Kuala Lumpur is a collision of cultures, of old versus new, chaos of both the ordered kind and otherwise. It can be a mind-boggling city to navigate on foot and the heat will zap the hardiest of travellers, but spend a few days here and you will come to realise that underneath its concrete jungle veneer lies a place with soul, energy and infinite secrets to discover. Kuala Lumpur is a city of enthralling contrasts. A city that serves every kind of traveller’s budget. So without further ado our Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide: tips for things to do in KL, where to find good food and accommodation in KL plus more!
Disclaimer: Chasing a Plate’s stay at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Central and The Hulo Hotel + Gallery and our attendance on the “Off the Eaten Track ” tour with Food Tour Malaysia were complimentary. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links, thank you for supporting our blog by using these links.
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Things to Do in KL
Wondering what to see in Kuala Lumpur? Stumble across Hindu temples erupting between office high-rises, explore the lively food scene in KL and discover its many diverse neighbourhoods. There’s no shortage of things to do in KL so read on!
1. Discover good food in KL with Food Tour Malaysia
Food Tour Malaysia
Off the Eaten Track Tour
7:00pm to 11:00pm
We think one of the best ways to come to grips with a city is through its food. And Malaysia, being such a melting pot of ethnicities offers a lot to explore- much more than you could possibly fit into a couple of days. Enter Food Tour Malaysia who offer two KL food tours- a walking food tour and an ‘Off The Eaten Track’ tour.
If you want a glimpse into how the locals eat, what they eat and where they eat, opt for the more intrepid ‘Off The Eaten Track’ tour which sees you zipping around the city in a van accompanied by a knowledgeable, gregarious guide. Over the next 4 hours you might sample nasi lemak, roti, curry, traditional Malaysian drinks or satay- rest assured, there’ll be plenty of it so make sure you’re wearing your loosest pants. It’s a whirlwind of amazing food, drink (alcohol not included) and insight into Malaysia and its people.
2. Ignite your senses with a wander through Brickfields (Little India)
Indian pop music blares from speakers, shoppers jostle to buy sweets to take home and the sweet fragrance of chrysanthemum and frangipani garlands waft through the air. Brickfields is an invigorating area to walk around. Discover hidden temples, sample freshly deep fried samosas and nab some Indian desserts to nibble on.
3. Take in a spot of culture at the Islamic Arts Museum
Jalan Lembah Perdana, Tasik Perdana, Wilayah Persekutuan. Open daily 10:00am to 6:00pm
Established in 1998, this museum has become a custodian of Islamic Art and houses 12 permanent galleries featuring everything from jewellery and textiles to architecture. It’s well worth a wander around for a couple of hours.
4. Hit the shops!
Malaysians are shopaholics and you’ll find almost all luxury and high street brands represented here including Uniqlo, Zara, H&M, Nike, Adidas and Sephora. Bukit Bintang is a good spot to start with Farenheit88, Lot 10 and Pavilion KL malls all within easy walking distance of each other. Prices are cheaper than in the west and there are great bargains to be had (we nabbed a pair of Nikes for $40USD) so start pounding that pavement!
5. Gaze at the Petronas Towers
You can’t leave KL without taking the time to gander at the two impressive towers that are synonymous with KL’s skyline. We have two pretty amazing spots for you to check out. The first is the 39th floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel. Emerge from the lifts into the lobby and there’s no escaping the magnificent view of the Twin Towers.
Our second viewing point allows you to have a wee tipple and enjoy the sunset whilst you watch the lights of KL’s buildings slowly glimmer to life. Heli Lounge is a bar set up on a helipad. Yes, a helipad. The spectacularly lit Petronas Towers makes for some good snaps from this angle. The drinks at Heli Lounge are nothing to write home about but that’s not really what you’re here for, although don’t imbibe too many- the only thing separating you and a topple off the edge is a flimsy elastic queue barrier! Make sure you get here before 7:00pm or you might find it hard to nab a table.
Heli Lounge: Bukit Bintang 34th Floor, Menara KH, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur
Open Monday to Wednesday 5:00pm to midnight, Thursday to Saturday 5:00pm to 3:00am and Sunday 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur?
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral
5 Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur Sentral
Room rates start from 355MYR/$80USD based on double occupancy
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral has got a lot going for it. It’s modern, tech-centric, brilliantly located (it’s connected to KL Sentral where both buses and the train arrives into from the airport) and although it’s a big hotel (482 rooms) it still retains a boutique environment. Aloft’s most affordable rooms (Loft and Urban) are kitted out with king size beds, flat screen TVs, generously sized bathrooms and filter coffee and tea making facilities- we found them amazingly comfortable. And if breakfast at Nook is included in your room rate, you are going to have a ball! Who doesn’t love a good buffet breakfast? We reckon Aloft kick it up a notch by offering Western, Chinese, Indian and Malay options- you’ll even find a Sarawak laksa station!
