The clock is ticking
For many first time visitors, Kuala Lumpur struggles to be a destination in its own right instead it is seen as a way-station on the way to somewhere else. It isn’t till people arrive in KL that they realise there is plenty to keep them busy, but the flights are booked and that clock is ticking—so with 24 hours in KL what should you do?
With such limited time we’re going to point you in the direction of what we feel to be the Kuala Lumpur’s absolute highlights. As your 24 hours may vary from one full day to a lunchtime to lunchtime spread, we’ll leave it to you regarding how you should piece it all together.
As with many capital cities, Kuala Lumpur has a bunch of museums, but not all were born equal. The one which stands head and shoulders above all the rest though is the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia which we’d go as far as to say is one of the best museums in all of Southeast Asia. Simply put, do not miss it.
On the religious side of things, visiting a mosque can be an interesting experience—especially if you’ve never stepped inside one before. If you go to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, it makes sense to visit the National Mosque at the same time as they are a short walk apart, but Jamek Mosque is actually the far more beautiful structure and has considerable more history to it. Go with Jamek Mosque (though by all means also visit the National Mosque) as not only is it a lovely mosque, it positions you well for Indian food! Whichever you choose, both are well geared up for novice foreign visitors and free guiding is available. Please remember to dress appropriately.
People make a big deal about Kuala Lumpur’s skyline viewpoints and the tours you can do to ascend both KL Tower and Petronas Towers. Personally we feel both are overpriced but if you want to do one, choose KL Tower if you want to feel the wind in your hair, or Petronas Towers if you would like an arguably more interesting city view. Our call though would be to skip both and instead head to Heli Lounge Bar for sunset. Set atop a helipad downtown, admission costs nothing more than a slightly pricey beer for sunset.
A major part of KL’s attraction is its rich food scene and one of the best ways to experience this for a first timer to the city is to do a food walk. Most walks concentrate on one of three areas—Little India, Chinatown or Kampung Baru—and each has its own appeal. We tried food walks with Food Tour Malaysia/Urban Adventures, Bike with Elena, WithLocals and with an independent guide who works at a hostel and each had its own strongpoints. Whichever you choose, do one.
The last thing we’d suggest is to set aside a couple of hours (or longer) to take a bit of a walk around KL’s Chinatown. It is home to some of the city’s most beautiful temples and, well, there is plenty to eat and snack on along the way. Our KL Chinatown walk is a good starting point for this.
For those travelling with kids, KL Bird Park, despite its hefty double pricing, is seriously worth consideration as a half day excursion. The park is a bit grotty, but of a very decent size and many of the birds are stunning. If you’d prefer just some green space for the kids to run off their jet-lag, you want to head to KLCC.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Kuala Lumpur