Kuala Lumpur is a massive metropolitan city and the capital of Malaysia. Here you’ll find amazing food, tons of shopping opportunities, epic attractions, lovely parks, towering skyscrapers with city views, and so much more!
It’s a popular place for a layover as the international airport is a hub for flights around Asia and the world, but we would argue that it’s worth spending at least four days in this city that has so much to offer. So if you’re wondering what to do in Kuala Lumpur, then read on to learn all about the top 12 things to do in the bustling capital city of Malaysia!
Short on time and don’t want to read the whole article? Here are our picks for the best things to do in KL:
- Visit the Batu Caves
- Eat in Little India
- Eat Some More on Jalan Alor Food Street
- Walk Across the Petronas Towers Sky Bridge
- See the Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- Marvel at the Jamek Mosque
- Visit the National Mosque
- Shop at the Central Market
- Stroll Along the KL Forest Eco Park Hanging Bridges
- Check out the Skyview Deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower
- Stroll Through the Perdana Botanical Gardens
- Check out the Marine Life at the Aquaria KLCC
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Kuala Lumpur Travel Basics
Know Before You Go
- The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM) and at the time of writing, the conversion rate was RM 4.08 to $1 USD. So when we say that something costs RM 80, that’s just about $20 USD.
- The official language of Malaysia is Malay although you’ll find that most people also speak English.
- You do not need to tip in Malaysia; however, if you choose to do so it will likely not be refused.
- The outlets in Malaysia are Type G. If you’re coming from the US, you’ll want to invest in an international adapter.
- The official religion of Malaysia is Muslim which means that alcohol is expensive (due to high taxes) and women might feel a bit more comfortable in less revealing clothing.
- While Malaysia is not as well known for its shopping as neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand, you can find some cool Malaysian souvenirs in KL. There are plenty of boutique shops around the city selling great textiles and handicrafts as well as several antique shops in the central market.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has an international airport (KLIA) that is one of the major airports in SE Asia and worldwide. It’s a major hub when traveling around SE Asia and it’s a good place to have a long layover as there is so much to see and do. Getting from the airport into the city center will run you RM 60-80 ($15-20 USD).
Getting Around Kuala Lumpur
The most convenient method of transportation in Kuala Lumpur is Grab. It’s the SE Asian version of Uber. It’s similar in that you use the app to select your pick-up point and your destination. Plus, it’s ideal to use Grab over taxis so you don’t have to worry about negotiating the fare or figuring out how to communicate your intended destination.
However, traffic in Kuala Lumpur can be a nightmare around rush hour. The city has an extensive network of commuter trains and buses so you can buy a few prepaid cards to make your public transportation seamless. Pre-load money on a Touch ‘n Go (TnG) card for cashless bus and train rides. Or pick up a KL TravelPass card which includes an airport transfer and 2-day unlimited rides on Rapid KL rail services. KL Sentral is the main connection point for almost all train lines.
And if you happen to see a light purple bus headed your way, that’s the Go KL City Bus. It stops at many popular tourist destinations in the Central Business District and is currently free to ride!
Kuala Lumpur Sightseeing Tips
Be sure to download the Klook app at the beginning of your trip to Kuala Lumpur. If you pre-purchase tickets to the major attractions around the city on Klook, you’ll get a discounted price. For instance, if you buy your tickets to the aquarium on Klook ahead of time, the price is RM 47 rather than RM 69 that you’d pay at the door.
The KL Pass is a card that allows you to experience a variety of attractions around Kuala Lumpur as well as skip the lines. You can also get around using the KL Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus. They offer 1, 2, 3, and 6-day passes for adults and children. Check out their list of included attractions here. And if you prebook your KL Pass with Klook you’ll save 5 RM.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
The Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur – By Samadhi is a 5-star resort that is a relaxing garden oasis in the center of this big, bustling city. Rooms are modern and spacious with charming decor and every amenity. And you’ll love the gorgeous outdoor lagoon pool, perfect for lounging in the sun!
The Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur truly has everything you could ever want under one roof. Featuring incredibly gorgeous rooms, an infinity pool with cabanas and lounge beds, an indoor golf area, tennis courts, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a relaxing spa, and 10 award-winning restaurants. You’ll never want to leave this luxury hotel!
The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful 5-star resort conveniently located right by the convention center (KLCC). You can enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool or a refreshing cocktail while enjoying views of the nearby Petronas Twin Towers. You’ll love your access to beautiful city views without having to leave the comfort of your hotel!
Where to Eat in Kuala Lumpur
LOKL Coffee Co. is one of the best spots in town if you’re looking for a spot to hang out for a bit and enjoy a cup of good quality coffee. With an easy vibe and both indoor and outdoor seating, it is an ideal place to do some work. If you are hungry, they make a mean fried chicken and waffles! (And check out these other great brunch spots in Kuala Lumpur.)
Sarang Cookery has some of the best Malaysian food in KL, at totally reasonable prices. The eggplant appetizer is so delicious that I had to stop myself from licking the plate. Plus, they offer cooking classes if you want to learn how to make what you’ve just eaten!
Din Tai Fung is the best place for dumplings in the entire city. There are numerous branches all over the world that have won countless awards, including a Michelin Star awarded to the branch in Hong Kong. Don’t even think about not ordering the crab road and pork xiao long bao and the chocolate xiao long bao for dessert!
But our favorite spots to eat while in KL are in Little India and on Jalan Alor Food Street. We liked them so much that they are two of our top 12 things to do in Kuala Lumpur! Read more about each below.
The 12 Best Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
1. Visit the Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are a series of caves and cave temples built into the limestone cliffs. It is located about eight miles outside the city center, it takes around 25 minutes to get there, and is a popular place for devout Hindus to go to worship and everyone else to take selfies.
The reason for the photo-taking crowds is that there are 272 vibrantly colored stairs that lead up to the cave that houses the temple. There is also a massive golden statue of the Hindu deity, Murugan, to the right of the steps.
Once you make it up the steps, you’ll be sweaty and exhausted. The inside of the cave has a temple where religious ceremonies are practiced today. Head up the stairs to see a bunch of monkeys, pigeons, and even a few chickens hanging out. Don’t eat anything up there, your food will get stolen by a naughty monkey.
The gate doesn’t open until 7 am and because this is probably the top thing to do in Kuala Lumpur, there will more than likely be people already waiting outside to enter. So if you want a perfect Instagram shot with no one else in it, you’ll have to rely on Photoshop.
There is no fee to enter the cave or the temple.
2. Eat in Little India
Little India Brickfields was once simply a residential neighborhood and is now the place to go for delectable Indian cuisine. This area is full with Indian restaurants and shops where you can purchase traditional Indian attire and jewelry.
Sri Paandi Restaurant is an incredibly busy restaurant so you probably won’t get great service, but you will get some amazing food. Four canisters of curry are shared between all patrons and you’ll have to eat with just your right hand. It’s messy and confusing and the cleanliness is questionable, but it’s sure to be one of your most memorable experiences in Kuala Lumpur!
3. Eat Some More on Jalan Alor Food Street
Jalan Alor Food Street comes alive in the evenings when the street becomes (mostly) closed to car traffic and hungry locals and foreigners descend. This is the best place in the city to eat Chinese and Thai food. Restaurant tables spill into the street and the plastic chairs are full of people drinking beer and eating seafood.
There are several small stalls serving dumplings and a variety of fresh juices if you just want a small snack while you walk around. There are also a few souvenir stalls lining the road.
It’s a great place to go to get a delicious meal, semi-reasonable priced beers, and do some people-watching. Just be aware that it gets really crowded and you’ll have to make way for a few brave drivers that try to get through.