We loved their tech-centric focus- their wifi is excellent- perhaps the best in any hotel we’ve ever stayed in, there are pods in which to charge your devices in the lobby and iMacs to use in their business lounge. And if all that wasn’t enough guests have access to the pool, a huge bonus considering the sticky KL weather with the adjoining Mai Bar delivering Malaysian Princess Mai Tai’s at the touch of a button. Highly recommended!
Where to eat in KL
You are not going to go hungry in this city. Good food in KL is but a stones throw away! Here are our favourite places for food in KL (all cheap and cheerful spots)…
1. Onn Loke Kopitiam
5, Jalan Sang Guna (Penjaja Gallery Jalan Tun HS Lee), Kuala Lumpur (enter from Japan HS Lee, look for the Big Mouth Bak Kut Teh sign and enter here. The kopitiam is on your left and has bright blue doors.
Open 7am to 2pm.
Slap bang in the middle of the wet market and run by Uncle Lee who’s been making coffee for the past 40 years, you’ll get a real insight into local life by breakfasting here. Wobbly soft-boiled eggs, kaya toast and mugs of sweet kopi-c (coffee with evaporated milk and sugar), sure to set you up for the day!
2. Restoran Kin Kin
40 Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman, Kampung Baru, 50300 Kuala Lumpur
Open daily 6:30am to 6:00pm
Chilli pan mee is an extremely popular noodle dish in KL and there’s no better place to sample it than Restoran Kin Kin whose menu consists of chilli pan mee and nothing else. This Malaysian Chinese dish consists of bouncy wheat noodles, a soft poached egg, minced pork and fried anchovies which are tossed in the bowl together with as much chilli as you can handle. Think of it as KL’s answer to spaghetti bolognese!
3. Wong Ah Wah on Jalan Alor
Jalon Alor. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:00pm to 4:00am, Sunday 5:00pm to midnight, closed Monday
Restaurants serving Chinese, Malay and Thai food are a plenty along this stretch together with fruit, ice-cream and dim sum sellers. If you’re not into establishments where waiters thrust their restaurant menus at you as you walk past and crammed tables where you rub shoulders with other tourists (and you shouldn’t be!) walk down the hill and eat at Wong Ah Wah. Here you’ll find tables of locals devouring huge plates of Wong Ah Wah’s famous chicken wings and washing them down with Chinese tea or beer. We can attest to the magnificence of the bird here and their seafood dishes are fantastic. They’re also a little less pricey than up the road.
If it’s durian season and you’ve still got room, you have got to don a plastic glove and get into it! Love em or hate em, when in Malaysia you must sample the ‘King of the Fruits’. Durian vendors line Jalan Alor and prices for a whole durian range from 35-60RM/$8-15USD per kilo with the Musang King, fetching the highest prices. It’s pungent smell puts many off but once you get a taste for it, you won’t be able to get enough of this custardy, rich fruit.
4. Cocktails at PS150
Ground Floor, 150, Jalan Petaling
Tuesday – Saturday : 6pm – 2am (L.O. 1am), Sunday: 4pm – 11pm (L.O. 10:30pm). Closed on Mondays
Sunday – Thursday : Dress as you wish…
Friday & Saturday or Eve of Public Holidays : Dress to impress…
Book a table online so you don’t miss out!
Toast your Kuala Lumpur city adventure with a cocktail at PS150, a bar located in Chinatown. Look for a sign for a toyshop and you’ll be in the right place- this moody, atmospheric speakeasy which channels different Indochine eras is the ideal spot to celebrate a successful couple of days of exploring.
KL isn’t the easiest place to get around on foot and the train and monorail stations aren’t always close enough to justify the 15 minute walk at each end in the heat. Uber and the local equivalent Grab are your best bet for getting around. They’re plentiful and cheap, especially if there are more than two of you travelling and can often work out the same or just a little bit more than public transport. Grab often offers some great deals e.g. first ride free up to 25MYR/$5USD (this is enough to get you anywhere in the city).
If you need to purchase a local simcard when you arrive in order to use Uber and Grab, Malaysia has a number of providers who offer reasonably priced datapacks. We use Digi and paid 45MYR/$10USD for a 3 week 3GB data pack and a small amount of credit for calls.
No matter where you’re travelling to we always recommend you have travel insurance. We use and love World Nomads. The great thing about them is that you can purchase travel insurance while you’re already travelling!
We hope this Kuala Lumpur travel guide has helped you eat and explore like a traveller, not a tourist!
Spending more time in Malaysia? Check out our travel guides to Penang and Kota Kinabalu!