Kuala Lumpur

Your essential guide to Kuala Lumpur

$module/image

By Surekha Ragavan

Kuala Lumpur-based journalist, Surekha Ragavan is the editor of Travel Wire Asia, and has written for titles including Elle Malaysia and Time Out KL.

Find your bearings

Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur has an enviable location – tucked between the lush green KLCC Park and the striking, 452m-Petronas Twin Towers – the tallest pair of towers in the world. Step out of the hotel and you’re immediately part of the buzzing metropolis.

Feed your mind

Art and culture lovers are very much in luck: Kuala Lumpur is packed with excellent art galleries and heritage sites. One of the best is the Islamic Arts Museum, a stunning collection of more than 7,000 artefacts, from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. At the upscale Suria KLCC mall, adjacent to the hotel, Galeri Petronas displays rotating exhibitions of modern art and design pieces that reflect contemporary Malaysian life. Also within the mall is Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, a stately setting for the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, plus visiting international musicians. Tickets sell fast during high season, so it’s best to secure your seats in advance.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia of one of Kuala Lumpur's most visited sites.

Shop like a local

Kuala Lumpur is a shopper’s paradise, especially during the mid-year and year-end nationwide sale periods. One of the best districts to pick up a designer bag is Bukit Bintang – home to some of the city’s best malls, including Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and Lot 10. Meanwhile, the upscale neighbourhood of Bangsar is a haven for local streetwear and homeware. Visit Nala for brightly printed cushions, and 17A Select Store for quirky custom terrariums.

https://photos.mandarinoriental.com/is/image/MandarinOriental/dmo-mokul-concierge

Only in Kuala Lumpur...

“Eight miles north of Kuala Lumpur are the the Batu Caves – home to a striking, gold Hindu shrine. The region is also popular for rock climbing, with more than 160 climbing routes. Take a three-hour guided adventure tour which involves getting wet, scaling rock faces and squeezing through narrow gaps in the rocks.”

Mohd Nawawi, Chief Concierge, Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur

See some sights

For a slice of history, a visit to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is a must. The field opposite the building was where the British Union Jack flag was lowered in August 1957 and Malaysia was declared independent from colonial rule. Brickfields, the city’s Little India, is worth a detour for its colourful array of saree shops and the blaring Tamil music that spills out onto the streets. While you’re there, pick up a bag of aromatic spices and order a crispy chutney-laden dosa. 

Toast your arrival

Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is home to Ren, a stylish Japanese-inspired cocktail lounge complete with hanging origami decorations and tatami-style seating. Nearby, Fuego is a chic South American-influenced space with an excellent small plates selection and a view of the Twin Towers; go at night to enjoy the sparkling panorama of the city. For a late-night tipple, PS150 is a trendy, unassuming bar in Chinatown with an opium den-inspired aesthetic and cocktails concocted with Asian ingredients such as ginger flower and palm sugar.

Make time to unwind

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

Despite its city-central location, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur still feels like a retreat. Much of the hotel’s third floor is dedicated to six treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure room, steam and sauna rooms, a relaxation lounge with hot and cold whirlpools, and a hair salon. The Tropical Rainforest treatment embodies healing traditions from the wilds of Malaysia including Borneo, and uses aromatic oils made from locally grown herbs and spices. For a bit of R&R beyond the hotel, seek out exotic flora and fauna at the city’s only forest reserve, KL Forest Eco Park.

Learn More

Dine in style 

The finest steak in the city can be found at Mandarin Grill. It’s a swanky space with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and stunning artwork from local gallery, Shalini Ganendra Fine Art. See something you like? Everything is available to buy. For a meal of immaculately cut sashimi, Kampachi at The Troika is a ritzy double-floored space bestowed with sparkly, suspended bulbs and towering glass panels. Later, if you want an introduction to Malaysia’s king of fruits, the love-it-or-hate-it durian, Cantonese restaurant Lai Po Heen whips up premium ‘D24’ durian pancakes for ‘discerning’ (or brave!) foodies.

If you have time, venture to the suburbs of Shah Alam. Dewakan, lauded as one of the best restaurants in the country, is an exciting fine dining space where native Malaysian ingredients are prepared using modern techniques. Try the tapai (fermented rice) with pickled rose.

Dewakan

Cured Mackerel served with local flowers at Dewakan.

Dewakan

Also at Dewakan: aubergine braised in mushroom stock, served with jackfruit seeds, black bean sauce and garlic emulsion.

Mandarin Grill

Mandarin Grill at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur.

Learn More

Lai Po Heen

Lai Po Heen restaurant serves Cantonese cuisine.

Learn More

Time travel

The name Kuala Lumpur was derived from the Malay term for ‘muddy confluence’. Although less muddy these days, the city – discovered by migrant Chinese tin miners in 1857 – was situated at the junction of the Gombak River (then known as Lumpur river) and the Klang River.

http://mandarinoriental.com/templates/main/img/MO_Magazine_Logo_BLK.svg

And finally

For a taste of Kuala Lumpur’s independent music scene, visit No Black Tie to discover local jazz talent over a glass of wine.

Gallery

Mantra

Enjoy a cocktail and a panoramIc view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline at Mantra

Marini's On 57

Marini's On 57 is the city's highest rooftop bar

MO Bar

The MO Bar boasts one of Kuala Lumpur's best selections of single malt whiskies.

Learn More