Tour the old town for colonial heritage buildings, absorb South-East Asian art in splendid galleries, or enjoy fine dining in world-class restaurants. Indonesia’s capital city has buzz and more

Despite the notorious traffic jams, Indonesia’s capital city is a fitting place for its 10 million friendly inhabitants to satiate their urban thirst. In every nook and cranny there’s a happening venue, from stylish shopping malls to world-class restaurants and fancy bars.

Shopping heaven

The Dior Store at Plaza Indonesia To Jakartans, the air-conditioned shopping malls are more of a second home than a place to splurge, serving as an escape from the humidity outside. The malls downtown, in particular, boast exquisite design, high-end brands and amenities. A stone’s throw from Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta, Plaza Indonesia is where all the dapper locals go. Alongside luxury fashion lines, such as Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Lanvin, sit celebrated local designers, like Bin House, Iwan Tirta and Sebastian Gunawan. Drop by the new Senayan City mall, where designer sales are frequently put together on its eighth floor. And travel off the beaten track in Pluit to find Rinaldy A Yunardi’s atelier (+62 21 7279 2291), a name synonymous with bespoke jewellery and chandeliers. In leafy Kemang in South Jakarta, local furniture line Bika, whose impeccable wood pieces have gained a cult following, is also worth a visit.

City highlights

A fountain display in front of the National Monument Jakarta’s best-known landmark, the National Monument, or Monas, stands at 132 metres tall in Merdeka Square. The edifice’s 17-metre carved bronze flame is coated in 50kg of gold, and a three-minute elevator ride takes you to its observation deck. From there, take in the skyline or, under clear skies, Mount Salak in the distance. Not far from Monas and located across from each other, Jakarta Cathedral and Istiqlal Mosque show contrasting architectural styles. With looming spires, the former is neo-Gothic, while the latter – arguably the largest mosque in South-East Asia – has a contemporary feel. Visit on Fridays and witness a sea of Muslims and Catholics before they go to pray.

Gallery guide

Jakarta’s museums may not be as refined as those of London or New York, but they showcase arguably the most exciting art pieces in South-East Asia. The National Gallery is a great starting point to discover the country’s art, with more than 1,700 works including those by Raden Saleh, the pioneer of modern Indonesian art, and Java-born Basuki Abdullah. The gallery also stages exhibitions throughout the year. Experience the richness of Indonesian culture at the Indonesia Kaya Gallery on the eighth floor of Grand Indonesia, just across from Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. The interactive gallery allows visitors to compose music using a digital gamelan, or to play traditional games on a touchscreen. Or view Indonesia’s world-renowned textiles, like the dyed and woven ikat and tenun, on display at the Jakarta Textile Museum.  

Out and about

Women dressed in costume at a cultural festival in Jakarta Transport yourself back to Old Jakarta, and Batavia’s colonial era, by walking along the Pinangsia stretch in Kota Tua (the old town centre). Feast your eyes on the picturesque heritage architecture, such as Jakarta Kota Station and the Toko Merah, one of the city’s oldest buildings. Ancol marina serves as the pick-up point for those interested in exploring Pulau Macan (Tiger Island). Only a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride away from the marina, the island has white sandy beaches and blue waters that teem with marine life. For a more challenging outdoor activity, you can refresh your horse-riding skills at Arthayasa stables.

Spa trip

Enjoy traditional Indonesian spa treatments at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta Enjoy a signature spa treatment at the Fitness & Wellness Centre at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. Lasting up to an indulgent two hours, the Royal Javanese body massage starts with a gentle footbath and continues with a re-energising deep-thumb pressure massage. Or try the Balinese massage, which uses heated blended oils alongside acupressure, reflexology and aromatherapy techniques.

Dining flair

Cinnamon at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta Lyon at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta offers sophisticated French cuisine in a relaxed brasserie setting, and invites Michelin-starred chefs, such as Richard Toix and Olivier Bellin, to cook at its kitchen every few months. On other days, savour the tasty cold cuts, beef tournedos or Lyonnaise. The hotel’s more casual Cinnamon restaurant features international and Asian cuisine in a modern space. Try the Indonesian-style oxtail soup or nasi goreng while watching the chefs cooking live in the open kitchen. In the old-money Menteng area, visit Tugu Kunstkring Paleis to delight in its grand Rijsttafel menu. Housed in a century-old building adorned with old pictures of Batavia, Kunstkring is pure spectacle. Or visit E&O in Jakarta’s embassy complex of Mega Kuningan, and take pleasure in straightforward Thai and Vietnamese fare created by the chef who has redefined Bali’s gastronomic scene, Will Meyrick.


Night life

MO Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta Jakartans party in style. So put on your most eye-catching outfit, and start the evening at MO Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta – a sleek lounge overlooking the Bundaran HI landmark. Then head south to the much talked-about Potato Head. At around 11pm, catch an eclectic playlist at the venerated Dragonfly, a glitzy lounge-cum-club packed with expats and Jakarta’s socialites. Or dance the night away at hotspot Empirica at SCBD, a favourite haunt of the rich and famous.


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