A twist of fate brought my husband and I to Jakarta for a little longer than expected – we will be here for the next one year or so. I can’t say I was entirely thrilled by this idea because I’ve always typically associated Jakarta for business trips or corporate functions and have never really looked at it from a travel point of view. What’s there to see ? What’s there to discover ? What’s the history behind this sprawling city with more than 10 million people ? Now that I’ve been in Jakarta for a few months and wandered about quite a few places, I’ve grown to embrace this city for its vibrancy, friendly people, endless choices for food and more. If you are in Jakarta, do see this list of 19 Best Things to Do in Jakarta, you’ll be amazed at what this city has to offer. I’ve also indicated the places as north, central and south of Jakarta because you should plan accordingly to avoid getting caught in terrible jams when going from one place to another.
1. Visit the Fatahillah Square (North Jakarta)
As part of “Kota Tua” (or old town) , the Fatahillah Square is the ultimate place to get a dose of Jakarta. There’s so much going on at this refurbished square that’s full of colonial buildings from the Dutch Era – visitors cycling on neon-colored bicycles, street vendors selling street food and street artists performing their jobs dutifully. There are also a few vintage and chic cafes, such as Cafe Batavia and Cafe Historia for you to sit down and enjoy a cuppa.
Notable buildings in the area include the
1. Jakarta History Museum that was formerly the city hall when Jakarta was known as Batavia,
2. The Post Office that was the first post office in Indonesia and it is still functionally so today,
3. Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics
4. The Pupppet Museum which was originally a church built in 1640.
5. The Bank Indonesia Museum
2. Visit a Museum (Various Parts of Jakarta)
There are TONS of museum in Jarkata. The Puppet Musem (Museum Wayang) houses all sorts of puppets from different parts of Indonesia. The puppets are typically made of wood and cow hide with intricate carvings.
The National Museum has an impressive collection of more than 2000 pieces of artefacts, sculptures and other exhibits that give a glimpse into Indonesia’s cultural diversity.
The Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) is one of my personal favorites because I am so in love with the building itself. The building was built in 1652 and it used to be a spice warehouse. I didn’t really spent as much time looking at the exhibits because I was too busy with the building’s details – the little “mouse holes” (that look exactly like the ones in Tom & Jerry) purposely dug out on the wooden doors to prevent them biting a hole to go out, the flood marks on the giant beams in the building and the beautiful courtyard that really would make one think that you are in Europe instead of Indonesia.
3. See the Grandeur of the National Monument (MONAS) at Merderka Square (Central Jakarta)
The National Monument was constructed during the rule of President Sukarno, after Indonesia gained its independence. The monument has its significance as it symbolises the Indonesians’ spirits to fight for independence.
At the base of the monument is the National History Museum, featuring Indonesia’s history through dioramas. There is an observation deck located at the goblet of flame that’s accessible to the public for viewing Jakarta’s skyline. It is Rp 15000 to enter both the museum and the observation deck.
4. Visit the largest Mosque in South East Asia – The Istiqlal Mosque (Central Jakarta)
The compound is so huge that it’ll take you a good one hour to walk around the place. There are etiquettes to be observed when visiting such as taking off your shoes and wearing modest clothing. Robes are on loan for those that are dressed too casually or too revealingly. I did feel a little intimidated because I was entering such a gigantic religious place but after the visit, it proved that I was intimidated for nothing because the locals were friendly and generally acknowledged us with a curious smile. The dome is the place that you don’t want to miss in the mosque, as it is the most stunning with an impressive diameter of 45 meters, which also coincides with the year of 1945 when Indonesia gained independence.
5. Visit the Jakarta Cathedral (Central Jakarta) The Jakarta Cathedral is just right across the street from the Istiqlal Mosque. The neo-gothic church was originally inaugurated in 1810 and rebuilt again in 1891 after it collapsed. There’s a museum within the church that’s open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday if you wish to know more about the church. The Jakarta Cathedral’s official website is here.
