
Address: 1-9 Jalan Alor
Tel: +603 2144 2463
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 5pm-4am
Breakfast like a King at Nasi Kandar Pelita
Nasi kandar is a Malaysian phenomenon and quite a force to be reckoned with when it comes to eating it. A meal of white or briyani rice with your choice of dishes from an endless selection of Indian curries, meats, and vegetable dishes all in a heap on your faux (sometimes authentic) banana leaf. Nasi kandar stalls can be found anywhere across Malaysia, but in Kuala Lumpur, Nasi Kandar Pelita is a franchise that’s popular, reliable, and accessible.
Address: Jalan Ampang (Opposite Hotel Corus)
Operating Hours: 24 hours
Score literary gems at Junk Bookstore
Book lovers and vintage fans will love this place. Unabashedly staking its claim as the biggest secondhand bookstore in Kuala Lumpur, the bookstore is operated by a husband-and-wife team, and stocks a loosely arranged selection of books, magazines, and LPs. Be prepared to sift through the dust and organised chaos.
Address: 78 Jalan Tun HS Lee
Tel: +603 2078 3822 | Web: Facebook.com/JUNK.bs
Get your caffeine jolt at VCR cafe
Hiding, but not quite, this joint’s coffee bears the same treatment as its decor: serious and handsome. The cafe — housed in a refurbished shophouse with a steely, industrial vibe — serves brews mostly Coffex and Artisan beans to pair with a menu of classic home-baked cakes and pastries (brunch plates on the weekend!), but its signature is a cuppa made from Tanzanian Karatu beans. Its Valrhona hot chocolate should be strongly considered, too.
Address: 2 Jalan Galloway
Tel: +603 2110 2330 | Web: http://vcr.my
Operating Hours: Daily, 8.30am-11pm
Brave the maze of Bangsar
Arguably, Bangsar is where Malaysia’s hipster-dom made its debut, and it’s no less trendy today. About 10 minutes’ drive from K.L. City Centre, one can easily while away an afternoon here, with its myriad indie boutiques and mid-to-high range restaurants serving international fare. After a round of walking and light shopping, treat yourself to a traditional hammam scrub and massage at Hammam & Gommage or let your creative juices flow at Scrappingville Studio at Bangsar Shopping Centre in an art jam session. Follow up with sustenance at Ril’s Steakhouse, a popular spot with an Old World charm (and an equally handsome speakeasy upstairs), or go for French flair at Bistronomy.
Address: Mainly on Jalan Telawi and Jalan Maarof areas
Operating Hours: 10am-10pm
Prance around at Publika
Day two — still keen on staying away from the City Centre? Good call, because the cool locals will tell you to head to Publika Shopping Gallery. The hip mall is an indie-lover’s wet dream, with an envious tenant directory listing a craft beer haunt called Ales & Lagers, local indie designer garb, swanky grocer Ben’s Independent Grocer; even an analog photography exhibition space called Bang Bang Geng — you get the drift. A handful of international music acts have been known to perform at The Bee, which happens to serve fantastic grub too; otherwise, you can end your retail-fuelled day by feasting at any of the cafes and restaurants.
Address: 1 Jalan Dutamas 1
Operating Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm
Have a nightcap at Changkat Bukit Bintang
Changkat has a notorious image for being a seedy street, and that usually screams “vibrant nightlfe”. Don’t worry, there are safe and cool spots to hit up. Take No Black Tie for instance, where you can unwind and enjoy live blues and jazz music in a cosy, intimate setting.
Address: 17 Jalan Mesui, Off Jalan Nagasari
Tel: +603 2142 3737 | Web: www.noblacktie.com.my
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 5pm-1am
Greet the morning at Imbi Market
Are you ready for a feast this morning? The breakfast selection (we really mean selections) at Imbi Market borders on overwhelming! Locals have been coming here for generations, and Malaysian food bloggers have been unveiling this gem to the world of social media of late. A plethora of options, from apam balik to nasi lemak with pork skin curry — yes, there is such a thing! — to traditional Hainan tea and unique ginger and wine vermicelli, it is truly a eye (and tummy) opener.
Address: Pasar Rakyat, 8, Jalan Melati
Operating Hours: Dawn, mostly sold out by lunch time
Understand the Malay film industry
The Malaysian film industry has a rich history, even sharing some of those golden years with Singapore, and is still going strong today. Get a glimpse of Malaysia’s own brand of Hollywood at Kompleks Studio Merdeka FINAS (National Filem Development Malaysia), which boasts a film library, studios, and even a movie screening theatre. Catch a P. Ramlee film, if you can.
Address: Jalan Hulu Kelang
Tel: +603 4104 1300 | Web: www.finas.gov.my
Have it hearty in P.J.
No, P.J. isn’t an acronym for pyjamas, but for Petaling Jaya, a district outside the City Centre that’s host to plenty of hearty, full-on local food options. Jalan Gasing is popular for banana leaf Indian curry rice meals at Kanna Curry House, the unique offering that is chilli pan mee at Super Kitchen or the notorious celebrity haunt Fatty Crab, but word has it that some oxtail stew at a place called Rennie’s provides similar comfort to hungry tummies. Hipster cafe Caffeinated Cabin is round the corner too, if you feel too thrown back in time.
Have an excursion to Putrajaya
The recently developed Putrajaya puts off many tourists in Kuala Lumpur, but with time on your hands, it’s worth the drive out. A city all on its own, Putrajaya is a sleek concrete jungle that’s located close to the airport — one can easily spend a full day here. The stunning IOI City Mall Putrajaya has something for everyone, including District 21, an indoor theme park for adrenaline junkies, and an indoor ice-skating rink! If you’re having mall fatigue, an evening stroll on the bridge along Putrajaya Lake or an awe-inspiring visit to the Putra Mosque should provide an excellent remedy.
Address: Persiaran Lebuh IRC, IOI Resort City
Tel: +603 8328 8899 | Web: www.ioicitymall.com.my
Operating Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm
Away from concrete and into the jungle
Nature lovers will be happy to know they can enjoy a holiday in Kuala Lumpur that doesn’t involve shopping malls or endless eating. Take a hike in the Malaysia Nature Reserve, located just half an hour away from the City Centre. It’s also home to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), the 600-hectare forest is also the oldest. Among the highlights here is the 200-metre canopy walkway, which is suspended 30 metres from the ground and offers spectacular vantage views of Kuala Lumpur.
Address: Jalan Frim, Kepong
Tel: +603 6279 7525 | Web: www.frim.gov.my
Teatime treat treasure
Got a sweet tooth and curious to have a taste of traditional Malaysian snacks? Head down to Sin Hua Bee bakery, residing in the Chow Kit locale. From the storefront and all the way inside, feast your eyes and taste buds on a wide variety of classic sweets and biscuits that are made by hand at the premises itself!
Address: 72 Lengkuk Raja Laut
Tel: +603 4041 9129
Operating Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm
Get sky-high at Heli Lounge Bar
Pre-dinner drinks couldn’t get more posh and exciting at Heli Lounge Bar. From 6pm to 9pm, patrons can get tipsy on the helipad itself, while it’s closed to actual helicopter landings (no, you’re not drunk yet). The aviation theme runs throughout the bar, and is truly an experience to be had. Plus, it’s a great way to end your trip to K.L. — on a high.
Address: Menara KH, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Level 34
Tel: +603 2110 5034 | Web: Facebook.com/Heliloungebar
Operating Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 6pm-midnight;