A blueprint to get you going
Melaka abounds with sights to see and terrific food, but it’s all jam-packed into a manageable area and you can fit in plenty, even if all you have is a long weekend.
Try to time a day of your trip to coincide with the Jonker Walk Night Market, which means staying a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night—be prepared however to book ahead, and for higher prices at your accommodation over weekends. Here’s what we’d do in three days. Mix and match the days as you please and remember, come hungry!
Explore Melaka’s colonial past and see the impact more than four centuries of foreign rule made on the city. Start early with a banana leaf meal or roti washed down with a teh tarik in Little India. Sevlam Restaurant opens at 06:30 and nearby Restoran Saravanna opens at 07:00; both have the goods. You’ll be on the right side of the river to discover the Melaka's colonial district.
If you’re there on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, join the excellent free guided tour starting at 09:30 from the Melaka Tourist Information Centre at Dutch Square (the red buildings), or take your time and follow our colonial district walking tour. Climb St Paul’s Hill for Melaka’s most atmospheric sight, the ruin of St Paul’s Church, and over the hill you’ll see remains of Portuguese fortifications. Visit the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum, for striking Malay architecture, then take your pick of the numerous museums along Jalan Kota, or just admire the historic buildings they’re housed in.
Thirsty? Pop to Cendol Jam Besar (in front of Dutch Square) for a watermelon slushy made inside the fruit, poke in a straw or two—there will be plenty to share. Cross the bridge to Casa del Rio for a colonial-style tiffin lunch or to Chinatown for a quick Nyonya meal at Kocik Kitchen, then it’s all aboard for some seafaring fun at the Maritime Museum.
Get a bird’s-eye view of all that you’ve seen from Menara Taming Sari, a revolving viewing tower, before hightailing it to Melaka Straits Mosque for sunset. You’ll need a taxi, or hire an electric bike from near the tower. Return and freshen up for dinner with the crowds at Pak Putra, which serves the best tandoori chicken this side of Delhi. Hail down one of the town’s famous pimped trishaws and take a psychedelic, ear-blasting, light-flashing ride to downtown Hatten Hotel and admire the city lights from its rooftop bar at Alto Sky Lounge.
Melaka’s historic Chinatown is a big drawcard for many visitors, not just for its Night Market, but for the rich history of Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture found here. You’ll need to fuel up for a day of sightseeing, but instead of a square meal, may we suggest a round one—Melaka’s iconic chicken rice balls. Three popular places almost share corners of Jonker Street and Jalan Hang Jebat: Kedai Kopi Chung Wah opens at 08:30 and Formosa Chicken Rice Balls and Nasi Ayam Hoe Kee both open at 09:30.
Walk over to Heeren Street and take a slow wander admiring the beautiful restored Peranakan shophouses. Follow our Chinatown walking tour, or spend a few hours browsing the shops, but make sure you sign up for the guided tour of the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum and then check out the bling at the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum. Now you’ve had a glimpse of the way this interesting blended culture lived, get a taste of the fusion cuisine—jump in a cab (or walk a kilometre) to Nancy’s Kitchen for mouth-watering Nyonya home cooking (you may need to book in advance).
Return to Chinatown and hit the road to Harmony Street where Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple, Kampung Kling Mosque and Sri Poyatha Venayagar Moorthi Hindu Temple sit side by side. These small but significant places of worship won’t take long to whiz though, but do spend time admiring the details. If the heat’s getting to you, cool down with an icy bowl of Nyonya cendol at Jonker 88 before you move on to an afternoon of trawling the museums.
At the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum, learn about this 15th century world explorer and the first Chinese people who visited Melaka. Be warned, the museum has a lot to read and if it’s too dry, The House of Museums: Old Trades Gallery instead will have plenty to pique your interest with its extensive collection of memorabilia of Melaka’s mercantile past.
Time to freshen up, then as the sun sets enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Melaka River and watch as the day turns to night and the city's coloured lights sparkle on the waters. Return to Jonker Street for the town’s big weekly event, the bustling night market. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the throng, browsing at the whatnots and knick-knacks and grazing until you can’t possible fit in one more tasty mystery item on a stick or durian puff. Grab a stool at Geographer Cafe, order a cocktail, enjoy some live music and watch the hordes file by.
Hire a bike for the day and explore some of Melaka’s neighbourhoods. Begin well caffeinated at Calanthe Art Cafe (open at 09:00), where you can sample coffee from 13 states (you may be in a bit of a state if you attempt to drink all). Try their signature laksa, not spicy and just right for breakfast before pedalling over to Kampung Chetti to learn about this mixed Tamil-Malay culture.
Back on your bike, cycle west to Tengkera, where you can visit what may be Malaysia’s oldest mosque. Sample the best Nynoya cakes in town at Baba Charlie Nyonya Cakes, where you can try also try the blue rice chicken dumplings or a fresh popiah. From here it’s a short three kilometres back to town where you can then ride the riverside path to Kampung Morten (watch for pedestrians).
Depending on the day, go early and explore independently, with time for high tea at the Majestic Hotel (15:00–18:00), or sign up for the free guided walking tour of the village Monday, Wednesday or Friday starting at 16:00, which finishes just in time to join the queue at Capitol Satay for a fun meal of Melaka’s own satay celup. Don’t eat too much so you can squeeze in a small plate of fresh steamed clams (lala) at the nearby back lane, Longkang Siham.
End your day and your Melaka trip with a riverside stroll, then pull up a cane chair at one of the riverside bars, and inhale the scent of jasmine planted along the banks.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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