One of the world’s most iconic cities, Kuala Lumpur, is abuzz with action. It’s a sleepless collection of modern skyscrapers, old-time flea markets and a crazy mix of car fumes and smoke from shoebox kitchens.
Kuala Lumpur is electric and enticing from the moment you land. Everything you’d expect from a bustling South East Asian city, yet in many ways utterly Western. Your days are spent wandering between the ultra-modern malls of Butik Bintang and the hectic Jalan Alor, a delightful contrast.
See also: Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
Without the seediness that permeates other nearby cities, there are things to do in Kuala Lumpur for all ages and budgets. Families are as well represented as couples and solo travelers. Choose between the fascinating tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, explore the incredible caves and highlands nearby before toasting to a memorable day atop one of the city’s many rooftop haunts.
In this post, we'll cover:
24. National Museum
For those who appreciate history and want to learn more about Malaysian culture, you can’t pass up a visit to the National Museum. This is the country’s most prominent heritage space. It tells the story of a relatively young nation and connecting it to its ancient history over thousands of years prior.
Set on lands once bombed during the Second World War, you’ll find exhibits that explore that very era alongside traditional military from the centuries prior. Other halls explore Malaysia’s colonial past under British and Japanese rule, the ensuing fight for the nation’s independence plus 19th century timber palaces and traditional clothing.
23. Lake Symphony
The centerpiece of the KL Convention Center is Lake Symphony. Featuring a 43 meter (140ft) bridge that spans a massive man-made lake, the Lake Symphony is a captivating water show that sees fountains shoot water 180 meters (590ft) up in the air.
This memorable event occurs three times daily at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm, respectively. Complementing the water flying upwards is every color under the sun, along with music that helps to set the scene and elevates the anticipation.
Adding even more to the sense of occasion is the looming presence of the Petronas Twin Towers, which also shine bright under the night sky.
22. Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Set alongside Merdeka Square, the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is the spot to learn about the history of the capital while also indulging in contemporary art.
The gallery is within a historic colonial-era building. The gallery’s miniature-scale exhibit known as the Spectacular City Model Show showcasing more of the city’s prominent landmarks.
Afterwards, check out the enormous wall that takes you on a journey through the history of KL from the mid-19th century to today. Art lovers will also enjoy the offerings from national talents along with emerging young artists. For those who enjoy a great selfie, don’t miss the famous I Love KL sign at the City Gallery.
21. Pavilion KL
Within Kuala Lumpur’s famous shopping district, Bukit Bintang, Pavilion KL is one of the city’s premier malls. In contrast to some of the local street markets, Pavilion KL specializes in international brands, especially renowned European luxury apparel such as YSL and Versace.
It’s a fun temple to consumerism for our shopaholics. But in a city renowned for its thundering rain, boiling heat and beating sun, Pavilion KL is a prime escape. The moment you walk through the doors and past the lapping fountains, air-con whips through your hair and cools every bead of sweat.
Beyond shopping, you’ll find plenty of modern bars to enjoy a drink with friends and family surrounded by the mall’s sparkling marble.
20. Butterfly Park
Want to dance among colorful creatures, minutes from Kuala Lumpur? Then get along to the Butterfly Park. Set within the wider Perdana Botanical Garden, the Butterfly Park is home to thousands of beautiful, fluttering butterflies that roam around the lush canopies and pond floor.
The KL Butterfly Park is one of the largest of its kind on earth. All up, there are 5,000 butterflies that flutter between the array of exotic plants and hoards of flowing ferns. All are set around the traditional Japanese koi pond.
Beyond, you can uncover a collection of freshwater turtles, a live insect display and a museum focusing on butterflies and insects from across the globe.
19. Petaling Street
Foodies will be salivating at the opportunity to visit the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, known as Petaling Street. The single street is as big as it needs to be and begins with a giant arch stretching from one side to the other.
Despite being a street, you’ll find the entire stretch to be undercover. A lengthy green roof (known as the Green Dragon) runs along Petaling Street, protecting those beneath as they peruse the offerings of delicious street food.
