What to Do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: My Top 6 Suggestions

Whoever named the city of Kuala Lumpur can’t have been a specialist in tourism branding. The name translates to “muddy confluence,” referring to the Gombak and Klang Rivers, and it does anything but evoke attractive images. Nonetheless, Malaysia’s capital city has gained popularity among travelers as an unparalleled blend of contrasting cultures and a fascinating dichotomy of modern and ancient, developed and developing.

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers

As one of Southeast Asia’s major hubs, Kuala Lumpur has an untold wealth of sights and experiences. I visited Malaysia last year for a brief but absorbing introduction to the best the country has to offer. Here are my top recommendations for what to do when visiting Kuala Lumpur.

Jump on the metro

I automatically feel an affinity for any city that has a great public transportation system, so Kuala Lumpur was in my good books straight away. The Klang Valley Integrated Rail System makes it easy and inexpensive to travel around KL and its surrounding areas. Keep in mind that, like most major cities, the trains can get packed at rush hour, so buying tickets during quieter times and having exact change can really help. That said, although Kuala Lumpur is a large city, you won’t have trouble seeing all of its best sights. And if you have extra time in the capital, why not simply hop on board a train and see where you end up?

Public transportation, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur’s public transportation system (image credit)

Visit the Petronas Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers have been the symbol of Kuala Lumpur since their completion in 1996, and, while it’s hard to miss two 1483-foot buildings no matter where you are in the city, they’re well worth seeing up close. They stood as the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and are still the world’s tallest twin towers. Beyond that, their unique architecture and glimmering lights make them a truly striking sight.

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The towers

Beneath the towers lies Suria KLCC, a massive shopping center with over 400 stores, an aquarium, a science center, an art gallery, and a philharmonic theater. After viewing the towers, the shopping center provides fantastic respite from Kuala Lumpur’s heat and humidity. Outside, you can also catch an impressive light and fountain show after dark.

Join a food tour

Malaysian food gets rave reviews from locals and tourists alike, so if there’s one thing you need to do when you’re in Kuala Lumpur, it’s eat. But if you really want to get an authentic look at the unique mix of Malay, Malaysian Indian, and Malaysian Chinese food that rules Kuala Lumpur while also gaining an understanding of the country’s fascinating food culture, embark on a food tour.

Kuala Lumpur food tour, Malaysia

Tasting Malaysian Indian specialties

During my visit last year, I joined Food Tour Malaysia for an unforgettable night exploring KL’s diverse neighborhoods and sampling its tastiest specialties. I must say that it was far and away the highlight of my visit to Malaysia.

Climb to the Batu Caves

Half an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur are the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple complex built into a limestone hill. The first thing you’ll notice upon arrival is the imposing gold statue of Hindu deity Murugan, standing at 140 feet tall as he guards the caves. Admission into most of the caves is free, other than the physical price of climbing 272 steps. Inside, you’ll find rock formations, figures of Hindu deities, and a band of curious long-tailed macaque monkeys.

Batu Caves, Malaysia

Hindu art in the caves

Take a day trip to Melaka

To continue exploring beyond the capital, pay a visit to Melaka (also spelled Malacca). A bus will cost you about 10 RM (less than $2.50 U.S.) and takes about two hours each way, so it makes for a great day trip or a multiple-day getaway from Kuala Lumpur. The city center is an UNESCO World Heritage Site with history and architecture influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British who once ruled the region. Wander around the old streets and visit museums, temples, and traditional houses, or stroll along the city’s river for a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur.

Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka

Explore the rest of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur and its nearby points of interest could keep you entertained for ages, but Malaysia is a diverse, fascinating country with tons of destinations to be explored. Catch a flight with Malaysia Airlines to Penang to explore colonial Georgetown, head to the island of Borneo to get up close and personal with orangutans, or hop over to the Perhentian Islands for some rest and relaxation in paradise. You’ll find lots of great MAS online promotion deals for domestic flights via Traveloka Malaysia, and when you tire of those, continue on to the rest of Southeast Asia.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Penang

Whether you’re stopping through on a larger Southeast Asia trip, touring Malaysia, or just visiting the capital, Kuala Lumpur is a place that will stick with you long after you leave. These six ideas will get you started, but spend some time getting lost in the city, meeting locals, tasting street food, and finding your own favorite corners. There’s no better way to experience a destination.

This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are entirely my own, as always!

25 Responses

  1. Rebecca Collins says:

    Your posts make me want to go places I have never wanted to go before!

  2. Abby Fitch says:

    Great suggestions! I had never really considered Kuala Lumpur before – but now i’m thinking about it! I’m totally with you that a great public transport system really MAKES a city. I used to live in Chicago, which had pretty decent public transportation, but now I live in LA (which is basically a public transportation desert). I consider London the gold standard!

    • Thanks, Abby! I hadn’t really considered it before I started planning my Southeast Asia trip and saw there were a lot of cheap flights there, and I’m glad I paid it a visit! My favorite public transportation system would have to be Madrid’s, although London’s is great too. I’m from L.A., and it’s true that our transportation isn’t great, but I’m glad to see that Metro is working to improve!

  3. Kuala Lumpur is still on my bucket list. I would definitely want to visit the Petronas Towers and try as much food as I can! 🙂
    Sanne – Spend Life Traveling recently posted 8 Things Not to Miss For Food Lovers Traveling to JapanMy Profile

  4. liz Cleland says:

    The architecture of that building is amazing. I also would love to try the food!

  5. Victoria says:

    Wow! In all honesty I never knew that the name meant muddy confluence! It must have been named a long time ago! Great tips!

  6. Carol G says:

    I also really love any city with a coherent public transportation system. And that crepe thingie…it’s bigger than you are!

  7. Alyson says:

    KL is great! And that Metro system is world class, the free buses too. We’ll be back in a few weeks, we’re forever passing through. Never done a food tour though and hate to admit, I really don’t like Malaysian food, we always eat Indian there.
    Alyson recently posted Best Carry On Bags and Backpacks for Air Asia Size RegulationsMy Profile

  8. I normally like exploring a place’s natural attractions, so choosing the Batu caves would be what I’d be most likely to do. But I couldn’t get past that AMAZING pic of all the Malaysian Indian goodies – so that immediately shot to the top of my list!
    Red Nomad OZ (Marion Halliday) recently posted See Australia Month-by-Month Part One: January to June Travel Teasers!My Profile

  9. We did not know about Melaka when we visited KL many years back. That is the kind of place that I would love! If you enjoyed Malaysian Indian food, you will love eating in india.

  10. Cate says:

    I love the food pic. When your food is so big that it requires 2 plates you know it’s good. 🙂 I also love hopping on a train or metro and just seeing where it takes me! I try to do that in every city I visit. Hopefully that will be KL sometime soon!
    Cate recently posted 2 Days in Iceland in June: Reykjavik and Golden Circle TourMy Profile

  11. Ooh I’d love to do a food tour here. We’ve done cooking classes across Asia but never an actual tour – I think that would be so much fun!

  12. Laura Lynch says:

    Those are all things that are on my list to do in Kuala Lumpur. I would really love the food tour, and would add a cooking class to the mix too. There’s such great food there.

  13. David says:

    The Petronas towers look awesome at night. Great destination tips.

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