The Malaysian capital is a feast for the senses: the futuristic architecture, tropical parks, exotic food and vibrant shopping are all part of its multicultural mix. Just jump right in

Kuala Lumpur’s name might not be the most romantic in Malay (it means ‘muddy confluence’) but it is a city in flux. Drawing on its colonial past, tin-mining history and overall multicultural richness, KL – as it is fondly referred to – with its towering skyscrapers and constant stream of all things new, is also made for the future.

Shopping Scene

Century-old shops along Jalan Hang, Kasturi, near the Central Market Shopping in KL, like so many other Asian cities, seems to be the national pastime and with so many strategically-located malls, it’s easy to see why. Suria KLCC, anchoring the Petronas Twin Towers, is a great place to head for a mishmash of designer and high-street brands – check out Aseana, set up by local fashion maven Farah Khan, which carries worthy names like Issa, Hervé Léger and Marchesa alongside her own eponymous label. Starhill Gallery has many stand-alone, international luxury horological boutiques and is therefore a Mecca for watch and jewellery lovers and, just across the road, the Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur offers everything from luxe labels (brands like Hermès, Ferragamo and Montblanc) all have beautiful duplex stores to high street, as well as a plethora of dining and leisure options. Not too far away, the Central Market, with its Art Deco façade, is a good place to pick up local handicrafts and souvenirs or, if you enjoy the thrills of haggling, mosey over to nearby Petaling Street where the stalls ply everything – from fresh to faux goods – day and night.

Spectacular sights

Map of Kuala Lumpur Few buildings in KL stand out as much as the 88-storey monoliths that are the Petronas Twin Towers. Admire César Pelli’s Islamic-inspired architecture before taking a walk on the skybridge that links towers 41 and 42. For a more complete aerial view of the city, there’s also the 421m KL Tower, the tallest telecommunications tower in South-East Asia, which has a 3-60-degree observation deck and hosts extreme sports such as the KL Tower International Base Jump. On the topic of heights, don’t miss the Batu Caves, a temple complex located almost 100m above the ground and set within a limestone cliff. An important pilgrimage site for Hindus, this is the place to be during the annual Thaipusam festival. Climb the 272 steps to reach Temple Cave, which houses several ornate shrines, or marvel at the golden statue of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan – around 48m high, it’s the tallest of its kind in the world.

Where to dine Indulge in prime cuts of Wagyu beef at the elegant Mandarin Grill

Culture hits

Islamic Arts Museum If you’ve ever wanted to learn about kampong cuisine or local herbs, sign up for Le Cordon Bleu-trained Rohani Jelani’s cooking classes at Bayan Indah, her verdant home that doubles up as a culinary retreat. The Islamic Arts Museum is a treasure trove of information and artefacts on Islamic history and diversity, while the musically inclined should take in a performance at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, set within a 35-acre park, also offers dance, drama and musicals, while The Actor’s Studio has a 250-seat theatre on the rooftop of the Lot 10 shopping centre.

Park life

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary The Lake Gardens is home to a series of nature-themed attractions, including the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, deer and butterfly parks, and orchid and hibiscus gardens. If the thought of teeing off thrills you, see if Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur’s concierge can get you a game at the grand old Royal Selangor Golf Club. Established in 1893, it’s home to a 45-hole course. And worth a day trip is the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, about an hour and a half’s drive from Kuala Lumpur. Bring your swimmers, as you can even bathe with these unique creatures.
How to relax The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is the place to head for pampering. Try the Traditional Malay Urut, a practice that has been passed on from generation to generation

The best taste

Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur's Mandarin Grill Malaysia’s multicultural society means the pickings are anything but lean when it comes to good food. From trawling the street-food stalls along Jalan Alor to haute cuisine, there’s something for everyone. Cilantro, with chef Takashi Kimura’s melange of French-Japanese cuisine, is the preferred haunt of the city’s connoisseurs, while you can indulge in prime cuts of Wagyu beef at the elegant Mandarin Grill at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. If you prefer to dine with a view, consider the charms of Il Lido – famed Italian restaurateur Beppe de Vito’s first culinary outpost out of Singapore – which has a smart alfresco lounge. The local ladies-who-lunch set’s love affair with chic bistro chain Alexis doesn’t seem to be waning the glorious cakes are a must, as is the Sarawak laksa, or spicy noodle soup, while if you want to experience the best of street food in air-conditioned comfort, head to Lot 10 Hutong and tuck into local hawker delights, like bak kut teh (herbal pork rib soup and chicken rice with bean sprouts).


Spa time

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is the place to be for pampering. Try the Traditional Malay Urut, a practice that has been passed on from generation to generation. The massage focuses on long, kneading strokes and pressure points to rebalance and harmonise the body.

Night life

Sultan lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala LumpurChangkat Bukit Bintang or Changkat BB, as the KL hipsters say, is the preferred main drag at weekends. Frangipani’s upstairs bar is a hotspot or, if you prefer somewhere quieter, sip sparkling sake at sleek Daikanyama. The club scene is dominated by Zouk, while the Sultan Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is the place to party for the city’s rich and restless. Designed by Stéphane Dupoux, the talent behind New York’s Cielo and Buddha Bar nightclubs, get one of the coveted Arabian tent-like tables, so you and your party can sip Sultinis while the DJ plays the tunes from his golden console.
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