Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a Kuala Lumpur native, planning your day around the city can be tough. With so many options on the table, how do you differentiate between activities that are worth your time and that aren’t? Some travellers love doing touristy things, but some will spend hours researching what the locals are up to.
This list contains makan and sight-seeing spots that I personally think are worth a visit. Although they may seem touristy, I still find these activities fun, even as a local. As always, take what piques your interest and leave what doesn’t, as there are probably more things listed down than you can manage in a day. Here is a 1 day KL itinerary: Where to go, what to do & where to eat.
1. Local breakfast at Ho Kow Hainan Kopitiam
Ho Kow Kopitiam is known for 2 things: its delicious local delicacies, and the long lines. Waiting time varies, and some people claim to have waited for about an hour before being seated. However, the service itself is pretty fast, especially when you take into account the sheer volume of customers. The shop’s interior mimics the decor found at old kopitiams, but with a slight modern touch.
You can’t visit any kopitiam without ordering some toast; it’s an unwritten rule. Make sure you don’t leave the premises until you’ve had a bite (or several) of Butter & Kaya Toast (RM3.40). Other local staples include Traditional Nasi Lemak (RM6), and Curry Chee Cheong Fun (RM5.80).
Drinks in Malaysia can be confusing for first-time visitors. Thankfully, Ho Kow’s menu is equipped with illustrations to show you what exactly goes into each cup, so customers will have an easier time differentiating between regular Kopi (RM3.40), Kopi C (RM3.40), Kopi O (RM3.10).
2. Climb up the stairs of Batu Caves
Batu Caves is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and for a good reason. Not only will you find beautiful temples and shrines both inside and outside the caves, you’ll finally be able to see the 140 ft tall statue of Murugan, the Hindu god of war, in all its gold glory.
The colourful stairs make for a more cheerful climb and beautiful photo opportunities. Batu Caves is also known for the monkeys that loiter around the area. Be careful when you snap pictures of the monkeys, and for extra security, leave all your food and drinks in your bag.
The easiest way to get there would be by car, but you can take public transportation as well. There’s a KTM train that leads to Batu Caves, but to play safe (especially if you’re tight on time), I suggest getting a Grab directly to the site.
Gombak, 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia
+603 6189 6284
Daily: 7am – 9pm
3. Stroll around Thean Hou Temple
Thean Hou Temple’s classic Chinese architecture is a breath of fresh air— a colourful place of worship right smack in the middle of the city. Those who aren’t visiting for religious reasons are most likely there to admire the temple’s intricate details.
Dragons and phoenixes don the ridges of the roof, and lanterns hang in straight lines from the entrance to the courtyard. The temple also has a lusciously green garden for visitors to stroll around. While you’re there, don’t forget to take photos of the 12 statues representing the Chinese zodiac. Don’t worry if you’re unsure of what your sign is, as each statue has a plaque inscribed with its corresponding years.
Oh, and there’s a souvenir shop, a food court, and a marriage registration office on the ground floor.
4. Visit the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
During one of my long semester breaks, I made it a point to visit as many museums in KL as possible. Out of everything I’ve seen, I can confidently say that the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is my favourite in the city. The displays are extremely well-curated, and there’s so much to see. If you’re really into museums, art, or history, I suggest blocking out a minimum of 2 hours to be able to fully appreciate everything.
Their 12 permanent galleries are spread across 2 floors. They have rooms dedicated to textiles, architecture, jewellery, armour, ceramics, manuscripts, and more. In addition to that, they have displays featuring art and objects from the Ottoman Empire, Persia, India, Central Asia, Spain, and the Malay world.
Admission tickets start at RM10 for students and local seniors, and are RM20 for adults as well as non-Malaysian seniors. Final entry is at 5.30pm, so do plan your day accordingly!
5. Lunch at Ricksha
Aside from nasi lemak, roti canai, and char kuey teow, one dish that I will always recommend to tourists is banana leaf rice. Banana leaf rice always leaves me feeling full and very satisfied. The flavours, the textures, and eating on an actual banana leaf— there really isn’t anything like it. The online reviews speak for itself, as Ricksha in Bangsar is a boutique banana leaf restaurant that takes the dish very seriously.
The Ricksha Authentic Banana Leaf Rice (RM13) comes with a heaping portion of rice, 5 types of vegetables, papadam, condiments like thovayal and homemade garlic pickle, as well as any curry of your choice. The restaurant offers plant-based curry options like sambar and vendhayam alongside the usual chicken, mutton, fish, and salted fish curries.
