So you’ve arrived in Kuala Lumpur and like me probably only have a day or a couple of days there before either heading off to the beautiful Malaysian beaches or catching a flight to some other far flung destination. Well if this is you read on for my guide of what to see and do when you only have 24 hours in this vibrant city.
From where I was staying I could see KL’s most famous and iconic landmark, the Petronas Towers and that was to be the first place to visit. I’d been advised to get there early as tickets to the observation deck generally sell out very quickly, I took this advice and was in a lift up to the top at 9 am. The view from the top is quite something and you can see across the whole of the city, picking out other landmarks. At 84 ringgits it’s not the cheapest attraction but it’s one of those things you’ve just got to do while you’re here.
Having seen the Petronas Towers I decided the easiest way to see everything I wanted to do was to take the hop on hop off city bus tour, there’s a convenient stop right outside the towers. Having purchased my ticket for a not too bad price of 45 ringgits I boarded the bus and set off.
My first stop was the KL Tower, I didn’t go up the tower as I didn’t see the point having just been up the Petronas Towers, for me it was just somewhere to take a couple of pictures and move on. The KL Tower sits up on a hill which can be a bit of a trek in the heat but there is a free shuttle to the top.
Back on the bus we drove through various areas of the city including around the modern KL Convention Centre and Bintang Walk where you’ll find some of the city’s upscale shopping and nightlife. Chinatown was where I decided to get off the bus again.
I really liked the Chinatown area it had a great atmosphere and a busy but friendly feel, nobody really bothered me as I walked around browsing the stalls with all their counterfeit goods and tacky souvenirs. The area still retains some of the old colonial buildings from years gone by and is a great place to grab a coffee, a drink or something to eat and just watch the world go by.
Very close to Chinatown is the Central Market an old indoor market that was built in 1888 to sell meat, fruits and vegetables. It was saved from demolition in the 1970’s and is now used for selling local crafts and showcasing aspects of Malaysian culture. If you’re hungry and fancy a bite to eat there’s a food court upstairs.
The bus drove us through Little India, another area with lots of old colonial style buildings. I opted not to leave the bus here but it looked a very colourful and vibrant and thriving area that maybe with a bit more time would have been somewhere worth exploring further.
We then passed through the area known as KL Sentral, a modern transport hub and the only railway station in the world to have it’s own airport code.
The next stop was the National Museum where for 5 ringgits you can enter and find out all about the history of Malaysia. There were some interesting exhibits but I felt a lot more could be done to make this a better experience.
The National Palace that houses the King is not far from the museum and is a mandatory stop on the bus tour, you get about 10 minutes to get off and take some pictures as the palace is not open to the public. The building itself is of Islamic design with its golden domes that are beautifully ornate.
From the National Palace the bus continues to an area where you’ll find the National Monument, the National Mosque, the Parliament Building and also the Orchid Garden, the Bird and Butterfly Park and the Perdana Botanical Gardens, as time was short for me I decided to stay on the bus and continued to my next stop.
On route to my next stop we passed the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, a beautifully ornate building which is still in use but mainly for local services and occasionally the Eastern & Oriental Express train.
Merdeka Square was where I left the bus next. This was the square where in 1957 the Union Jack was lowered and the Malaysian flag was raised as the country gained its independence from Britain. On one side of the square is the Royal Selangor Club, this Tudor inspired building was built in 1884 and was a favourite haunt of the British colonial elite in its heyday. It’s still a private club today and is open to anyone who can afford the joining fees.
On the opposite side of the square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, it was built in 1897 and was named after the reigning Sultan of Selangor at the time. Originally used to house the office of the secretariat for the colonial British administration it then became the home to the superior courts of Malaysia, now it is used to house the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture.
The final part of my bus tour took me to the area where the National Visual Art Gallery and the National Library have their homes, also here is the Titiwangsa Lake Garden.
Although not everyone’s idea of how city sightseeing should be done I felt I’d seen a good overview of KL from the hop on hop off bus tour, I saw what I considered to be the city’s main attractions and was pleased at how much I’d managed to achieve in one day.