Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide
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This Might Be the Most Colorful City in Southeast Asia

Explore the kaleidoscope of color waiting to be discovered in Malaysia’s capital city.

“Colorful” is not necessarily what you might think when it comes to Kuala Lumpur. Home to 1.5 million people, it is perhaps best known as the main hub for the budget carrier, Air Asia. This means most visitors don’t often spend more than a day or two here, and even then it’s only for a quick layover. What they’re left with is the cursory impression of yet another Asian metropolis with some rundown remnants of British colonial rule. However, you’d be mistaken to skip over Malaysia’s capital city and not get to know it better. Here are 11 unique places in Kuala Lumpur that not only show off just how colorful the city is but just how diverse and eclectic it can be.

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PHOTO: alifsufri/Shutterstock
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Batu Caves

WHERE: Selangor, Malaysia

After some controversial renovations in 2018, Batu Caves’ 272 steps are now awash in a bright, rainbow pattern, easily making them one of the most colorful places in Kuala Lumpur. The steps lead to Tamil shrines designed to work with the caves’ structures, and each year Malaysians gather here to celebrate Thaipusam.

INSIDER TIPGet there at sunrise to have the steps to yourself before the crowds come. And be careful of your bags around the monkeys!

 

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PHOTO: Alfred Chan/Shutterstock
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Thean Hou Temple

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

One of the largest temples in Southeast Asia, Thean Hou is a six-tiered Buddhist temple built to honor the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu (sometimes known as Tian Hou). It opened officially in 1989 and was built by the Hainanese community. With its recognizable red lanterns, the temple mixes elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism as well as modern and traditional designs in its architecture.

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PHOTO: Vincent_St_Thomas/iStockphoto
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Sri Mahamariamman Temple

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur and the oldest functioning Hindu temple in all of Malaysia. It sits on the edge of Chinatown and is designed in the South Indian style. The most impressive feature is the five-tiered, 75-foot high gopuram that marks its entrance. Each tier is intricately decorated, giving it a striking appearance compared to its surroundings.

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PHOTO: R.M. Nunes/iStockphoto
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Putra Mosque

WHERE: Putrajaya, Malaysia

Also known as the pink mosque, Putra Mosque is surprisingly young. It was only completed in 1999 and is the first completed building in Putrajaya, a nearby planned city created for the government after Kuala Lumpur became too crowded. Everything about the mosque is pink, from the rose-tinted granite that makes up its architecture to the darker pink robes visitors must wear for modesty.

INSIDER TIPTake a boat ride around the lake to enjoy the Putra Mosque from afar.

 

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PHOTO: kovgabor79/iStock Editorial
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Sultan Abdul Samad Building

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

One of the most iconic structures in Kuala Lumpur, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building sits across from Dataran Merdeka, the square where Malaysia declared independence in 1957. It was first constructed under British colonial rule, and the architecture is meant to be a mix of Indo-Saracenic, Neo-Mughal, and Moorish influences. With its pinkish hued brick exterior, copper dome, Indo-Saracenic, Big Ben-inspired clock tower, the building has become an important backdrop to Malaysia’s two big holidays—Independence Day and New Years.

INSIDER TIPDon’t just enjoy the Sultan Abdul Samad Building from the front but go into its gardens to really enjoy it away from the main road.

 

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PHOTO: RAVINDRAN JOHN SMITH/iStockphoto
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Perdana Botanical Garden

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

At over 226 acres, the Perdana Botanical Garden is a massive green space right in the middle of bustling Kuala Lumpur. With 14 different gardens and collections, it’s easy to get lost wandering around. Visit everything from the Zingiberales collection to see these unique red plants to the beautifully manicured Sunken Garden with its orange flowers and star-shaped fountain. A real highlight is the yellow-patterned Laman Perdana, which sits in the center of the garden and is often used for different events or gatherings.

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PHOTO: gracethang/iStock Editorial
7 OF 11

Brickfields

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

To see more of Kuala Lumpur’s Indian community, look no farther than the slightly chaotic, colorful Brickfields neighborhood. Everything is a burst of color here, whether it’s the building facades, the multi-colored arches that line the main street, the fountains, or the very clothes vendors put in their windows. It almost feels like you’ve stepped out of Malaysia and into India.

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PHOTO: Selfie Museum KL/Facebook
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Selfie Museum Kuala Lumpur

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Escape Kuala Lumpur’s heat for a day inside at its very own Selfie Museum. With nine cheerfully decorated rooms, there’s everything from a yellow ball pit to human-size ice cream statues to a full rainbow room and more. For those who get a sweet tooth from visiting the rooms, don’t worry. You can pick from five Malaysian-inspired desserts to try.

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PHOTO: CharlieTong/iStock Editorial
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Federal Territory Mosque

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Inspired by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, the Federal Territory Mosque is a mix of Ottoman and Malay styles. It’s large enough to house 17,000 worshippers at once and is easily one of the most impressively designed mosques in Kuala Lumpur. While its twin minarets and sky blue domes are its most recognizable features, it’s also filled with detailed designs from its prayer hall to its courtyard.

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PHOTO: stockinasia/iStock Editorial
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Bukit Bintang Street Art

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Since Bukit Bintang sits right in Kuala Lumpur’s center, it is perhaps the busiest, most chaotic place in the whole city. This means many of its alleys and side streets have often succumbed to the usual issues of overcrowding—drugs, trash, and crime. However, Kuala Lumpur City Hall has recently undergone a project to completely restore ten of these alleys with stunning street art. You can find anything from 3D murals to rainbow-patterned walkways now.

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PHOTO: kovgabor79/iStock Editorial
11 OF 11

Petaling Street

WHERE: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Stretching through Chinatown, Petaling Street is the main street for the neighborhood. Lining the way underneath bright red lanterns are street vendors with every fake designer item under the sun. However, don’t let the knock off Gucci distract you from the delicious dishes waiting to be tried in between, both at food stalls and at restaurants, like Old China Café.