Kuala Lumpur

Your essential guide to Kuala Lumpur

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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.

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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 kyō, the heart of the global underground soundscape, and ren, a beautifully understated cocktail lounge.

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.

Dine in style 

Classic Cantonese cuisine can be found at Lai Po Heen, specializing in Cantonese delicacies and dim sum specialities, and also know for their signature ‘Musang King’ 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.

Lai Po Heen

Lai Po Heen restaurant serves Cantonese cuisine.

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.

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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.

Kuala Lumpur’s best nightlife

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.

kyō

Kuala Lumpur, the heart of the global underground soundscape.