Although not exactly a cosmopolitan powerhouse in line with the likes of neighboring Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, the second largest city in Malaysia still has its fair share of contemporary culture. If you traveled here a few decades ago, there would have been a rude jolt to your senses, for the open street sewers and the unkempt facades of buildings rattled many Western dispositions; don't worry, things have changed and Johor Bahru has benefited from the tourists that have poured in from Indonesia and beyond.
Although the city's main draw for tourists are its many shopping malls, we suspect that you will be looking to dig a little deeper. Most of the sites you'll be looking to see will be near the causeway crossing over into Singapore and within proximity of the Johor Straits. Just to the west of the causeway, you'll find the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, Dataran Bandaraya, the Sultan Abu Bakar Royal Palace Museum. These are the three most important historical sites in Johor Bahru and are examples of both the city's religious heritage and its quite recent independence. Further west along the river is the modern entertainment development of Danga Bay, which includes a theme park, a petting zoo, and a further nod to Johor Bahru's cultural heritage in Rumah Limas. Rumah Limas is of particular interest because it recreates traditional Malay housing, dance, and related cultural opportunities.
To the east of the causeway is the duty free area, which is big if you're looking for some tax-free shopping or to grab a drink at the ZON, which is also a ferry terminal for those looking to bring their adventure to Balam and Bintam Islands. Just north of the causeway is the famous Hindu glass temple, Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman, which is quite the unique pilgrimage site. The best art outlet is the Johor Bahru Art Gallery on Jalan Petri, while the Johor Bahru Kwong Siew Heritage Gallery and Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Museum are both significant exhibitions of the Chinese influence in southern Malaysia.
For a bit more information on what to see and do with your time in Johor Bahru, take a look through our activity pages, watch our adventure travel videos, or consult your fellow embarkers. If you don't feel like there's enough here to merit staying for a while, then visit as a day trip from Singapore or book accommodations here as a cheaper alternative. Either way, Johor Bahru can be an integral part of your next trip.