When people think of Kuala Lumpur, they typically think of the colorful Batu Caves and the iconic Petronas Towers… but what about the rest? From the pockets of nature to the transformational enterprises to the artisan coffee roasters, it’s as though this city was built for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Malaysia’s capital and while I may be biased, I truly believe Kuala Lumpur deserves far more recognition than it receives. Apart from being one of the cleanest and most organized capital cities I’ve visited in Southeast Asia, I found that Malaysians are also some of the friendliest and lighthearted people I’ve encountered on my travels thus far. Most tourists will tell you that one day in the capital of Malaysia is more than enough, but I beg to differ – here are ten things you don’t want to miss in Kuala Lumpur.
1. Petronas Twin Towers
It only makes sense to put the Petronas Towers at the top of this list, both because of its grand appearance and for what it symbolizes. With 88 stories and a height of 452 meters, you couldn’t miss these twin skyscrapers even if you tried. Built in the early to mid-1990s, this internationally recognized landmark made Malaysia a global player and represents the country’s ability to compete on the world stage. You can choose to admire them from near or far, or purchase a ticket to visit the skybridge and observation deck if you’re so inclined. I personally chose to keep my feet on the ground and have no regrets!
2. Batu Caves
Frequented by tourists and worshippers alike, Batu Caves is both a popular tourist attraction and a sacred Hindu temple in Selangor, approximately 15 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur. Known for its impressive gold statue of Lord Murugan and its steep set of 272 stairs sporting all colors of the rainbow, Batu Caves is unlike any other religious site in Southeast Asia. I recommend visiting first thing in the morning to beat both the crowds and the heat, plus it’s best to catch the mischievous monkeys before their late afternoon shenanigans begin. Don’t forget to dress respectfully, this is an important place of worship after all.
3. Eat X Dignity | Dignity for Children Foundation
I mentioned transformational enterprises at the beginning of this post, and Eat X Dignity is exactly what I was referring to. Located in Sentul, about halfway between Petronas Towers and Batu Caves, this cafe and creative space is run by the Dignity for Children Foundation, giving underprivileged children access to education as well as work experience opportunities. Their blender was sadly out of commission when I was there so I only had an oat milk latte, but their smoothie bowl menu sure looked good! You’ll find photos of the children they support displayed on the wall and there’s also a selection of eco-friendly products for sale.
4. The Hive Bulk Foods
Operating under the slogan “honey, we don’t waste”, The Hive Bulk Foods is the first zero waste store in Malaysia and offers over 300 bulk whole foods – from cereals and pulses to condiments and dog treats. I visited the Bangsar location but I believe they have a store in Ampang as well, both of which sell a variety of organic, conventional, gluten-free, and natural products. As a social enterprise, The Hive partners with local organic farmers and sources most of their manufactured products from female entrepreneurs, disabled individuals, and refugees; what’s more, they also run weekly workshops for individuals looking to embark on a healthy zero waste journey – now that’s something I’ll stand behind.
5. APW Bangsar | The Good Company
A creative industrial space in the heart of Bangsar, APW has rebranded itself from ‘Art Printing Works’ to ‘A Place Where’ in recent years. Today, the former printing factory has fully transformed into a creative campus comprised of a collaborative workspace, event venues, pocket parks, and a selection of cafes and restaurants. I popped into The Good Co. and tried The Mindful Jar, a vegan blend of oats, fresh fruit, and crunchy granola. The goal of APW Bangsar is to bring arts, culture, business, and technology together in order to encourage innovation and human creativity. With regularly scheduled events and good vibes all around, I believe this is an up-and-coming area for artists, entrepreneurs, hipsters, and more of the sort.
6. Shopping Malls | Pavilion KL, Suria KLCC, Bangsar Village II, My Town, etc.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not much of a shopper, especially while traveling… but the malls in Kuala Lumpur are a whole new ballgame. Whether or not you plan on actually shopping, I still suggest taking a couple of laps around the malls in and around Kuala Lumpur City Center – trust me, the atmosphere is something to experience in itself. Pavilion KL and Suria KLCC, for example, are upmarket malls with luxury fashion brands catering to high-income clientele – I even caught part of a live Dior runway show. My Town has a totally different vibe and offers more practical stores such as IKEA and H&M, plus a cinema and a grocery store. In Bangsar Village II, you’ll find the first Starbucks in the world that’s dedicated to employing hearing-impaired baristas – what an amazing initiative!
7. RGB Coffee at The Bean Hive
With an acronym that stands for Rather Good Beans, RGB Coffee at The Bean Hive is the place to go for artisan coffee as well as healthy Asian and Western meals. Offering a selection of vegan, vegetarian, Buddhist vegetarian, carbless/gluten-free, garlic/onion-free, and meat dishes, this cafe is a godsend for health-conscious individuals with any sort of dietary requirement. I ordered the pumpkin hummus and roast vege wrap which came with a side salad and used super fresh ingredients. The owner is very kind, the space is welcoming, the water is free, and both the indoor and outdoor seating areas are extremely cozy – you really can’t go wrong.
8. Kuala Lumpur Forest Eco Park | Canopy Walk & Menara KL
Situated in the middle of downtown Kuala Lumpur, this Forest Eco Park is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Home to curious monkeys and chirping birds, the 200-meter-long treetop canopy walk weaves through a natural rainforest and gives off all the jungle vibes – leave it to me to find nature wherever I go! Bits and pieces of the skyline can be seen poking through the trees and if you’re craving uninterrupted 360 degree views of the city, you can opt to head into Menara Kuala Lumpur. The tower is located at the north end of the canopy walk and the 300-meter-high sky deck is open day and night.
9. Merchant’s Lane Cafe
A trendy eatery where local charm and modern culture fuse together, Merchant’s Lane Cafe is a place to see and be seen. I met my friend Laura here, the same girl I hung out with in Georgetown, and we caught up over a somewhat weird assortment of food and drink. I was hungry for dinner so I ordered the only vegan item on the menu which was called cow food, a plate of stir-fried pesto pasta with vegetables. Laura, on the other hand, was off to yoga class in a bit so she went for the superfruit lemon tea and a piece of orange poppy seed cake. The hipster-like details are executed to perfection and the environment is very pleasant, but the menu could do with some more plant-based options… just saying.
10. Central Market Kuala Lumpur
Dating back to 1888 when Kapitan China Yap Ah Loy started a wet market in this location, Central Market Kuala Lumpur is now a one-stop center for Malaysian batik, antiques, souvenirs, collectibles, and handicraft. The current art-deco structure was constructed in 1928 and is just steps away from Chinatown’s Petaling Street, housing over 350 shops with all sorts of knickknacks. It’s a place where you not only get a feel for the cultural heritage and traditions of the Malaysian people, but can also taste some of the local cuisine. For even more experiences, check out the calendar of craft-making demonstrations, festive celebrations, and cultural shows!
It’s safe to say that Kuala Lumpur exceeded my expectations and I know Malaysia was not a one and done type of trip, but it’s a wrap for now. Thanks for reading!
With ♡, Julia Elizabeth