6. Get Lost in the Small Lanes of Glodok (Chinatown) (North Jakarta) Despite its fairly contemporary outlook, Glodok is old, being first established by the Dutch in the 1600’s. The main streets are now filled with Chinese merchants retailing in Chinese medicine and food supplies, while there are also many street vendors selling general household goods and clothing. Malls in the area such as Orion Plaza are typically aged and worn. The most interesting part in the area are the morning markets and food streets hidden behind the main streets. It’s an amazing network of labyrinth with ancient (and falling apart) houses that’s pretty much a locals-only area. It’s an ideal place if you are looking for somewhere “off-the-beaten-path”; you’ll be the only tourist there !
7. See the Vihara Dharma Bhakti, a.k.a Jin De Yuan (North Jakarta) The Chinese Temple is in the vicinity of Glodok with an astonishing 360 years of history. It has gone through various restorations throughout the years, with the most recent one in 2015, after the temple was burnt down. Interestingly, it seemed that restoration works were built upon the burnt wooden frameworks of the temple.
8. Get a Portrait Painted at Jalan Pintu Besar Selatan (North Jakarta) Jalan Pintu Selatan is the Art Street that connects Glodok and Fatahillah Square. You are very likely to pass this street if you are exploring Kota Tua and Glodok on foot. The artists showcase their paintings on the walls, and draw their paintings right there and then. I like to observe the painters as many draw with passion and great details.
The art street of Jakarta – Jalan Pintu Besar Selatan. #TripOfWonders #WonderfulIndonesia . @indtravel is giving away 4D3N BALI TRIPS to 10 lucky winners. All you need to do is answer 10 simple questions about Indonesia on their website (link in Bio), Good Luck !! #travelcontest A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
9. Go Shopping
Jakarta is a paradise for shopaholics. There are so many malls throughout Jakarta you could use these malls to map out Jakarta. For malls that have a mix of international high-end brands and local brands, go to Plaza Senayan Plaza, Senayan City, Grand Indonesia, Central Park, Pacific Place & Galeries Lafayette, Lotte Shopping Avenue and Ciputra (actually there’s a lot more but I am not listing them all out). Some of the malls feel so international that I don’t even feel like I am in Indonesia. If you are looking for something more local , go to Block M, Pasar Baru, ITC Mangga Dua (for eletronics) and Pusat Grosir Block A-B Tanah Abang (for wholesale clothing).
10. Go Antique Shopping on Surabaya Street (Central Jakarta)
Surabaya Street is a fascinating place to visit. The street is full of tiny stores filled to the brim that most of them can only accommodate 1-3 people at one time. With the lamps, puppets, porcelain, handicrafts (and more), you might be able to find something to decorate your home with. As for genuinity, buy at your own discretion.
11. Visit Ancol Dreamland (North Jakarta)
Ancol Dreamland is an integrated tourism area with beaches, theme parks, golf courses, restaurants, gondola ride, shopping center, art market and hotels. There is a fee enter Ancol Dreamland (25,000 IDR per person, 20,000 IDR per car) even if you are just there to visit one restaurant, or to lie on the beach. There’s also a separate entrance fee for various theme parks within, such as the Atlantis Water Adventure, SeaWorld Ancol and Ocean Eco Park.
12. Visit the Sunda Kelapa Port and nearby landmarks such as the VOC Shipyard and Maritime Museum (North Jakarta)
When visiting the port area, plan to see the above three in one go as the VOC Shipyard is just across the street from the Maritime Museum, while the Sunda kelapa Port is just a short 10 minutes walk from the museum.
The VOC Shipyard was built in 1628, once belonging to the Dutch East India Company (or Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie / VOC) that was once upon a time one of the largest trading companies in the world. Today, it houses a cafe and an art gallery.
The Maritime Museum is worth a visit just for the building itself. There’s also a compound next to it that was once used for executing prisoners via drowning.
