In this Kuala Lumpur travel guide, we share our favourite things to do in Malaysia’s capital city, including the best temples, Chinatown and the best vegetarian restaurants in the city.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city, wasn’t on our original travel itinerary. But we’re so glad we went there! Kuala Lumpur is a city with towering skyscrapers, a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines and surrounded by mountains. There’s a kind of old, outdated feeling to the buildings in Kuala Lumpur, but we became very fond of the city.
How come we visited Kuala Lumpur? We needed a new country to stop in between our visits to Indonesian Borneo and Yogyakarta and our upcoming trip to Bali. We checked and flights from Yogyakarta to KL were cheap, so we went for it.
Though it sounds like we went against our slow travel ethos and rushed through KL, that’s not exactly true. We spent a week in the city, working online from an Airbnb apartment. But because of work, we jam-packed our city sight-seeing into one day!
If you happen to find yourself in Kuala Lumpur with 24 hours spare, here’s exactly how you should spend that time:
Top Ten Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur (and you can do them all in one day!)
- Perdana Botanical Gardens — Green escape from the concrete jungle
- Islamic Arts Museum — Excellent collection of Muslim artworks
- National Textile Museum — Free museum in beautiful building
- Sultan Abdul Samah Building — Ex-British colonial headquarters
- Sin Sze Si Ya Temple — Oldest Chinese temple in town
- Sri Mahamariamman — South Indian style temple
- Petaling Street — Chinatown’s beating heart
- Pavilion KL — High-end shopping and dim sum eating
- Heli Lounge Bar — 360-degree views of the city
- Petronas Twin Towers — The capital’s iconic skyscrapers
Best Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur Map
Best Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
Perdana Botanical Gardens
We start our day in the largest green space in the city: the Lake Gardens. The Kuala Lumpur Sentral railway station is the closest transport hub. As well as the Perdana botanical gardens, there’s an Orchid Garden, the KL Bird Park, a planetarium and a Butterfly Garden. We chose not to visit the Bird Park due to ethical concerns. When we walked by, we could see small cages and overheard loud pop music and what sounded like narration to a “show” of some kind.
Museums and Cultural Buildings
After you’ve seen the Botanical Gardens, you can walk (or take a taxi) to the Islamic Arts Museum. This fantastic building is well worth the 14 Malaysian Ringgit (RM) entry fee. From there, head to the National Textile Museum (which is free) and then the Sultan Abdul Samah Building.
Chinatown Temples and Central Market
No Chinatown is complete without temples! We’re going to visit two: Sin Sze Si Ya and Guan Di.
Next stop is a Hindu Temple, the beautiful Sri Mahamariamman is dedicated to a goddess of rain. Note you’ll be asked to cover your lower legs with a sarong and leave your shoes at the entrance with a minder (0.5 RM).
We stopped for lunch at Bakti Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant. I almost exploded after eating far too much North Indian Thali (it was delicious).
After the temples, check out the Central Market and then Petaling Street; a busy market decorated with China-red lanterns. Nearby, an array of vendors sell street eats at Jalan Alor.
Shopping and Skyscrapers
Swap the bargains of Chinatown for the brands of Pavilion KL; the city’s most upmarket retail destination. To replenish after shopping, I highly recommend taking a seat at Din Tai Fung. This dumpling restaurant is famed across Asia, as the Hong Kong branch is Michelin starred. Prices are extremely reasonable.
For sundown, head out of Pavilion KL to Heli Lounge Bar. This rooftop bar (on the 34th floor) offers spectacular views of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara KL Tower; not to mention the rest of Kuala Lumpur. Entry is free between 18:00 and 21:00, simply buy a bottle of Tiger beer for 22 RM and take a seat!
What to do in Kuala Lumpur? (If you have a little more time….)
Still looking for things to do in Kuala Lumpur? We’ve got you covered:
- Batu Caves — Spectacular site of Hindu pilgrimage
- Titiwangsa Lake Gardens — Wetlands park north of the city
- Kampung Baru — Malay enclave in downtown KL
The Batu Caves are limestone caves that house spectacular Hindu shrines. As well as an enormous golden statue, there are also plenty of playful monkeys. Entrance is free, but you may be asked to cover your lower legs with a sarong. The caves are just a thirty-minute drive from downtown; we paid 13 RM for a Grab. The nearest train station is Batu Caves Komuter Station, a ticket shouldn’t cost you much more than a couple of RM.
Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Kuala Lumpur
Simple Health Vegetarian Restaurant — Mid-range Taiwanese chain that Charlie was mad about
Bakti Woodlands — Authentic, inexpensive Indian food
Ganga Cafe — Also Indian, a touch more tourist friendly
Din Tai Fung — High-end dumplings, mid-range prices
Best Places to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
We stayed in the Regalia Towers, which came complete with infinity pool, gym and easy access to the monorail and shopping centres. We found our place through Airbnb. Book through our coupon code link (here’s how to use the Airbnb discount) for a discount on your next stay with Airbnb!
How to get from Kuala Lumpur Airport to the City Centre?
You’ve got three options, which I’ve ordered from least expensive to most expensive:
- Shuttle Bus
- KLIA Express
- Grab (Malaysia’s version of Uber)
You can also buy a SIM card while you’re at the airport, as the airport is connected to yet another shopping centre.
How to get around Kuala Lumpur?
- The train system is cheap and effective — the only slight puzzle is that sometimes it’s called an MRT sometimes it’s called an LRT and sometimes it’s a monorail. And sometimes is something else entirely. You don’t need a travel card unless you’re planning on staying in KL for more than a week.
- GOKL buses are free! (other buses are inexpensive)
- OBike is a neat bike sharing app that’s a good way of getting around the Lake Gardens. You unlock the bikes using your phone’s QR scanner and pay by some formulation of distance/time. Once you’re finished, simply lock the bike (anywhere) and you’re done.
- Grab and Uber are both reasonable — you can get across the city for around 10 RM.
Daily Travel Budget for Kuala Lumpur
Here’s how much it costs to travel for one day in Kuala Lumpur:
- Breakfast (cereal from the supermarket) 15 RM
- MRT into town 2 RM
- Entrance to the Islamic Arts Museum 14 RM
- Coffee at the Islamic Arts Museum 14 RM
- Lunch at Bakti Woodlands 16 RM
- Grab to Pavilion KL shopping centre 8 RM
- Dinner at Din Tai Fung 33 RM
- Beer at the Heli Lounge Bar 22 RM
- Grab back to our Airbnb 8 RM
- Accommodation for the night in Regalia Airbnb 132 RM*
*This was for a room that could’ve slept four or five, so divide by the number of people you’re travelling with to get the per person spend.
For 264 RM per person per day, you can travel Kuala Lumpur in style! That’s about £48 or $63 US. If you find someone to share a room with and eat at the cheaper places, I’d say you could easily get the price down to £25 per day. Any lower than that and you’d either have to find some free accommodation by Couchsurfing.
Ready to start your Malaysian adventure? Get £25 off by booking your next Airbnb through this link!