10 Things To Do In Melaka Old Town, Malaysia
Melaka Old Town, it has to be said, is a bit of a baffling place.
Located just two hours south of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, it could hardly bear any more evidence of its complex colonial history. Dutch architecture, Portuguese cuisine, British-influenced bars and pubs: all these things blend together with the hodgepodge of Asian influence that characterises Malaysia as a whole. With Chinese market stalls, hawker centres with dozens of foods to choose from, and its very own Little India to wander around – Melaka (also spelt Malacca) really does have something to suit everyone.
Melaka Old Town is a beautiful, fascinating place to spend a few days. And you definitely won’t be short of things to do in Melaka Old Town, as this holds most of Melaka’s main attractions.
Here’s my advice on where to go and what to do in Melaka Old Town!
Wander Around the Dutch Square
You can hardly miss the striking Dutch Square (Red Square) set in the heart of Melaka Old Town – not least because it is constantly full of tourists, most of whom are seemingly unaware of traffic. Built in red stone, it’s a beautiful spot to wander around, and inevitably there are plenty of shopping opportunities set up nearby. Head over behind the clock tower to find a host of market stalls to browse.
Walk Along the Melaka River and Admire the Street Art
Melaka’s river is a picturesque place to stroll along, studded with elegant colonial buildings and quaint cafes. A modern twist has seen an array of street art pieces dominate the riverside – some of which are apparently adverts for paint companies, but others are just a display of artistic merit.
Also, check out the Melaka Old Town café whose centrepiece is a collection of classic car bonnets protruding from the wall.
Eat Your Way Along Jonker Walk
Jonker Walk in Melaka Old Town is easy to find: as with many attractions in Southeast Asia, it has bold lettering proclaiming its presence, right above the entrance to the street. You’ll be glad that it’s easy to find, however: Jonker walk is the best place to sample the local specialities, such as cendol (a tooth-achingly sweet shaved ice dessert, drowned in sugar syrup), and Portuguese egg tarts.
Visit the Stadthuys and All its Associated Museums
The Stadthuys (an old Dutch word for city hall) forms a focal point of the old town centre in Melaka. In its current iteration, it holds the town’s History and Ethnography Museum, but in days past it played a key role in the government of Melaka Old Town.
If this museum doesn’t satisfy your craving for learning, your entrance ticket will also get you into three other connected museum displays, as well as the ruins of St Paul’s Church, atop the nearby hill.
Check Out the Melaka Night Market
The Melaka Old Town night market transforms Melaka’s Jonker Walk and surrounding streets into a hustling, bustling throng of madness, interspersed with too many delicious street food stalls to handle. It only happens on the weekends, but it’s well worth timing your stay to coincide with these days.
Build up an appetite before you go, or you’ll miss out on a gastronomic experience like no other. Have dim sum for starters, sushi for main course, churros for dessert, freshly blended fruit juice to wash it all down, and perhaps some extra-large chips as a snack on the way home after a few too many at the famous Geographer’s Café bar. The braver among you might stretch to trying some oh-so-fresh (i.e. still moving) seafood from one of the more niche stalls along the way.
Take a Look at the Mosque
Kampung Kling Mosque is just one of many mosques in Melaka Old Town, but it’s interesting because of its aesthetic. The minaret is reminiscent of a Chinese pagoda, and indeed the whole structure appears Chinese-influenced. Kampung Kling is one of three religious buildings situated on or near Jalan Tukang Emas, also known as ‘Harmony Street’, for reasons of its spiritual significance.
Check Out the Sri Poyatha Moorthi Temple
Just down the road from the mosque is the Sri Poyatha Moorthi temple, worth a visit as the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia. It was built in 1781 and is one of the very few temples of the Chitty people, who are a group of Tamil Indians. The Sri Poyatha Moorthi temple is dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant god.
Visit the Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple
To add to the cultural mix, the Chinese temple in Melaka Old Town plays host to the Confucianist, Taoist and Buddhist religions. The Cheng Hoon Teng is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia and provides a striking contrast to the European-influenced architecture characterising the rest of the city. In 2003 it was awarded its own UNESCO heritage status, which makes it well worth a visit.
Relax on a Night-Time Melaka River Cruise
Even if you’ve walked along the Melaka River in the daytime, it’s worth going back for the river cruise in the evening, after the sun goes down. Lights adorn the bridges and streets lining the river, making for a very pleasant background to the quick 40-minute tour.
The commentary on the boat is a little quiet for much learning to be possible – so I’d suggest a quick Google before you go if you want to know more about the Melaka Old Town attractions you’re passing along the way.
Ride a Crazy Bicycle Taxi
You might see these bicycle tuk-tuks before you hear them, but whichever sense with which you first experience them, they will definitely make themselves known. Usually congregating around the clock tower in Melaka Old Town, the garish Pikachu- or Hello Kitty-adorned bikes are available to rent-a-ride for a negotiable price.
The drivers blare out music (anything from Bhangra to One Direction) as they ferry tourists round Melaka Old Town, and seem to genuinely love their job. They’re even better at night when neon lights are added to the eye-straining ensemble.
It’s pretty evident that Melaka Old Town (or Malacca Old Town) is definitely worth a stop if you’re travelling around peninsular Malaysia. Try to time your visit to be outside of busy periods such as the local holidays, else you will find yourself battling crowds of local tourists.
Or don’t, and just embrace the throngs as just another part of its charm!
Getting to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur – The easiest and cheapest way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka is by catching one of the many comfortable bus services from TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). Prices for a single ticket cost between 10RM and 13RM and the journey takes around 2 hours.
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About the Author
Ellie is a twentysomething freelance writer and hopeless hippie, currently travelling the world and blogging about it at Grad Gone Global. She writes to inspire others to travel, then show them how, offering advice on everything from tax returns to visa requirements. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.