We must admit we did not know what to expect of Kuala Lumpur. The capital of Malaysia surprised us and we really enjoyed our time there. Indeed, Kuala Lumpur is a very modern city but it is still very affordable. Moreover, there are many possible activities and the cultural mix is very appreciable. We arrived at the impressive airport with a direct flight from the Java Island in Indonesia and spent 5 days in the city of Kuala Lumpur.
Our 13 best things to do in Kuala Lumpur
Stay (on a budget!) in a fully equipped flat in a residence with a stunning skyline view, preferably with a rooftop pool or hot tub
Both for us in our very modern and affordable apartment in the Robertson Residence (hot tub the size of a pool outside on the 42nd floor and giant pool on the 6th). We loved the view on the Petronas and the Menara towers. There are many similar offers on Airbnb, you can use our link for a discount (find more on our tips and discounts page).
Check out the Menara Tower from the bottom and take a walk in the nearby Bukit Nanas Forest
Do not miss its suspension bridges in the middle of the city. As a bonus it is a free activity !
Taste the street food and try the durian if you feel brave (this very popular fruit’s smell could compete with the strongest French cheese)
There are many places around the city ! We liked the food on Jalan Alor. It is a busy street, from late afternoon until late, where you will find many flavors.
Shop in the many malls of Kuala Lumpur
Watch the sunset with a drink in one of the rooftop and speakeasy bar.
At the Heli Lounge Bar the sunset is enjoyed from an old heliport platform. The bar is hiding at the top of a building. Remember to book or arrive early if you want to a good seat. Be aware, the prices in these kind of bars are high. Alternatively, you can watch the sunset from the building you are staying in (if you followed our first tip)!
Enjoy international dishes from the many excellent restaurants of varied nationalities
Admire the beautiful Petronas Towers
The view is superb from the KLCC park and which also offers a beautiful environment.
Take a stroll through Chinatown and Little India to immerse yourself in the country’s cultural diversity
Stroll around the Central Market
A great place to buy souvenirs.
Marvel at the Sultan Abdul Samad building
from the Merdaka Square Park.
Eat an excessive amount of typical Malaysian food
At the buffet of the very nice restaurant Restoran Rebung Dato Chef Ismail. Beware this restaurant is hidden on the top floor of a giant car park (with a fish market inside). To find the restaurant, you have to enter the car park and take the elevator to the top floor.
Visit the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum
The gardens are large so it is a good place to get lost and relax. Let’s hope you won’t be under a blazing sun as like us (bring sunscreen)!
Make a gesture for the planet
Go zero waste with Bliss Zero Waste Store products and why not hang out in the coffee shop for a drink?
Penang Island and Georgetown City
After Kuala Lumpur, we took advantage of the good train network to go to the city of Georgetown. This UNESCO heritage city is situated on the Penang Island. From the Butterworth train station, we walked to the very inexpensive and short ferry ride.
Since we had so high expectations for this popular Instagram destination, we must admit we were quite disappointed with our stay. Maybe we did not do the right things or we were not in the right state of mind… Consequently, we decided not to write an article about this visit. We simply recommend not to miss the visit of the impressive Kek Lok Si temple and having fun with the street art in the city of Georgetown. Also, we must admit it even if it is a little shameful, we loved the TeddyVille museum (clearly aimed to children) where we learned a lot about the history of Penang.
If you liked Penang and have recommendations for our readers please leave us a comment!
Overland border crossing between Malaysia and Thailand by the city of Padang Besar
We crossed the border to go to Thailand by train in the Padang Besar Station. You should know this side of the border was considered at the time of our crossing the least dangerous according to the the French government website but it remains a risky area (we invite you to double check the recommendations from your government at the moment of your crossing).
We took a ferry from Penang to the town of Butterworth. Then, from Butterworth, we took the train to Padang Besar. Trains leave normally every hour but ours has been cancelled, so plan to have some margin. Once in Padang Besar, we found no information and no one who could help us in English. So we ended up doing our exit stamp from the highway. In fact, you do not need to get out of the station! Customs were simply on the ground floor, the same place where our train to Thailand was leaving from.
Clémentine’s reading list on Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia
To organised our visits, we used the Lonely Planet’s Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang travel guide. This guide focusing only on the three regions of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca is convenient due to its small size. Though you might need a more complete one if you are travelling around the entire country, such as Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei travel guide.
We are working on the rest of this reading list (too many books to read and movies to watch). In the meantime tell us if you have suggestions!