Carved out from the untamed jungle by the dedication of its founders, this modern capital of Malaysia bears little similarity to its primitive past. Modern Kuala Lumpur, or ‘KL’ as it’s commonly known, has sprouted a new jungle of glass and steel sky-scrapers that stand comfortably side-by-side next to centuries old street-markets and the unmissable selection of local cuisines.
As with most major Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur’s shopping scene offers a ready blend of the traditional and the modern, with airy shopping malls like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur (168 Jalan Bukit Bintang) serving up global fashions – not to mention air-conditioned refuge from the heat outside – while atmospheric old street markets such as Jalan Petaling still do a roaring trade in tourist knick-knacks and fake designer items. And if you’re serious about picking up some of Malaysia’s famous pewter, the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory (4 Jalan Usahawan) sits a few kilometres northeast of Chow Kit – it offers guided tours.
Food & Drink
The country’s rich mix of different Asian cultures makes itself felt in the national cuisine, much to the benefit of food tourists. Kuala Lumpur gives more choice and enticement than anywhere else in Malaysia, whether you’re chowing down on beef rendang at a pavement café or sampling fine fare at an upmarket bistro such as the Indochina-influenced Tamarind Springs (1 Jalan Taman Tun Abdul Razak). If you’re dining at one of the city’s many food courts, a good rule of thumb, here as elsewhere in South East Asia, is to base your choice on the stalls that draw the most locals.
A chance to see the sights of the capital on foot, the KL Marathon takes runners on a snaking route through the city’s main districts. It’s been taking place since the late 1980s, and draws a mixture of local and international participants.
1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival
Two months of shopping bargains and various types of mall entertainment mark this annual retail promotion, which takes place throughout the country. It’s a good time to seek out a few discounts on luxury brands.
Translating as ‘Independence Day’, this national holiday commemorates Malaysia’s break from colonial rule in the 1950s. Expect fireworks, parades, flags and cultural performances – as well as plenty to eat and drink.
KL International Jazz Festival
Welcoming overseas headliners and local talent across four different stages, the city’s annual jazz festival has already forged a strong reputation since its inception in 2012. A showcase of fine art runs alongside the event.
KL Photography Festival
A celebration of photography and travel, this yearly event not only displays world-class images from across the globe but offers seminars and other activities for people with an interest in the subject. A number of prizes are given out annually.
Malaysia is comprised of large Malay, Chinese and Indian populations, and Kuala Lumpur makes for a good window onto the country’s eclectic society. The city’s hotel stock has plenty of variety too – large modern openings such as the 540-room Doubletree by Hilton (348 Jalan Tun Razak) and the 300-room Hotel Majestic (5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin) stand alongside long-established properties such as The Federal (35 Jalan Bukit Bintang), which opened to mark Malaysia’s independence in 1957. For something completely different, the eight-room Bodhi Lodge (18A Jalan Kemuja) is a great option for bargain-seekers – it describes itself as a ‘Buddhist-inspired hostel’.