People visit Kuala Lumpur, the capital and largest city in Malaysia, for many reasons. The city gives travelers a chance to learn about a different culture, with ethnic foods and architecture that blends the best of the East and the West. Oh, and to shop. CNN lists Kuala Lumpur as one of the four best shopping cities in the world. Most any time is a good time to visit, as temperatures in this tropical rainforest climate don’t vary much throughout the year. An overview of the top tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur:
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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.
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.
Berjaya Times Square is a large complex containing a shopping center and two five star hotels. With 7.5 million square feet (700,000 m²) of built up floor area it is currently the fifth largest building in the world. The shopping mall includes more than 1,000 retail shops, 65 food outlets and several entertainment attractions such as Asia’s largest indoor theme park, Cosmo’s World and Malaysia’s first-ever IMAX 2D & 3D theater which is located on the 10th Floor.
The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is Southeast Asia’s largest museum devoted to Islamic art. Opening in 1998, the museum is home to more than 7,000 artifacts, ranging from jewelry to a replica of the mosque in Mecca. The collection features not just artifacts from the Middle East and Malaysia, but also from China and India. The museum has 12 galleries, most of which display items by type rather than geographic region. An on-site restaurant serves Middle Eastern cuisine. The museum is located near Lake Gardens and not too far from a mosque.
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.
Located in the serene Lake Gardens, KL Bird Park is an eco-tourism site that it home to more than 3,000 birds belonging to 200 species. Birds are divided into four zones; three of the zones are called free-flight, because birds are free to fly wherever they want in surroundings that resemble their native, natural habitat. Park operators say their bird park is the largest free-flight park in the world. Visitors can walk among the birds in these zones, making for a different experience. Caged birds are in the fourth zone.
Bukit Bintang is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps because travelers like to shop. Bukit Bintang is the city’s shopping and entertainment center. Here, travelers will find tiny shops and shopping malls where goods in all price ranges are sold. The area has lots of places to eat, from sit-down restaurants to street food vendors, including one street that only serves Chinese food. Bukit Bintang is a lively place at all hours, but especially so at night when it becomes a hangout for visitors seeking nightlife.
Merdeka Square is the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It is sometimes called Independence Square because the Malaysian flag first flew here in 1957 when the country became independent of Great Britain. The square is mostly a grass field, used by cricket players in colonial days, that is surrounded by some of the city’s more famous buildings such as the National History Museum and the Royal Selangor Club. Various public events, such as open air concerts, take place at the square, which is also a starting and ending point for marathon races around town.
The Batu Caves are a very sacred spot for Hindus in Malaysia. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather here every year to celebrate Thaipusam in which Hindus carry large items, such as jugs, and have body piercings with hooks to attach to other things. This is a form of penance for them. As if climbing up the 272 steps to the caves isn’t penance enough. At the top of the stairs, visitors will find three huge limestone caves plus smaller ones filled with Hindu art and statues Visitors may want to bring peanuts or bananas for the monkeys that will greet them upon arrival.
Travelers who suffer from acrophobia may want to think twice before visiting the Petronas Twin Towers, but daredevils may enjoy the challenge of looking out over Kuala Lumpur from hundreds of feet in the air. At 170 meters (557 feet) high, the world’s highest double-decked bridge links the two towers together. The towers are even higher, soaring 491 meters (1,620 feet) into the Malaysian sky. At one time, the towers were the highest in the world. The towers, which took seven years to build, are a landmark in Kuala Lumpur and are spectacularly lit up at night.