4. Walk Across the Petronas Towers Sky Bridge
The Petronas Twin Towers are one of the most iconic sights in the world, and certainly the most photographed attractions in Kuala Lumpur. When you’re deciding what to see in Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Towers should be at the top of your list.
The towers are connected by a sky bridge that visitors can walk across to enjoy the spectacular city views below. Tickets to visit the sky bridge generally sell out a few days in advance so if you want to go to the top you should book your tickets beforehand.
Also, if you’re planning on visiting both the Petronas Twin Towers and the Aquaria KLCC Aquarium you can save about 15% by booking a combo ticket through Klook.
The most popular place to snap photos is in front of the towers, behind the water feature. Entrepreneurial locals will try to sell you a wide-angle lens for your phone to capture the towers in all of their glory. You can also pay one of them RM 10 to snap a few photos for you. It’s totally worth it because they’ll yell at everyone around you to get them out of your shot.
And behind the towers is Simfoni Lake. It’s another popular spot to photograph the towers as there is a fountain and light show every evening.
5. See the Sri Mahamariamman Temple
The Sri Mahamariamman Temple was built in the 19th century and is the oldest Hindu temple in the city. As you approach the temple, you’ll see the impressive front entrance that is filled with colorful deities. The detail in the carvings is quite impressive and you can wander around the grounds, admiring the architecture.
There are no shoes allowed inside the temple so you’ll need to pay 0.20 RM to check them before going in. You’ll also need to cover your shoulders and knees but they have some extra scarves if you need one.
Just down the street is the Chinese temple called Guan Di Temple. It’s worth a stop while you’re in the area to appreciate the difference between the two different religious sites.
6. Marvel at the Jamek Mosque
The Jamek Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia. It is bright white and has a beautiful design with symmetrical minarets and domes. The courtyard has some trees that frame the mosque nicely as well as create some shade during the heat of the day, and the location is right on the river. There is generally a friendly religious leader hanging around to provide visitors with the history and significance of the mosque.
Entrance is free (although donations are appreciated) and women will be given a robe to cover their entire body and their head. Men in shorts will be provided a cover for their legs. The mosque opens for visitors at 10 am but then closes from 12:30 until 2:30 pm to prepare for prayer. It opens again from 2:30 until 4 pm.
7. Visit the National Mosque
The central feature of the vibrant white National Mosque is the 240-foot minaret that stands in the middle of the courtyard. Next to it is the prayer hall, accessible to Muslims only, with a beautiful 16-point star-shaped roof. This mosque is quite large and can accommodate 15,000 worshippers at once. The area surrounding the mosque is filled with palm trees and water features and there is a lovely view of the old railway buildings across the street.
Visitors are required to dress modestly, wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers their shoulders, knees, and hair for women. Foreigners will be given a hooded robe to wear during their visit. Men may also be expected to wear a robe.
The mosque is closed multiple times throughout the day for non-Muslims. On Fridays, it is only open from 3 pm – 4 pm and from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm. On all other days, it is open from 9 am – 12 pm, from 3 pm – 4 pm, and from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm. Entrance to the mosque is free of charge.
8. Shop at the Central Market
The Central Market in Kuala Lumpur is unlike any that I’ve ever seen in SE Asia. Usually they are hot, stuffy, totally unorganized, and the shop owners hassle you as you walk by. The KL Central Market is air-conditioned, very clean, and all of the shops are orderly. Prices are also a bit higher here than in most other markets around SE Asia so be sure to do some negotiating before committing to buy.
While the Central Market is the best place to pick up Malaysian souvenirs and antiques, it’s not exactly the best place to shop for anything else. If you’re looking to take home clothing, shoes, or accessories, head to the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. It’s a massive shopping mall with over 550 retail outlets and restaurants. It’s a great place to get a respite from the intense afternoon heat or during a rainstorm.
