Photo: Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu.

Gaya Street

Our rating:

Gaya Street, the oldest street in Kota Kinabalu, has been the best place to shop and eat since the early 1900s. In its early life, known as Bond and Dunlop Streets, the area was filled with Chinese traders, and it’s still buzzing today.

Travel better, travel smarter

Save money, receive our latest updates and get the most out of your travels.


Gaya Street was all but razed during World War II, with only a couple of structures remaining, including the old general post office, now Sabah Tourism Board. The first permanent modern shophouses were completed in the early 1950s and as the town grew, the city’s oldest hotel, The Jesselton, was added to the landscape.

A popular spot. Photo taken in or around Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

A popular spot. Photo: Sally Arnold

A red Chinese-style gate at the start of Gaya Street is a nod to the traders who originally settled here. Today it’s the tourist heart of the city with cafes, bars, backpackers hostels and boutique hotels. It’s still a great place for Chinese food, and many of the noodle and dim sum restaurants are generations old.

Since early times, a weekly tamu (market) was held in Gaya Street. Highland farmers and immigrant traders would meet to barter their products. The traditional continues today and every Sunday Gaya Street is closed to traffic from 06:00 to 13:00 to become Kota Kinabalu’s busiest street market.

Nope, we are not sure what it all is either. Photo taken in or around Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Nope, we are not sure what it all is either. Photo: Sally Arnold

It’s a great place to rub shoulders with a cross-section of the local population. Under shady trees and umbrellas, hawkers offer everything from predictable tourist tat to the unusual and sometimes bizarre. Stalls worth seeking out include the numerous ubat kampung stalls — selling traditional medicines that range from colourful bundles of sticks, and snake oil to the not so PC, dehydrated seahorses and mystery animal parts.

Try the readymade bright yellow bottles of jamu (traditional tonics). Huang Poh Lo, the epitome of multicultural Malaysia, is an Indian man skilled in Chinese and Arabic calligraphy. He does a roaring trade, with queues of lovesick young Chinese waiting for romantic messages to be ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

Don’t miss the boat!

Please subscribe to to read the rest of this article, or log in here.

Subscribing to Travelfish costs A$35 per year and it gets you access to more than 200 downloadable guides to specific destinations, fabulous discount coupons and 50% off our personalised travel planning service. Sign up here.


Popular hotels in Kota Kinabalu on Agoda

Gaya Street
Gaya Street
Admission: Free

Location map for Gaya Street

Popular attractions in Kota Kinabalu

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Kota Kinabalu.

Best places to stay in Kota Kinabalu

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Kota Kinabalu.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Kota Kinabalu.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Kota Kinabalu.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Kota Kinabalu.
 Read up on how to get to Kota Kinabalu.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Kota Kinabalu? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

Noordin Mews in Georgetown
Noordin Mews in Georgetown
Ad A delightful choice among
Penang’s heritage picks.

Read more

See below for more sights and activities in Kota Kinabalu that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Kota Kinabalu? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

Top of page