Photo: Lounging at Tekodeko.

Kota Lama

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Have your camera ready as you explore Semarang’s Kota Lama, the former colonial Dutch city centre (sometimes referred to as the Dutch, Oudstadt) and Semarang’s most captivating area of town.

In its heyday this was the booming trade hub of this once cosmopolitan city, the location of Indonesia’s first railway station and home of distinctive hybrid architecture. As the city landscape changed and developed, the area was all but abandoned, and many of the glorious old buildings fell into disrepair and were left to rot.

Not quite ageing gracefully. Photo taken in or around Kota Lama, Semarang, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Not quite ageing gracefully. Photo: Sally Arnold

However work has begun to transform Kota Lama and several buildings have undergone fabulous contemporary renovations or restorations although many are still crumbling into their foundations. Plans to develop this area into a tourism district are afoot and in 2015 the old city was nominated for a UNESCO Heritage listing, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Unfortunately this part of town is prone to flooding, and it’s not uncommon to have to wade through water when the heavens open. Unpleasant for visitors, but disastrous for the old buildings, hopefully the intended development will save them in time.

Witness the sensational renovation at Ikan Bakar Cianjur. Photo taken in or around Kota Lama, Semarang, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Witness the sensational renovation at Ikan Bakar Cianjur. Photo: Sally Arnold

As you scout the streets be sure to look up, there’s always something interesting hidden from view. Buildings of note include Gereja Blenduk, a historic domed church dating from 1753; the Tawang Railway Station—go inside and take a look at the ceiling in the departure lounge; check out the contemporary renovations at Spiegel Bar & Bistro and Semarang Contemporary Art Gallery and the sensitive restorations at Ikan Bakar Cianjur and upstairs at Tekodeko Koffiehuis.

From outside admire the old post office on Jalan Permuda, the red Marba building near Gereja Blenduk as well as the old tobacco factory on Jalan Merak that was getting a new paint job when we passed by. Wander along Jalan Ronggowarsito where you’ll find the Gedangan Church (AKA St. Yusup or St. Joseph’s) Semarang’s first Catholic church, also in the process of restoration.

The grandiose Tawang station. Photo taken in or around Kota Lama, Semarang, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

The grandiose Tawang station. Photo: Sally Arnold

There’s many more, and fans of architecture and history could easily spend half a day investigating this historic area. A good way to explore Kota Lama is to hire a bicycle, available from Rental Fiets near Tekodeko Koffiehuis on Jalan Letjen Suprapto.

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