Kuala Lumpur is a great city to spend a few days. It has amenities similar to a western city, but with Asian food! A perfect place to settle down after a busy trip or to get used to the country before exploring other parts of Malaysia. We’ve spent quite some time in the city, and this is our perfect three-day itinerary with the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Nepal, and it was such a welcome sight to see paved roads and sturdy structures again, we almost forgot we were still in Asia. But when you travel to Kuala Lumpur from Europe or America, this probably won’t happen to you 🙂 The city is, however, a bit cleaner and more western than other cities in Asia, like Bangkok.
Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of different cultures. Malay, Indian, Chinese, and lots of smaller ethnic groups all call this city home for a few generations already, which makes the KL cuisine a blend of all these cultures. Malaysia’s official religion is Islam, but you’ll see many influences of Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Christianity. All of these cultures and religions just live peacefully side by side in the city.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur: getting to your hotel
Welcome in Kuala Lumpur! On your first day, you’ll probably want to go to your hotel as fast as possible. If you arrive by plane, keep in mind that the international Airport KLIA is about 50 kilometers south of the city center. Getting to KL from the airport can be done in many ways, but most convenient is booking a Grab taxi using their app. You’ll pay around 65RM ($15 – 16) for a Grab car + some toll charges, and it drops you right in front of your hotel (or wherever you want to go first). You can also go by train. The KLIA Ekspress takes you to KL Sentral in about 30 minutes, but unless you’re traveling alone, it is more expensive than a Grab car. A ticket costs 51 to 55RM ($12 – 13), and you’ll have to get from KL Sentral to your hotel as well. Traveling by bus is an option too. Many buses are leaving from KLIA 1 or 2 to several bus terminals in the city. Tickets are around RM16 ($3,80) each, so this is a pretty cheap option. Check out their timetables at 12go.asia. You can easily book tickets using this website too.
Depending on the place you’re staying (scroll down a bit for our hotel/hostel tips), we highly recommend you to just walk around a bit in your area once you’re all settled down. Walk around in one of the many, many malls in Kuala Lumpur or try some of the delicious street food.
Traveling from Singapore to KL? Here’s how to do this by train!
Day one: Batu Caves, Wilayah Mosque and Botanical gardens
For most people, three days will be plenty of time for seeing the most impressive sights in KL, which means you can take it slow and really enjoy your time at every place you visit.
The colorful Batu Caves
During your first full day in Kuala Lumpur, try to get to the Batu Caves as early as possible. It’s stated that the caves open at 6 am, so try to get there early to beat the crowds. And as the Batu Caves might be the best-known sight of Kuala Lumpur, it can get crowded pretty quickly here. The nearly 43 meters high golden Murugan statue in front of the colorful stairs is a striking appearance. It’s also the tallest statue of this Indian god in the world. The 272 steps to the top are climbed daily by many Hindu’s from all over the world. In the cave are various Hindu temples, which we didn’t find too impressive, to be honest. The view from the outside is actually better than the view inside.
The colorful stairs leading up to the caves are attracting a lot of Instagrammers trying to make the perfect shot here. And can you blame them? The stairs look so colorful, although they could use some fresh paint. There is no entry fee for visiting the caves, so that’s pretty cool. Do be cautious about the monkeys though. There are plenty of cheeky ones around trying to snatch anything edible out of your hands (or bag!). Try not to take anything edible, and be aware if they come close.
There are many other caves in the area you could visit if you’re up for more. A popular cave that’s close by is the Dark Cave. Admission costs RM35 ($8,50), but it includes a guide.
If you have the option, try to visit the Batu Caves on a weekday, as it tends to be busier during weekends.
The Wilayah Mosque (also known as the Federal Territory Mosque) might be the prettiest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. We can’t say, because we couldn’t enter when we visited 🙁 Although the mosque opens early, tourists aren’t allowed in until 10 am. So all we did here was walk around it (it’s pretty massive). The outside of the mosque is already pretty impressive, although it could use some cleaning on the domes.
What about clothing?
