With a burgeoning art scene and a plethora of shopping malls, Jakarta has plenty to keep art lovers and shoppers occupied. But this March, make time for the annual jazz festival as it swings into town

Bobby McFerrin, who is performing at the Java Jazz Festival

Bobby McFerrin, who is performing at the Java Jazz Festival

The frenzied beat of the Indonesian capital will be slowing to a distinctly more distinguished set of grooves from 6 to 8 March, when the Java Jazz Festival hits town. It counts James Brown and Stevie Wonder as former headliners and, now entering its second decade, stars this year include Courtney Pine, Bobby McFerrin, and the Blue Note Tokyo All-Stars.

The city’s contemporary gallery scene continues to gain momentum, with a veritable explosion of new spaces opening in the city over the past few years. Galeri Canna specialises in solo shows by cutting-edge Indonesian artists; last year it featured critically acclaimed exhibitions by young local talents Suraji and FX Harsono.

Contemporary Indonesian art at Galeri Canna

Contemporary Indonesian art at Galeri Canna

For Balinese art, the Biasa Art Space goes far beyond tourist curio kitsch, thanks to a regularly changing roster of shows by artists from the region. Discover up-and-coming names in the fields of digital and installation art, such as Arya Pandjalu, who recently transformed the gallery into a giant indoor garden.

You can’t move for malls in Jakarta and the quality varies enormously. A good choice for a superior retail experience is Pacific Place, which is where you’ll find the effortlessly cool concept store The Goods Dept, which has an impeccably-sourced coterie of international design brands; look out for Cannes bags for men, MKS shoes for women and watches by Lima.

Concept store The Goods Depart at Pacific Place

Concept store The Goods Depart at Pacific Place

For gift shopping with a more indigenous vibe, head to the antiques market that runs the length of Jalan Surabaya, where you’ll find a huge array of carved wooden masks, chandeliers and shadow puppets. Try to get the best price, as everything is negotiable here. For batik fabrics and sublime hand-dyed silk scarves, make a beeline for Bin House on Jalan Purworejo in the Menteng district.

As for dining, there are few activities more civilised in Jakarta than taking a leisurely lunch in the heart of the Old Town amid palms, amber lighting and chequered flooring at Cafe Batavia, which exudes a wonderfully atavistic aura of faded Dutch colonial grandeur. The menu won’t win any awards for originality, but they do a decent take on the Indonesian national dish, nasi goreng (fried rice with chicken, fried egg, garlic, tamarind and chilli).

Cafe Batavia in the Old Town

Cafe Batavia in the Old Town

Jakarta is a city seemingly allergic to the notion of sleep, and nowhere does nocturnal hedonism better than the Dragonfly club – all sunken lounge area and glowing onyx walls – where top DJs from across Asia play to a glammed-up crowd.

Rob is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer and broadcaster based in London and has written for publications including The Sunday Times, GQ and Tatler

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