Your essential guide to Jakarta

By Mark Eveleigh

Travel writer, Mark Eveleigh specialises in Asia and has contributed to titles including Sunday Times Travel, Wanderlust and National Geographic Traveller.

Find your bearings

It’s appropriate that Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta, overlooks the soaring Selamat Datang Monument, which translates as ‘Welcome Monument’. The hotel borders the opulent Taman Menteng residential neighbourhood, yet is perfectly located for access to Jakarta’s business centre. Jakarta is not known as a pedestrian-friendly city, yet a pleasant 20-minute stroll through the back streets brings you to Merdeka Square, the great central park.

Feed your mind

The National Museum of Indonesia is less than a 15-minute taxi ride and will give you an ideal initial insight into the history and incredible culture of one of the world’s most diverse countries. To get orientated in this sprawling capital of more than ten million people, head to the top of the <137m National Monument, popularly known as Monas.

The National Monument

The National Monument. Photo: Getty Images

Shop like a local

Despite its humble name, Jalan Surabaya Flea Market – in the leafy suburbs of Menteng (just a six minute taxi drive from Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta) – is a treasure-trove of tempting antiques, where you’ll find everything from traditional wayang puppets to Dutch porcelain, and from collectible cameras to rare textiles. Plaza Indonesia, virtually next to the hotel, is one of the city’s oldest malls and still one of its finest, with more than 300 stores. Nearby, Grand Indonesia Mall is the new kid on the block at just ten years old – and it features many of the world’s most best-known brands.

Only in Jakarta...

"Stretch your legs: Jakarta goes car-free for a day every Sunday – it’s known as CFD (Car Free Day). Several of the city’s major boulevards are blocked to motor traffic between 6am and 11am, with pedestrians taking to the streets for sports and exercise. Hundreds of Jakartans take part in CFD at the famous roundabout traffic circle just outside of Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta."

M. Buyung Satria Rosa, Head Concierge, Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta

See some sights

The Dutch founded their Indonesian capital, Batavia, in 1619, in what is known as Kota Tua (Old Town). Once ‘the Jewel of Asia’, this wonderfully evocative colonial-style quarter still charms visitors. The cobblestone square of Taman Fatahillah is the centre of the quarter, with the Jakarta History Museum occupying the old Batavia Town Hall on one side and the lovely Batavia Café in a 200-year-old building, on the other. For a truly off-the-beaten track insight into the diversity of Indonesia, take a 15-minute stroll directly northwards to Sunda Kelapa Harbour where dozens of huge Bugis-style schooners will be loading for far-off islands. Even today, this is Batavia as it must have looked centuries ago.

Toast your arrival

Immigrant is where the local glitterati find their groove, and is open until 4am, Wednesday to Saturday.

Make time to unwind

Make time to unwind

Fitness & Wellness

The fitness and wellness menu at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta offers many tempting opportunities to unwind with a regional twist, including a Royal Javanese Massage, Balinese Massage and a Borneo Signature Exfoliation. Menteng Park (about a ten-minute walk from the hotel), in the heart of one of Jakarta’s most exclusive residential quarters, is pretty enough to be a regular filming location for movies set in the city. Suropati Park (15 minutes away) is wilder and offers more tree-shade. But the great Merdeka Square is the perfect place to watch the citizens of the ‘Big Durian’ getting some exercise.

Dine in style 

Dine on sumptuous Cantonese classics with an imaginatively modern twist at Bebek Bengil, just across the road from the hotel, is the ideal lunch option, since you can sit in its open-air, Balinese-style rice barns while you dine on the signature crispy duck.

Li Feng

Li Feng at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta.

Li Feng

Li Feng at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta.

Li Feng

Li Feng at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta.

Li Feng

Li Feng at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta.

Time travel

Construction began in 1961 on Indonesia’s National Monument, which is capped with a golden flame, a beacon of solidarity shining across this archipelago of 17,000-odd islands (which are only now being accurately counted for the first time!).

And finally

Like a world expo, but focused only on Indonesia, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a fun attraction for families. Translating literally as ‘Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park’, it’s a quirky, must-see for anyone who is intrigued by the incredible diversity of the world’s biggest island nation. Viewfinder gallery name: Jakarta’s must-visit sights


Istiqlal Mosque

Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Photo: Henryk Welle, Getty Images

Look Deep Inside

Look Deep Inside is a work on display at the National Gallery of Indonesia. Photo:, Alamy

The Taman Mini Indonesia Indah

The Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a minature park of Indonesian culture. Photo: saiko3p, Getty Images

The National Monument

The National Monument. Photo: Adobe Stock

The National Museum of Indonesia

The National Museum of Indonesia dates from 1862. Photo: saiko3p, Adobe Stock