Kuala Lumpur has certainly earned its reputation as the stopover destination of choice for many Australians travelling to Europe and beyond.
With competition from the likes of Singapore and Dubai, Malaysia’s capital has upped the ante in recent years, becoming home to uber-luxurious hotels and a buzzing cultural scene. It’s lively, multicultural and a mish-mash of history everywhere you look—a city that’s sure to awaken the senses after a long-haul flight.
So, next time you need to break up a mammoth flight, treat yourself to 24 hours of shopping, world-class cuisine and even a little relaxation. Here’s what we got up to in one of Southeast Asia’s most storied cities.
The locals we spoke to in Kuala Lumpur all agreed - the city is serious about food. Like many of its Southeast Asian neighbours, the city is packed with famed restaurants competing side-by-side with street food vendors. Whichever you choose, you’ll get an unforgettable taste of Malaysia.
Street food isn’t a trend, but a way of life in Kuala Lumpur. Head over to Jalan Alor at Bukit Bintang and you’ll be spoilt for choice with traditional Malay food—a must-visit for foodies and first time visitors who want to live like a local. We weren’t always entirely sure what we were ordering in the hustle and bustle of the hawker stalls, but isn’t that part of the fun?
If cocktails are your thing, you can’t leave KL without paying a visit to Omakase + Appreciate. Hidden in the basement of an office building, don’t be fooled by the ‘No Entry’ sign on the door - once you’re inside you’ll find a cozy speakeasy that regularly makes it onto lists of the world’s best bars. The menu is always changing, but the bartenders are happy to take special requests, with a side of showmanship while preparing your tipple of choice. The matcha-infused gin cocktail was our personal favourite.
You can’t go wrong with a rooftop bar, and we didn’t have to venture too far from Hotel Stripes to find one. Man Tao Bar sits at the 21st floor above the hotel, offering spectacular views of the city. Grab yourself a poolside sundowner and take in the sights of Kuala Lumpur Tower and the Petronas Towers before heading out to explore the city. It also happens to be the perfect backdrop for an Instagram shot, in case you were wondering.
Travel to the top of this iconic Malaysian landmark for around $30 and experience the magical views of the entire cityscape.
Shopping, KL-style. Around 100 years old, Central Market is an enduring symbol of the city and its illustrious history. Now a haven for creatives, you can spend hours navigating the maze of local vendors, making it a great place to pick up some well-priced souvenirs. If you do find yourself craving the big brands, head over to nearby Pavilion Shopping Mall, which houses all the usual international stores like Michael Kors.
Explore KL’s religious roots with a visit to Kuan Ti Temple in Chinatown. Spend some time reflecting, but don’t leave without touching the giant sword, which locals believe gives you good luck (we’re still waiting for ours to arrive!). Spend some time exploring the backstreets of Chinatown once you’re done at the temple.
Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur is the latest addition to KL’s boutique hotel scene, having been open for just over a year. It’s located on a quiet strip a five-minute drive from the main Bukit Bintang area, with an eye-catching colonial-style facade giving an air of sophistication as you check in. It cost us around $20 using local ride-sharing service Grab to the airport.
We arrived to all the amenities you’d expect, from chic, spacious rooms to a well-equipped gym, as well as a few bonus surprises - hello complimentary minibar! The real show-stopper here is the hotel’s rooftop bar and pool - more on that later. This YTL Luxury Hotel lived up to its membership of the Autograph Collection Hotels with its distinctive style and upscale service.
Rooms won’t break the bank either, regularly going for under $100 a night - you can also earn and redeem Marriott Rewards points.