Kuala Lumpur, also known as KL, is the capital of Malaysia – a city where the past, present, and the future sit side by side. The modern metropolis’ swanky shopping malls, shimmering skyscrapers, and popular night spots are just minutes away from mosques, temples, markets, heritage buildings, and other cultural landmarks.
For first-time visitors to Kuala Lumpur, we suggest a 4-day stay. There are too many important sights and attractions to see within city limits in addition to the multitude of dining, nightlife, and entertainment options to try. Besides that, Kuala Lumpur is just a few hours away from popular day trip destinations like Melaka, Kuala Selangor, Ipoh, Fraser’s Hill, and Genting Highlands, among others.
Here’s a 4-day guide that will help you build your own itinerary for your first visit to Kuala Lumpur.
Day 1 – Chinatown, Landmark Attractions, and Street Food
After checking in at your hotel, head to Petaling Street in Chinatown where food is plentiful. You’ll surely find yourself surrounded by a wide selection mouthwatering Chinese cuisine. If you spot a hawker stall or eatery that sells claypot chicken rice, wan tan mee, and hokkien me, don’t miss the chance to stuff yourself with glorious Chinese food.
For wan tan mee (noodles sauteed in sweetened dark sauce), go to Restoran Koon Kee. Restoran Kim Lian Ke, on the other hand, serves the best hokkien mee (egg- and rice noodles, pork, and seafood stir-fried in dark soy sauce gravy.)
There are temples you can visit in Petaling Street. If you have to pick one, visit Chan See Shu Yen Temple. It is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Malaysia. You can easily find it as it’s located in the southern end of Petaling Street.
Petaling Street is also popular among locals and tourists looking to score clothing, accessories, souvenirs, grocery items, and household items at bargain prices. Just don’t forget to haggle.
After Chinatown, you can start checking out Merdeka Square. Just an easy walking distance from Petaling Street, Merdeka Square is one of KL’s most popular landmark. Also called Dataran Merdeka, the sprawling open square is the site of the 1957 declaration of Malaysian independence.
Merdeka Square is surrounded by heritage buildings like the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building, opposite the square, is arguably the most beautiful Moorish structure in KL, done in the Indo-Saracenic Revival style.
From Merdeka Square, it is time to see Malaysia’s greatest architectural wonders, the Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara KL Tower. While most tourists debate whether to go up Menara or the Petronas towers, we suggest you visit both. The views from the towers’ observation decks are nothing short of marvellous.
For dinner, head to Jalan Alor. Located in Bukit Bintang, the street is filled with eateries and hawker stalls selling all kinds of street food. Kuala Lumpur is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Asia and that is reflected in the array of dishes sold at Jalan Alor. Try the satay, bak kut teh (pork ribs in herbal broth), curry mee, and char kay teow to experience Malaysian culture through food.
And since you’re already in Bukit Bintang, explore Changkat Bukit Bintang before returning to your hotel. The avenue is where you’ll find a large concentration of shophouses transformed into KL’s trendiest bars, pubs, and restaurants.
The Best of Kuala Lumpur Tour is the tour to take when you want to see KL’s highlights in half a day. See the KL Tower, Chinatown, Dataran Merdeka, and other iconic landmarks, and explore the city centre. You can also book another tour on the same day, the Half Day Kuala Lumpur City Orientation Tour, to see the King’s Palace, National Museum, and and the Petronas Twin Towers.
Day 2 – Nasi Lemak, Batu Caves, Shopping
Start your 2nd day in Kuala Lumpur with a hearty serving of nasi lemak, Malaysia’s national dish. Nasi lemak is prepared by cooking rice in coconut cream and pandan leaves. It is usually served with fried anchovies, eggs, cucumber, peanuts, and sambal, a spicy sauce or dip that the locals can’t live without. This fragrant rice dish is usually eaten with fried chicken or fish.
Kuala Lumpur is home to many nasi lemak stalls, restaurants, and eateries but many say that the Village Park Restaurant in Damansara serves the best nasi lemak in town. If you’re looking for a joint that’s more central, Nasi Lemak Tanglin, just behind the KL Bird Park, is a must-try.
After your traditional Malay breakfast, you can make your way towards Batu Caves, a highly popular cultural attraction that’s only 30 minutes away from the city centre. Getting there is very easy. You can take the KTM Komuter Train from KL Sentral to Batu Caves. Once there, waste no time in admiring the towering statue of Lord Muruga at the base of the limestone hill. Batu Caves actually consists of caves and caverns where you’ll find many idols and statues of Hindu deities. Reaching the Cathedral Cave, the main temple, requires a challenging climb of about 272 steps.
After your cultural immersion at Batu Caves, escape the heat by exploring KL’s fabulous shopping scene. You don’t need to travel far because the city’s best shopping malls are found within Bukit Bintang and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). For a high-end shopping experience, check out Pavilion, Suria KLCC, and Starhill Gallery. For more affordable finds, see Berjaya Times Square and Sungei Wang Plaza. Pavilion KL has an amazing food court if you need a bite to eat.
Discover why Malaysia is considered a cultural melting pot by joining the Kuala Lumpur Countryside & Batu Caves Tour. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery, take in the local way of life, and explore the caves and caverns of Batu Caves, one of the most highly revered Hindu pilgrimage site in the world.
Day 3: Genting Highlands, Putrajaya, or the Kuala Selangor Fireflies
Another thing you’ll love about Kuala Lumpur is that it is close to several day trip destinations you can easily include in your itinerary.
