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The Best Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

Updated on August 23, 2022
Expat Mamasita profile image

With over thirty years experience of visiting and living in SE Asia, I love to share my insider knowledge and top tips


Kuala Lumpur, then and now

It is hard to believe that a city as developed as Kuala Lumpur did not exist, even as a village, before the middle of the 19th century, only coming into existence during the late 1850s.

Chinese miners who were searching for tin, set up camp at the confluence of the Klang and Gombah rivers in 1857, and by the early 1860s the camp had grown into a village called Kuala Lumpur, or "Muddy Estuary" which was an apt name for the malaria plagued area.

Early Kuala Lumpur was centred around the Chinese, who brought their opium fuelled lifestyle that included gambling and brothels, and the area remained turbulent for many years.

In 1880 the British came to Kuala Lumpur and a kind of peace developed, with the worldwide rise in tin prices allowing the area to become developed.

By 1887 Kuala Lumpur was made the capital of Selangor state, and in 1896 it was made the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States and by the mid 20th century it became the capital of the newly independent Malaysia.

Today, Kuala Lumpur is a city with a population fast approaching two million people. It is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and Asian people, whose combined cultures have helped to shape Kuala Lumpur into the hugely popular multi national city it now is.

The Streets Of Kuala Lumpur

Expat Mamasita's 5 Best Things To Do

— In Kuala Lumpur

The 5 Best Things To Do In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

To visit Kuala Lumpur is to experience a melting pot of many cultures; Malay, Chinese, Indian and European are amongst the many peoples that have all influenced this vibrant capital city and made it into a cosmopolitan kaleidoscope of colour, and I want to share with you my own personally chosen best things to do in Kuala Lumpur.

If you want a holiday with a difference, then Malaysia is an excellent destination, and Kuala Lumpur is a must see city

Kuala Lumpur has sumptuous shopping, fantastic street food, breathtaking views from Menara Kl, a bustling China Town that is perfect for walking tours and the thrill of the F1 Grand Prix.

Kuala Lumpur is also the perfect starting point for a multi destination holiday in Malaysia.

Come with me as we discover what the tropical city of KL has to offer to visitors.

1. Enjoy the Shopping

Whatever you are looking to buy, Kuala Lumpur is shopper's paradise.

Your choice of malls will include huge rambling malls that sell everything imaginable to high end malls full of designer labels, with a miriad of malls in-between.

One area famous for its shopping is the area around Jalan Bukit Bintang, and the nearby Suria KLCC has developed a reputation as the ultimate destination of retail pleasure.

Other malls can be found in the peripheral expat areas such as Damansara and Bangsar.

2: Sample The Street Food

Fancy for some authentic Indian food? Chinese food? Malay food?

You are in the right place and will find it all in the streets and alleys of Kuala Lumpur.

Who needs restaurants with restaurant prices when the food on the streets offers a huge variety of high quality food.

So, what should you try, and where should you try it?


Indian Street Food

Where will you find the best Indian street food?

Try Little India, to the north of Masjid Jamek for authentic Indian fare

What should you try?

  • Banana leaf rice - Fluffy white rice served on a genuine banana leaf with a variety of vegetables and meat.
  • Dosa - A pancake made from rice batter and black lentils, originating from Southern India
  • Murtabak - A murtabak is a thin flatbread that is stuffed with minced meat and eggs.


Chinese Street Food

Where should you go for the best Chinese street food?

In my opinion Jalan Petaling in China Town has delicious Chinese food

What should you try?

  • Chicken Rice - Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice is makes a cheap, nutritious and flavoursome lunch. Rice with chicken accompanied by a salad, chicken broth and sweet chilli sauce. Malay Chinese culinary simplicity at its best!
  • Dim Sum (see photo) - This includes various types of steamed buns - bau - , which contain either meat or vegetarian fillings, spring rolls, prawn toast, spare ribs, steamed meatballs....too many to mention. Perfect finger food.
  • Any dish with pork - As a Muslim country, pork is non-halal and sold in special areas of shops and not handled by Muslim workers. It is therefore a treat to visit Chinese restaurants and sample their delicious pork dishes, such as pork ribs or claypot pork and rice.


Malay Street Food

Where will you find the best Malay street food?

Jalan Alor for scrumptious Malay, Chinese or Indian food.

What should you try?

  • Nasi Lemak - A dome shaped mound of rice steamed in coconut milk topped with crunchy anchovies and accompanied by peanuts, sliced cucumber, and a hard-boiled eggs, with a side serving of spicy sambal chilli paste. Perfect for breakfast!
  • Roti Canai (see photo) - Everyone's favourite is another cheap an cheerful dish. It is like a cross between bread and flaky pastry, fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce.
  • Satay - Chicken or beef cooked on a skewer, over an open flame, and served with peanut sauce and chopped cucumber


3: Visit Menara Kl

Tourists to Kuala Lumpur who want to experience a birds eye view of the city usually head to the viewing platform at the Petronas Twin Towers.

Whilst the views are good, the viewing platform is not actually that high, you have to book your time slot in advance, and if you are lucky enough to get a place at this popular vantage point you will be squashed in with a load of tourists.

There is an alternative that not as many people are aware of, and it is called Menara KL. Menara is the Malay word for tower and this is often called the KL Tower.

Menara Kl is the tallest telecommunication tower in Southeast Asia, and has the honour of being the 7th tallest in the world, at 421m or 1,381 feet.

It is situated in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, and is a useful landmark as you are negotiating your way around.

We walked to the tower, via Jalan Petaling and I can vouch for its height......what seemed like a 5 minute walk turned into a long and sweaty hike through KL's bustling streets!

The observation floor is situated 276 metres high, and offers a spectacular view of the KL skyline and the Petronas Twin Towers.

You will also have the opportunity to have your photo taken, as we did, with the Twin Towers behind you.

This photo is then put onto a CD so that you can take it home and share it with your family and friends.

Jalan Petaling, China Town


4: Take a Walking Tour in China Town

At the centre of Kuala Lumpur is an area that is always vibrant and bustling: Chinatown. Centred around the Petaling Street, which is entered by passing under the iron framework that bears its name Chinatown is one of the most popular must see sights in Kuala lumpur.

It is also excellent for shopping, where you can find almost anything as long it is imitation, with the hawkers proudly proclaiming "Genuine Copy"

Come nightfall, Jalan Petaling is transformed into a vibrant night market, where haggling is expected and bargains are the norm.

Personally Recommended Accomodation

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Expat Mamasita


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