9. Stroll Along the KL Forest Eco Park Hanging Bridges
If you want to take the scenic route to the KL Tower, you should definitely walk through the KL Forest Eco Park. It’s a series of hanging bridges that are suspended above a lush green park. The Canopy Trail leads you directly to the base of the tower. And the best part? It’s totally free!
If you are really exhausted from a long day of exploring, consider taking a grab to the tower and then walking back through the hanging bridges. That way you’ll be walking downhill the whole way.
10. Check out the Skyview Deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower
At 1,380 feet tall, the Kuala Lumpur Tower (KL Tower) is the tallest communication tower in SE Asia. It has a commanding presence in the Kuala Lumpur skyline as it towers above the other buildings that surround it. Prepare to wait in line to take the escalator to the top as this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. It takes about a minute to ascend to the very top of the tower.
There are several ways to enjoy the KL Tower. The best view is from the Skyview deck. This area is open-air and even has two skyboxes that extend out from the deck and have a glass-bottom floor. Skybox One is more popular as the Petronas Towers can be seen in the background.
Once you reach this floor, be sure to grab a numbered ticket for each skybox right when you get off the elevator as there is generally a wait. You’ll get two minutes in the skybox to take photos. There’s a photographer there who will snap a few photos on your cellphone, but he tends to prioritize his own photos that you can purchase inside for an astronomical rate.
A few flights down is the Observation Deck. This is an enclosed space that is dominated by souvenir stands. And further down from there is the revolving restaurant.
We highly recommend spending a few extra dollars to get to experience the Skydeck. It is far less crowded than the Observation Deck and the skybox experience is totally worth it! Plus, if you buy your tickets through Klook you’ll save 15%.
There are several other attractions around the base of the tower that kids will love, including an upside-down house and a mini-zoo. Don’t bother with the tiny “aquarium” at the base of the KL Tower, better to spend your money on Aquaria KLCC.
11. Stroll Through the Perdana Botanical Gardens
The Perdana Botanical Gardens is a large park located west of the main tourist area of the city. Here you’ll find a hibiscus garden, an orchid garden, and plenty of other peaceful areas with tons of walking trails. Most of the gardens are either free to visit or just at a very minimal charge. It’s a nice way to get some exercise and get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
A few exhibits that are on the outskirts of the park and are not free of charge are the KL Butterfly Park and the Bird Park.
The KL Butterfly Park is a really beautiful enclosure with lush vegetation surrounding a large pond filled with koi fish. Hundreds of butterflies flutter around you as you walk along the pathways in this small park. The park is open daily from 9 m until 5:30 pm and the admission fee is RM 24 for adults and 13 for children aged 2-11.
The KL Bird Park is home to more than 3,000 local and foreign birds and 200 different species. The park is 20.9 acres with four different zones. Three of the zones are free-flight zones which means you’ll actually be in the enclosure with the birds.
If you have young children, you should definitely plan on a couple of hours at KL Bird Park as it’s one of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids. The park is open daily from 9 am until 6 pm and admission is RM 63 for adults and RM 42 for children aged 3-11.
12. Check out the Marine Life at the Aquaria KLCC
The Aquaria KLCC is Kuala Lumpur’s aquarium. It’s a smaller exhibition and should take just two hours to get through, but it truly is a great time for any age. It combines education with hands-on experiences, including an area where you can actually touch the creatures underwater.
The best area of the aquarium is on the lower level where a moving walkway leads you through a tunnel where giant sharks, rays, sea turtles, eels, and other sea creatures freely swim around you. It feels as though you are underwater with them! If you buy your tickets on Klook, you’ll save 20% at Aquaria KLCC.
And if you’re really feeling adventurous try the Cage Rage Experience, where you can swim with the sharks and stingrays at Aquaria KLCC in a custom diving cage. It’s definitely the craziest thing you can do in Kuala Lumpur.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Kuala Lumpur? Let us know in the comments below.
Traveling to Malaysia and looking for more information to help you plan? Check out our favorite travel guides!