Perhaps the most popular among tourists and locals looking to have a break from the tropical heat is Genting Highlands, only 2 hours away from the city centre. Genting Highlands is a resort town perched on the peak of Gunung Ulu Kali. At nearly 1800 metres above sea level, it boasts cooler temperatures that can drop to 10°C. In addition to a relaxing mountain environment, it also offers a host of attractions, from casinos to hotels, indoor and outdoor theme parks, fruit and vegetable farms, and even a high-end shopping mall complex.
Another attraction that’s worth a visit when in Kuala Lumpur is Putrajaya, the federal administrative centre of Malaysia. It is also Malaysia’s largest federal territory. Aside from its sprawling greens paces and iconic buildings, tourists also visit Putrajaya to see the Putra Mosque, Putrajaya Lake, and the Putra Bridge.
At the center of the planned garden city is the 600-hectare man-made lake, the Putrajaya Lake. Not only is the lake used for water sports and other recreational activities, it also functions as a natural cooling system for the territory where the average temperature is 27°C but can go as high as 35°C during daytime. The Putra Bridge, built in 1997, is a twin-deck bridge that links different precincts in Putrajaya. Spanning 435 metres, the bridge allows monorail, pedestrian, and vehicle access.
One of Putrajaya’s most popular landmarks, the Putra Mosque is a prime example of Putrajaya’s elegant architecture. Incorporating traditional designs and materials with elements borrowed from other Muslim cultures, the pink-domed mosque is a sight to behold as it proudly faces the picturesque Putrajaya Lake.
Another unmissable day trip destination near Kuala Lumpur is Kampung Kuantan, a small village 8 kilometres east of Kuala Selangor. Travellers flock to Kampung Kuantan to see the fireflies or “kelip-kelip” that live on the mangroves that line the banks of the Selangor River. Watching the captivating creatures blink in unison as you float down the Selangor aboard a sampan is an experience like no other.
Just a tip when you’ve decided to visit Kampung Kuantan, time your trip when there’s no moon and rain is unlikely. Furthermore, since the last bus to Kuala Lumpur from Kuala Selangor departs at 7pm, do yourself a favour by booking a tour. It is more economical than taking a bus to Kuala Selangor and paying for a return taxi to Kuala Lumpur.
Join a half day tour of Putrajaya, the futuristic administrative centre of Malaysia, if you want to see awe-inspiring sights like the Putrajaya Lake, Putra Mosque, Dataran Putrajaya, and the Prime Minister’s official residence. But if you want to have a completely different experience during your 3rd day in Kuala Lumpur, we highly recommend the Fireflies Experience with Boat & Dinner tour and travel with ease to Kuala Selangor to luxuriate in the unforgettable light show created by the fireflies of Kampung Kuantan.
Day 4: Malacca
Spend your last day in Kuala Lumpur with yet another day trip, this time to the historic city of Malacca. Malacca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with more than enough sights and activities to keep you busy for a few days.
To cover more ground during your excursion, take the 7am bus from KL so you’ll reach Malacca by 9am. If you skipped breakfast at your hotel, you can have chicken rice balls at Chuang Wah Chicken Rice Ball, an eatery located on Jalan Hang Jebat. Chicken rice balls are a quintessential breakfast food in the city so expect to queue up in order to relish the fluffy rice balls and mouthwatering pieces of chicken steamed or roasted to perfection.
After breakfast, you can dive right into visiting Malacca’s top attractions. With the Dutch Square or Red Square as your starting point, visit Christ Church, A Famosa Fortress, Stadhuys, St. Paul’s Church, Maritime Museum & Naval Museum, and the Melaka Sultanate Palace, among other attractions.
For lunch, you can have your fill of authentic Peranakan or Nyonya food at Nancy’s Kitchen, located at Taman Kota Laksamana. Peranakan cuisine, resulting from the union of Chinese immigrants and Malay women, is a combination of Chinese and Malay flavours and cooking traditions. Must-try Peranakan dishes are Nyonya asam laksa and ayam pyongteh but feel free to ask the waitstaff for recommendations.
Complement your introduction to Nyonya cuisine with a visit to the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. Learn about the history of the Baba Nyonya and admire ornate the interiors, tiles, furniture, embroideries, and porcelain on display. The museum is open from 10am to 12:30pm and 2pm to 4:30pm.
If you plan on doing a little bit of shopping, there are many shops along Jonker Street (also known as Jalan Hang Jebat) that sell souvenir items, from antiques to handicrafts, semi-precious gemstones, fashion accessories, and food items. But for a different kind of shopping experience, head to Pahlawan Walk Market where you will be met by a dizzying array of Malay, Nyonya, and Indian ingredients.
Finally it is time for refreshments. Look for the Bibik House Cendol along Jonker Street to cool down with a bowl of Malaysia’s most popular dessert, cendol. If you’re wondering what cendol is, it’s is a sugary dessert consisting of shaved ice flavoured with palm sugar, coconut milk, red beans, and green cendol jelly. Cendol is perfect for beating the often stifling heat in Malaysia.
You have the option to take the Melaka River Cruise which runs from 9am to 11:30pm. The 45-minute cruise is best enjoyed at sunset. However, if you’re planning on returning to KL on the same day, take note that the last bus departs at 8pm.
If you’re visiting on a weekend, check out the Jonker Night Market. It opens at 6pm and a great place to soak up the local atmosphere and gorge on delicious street food. Or, you can pop into Pak Putri Tandoori & Naan Restaurant on Jalan Laksamana 4. The restaurant’s tandoori chicken is considered the best in Malaysia and when paired with their soft and fluffy naan, makes for an unforgettable Indian meal.
Make the most out of your last day in Kuala Lumpur with the Full Day Historical Malacca Tour, a guided sightseeing tour to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Melaka. You will visit popular sights and amble along its most historic streets to gain insight into its colourful history and rich culture and have an authentic local experience.