Those up for a food-laden adventure will revel in the opportunity to experience genuine Chinese and South East Asian cuisine. Popular haunts include Kim Soya Bean that will melt in your mouth and Lai Foon Lala Noodles, whose smell will entice you long before you see the menu.
18. Petrosains Science Discovery Centre
At the foot of Petronas Twin Towers within the Suria KLCC you’ll find the Petrosains Science Discovery Centre. Fun for all ages, the entrance is budget-friendly and grants you access to eleven hands-on exhibits.
Of course, there is a strong focus on Malaysian nature and scientific past. For travelers looking to go beyond the classic tourist experiences and get to know their destination, the Petrosains Science Discovery Centre will help you achieve that goal.
Inside the almost dozen exhibits are spaces that showcase Malaysia’s epic rainforests and mountains on the fun Dark Ride. You can also discover the county’s space exploration, Malaysia’s natural resources such as off-shore oil rigs and dinosaurs that once roamed these lands.
17. Central Market KL
As you’ve already realized, there’s no shortage of shopping in Kuala Lumpur. But while others, such as Berjaya Times Square, specialized in high-end products, the Central Market KL keeps it authentically local.
The Central Market KL is found within a historic 1800s building, with each shop spread out in stalls across the space. Each shoebox stall has its own specialty, whether that be ornamental woodcraft, batik textiles or native dress.
It’s a wonderful way to experience local culture and atmosphere away from the often stuffy modern malls. Beyond the Central Market is Kasturi Walk. This is a kaleidoscopic flea market where live music flows through the air and haggling is encouraged.
16. Sunway Lagoon
There are a few amusement parks in our list of things to do in KL. But Sunway Lagoon, otherwise known as Petaling Jaya, carves out a niche thanks to its diverse options. A theme park with multiple themes, you’ll find around 100 thrilling rides and fun attractions.
These are broken up into several areas, one home to your traditional rollercoasters and rides, with others featuring wildlife, haunted houses and an Extreme Park. The last two are not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to scream at the terrifying haunted house, or while bungee jumping and running for your life on the paintball course.
Travelers with younger kids will love the Lost Lagoon, which specializes in play areas for little folks.
15. Hang out on a Rooftop Bar or Pool
With its sparkling skyline, home to famous skyscrapers and a rich sunset, Kuala Lumpur is a city made for rooftops. Whether it be for a drink or a dip in the pool, you’ll receive the all-important side benefit of a postcard-worthy view.
Away from the noisy, bustling streets of KL, rooftop bars and pools help provide a fresh perspective in relative peace. The city has a range of jaw-dropping rooftop pools and bars, in buildings you can even call home while in town.
Some of the top rooftops include the Vertigo and Horizon Grill within the Banyan Tree, a modern hotel. Enjoy panoramic views, sunsets and lounges all by the pool. Another option is the Face Suites, which boast head-on views of the Petronas Twin Towers and a jaw-dropping infinity pool.
14. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is a gracefully designed colonial building that combines Eastern and Western architectural influences, including Moorish and Indian.
Visitors have described its style as unique and stunning. The station was built in 1910 at a cost of $23,000 and served passengers bound for Singapore and other Southeast Asia destinations up until 2001 when it was replaced by a more modern station.
While long-distance operations mostly have moved to the Sentral Station, commuter trains still use the station as do some long-distance companies.
13. Aquaria KLCC
Beneath the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre is a world-class aquarium. Aquaria KLCC is a great indoor attraction, when you’re seeking relief from the heat or if the rain begins to fall. But with the help of its extensive exhibits, it’s an attraction that stands on its own two feet.
The aquarium will guide you through a vast range of ecosystems and unique underwater environments that go well beyond the South East Asia region.
One can venture down to The Stream where otters roam. You can also view the Flooded Forest home to Arapaima and Alligator Garfish before finishing up at the Living Ocean, where sharks, turtles and moray eels can be seen. All told, Aquaria KLCC is home to 5,000 aquatic and land-bound species.