When you’re visiting the Batu Caves and especially the Wilayah Mosque, dress appropriately. For a woman at the Batu Caves, this means: cover your shoulders and knees. At the mosque, you’ll have to be fully covered. You can bring your own scarf, but at both the mosque and the caves, you can rent clothes as well if you didn’t bring any. For men, there aren’t any ‘rules’, but we don’t really recall anybody walking around in a tank top, so just wear a t-shirt to be sure. As in all mosques and temples: you’ll have to remove your shoes before entering.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to relax and have a picnic, this is it! The botanical gardens are located south of the Wilayah Mosque and a bit closer to the city. The park is really big and there are plenty of things you can do around here. We just walked around in this super green environment, but you could visit some of the attractions in and around the park:
- The butterfly park KL (you’ll have to pay an entry fee of RM25 ($6))
- Orchid garden
- Laman Perdana (the big yellow fake trees covering the main square)
- Herb & spice garden
- The deer park
- Hibiscus garden
- Planetarium (entry fee of RM12 ($2,90), exhibition is free)
- Sculpture garden
- KL bird park (entry fee of RM63 ($15,20))
- And many more
The main park area is open daily from 5.30 am till 8.30 pm.
Watch the sunset at KLCC park
Many places are perfect for watching a sunset, and just below the Petronas Towers in KLCC park definitely is one of them! If the high temperatures and the humidity start to get to you, go shopping for a bit in the Suria KLCC mall just below the Petronas Twin Towers. This mall is supposed to be the best mall in KL! Their aircon is definitely great 😉
Day 2: sightseeing and shopping in Kuala Lumpur
There are endless things to do in Kuala Lumpur, just wandering around the city is a great adventure. Today, let’s mix up some of KL’s best nature sights, a colorful temple, and a bustling city area.
KL Forest Eco park
The KL Forest Eco park is a little piece of jungle right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. There is some maintenance that needs to be done in the park, but the canopy walks between the treetops are fine! And they offer a great view of the KL tower. We recommend going here early morning to enjoy a sunrise or golden hour before it gets too crowded at 10 am. The park is free to visit and it’s open from 7 am to 7 pm. Besides the 200m canopy walk, there are also some short trails and a herb garden you can visit.
Thean Hou temple
One of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur is visiting the Thean Hou temple, at least that’s how we feel. This temple is located a bit further to the south of the city, but it’s well worth a visit. Getting to the Thean Hou temple can be a bit tricky, but catching a Grab will make things a lot easier.
Thean Hou is a Chinese temple that is frequently visited by both locals and tourists. A lot of weddings take place at this venue as well, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of newlyweds walking around the temple complex.
If you can, try to visit this temple between 8 and 9 am. After 9 it gets a bit more crowded. The temple usually stays open until 10 pm.
Coffee at Merchant’s Lane
Merchant’s Lane is known to be the most Instagrammable cafe in Kuala Lumpur. It’s not easy to find and you’ll walk straight past it if you don’t know it’s there. They did a wonderful job decorating this cute little cafe and its a perfect stop for a coffee or lunch if you’re in the area!
Bukit Bintang is the place to be if you want to do some shopping! Kuala Lumpur has over 50 big malls, and most of them are located inside the Golden Triangle (the city center). Bukit Bintang is right in the middle of this and has so many malls, you could easily go mall-hopping all day without walking outside for more than 5 minutes. Some malls are even connected, so you don’t have to get out of the comfy aircon at all. But we do recommend you to not only see the inside of the malls but also explore more of Bukit Bintang. There is plenty of street art around for instance. You can find these pieces of art in the alleys and streets around Jalan Alor (the main street). Bukit Bintang is also the place to be if you want to party at night.
Day 3: Before you leave
If you have a bit of time before your plane leaves, go have breakfast in this great little cafe before you head off to the Sepang area and get your racing on! Or, if that’s not your cup of tea, go check out this beautifully located mosque.
Breakfast at VCR
If you’re craving for a delicious breakfast or brunch, go check out VCR. They have two locations, one in Bangsar in the western part of KL and one on Jalan Galloway close to Bukit Bintang, both decorated in a very cool and retro way. They serve pretty much all types of breakfast food that you might fancy; breakfast sets, waffles, all sorts of eggs, avocado toasts, quiches, french toast, you name it! Oh, and they have great coffee too!
