Bukit Bintang is best known as the fashion and entertainment epicentre of Kuala Lumpur, but what do you do when you are all washed out on clubbing and retail therapy? Whether on a short visit or a longer stay, listed below are ten must-visit attractions when you are in Kuala Lumpur. Explore stunning temples and colourful street markets where you can have a top day out without spending a dime, pick up some culinary tricks at a cooking class or even release our inner child at Asia’s largest indoor amusement park. All these experiences shape and define Bukit Bintang and to help you enjoy all its finest sites we have come up with a top 8 list so you can get out there and enjoy them for yourselves.
CHANGKAT BUKIT BINTANG
Changkat Bukit Bintang is the city’s go-to hotspot for after-hours entertainment. An avenue on which a large number of KL’s most popular bars and restaurants can be found, it is a trendy place that is great for pub crawling. It is actually located just behind Jalan Bukit Bintang, so it’s very easy to get to – particularly if you are staying in the Golden Triangle area. It can get very busy here, especially at weekends and public holidays. The buildings are unique because they used to be pre-war colonial shop-houses that were refurbished and turned into upmarket pubs and restaurants – most of which serve western food. A short walk away is Jalan Alor, another famous KL city avenue, well known for its hawker stalls and Chinese seafood restaurants.
JALAN ALOR – BUKIT BINTANG
Called the cultural heart of the city’s local cuisine, Jalan Alor is one of the most famous roads in Kuala Lumpur for food. Located just behind Jalan Bukit Bintang, it is basically a strip of atmospheric air-conditioned Chinese seafood restaurants, with a row of hawker stalls set up on the five-foot walkway on both sides and plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the road. The food and ambiance is its main draw, with vendors furiously fanning grills of chicken and beef skewers, the metallic clang of frying woks and the air thick with charcoal smoke. The variety of food available is amazing with barbecued meats, noodles and desserts recognised as some of the best (and cheapest) in the city. Most of these dishes cannot be found in fashion-conscious restaurants making these hawkers a favourite on the city’s foodie scene. Most have picture menus, making ordering an easy affair.
BERJAYA TIMES SQUARE
Berjaya Times Square is a 48-storey twin-tower complex that spans the lengthy Jalan Imbi boulevard. Currently the fifth largest building in the world, it has over 1,000 retail stores and 65 food outlets. First opened in 2003, adjacent to the 700,000sqm mall is the four-star Berjaya Times Square Hotel – a high-rise venture with 650 rooms, a pool, gym, sauna room, roof-top garden and squash courts. Inside each 203m tower you can find a variety of affordable, small-time retail boutiques: when it comes to entertainment this is where the mall really shines – there is a nine-screen cinema, Asia’s largest indoor theme park (with 14 specially-designed rides including a thrilling roller coaster), an archery range and 48-lane bowling alley. It is connected to the Kuala Lumpur Imbi Monorail station via a footbridge.
MENARA KL (KL TOWER)
Along with the Petronas Twin Towers, Menara KL is easily Malaysia’s most recognizable and popular landmark. Constructed in 1994, the tower stands at 421 metres and effortlessly trumps the PETRONAS Twin Towers for height with a viewing deck that is, at 276 metres, at least 100 metres higher than the Twin Towers’ Skybridge. Currently the 18th-tallest freestanding structure in the world, Menara KL plays host to a revolving restaurant, Atmosphere 360. Sitting atop the Bukit Nanas (Pineapple Hill) Forest Reserve – the oldest gazetted forest reserve in the country – it is primarily used as a communications infrastructure and is the fifth-tallest telecommunications building in the world. The tower’s architectural style reflects Malaysia’s vibrant Islamic heritage with Arabic scripts, Islamic tiles, and archetypal Islamic floral and abstract patterns.
The focus for the city’s artistic community, Central Market is a Kuala Lumpur cultural landmark, just a short walk away from Petaling Street, along Jalan Hang Kasturi. Also called Pasar Seni, it was built in 1928 and used to be a simple wet market, until the early 1980s when it was revamped into a handicrafts outlet. Inside the building is a warren of boutiques, handicraft and souvenir stalls with traders selling local merchandise such as authentic Malaysian batik prints and more. Divided into different zones, vendors’ stall zones are distinctive by race: the purpose of this zoning practice is to let visitors get an insight into the cultural differences of the various races in Malaysia. There is even a Malacca ‘Jonker Street’, an area of Central Market that looks like a typical Baba-Nyonya house with Peranakan-style furnishings and fixtures on sale. A way to describe Central Market is to say that it is like New York’s SoHo flea market – the merchandise here is cheap and comprises traditional goods such as batik, embroidery carvings, souvenirs, and sculptures.
STARHILL CULINARY STUDIO
As many tourists find out, Malaysia has a proud but perhaps underappreciated culinary heritage and once you get a taste of the country’s diverse cuisine, you will find yourself wishing you could recreate it back home. If this sounds like you, then the sleek Starhill Culinary Studio, located in Starhill Gallery along busy Jalan Bukit Bintang, is where you need to head to. Headed by Chef Wai, YTL’s Corporate Executive Chef, when you participate in a class at this studio, besides food preparation, you will also get tips on how to properly handle kitchen utensils and to use local herbs, ensuring you will not only learn how to cook, but to do so like a pro. Three-hour classes are held almost every day, and besides ‘Malay’ and ‘hawker food’ classes (in which you get to learn how to make local favourites such as rendang, nasi lemak and mee rebus), there are also classes for Japanese dishes and French bite-sized snacks like macaroons and pralines.
MALAYSIA HERITAGE WALK
The Malaysia Heritage Walk, called Kasturi Walk by locals, is a covered, open-air flea market along Jalan Kasturi, a lane running alongside Central Market. Established in early 2011, in similar vein to Petaling Street, you can find vendors selling local snacks, fruits and fake label goods (think, T-shirts, flip flops, watches) set up side-by-side. Additionally, the goods are reasonably priced plus its convenient location makes a trip here worthwhile. Food stalls sell everything from Malay kuih and Chinese dim sum to Indian rojak and other local snacks. A popular spot with tourists, during special events Kasturi Walk organises cultural performances. To get there using the LRT, alight at the Pasir Seni station: from there it is only a few minutes’ walk to Kasturi Walk; the KTM Komuter also has a stop (Kuala Lumpur) nearby the market.
BUKIT NANAS FOREST RESERVE
Formerly known as Bucket Weld Forest Reserve, Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve is one of the oldest permanent forest reserves in the country. A welcome bit of lush greenery in the middle of a bustling metropolis, the 100-year-old forest reserve covers an area of approximately 11 hectares and is the only remaining tropical rainforest in the heart of the city. The nature trails here are well maintained, so it is worth including a visit here in your itinerary if you plan on visiting the KL Tower. A complimentary nature walk is available for those who purchase tickets to the tower’s observation platform