12. Trip to Genting Highlands
Kuala Lumpur is a non-stop, 24/7 city. It will quickly tire you out. To get you back on track, enjoy some fresh air, gorgeous mountains and plenty of family fun in the Genting Highlands.
You’d be forgiven for thinking such a small country, home to an enormous capital city, could have such open spaces. But without having to travel far, you’ll find yourself in the Highlands. Here you can take your pick of hikes to elevated temples, pick strawberries at a local farm or experience the Butterfly Wonderland.
A few degrees cooler than downtown Kuala Lumpur, the Genting Highlands provide plenty of heat relief and fun. Beyond the above options, you can get super chill at Snow City, ride the gondolas for epic views and enjoy the heart-in-mouth outdoor theme park.
11. Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
One of the finest modern temples in South East Asia, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, is a sight to behold. One of only a few Hindu places of worship around Kuala Lumpur, this temple’s Spanish and Italian tiles shimmer under the sun alongside the rows of gold motifs.
The facade is captivating. Its rainbow-like collection of colors and statues of gods make Sri Maha Mariamman feel alive, as if it’s constantly telling you a story. Even more impressive is the five-tiered, 23 meter (75ft) entrance, which represents the human feet. The temple, after all, resembles the human figure lying on its back.
After passing through the entrance that boasts almost 230 sculptures of gods and goddesses, travelers can discover a trio of shrines, spectacular idols and the enormous 350kg (770lbs) silver chariot.
10. Batu Caves
At the entrance to the Batu Caves, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re within the city’s biggest tourist trap. In a way, you’d be correct for harboring these feelings, but in this case, you have zero reason to turn around.
After battling through the hoard of stalls on wheels and locals flogging authentic goods and clothing, you’ll quickly see why Batu Caves became the phenomenon it is today. Just a short drive from downtown, the Batu Caves is home to three main caves, with Cathedral Cave being the main attraction.
Here you’ll discover vast limestone walls that rise over 90 meters (295ft), nature’s own version of a deluxe palace or ancient church. Within the walls is a Hindu chapel surrounded by stalactites, both of which shimmer whenever sunlight meanders through.
9. Merdeka Square
Where Bukit Bintang marks the commercial shopping hub of Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka Square is the heart and soul of the city’s culture and way of life. Once a vast green space for a local sporting club, the square has been transformed into the go-to place for protests and cultural events.
In 1957, the Malayan flag was raised here for the first time six years before gaining independence. To mark this significant spot, visitors will discover a head-turning 100 meter (330ft) flagpole. Surrounding it are historic colonial buildings that tell the tale of British occupation from the late 1700s.
Like Merdeka Square, these buildings explore the city’s amazing history, including and ancient culture, such as at the KL City Gallery and the National Textile Museum.
8. Thean Hou Temple
Visitors to Thean Hou Temple will find a little bit of China in Kuala Lumpur, since it is one of the largest Chinese temples in Southeast Asia.
Opened in 1989 by Malaysia’s Chinese community, it is a stunning example of Chinese architecture, with its four levels of orange-tiled pagodas. The temple honors Thean Hou, the goddess of the sea.
With a spectacular view of Kuala Lumpur as a backdrop, the temple is a popular spot to take wedding photos; the temple even has a marriage registration office, with about 5,000 couples a year choosing to get married here.
7. Perdana Botanical Garden (Lake Gardens)
A short trek from the city center, Perdana Botanical Garden, will feel a world away from the exciting streets of Bukit Bintang. Also, home to the KL Bird Park this botanical garden is home to a number of memorable sections that add up to an enormous green space.
Spread throughout the Perdana Botanic Garden are orchid and hibiscus gardens, the Exotic Species Collection, Cycad Island and the Sunken Garden. This is just a small sample, with delightful hiking trails taking you between these gardens and much more.
One worth mentioning is the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park. Here you’ll find a rich space packed with vegetation and a riveting pond where thousands of colorful butterflies fly around you.
6. Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Home to over 10,000 paintings, artifacts and creations, the Islamic Arts Museum in Malaysia, is one of the most significant Islamic museums in the world. Over the last 20 years, the museum has been at the forefront of exploring the country’s religious history.
Malaysia may be secular, but Islam is its official religion, playing a strong role in local culture and life. Within the Islamic Arts Museum, visitors can go on a journey back centuries as they peruse the twelve permanent exhibits.
The highlight is the Quran Gallery. It hosts fragments from the holy text that date back to the 9th and 10th centuries and as far away as North Africa.
Beyond the galleries, the two-story building features mesmerizing architecture including the turquoise domes and an entrance strikingly similar to the Persian Iwan.
5. KL Bird Park
Those traveling to Malaysia with their kids in tow will want to find space in their itinerary for the KL Bird Park. Great for all ages, it’s especially exciting for the little ones.
The spacious park is a beguiling aviary that more than 3,000 birds call home. At the heart of the experience are native species that allow visitors to get up close experiences with birds that are hard to find anywhere else on earth.
With a focus on conservation and education, the whole family can learn about the importance of these species and the overall environment in Malaysia. The thousands of birds are placed in four sections, with the most popular being Zone Four. Here you’ll find an open parrot enclosure, feeding station and a gorgeous 9 meter (30ft) waterfall.
4. Jalan Alor Food Street
In the evenings, Jalan Alor Food Street is devoid of the bustling traffic that swamps it through the busy daylight hours. It comes to life without the rushing scooters and noisy cars as locals and tourists alike combine to make up the noise deficit.
Like any good food street, the eating takes place as much on the road as it does inside. Come here to experience the best Thai and Chinese food in Kuala Lumpur. Just sit down on one of the hundreds of plastic chairs, try your utmost to fit your legs under the diminutive tables and get your hands on an inexpensive pint.
As dusk darkens, the atmosphere continues to light up. Take your pick of small stalls serving small plates or choose something bigger. Work up some courage and maybe find yourself striking up a conversation with one of the many friendly locals as you dine.
3. Menara KL Tower
The almost 335-meter (1,100-foot) high Menara KL Tower serves two purposes. The first is as a communications tower. The second is as a tourist attraction with a revolving restaurant and observation area that offers stunning panoramic views of Kuala Lumpur below; it is the highest public viewing area in the city.
Trivia fans will be impressed that it took 31 consecutive hours to pour the concrete for the tower base. Travelers in top athletic condition might want to participate in the annual race to climb the steps to the top levels; couch potatoes can take the elevator.
2. Berjaya Times Square
Centered in KL’s famous Bukit Bintang shopping district is Berjaya Times Square. This bustling hub features over 1,000 shops and a thrilling atmosphere that is bound to excite shopaholics and convince the rest of us to stick around for a while.
The sprawling mall is the centerpiece of a stunning 48-storey building of the same name. Not only will you find shops and endless selections of food but also one of the largest indoor amusement parks in Asia. This makes Berjaya Times Square a place for the whole family who can indulge in some retail therapy or chase the thrill at the theme park.
Beyond is Bukit Bintang, home to street markets, authentic local restaurants and their renowned spa houses.
1. Petronas Twin Towers
Once the tallest buildings on earth, the Petronas Twin Towers continue to be the centerpiece of Kuala Lumpur’s dazzling skyline. Shining brightly every evening, the Petronas Twin Towers are a sightly masterpiece and one of the most iconic modern-day pieces of architecture.
From about halfway up the 88-story structures, is a sky bridge that allows you to survey the electric city. One that is both technologically advanced yet still swarming with a buzz synonymous with South East Asia. While you enjoy the spectacular sights, keep in mind, the bridge’s foremost purpose is to keep the towers upright.
Once you have completed your visit, head back to the base where you’ll find the Suria KLCC. It boasts over 300 high end shops, the Philharmonic Hall and the entrance to the Lake Symphony.