Sepang International Circuit
If you’re into motorcycle or car racing and you’ve got some time to kill before your plane leaves, go check out the Sepang International Circuit. It’s very close to the airport, and you can get a tour around the track, the pit boxes and the media buildings. If you’re lucky, you can even walk around on the start/finish line for a bit. They are open Monday to Friday and there’s a tour twice a day, one at 10 am and another one at 14.30 pm (15 pm on Fridays). Tickets cost RM60 ($14,50) and the tour takes about 90 minutes. Do check the calendar on their website or send them an email before you go. When we did the circuit tour, the website said the track was closed. But when using the chat on the website, I found out this wasn’t true and there was, in fact, a tour planned… If you want, there’s also an option to go karting yourself, as the circuit has a karting track right next to it.
If you’re not into racing that much, skip the circuit tour and go to the pink Putrajaya mosque instead. Putrajaya is a KL suburb that’s conveniently located if you’re going to the airport. The mosque here is beautifully located by the water, which makes for some stunning pictures if the weather is clear!
Photo by: Syuqor7
Popular things we didn’t do in KL and why
There were some (really popular) sights in KL we didn’t know about or just didn’t want to visit. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Here are some of the things to do in Kuala Lumpur we’ve skipped.
Visit the Petronas Twin Towers
Yes, it’s true; we didn’t see the view from the famous Petronas Towers in KL. We did know they were there (and really, how can you miss them…;-) ), but we felt like it wasn’t worth the money going up there. They charge you RM80 (nearly $20) each for a visit to the Skybridge and the Observation Deck. And the view wouldn’t be too different from that at the Face Suites (more on that later) where we stayed for a couple of nights. But, if you do want to go, by all means: do it! The towers are open from 9 am to 9 pm from Tuesday to Sunday, but sometimes their opening hours are different. Do check their website before you go. You can also get tickets online.
Have a drink at the Heli lounge bar
Juul actually wanted to go to the famous Heli Lounge Bar, which is a helicopter platform by day and a bar by night, but we read that the staff can be really rude if they notice you’re just there for the view and you don’t want to order (too much) drinks. The bar is open from 5 pm onwards, and you can access the helipad from 6 pm. Entering the bar is free from 5 pm till 9 pm, which does make it a perfect spot to watch the sunset. You do have to dress appropriately. Which means you cannot wear flip-flops, sandals, crocs or anything like that. Also, don’t wear shorts, sleeveless shirts or caps. After nine o’clock, the dress code becomes more strict.
Admire the views from KL Tower
Just like the Petronas Twin Towers, we didn’t feel like visiting the KL tower would enhance our trip. It’s even more expensive than the Petronas Towers. There are two ‘attractions’ in the tower, but you’ll have to buy two separate tickets if you want to see both. A ticket for the observation deck costs RM49 ($11,80) for an adult. A ticket for the Skydeck will set you back RM99 ($23,80)! And that’s a lot of money for one tower!
Wandering thru Chinatown
We didn’t visit Chinatown because we kinda forgot about it… But we do feel sad about missing it, as there are many, many delicious food stands and cheap shopping in Petaling street. There’s a vibrant night market where you can buy all sorts of (fake) stuff and a great oriental atmosphere. We know where we’ll go next time we’re in Kuala Lumpur!
Go back in time at Merdeka Square
The one we feel most bummed about missing is Merdeka Square and in particular the Sultan Abdul Samad building. I mean, just look at it!
The Merdeka Square is an important part of Malaysian history. This is the place where they first hoisted the Malaysian flag back in 1957, to declare its independence from the UK. Merdeka means “independent”, so that name makes perfect sense. The square is the usual venue for the National Day Parade. It’s the Sultan Abdul Samad building that draws the most visitors though, as it is one of the most photographed buildings in KL. The building is used by the Ministry of Information, communication, and culture, but before that, it has been the home of the supreme court and the national textile museum.
The big field across the street is often used as a place for events and outdoor festivals or music shows. It’s also a great place to hang out with some food in the late afternoon.
How to get around in Kuala Lumpur?