All banana leaf rice sets are mostly vegan (excluding the curries), so if you want some protein, you have to order separately. Ricksha serves side dishes like Mutton Varuval (RM25), Prawn Sukka (RM36), and Chicken Podhi (RM18).
6. Batik painting at Central Market
Central Market, otherwise known as Pasar Seni, plays host to dozens of shops selling local goods. You’ll find batik clothing, woven bags, and other local crafts. Basically, this is your one-stop-shop for all your Malaysian memorabilia.
After the pandemic, Central Market saw a major shift. Many shops closed down, leaving an abundance of vacant lots in the building. This didn’t last long though, as the ground floor has become a site for pop-up booth events. These events occur almost every weekend, with the common goal of uplifting local entrepreneurs and artists.
For those rolling their eyes at the thought of yet another KL-themed magnet on their fridge (yeah, I see you), you might want to check out Ainaa Artwork located outside the building, at the back. Customers get to try their hand at batik painting— a fun, relaxing activity to do in the middle of the bustling city.
7. Arts & culture at REXKL
What was once a cinema is now a community and cultural hub. REXKL, formerly known as Rex Cinema, was one of Malaysia’s very first theatres. In 1972, the building caught on fire. Fortunately, its history didn’t end there as it was rebuilt to become a single-screen cinema that could fit over 1000 people. 30 years after the initial fire, it set ablaze yet again, and that was the last time Rex would operate as a theatre.
Instead of being abandoned with the risk of its cultural significance being forgotten, REXKL was given another chance. Now, the building plays host to several businesses. The ground floor is now a food court where you’ll find local F&B stalls and a bar.
Most visit REXKL for BookXcess, a bookstore that’s integrated the building’s existing architecture and quirks into its design. The bookshelves stretch high into the ceiling, giving the place a maze-like feel. And if you’re lucky, you might stumble across a rock gig happening at the event space.
8. Dinner at Nasi Lemak Wanjo
Even after receiving over 8,000 reviews on Google, Nasi Lemak Wanjo is still able to maintain a rating of over 4 stars. Suffice to say, this nasi lemak spot is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. The store is located in Kampung Baru, and a drive around the kampung will give you some insight into both the traditional and modern houses of Malaysia.
The fun part about Nasi Lemak Wanjo is that you get to choose your own side dishes. Those looking for a simple yet satisfying dish should opt for their Nasi Lemak Telur Goreng (RM5.50). If you want a little more, check out their Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng (RM11) or Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang (RM11).
You can choose other lauk to add on as well, like Tempe (RM1.30), Kerang (RM3.70), and Limpa (RM4.50).
9. Walk around Bukit Bintang
The easiest way to get to the heart of Bukit Bintang is by the MRT. While there may not be a specific purpose to walk around the area, I do think that you shouldn’t miss out on seeing KL’s nightlife. Traffic here is pretty insane, so it’s recommended to walk or take public transportation.
You’ll see a lot of people (including locals) posing in front of the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur fountain, and street vendors selling things from food and drinks to light-up balloons and umbrellas.
If you’re visiting KL with the intention to shop, you can do so at one of the many malls in the area. There’s the aforementioned Pavilion, Lot 10, The Starhill, and Farenheit88. Bukit Bintang is also home to our first ever McDonald’s outlet— drop by if you’re interested in checking out Malaysia’s specialty menu items. I personally think that nothing comes close to the Spicy Ayam Goreng McD (RM8.40 for 1 piece).
Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Daily: 24 hrs
10. Take photos at Suria KLCC
Last but not least, everyone visiting KL must snap a photo of the Petronas Twin Towers. The true indicator of a day well-spent in the city is a low-angle selfie of yourself with 88-storey structure. Some may find this a cheesy thing to do, but I’m here to tell you that locals will always take the opportunity to do so, even if they’re visited KLCC a million times before.
The easiest way to get a pic is by going to Suria KLCC, a mall that’s attached to the iconic building. There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, you can get there via the LRT train, and secondly, you can get some shopping done while you’re at it. The mall has many luxury shops as well as a food court (in case you’re hungry).
Another reason why Suria KLCC is the place to be is because of the KLCC Lake Symphony Water Fountain show. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of humans, the fountains and lights will put on a show for you with music playing in the background. These shows occur 3 times a day at 7.30pm, 8.30pm, and 9.30pm.