Photo: History everywhere.


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The thumping metropolis of Surabaya, East Java’s provincial capital, has for centuries functioned as an important trading port in Asia at one time rivalling Shanghai and Hong Kong. Today it remains a major trade and transport hub and significant industrial city, second only in size to Jakarta.

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Keep reading to learn more about Surabaya!

As with its larger cousin, Surabaya is often little more than a transit point for foreign travellers on their way to other destinations, but for those willing to explore, a number of fascinating sights can be discovered both in the city centre and within easy reach, and despite it being somewhat gritty and frenzied, the atmosphere of this progressive urban centre is rapidly changing and compares favourably to the capital.

Big city with plenty of old world charm. Photo taken in or around Surabaya, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Big city with plenty of old world charm. Photo: Sally Arnold

Surabaya sits on Java’s northeastern coast just over 100 kilometres by road west of Probolinggo, and around 300 kilometres east of Semarang. Malang lays 90 kilometres to the south and the Madura Strait divides the city from Madura, its island neighbour to the north. The Suramadu Bridge Indonesia’s longest at 5438 metres, connects Surabaya to Madura.

Legend tells that Surabaya’s name is a mash up of the local words for shark (sura) and crocodile (baya) and the tale recounts a fight between a giant white shark and a giant white crocodile as they battled for supremacy. This is sometimes interpreted as the Majahpahit King, Raden Wijaya’s thwarting of Kublai Khan’s Mogul invasion in 1293, the date selected as the official establishment of the town. Statues of fighting sharks and crocodiles can be seen throughout the city and on the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 900 words.)

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Surabaya.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Surabaya.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Surabaya.
 Read up on how to get to Surabaya.
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