As we mentioned before, a Grab taxi is often the quickest way to get around the city and explore the things to do in Kuala Lumpur we mentioned in this article. Unless there’s a MRT or LRT station or a monorail close to where you’re going. In which case it’s better to avoid the BUSY Kuala Lumpur traffic. Besides that, it’s often cheaper too! Make sure not to use the regular taxi’s. We’ve been warned about those a lot when we visited the city. They might try to take the long way to a destination, just to get more money. And that’s just the beginning. They try to get as much information about you and your travel plans as possible, and you might think they’re just nice. Some of them might, but some of them use this information and sell it on to criminals trying to rip you off. So if you do ever get into a taxi, don’t tell them anything about your plans (make some stuff up if you’re asked). But don’t think the whole city is filled with people trying to scam you. KL is actually a lovely city with lots of friendly people.
The best places to stay in KL
If you’ve ever seen an Instagram shot of Kuala Lumpur, it is probably something similar to this:
This hotel has an infinity pool with one of the most iconic views on the Petronas Towers in the whole city. It’s called the Face Suites, and staying there can be quite expensive. There is a more budget-friendly option, however! Some of the apartments in the hotel were sold to local people or businesses, and those smart people put their apartments up on Airbnb. The cool thing is, if you book an Airbnb apartment in the Face Suites building, you can still use their facilities (like that awesome infinity pool on the 51st floor). We booked this Airbnb, but there are plenty more!
Don’t forget: if you haven’t signed up for Airbnb just yet, click here and grab $48 Airbnb credit for your next adventure!
There are plenty of other places you can stay of course, but I would recommend staying somewhere that’s close to the monorail, MRT or LRT. As those are the easiest ways to get from and to the center. Here are a few options:
Update January 2020: One of our readers recently stayed in The Face Suites and informed us that the view from The Face Suites’ pool is partly obstructed because of a new building. The Petronas Towers are not as visible anymore.
Budget (up to $20 a night)
When you’re just looking for the best places to stay in KL without breaking the bank, check these great budget options. Most of them are hostels with dorms, but some offer private rooms as well for just under $20 a night.
– Iron Inn (starting at $5 a night, including breakfast)
– Space hotel (starting at $9 a night)
– Paper plane hostel (starting at $12 a night)
– The Bed KLCC (starting at $13 a night)
– Birdnest Collective Cafe & Guesthouse (starting at $7 a night, including breakfast)
– Amethyst Love Guesthouse (starting at $8 a night)
Middle ($20 to $50 a night)
If you prefer a private room and are willing to spend a little more, these hotels in Kuala Lumpur are some great options! If you want to have a kitchen so you can cook, there are plenty of studios and apartments in this price range as well.
– 1000 miles hotel (private rooms starting at $24 a night)
– MaxHome @Dorset Residence (studios starting at $45 a night)
– Gold3 Boutique Hotel (private rooms starting at $37 a night)
– Penthouse on 34 (private rooms starting at $23 a night)
– Sojourn Guest House (starting at $25 a night)
High ($50 and up)
If you’re looking for a bit more luxury or a superb location, these higher-priced places are perfect for your getaway to Kuala Lumpur.
– The Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel (starting at $67 a night)
– Mandarin Oriental (starting at $136 a night)
– JW Mariott Hotel (starting at $126 a night)
– Concorde Hotel (starting at $65 a night)
– Shangri-La Hotel (starting at $102 a night)
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur: where are they at?
On this map, you can see the exact locations of every sight and hotel mentioned in this article:
When is the best time to travel to Kuala Lumpur?
You can pretty much visit this place year-round, as it is always hot and humid. But if you have the option to go whenever you want, I’d say December to February are the best months. It’s a little dryer and therefore a bit more comfortable. But really, any other month will do as the rainy season isn’t as ‘active’ on the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. Do you want to learn more about the best time to visit other parts of Malaysia? Check out our destination page for everything you need to know before you visit this beautiful country.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Kuala Lumpur. If you want you could easily spend a week or so in KL (like we did!) and just take it slow and enjoy the atmosphere. Have you ever been to Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur? Did I miss any of the highlights in this blog? What places did you visit during your stay in Kuala Lumpur?
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