Jan 07, 2023
Kuala Lumpur, or KL, is known for its glittering skyline, but the Malaysian capital offers a lot more to explore on the ground. In a 45-minute drive across the city, you can go from modern office blocks to 1930s shophouses to primary rainforests, while discovering a great place to eat at every corner.
Make your base at Capri by Fraser, Bukit Bintang (above), located in the heart of the city’s shopping and entertainment district. Traffic notwithstanding, KL is relatively compact in size, and the property is perfectly placed for visitors seeking to make their way around town by taxi, Grab (where you can book a car via its app) or public transport. Soak up the best of the city with our three-day itinerary.
Beyond the numerous malls and office blocks, you’ll find a much more interesting side of the city: Old KL. This historic hub encompasses a cluster of streets around the two rivers from which the city takes its name (“Kuala Lumpur” translates into “muddy confluence” in Bahasa Malaysia).
The busiest and most exciting of these is Petaling Street (above), which plays host to food stalls and wholesale flower markets early in the morning, and a standard-issue souvenir market later in the day. Duck into Koon Kee Wantan Mee to have breakfast with the locals - order up plates of springy egg noodles, thinly sliced barbecued pork and silky wantans (dumplings).
Thereafter, explore the area on foot to discover ancient Chinese temples, traditional medicine halls, antique bookstores, heritage tea houses and much more. Make your way to Yut Kee Restaurant for a late lunch – a must-try here is the gravy-drenched Hainanese chicken chop. Remember to pick up a slice of the restaurant’s famous marbled butter cake before you go.
Escape the relentless afternoon heat at REXKL, a 20-minute walk from Yut Kee Restaurant. What was once an abandoned cinema is now a lively arts centre that houses independent stores, restaurants and bars. Browse the shelves at BookXcess, then head up to the rooftop for a sunset dinner at Shhhbuuuleee, which serves sake alongside small plates.
Get your steps in with a hike at Templer Park (above, a 25-minute taxi ride from Capri by Fraser, Bukit Bintang). One of the most beautiful rainforest reserves around KL, it’s home to several multi-tiered waterfalls and jungle streams, as well as varied wildlife including the blue-winged leafbird and the Malaysian crested lizard. After your morning workout, reward yourself with a long, leisurely brunch at South Indian restaurant Raju’s Banana Leaf (a 30-minute taxi ride from the park). Be sure to order the tenggiri, deep-fried Spanish mackerel.
Stave off the afternoon drowsiness at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, a 12-minute taxi ride from the restaurant. Featuring five gilded domes, this stunning piece of architecture houses over 7,000 Islamic artefacts spread across 12 permanent galleries. If you have time to spare, do also check out the National Mosque of Malaysia across the road from the gallery.
For dinner, take a 20-minute taxi ride to Damansara Uptown for a plate of Village Park’s famous nasi lemak – rice steamed in coconut milk and served alongside spicy sambal and deep-fried chicken. It’s lauded by many as the best nasi lemak in the entire state of Selangor.
KL is known for its numerous shopping malls, but for a more thoughtful curation of local brands and independent makers, head to The Zhongshan Building, located a seven-minute taxi ride from Capri by Fraser, Bukit Bintang / Malaysia. This thriving creative hub is home to a number of design studios, art galleries and specialty retailers including a letterpress printer, a punk record store and a bookstore specialising in rare tomes.
From there, take a seven-minute taxi ride to the Brickfields neighbourhood for lunch at Indian vegetarian restaurant MTR 1924. The extensive menu can be daunting, but you can’t go wrong with the onion rava masala dosa, a crisp lentil pancake (above) stuffed with onions and spiced potato.
Then, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Brickfields’ vibrant Little India ethnic enclave. Top spots include the Temple of Fine Arts, where you can immerse yourself in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and other Indian dance traditions.
The best way to bid farewell to KL is from a rooftop bar, so when night falls, make your way to Heli Lounge Bar, an 11-minute taxi ride from Brickfields. A working helipad during the day, it transforms into a swanky rooftop bar in the evening, complete with live DJs and panoramic views of the city’s famous skyline.