Kuala Lumpur is the most international city in Malaysia, backed by cosmopolitan highlights and traditional customs and behaviors. Whether you value the British colonial architecture, the vibes of Chinatown and Little India, numerous towers and monuments, or chance to see one of the quickest growing and bustling parts of Southeastern Asia up close and personal, Kuala Lumpur is an excellent cultural destination.
For the best taste of “old” Kuala Lumpur, head to the City Centre, which is based around Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square). This square has long been the heart of social gathering in Kuala Lumpur and is home to buildings like the Old City Hall and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (the original headquarters of colonial leaders built in an Islamic style), while the 100 meter flag pole at its center is one of the tallest in the world. The Masjid Jamek and the Masjid Negara are the two largest and most important mosques in the city, while the National Museum and the Islamic Arts Museum have wonderful collections that focus mostly on Malaysian art and history, although the latter in a more Islamic context. The compelling boulevards of Chinatown may also be found here, with authentic food and shops and a handful of temples that include the Chan She Shu Yuen Clan House and the Sze Ya Temple, both of which are over a hundred years old.
The Golden Triangle is actually the modern downtown, where you'll find superstructures like the Petronas Towers alongside glitzy shopping districts like Bukit Bintang. There is nowhere else in Malaysia where the contemporary world is more evident. The aforementioned Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers on earth, and the Skybridge between them are quite interesting and provide great views of the city (for a price). The KL Tower near the Bukit Nanas Reserve is also of interest for its height and the views, which are arguably better than the Petronas Towers. There is not a ton else of cultural value here, unless you are looking to shop and eat on trendy avenues; go to the old City Centre for that.
Other areas of interest in urban Kuala Lumpur include the gentrified Brickfields district and the haven of consumerism called Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Brickfields has slowly lost its unsavory image and replaced it with a mixture of Chinese and Indian styles and flavors. The Thean Hou Temple is a must for its grandeur and placement on a hilltop, although you'll find it crawling with tourists. In Tuanku Adbul Rahman you are bombarded with shopping complexes and streets, although cultural highlights like the highly regarded National Theatre (Istana Budaya) and the free National Art Gallery (Balai Seni Lukis Negara) make it worth part of your itinerary.
Then again, there is much to experience outside Kuala Lumpur as well. The greatest Hindi site in Malaysia is the Batu Caves, with its massive statue at the foot of a couple hundred stairs and the cave temple beyond. Just to the south in Putrajaya, the site of the federal administration, are a number of sites worth seeing as well, including the Putra Mosque and Perdana Putra (the offices of the Prime Minister).
For further information on cultural touchstones in and around Kuala Lumpur, take a look at our dedicated pages or get in touch with our embark community.</p>