Photo: Gamelan art.

Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta

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Solo’s most important kraton (palace), Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta was the original residence of Pakubuwana II, moved here when they shifted base from Kartasura to Solo in the 1740s and it remains the residence of the current sultan.

As with Solo’s other palace, Puro Mangkunegaran, Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta’s heyday has well and truly passed (a considerable part of it was destroyed by fire in 1985), but it still makes for an interesting visit, especially in the company of an English-speaking guide.

Welcome. Sort of. Please walk to the left. Photo taken in or around Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta, Solo, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Welcome. Sort of. Please walk to the left. Photo: Stuart McDonald

The vast majority of the enclosure is off limits to tourists, but you are allowed into a wooden garden with a performance pavilion and a tower and secondly to a rambling museum. As with some of the other museums in Solo, English signposting is minimal and even labelling in Indonesian can be quite hit and miss, so taking an English speaking guide is worth the extra money. You’ll also be asked to remove your shoes, and your knees and shoulders should be covered as a sign of respect.

Best approached on foot from the north, via Jalan Supit Urang, you’ll walk through a blue set of gates beyond which is a large entrance way flanked by two very solemn looking guards who will happily pose for a photo before telling you’re at the wrong entrance and that you need to walk around to the left. Around at the gate, you’ll need to pay admission and arrange a guide if desired—guides are not compulsory, but given the poor signage, you will get a lot more out of a visit with a guide.

The Panggung Songgobuwono: Meditation up top. Photo taken in or around Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta, Solo, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

The Panggung Songgobuwono: Meditation up top. Photo: Stuart McDonald

After passing some boards illustrating family trees—maddeningly confusing as some had dozens of kids—you’ll reach the main wooded enclosure which fronts onto the pavilion—note the black sand, brought here from Java’s south coast beaches, a nod to the divine Nyai Roro Kidul—the Queen of the Southern Sea. Decorated by about a dozen chandeliers and fronted by European-styled statues, this is where performances of traditional dance are delivered.

To your right you’ll see an octagonal multilevel tower, the Panggung Songgobuwono, the upper floor of which is the private meditation centre for the Sultan (no you are not allowed in).

Eunuchs a long way from home. Photo taken in or around Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta, Solo, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Eunuchs a long way from home. Photo: Stuart McDonald

From here you move on to the museum proper which contains a mish mash of historical items and random paraphernalia. Highlights include statues of Turkish eunuchs who were used as royal guards, puppets made of bunched grass, a diorama of a puppet show, kris hilts, an impressive brass rendering of a gamelan orchestra and a series of horse carriages. Like we said, a mish mash.

From the Kraton, you can walk north to Masjid Agung and from there onto the batik village—all are within 15 minutes of one another on foot.

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Kraton Kasunanan Surakarta
Jl Sidikoro, Solo
Mo–Th & Sa: 08:30–14:00 Su: 09:00–13:00
T: (0271) 641 243
Admission: 15,000 rupiah

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