13. See Indonesia’s Cultural Diversity at Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park, a.k.a Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) (East Jakarta)
Indonesia is a huge country, so huge that certain regions can feel like a completely different country. The Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park covers an astonishing area of 250 acres, with parks, museums, gardens and religious buildings and traditional buildings from the 33 provinces of Indonesia. You’ll need at least half a day if not one full day at the park because there is so much to see in this enormous park. The traditional buildings typically showcases the history and culture of each province but unfortunately there aren’t much English information available. There is a mini train that goes around the park in case you get tired of walking. It is IDR 10,000 to enter the park and the pavilions, while there’s a separate entrance fee for the museums.
14. Visit the Bird Park in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (East Jakarta)
The Bird Park is part of Taman Mini Indonesia. I am giving it a special mention because Taman Mini Indonesia is so huge you might not even know there’s a bird park in there. The park is not very big, but it’s an enjoyable place to walk about, while also familiarising yourself with different kinds of birds of Indonesia that are segregated into netted domes. The entrance fee is IDR 20,000.
15. Eat Street Food for the Culinary Adventurous
There is street food everywhere in Jakarta. There are a few popular places to go for street food such as Menteng area (next to CIMB bank), Pecenongan, Jalan Jaksa-Sabang, and the small lanes in Glodok. I’ve tried the “nasi goreng gila” from Menteng, which is fried rice with eggs, sausages and a handful of crackers. “Nasi goreng gila” literally means “crazy fried rice” because it’s so good that people are going crazy over it.
16. Eat Everything Else that Doesn’t Fall Under the Category of Street Food
Besides street food, Jakarta has an excellent array of restaurants. Eating in restaurants falls under a different category because street food can be a big no-no for some. For Indonesian Restaurants, try Remboelan (in various malls in Jakarta), Marco Padang Grill (in various malls in Jakarta), Garuda (various outlets in Jakarta). For Japanese, try Sushi Masa near Muara Angke or any restaurants in “Little Tokyo” located in Block M. For Western, try Loewy in Oakwood Premier Cozmo Jakarta.
17. Visit the Muara Angke Fish Market (North Jakarta) The Muara Angke Fish Market is not your usual tourist attraction. To be honest, it smells, it’s dirty, it’s crowded, it’s smokey, and the floors are wet. If you can’t take any of that, you probably shouldn’t go there. But if you can just shrug all that of, this largest fish market in Jakarta not only has an astonishing array of seafood, it’s also the best place to see the locals in action. If you happen to be doing some cooking in Jakarta, purchase the seafood here and get ready to be amazed because the seafood is fresh, cheap, and good !
18. Visit the Thousand Islands Jakarta is not solely concrete and steel. Just north of Jakarta, there are 110 islands, which means that you don’t have to go all the way to Bali or Lombok to enjoy island hopping and beach-bumming. The islands are ranged between a 30 minutes to a 3 hours boat ride from the Ancol Marina Habour. Islands that are typically visited include Ayer Island, Kotok Island, Pelangi island, Putri Island, Bira Island and Bidadari Island, either visited as day trips or a weekend getaway.
19. Visit Bogor I know Bogor is not in Jakarta, but it’s the next closest place to go if you are looking for lush greeneries. The Bogor Botanical Gardens is an iconic place in Bogor with more than 13,000 species of trees spread out in a gigantic area of 210 acres. The garden is more than 100 years old so you can imagine the size of the trees and how soothing it is to walk in the garden. The Bogor Palace is not open to the public but you’ll be able to see it within the garden.
A photographer photographing a photographer at the Bogor Botanical Garden #Indonesia #TripOfWonders #WonderfulIndonesia . My friend @yungandrew is in frame A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
The Bogor Presidential Garden – it’s not open to the public , but you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of it from the Bogor Botanical Garden #Indonesia #TripOfWonders #WonderfulIndonesia . . @indtravel is giving away 4D3N BALI TRIPS to 10 lucky winners. All you need to do is answer 10 simple questions about Indonesia on their website (link in Bio), Good Luck !! #travelcontest
**With many thanks to the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia for partially organising this trip.
For more information on travel in Indonesia, visit Tourism Indonesia’s Official Page.
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