Kuala Lumpur is a true highlight of any trip to Malaysia that is often overlooked by many travellers. Don’t make that mistake, Kuala Lumpur is an amazing destination that is more than worth your time discovering it. Make the most of your time in Kuala Lumpur with this expert three day itinerary that explores the popular sites as well as the hidden depths of this great city.
Sat in between its arguably more famous and almost certainly more popular neighbours, Bangkok and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is often overlooked by many backpackers and travellers, but this is a huge mistake. It may not have the legendary backpacker status of Bangkok or the pristine sheen of Singapore, but Kuala Lumpur does have so much to offer those who take the time to scratch underneath the surface and see what is there.
The reality is though, most people just spend a day or two in the city, using it as a convenient transit hub on their journey around SE Asia, or getting their bearings before heading off to explore Malaysia’s diverse countryside, jungles and islands. The trick is how to use that time effectively and fill your days with a glimpse of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer. Give yourself a few days in the city and fill your time with some of these highlights.
The Colonial District.
The colonial district is a great way to see an important part of the cultural and historical character of Kuala Lumpur. The perfectly manicured lawns of Merdeka square is where Malaysia declared independence from British rule in 1957, and is surrounded by stunning colonial architecture that is a vivid reminder of those times, as well as some stunning examples of Moorish architecture in the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
Just a short walk away from Merdeka square is Chinatown’s central market. I have a love/hate relationship with this building. On the one hand it is really touristy and very expensive, and has been extensively remodelled and gentrified into what is essentially a large tourist tat market, on the other it is a great showcase of the cultural heritage of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia as a whole, as well as having multiple annexes filled with street artists and craftsmen, making it a pleasant place to explore for a short while. Take my advice though, enjoy browsing the wares, but don’t buy anything here. You can often find the same goods for a fraction of the price in a number of side street shops around Chinatown.
I absolutely love Petaling street and come here every time I return to Kuala Lumpur. Generally only coming to life from the early evening onwards, it is an open air market where you can buy literally any type of knock off you can think of, from dodgy DVDs and fake Rolex watches to brand name handbags and purses, and to be fair they aren’t bad quality! If you like that sort of thing of course! Yes it is touristy as hell and full of touts and vendors who will call out to you and think nothing of quoting you a price 20 times what it should be, but it is also a hell of a lot of fun! You can have a great time honing your haggling skills here as long as you keep the right frame of mind to enjoy it.
There are also a number of fantastic traditional street food vendors and Chinese food restaurants here. For the best prices head to the areas just outside of the main cross of Jalan Petaling, but you really do have to try the satay chicken from the vendors! Absolute heaven!
Berjaya Times Square Mall.
One thing KL is famous for is shopping, and the overabundance of huge, sprawling malls is a huge testament to that, so it would be a shame if you didn’t devote at least a little bit of time to one of Asia’s favourite pastimes while you are here, especially when you see what they have on offer, and I’m not talking about the goods!
The Berjaya Times Square mall is unbelievably huge! It is one of the largest malls in the world, and is big enough to hold multiple storeys of shops (a good mixture of brands and quirky independent stores), food courts, a multiscreen cinema and even a whole theme park inside! It is worth the visit just to see it!
Okay, yes this is another Westernised mall filled with high end brands and goods. If you like shopping however then you will enjoy browsing in the air conditioned comfort. Just be prepare to get your credit card out with the high end Asian and Western brand stores.
The main reason to visit here though is that it provides immediate MRT access to two of Kuala Lumpur’s great attractions, the Aquaria KLCC which is located in the mall, and the Petronas Towers, which are directly on top of it!
The Aquarium is attached to the KLCC mall via a linked underground tunnel and is a great way to spend a couple of hours. They have a range of exhibits including an Oceanarium, and put an emphasis on shark and turtle conservation projects.
The Petronas Towers are to KL what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or the Houses of Parliament or Big Ben are to London. Every other postcard features them and no trip to the city will be complete without at least seeing these quintessential structures.
If you want to see the view from the observation deck (which is only half way up), you really do have to queue up early, as they go on sale at 8.30 am and are limited to a certain number every day. If you want to see the Petronas towers at their best however, then see them in the late afternoon and wait for the sun to set and the lights to go on. The park outside is perfect to sit back and enjoy one of the best views in the city.
Perdana Botanical Gardens.
More commonly known as the lake gardens, this is another great example of the British colonial legacy in KL and is the perfect area to escape the madness of the city for a little while. Your soul will thank you as you take some time out just to stroll around the lake surrounded by manicured gardens or even have a picnic. If you come in the early morning before the heat gets too intense, you can take your time to soak in the relaxing atmosphere amongst the early morning joggers and Tai Chi practitioners.
Bird Park And Butterfly Park.
A short walking distance from the Lake Gardens is the KL Bird Park and Butterfly Park, two excellent parks that will help you get back to nature just a little bit. The birds are very used to people and will often get very close. Both of these parks are pretty much next to each other so can both be visited together.
This attraction is technically just outside the city limits of Kuala Lumpur, in Selangor, but is still easily reachable by train. One part impressive geological feature, one part impressive Hindu temple and shrine, the Batu caves are a unique must see attraction if you are in KL. The steps up to the temple itself will test the unfit, so make sure you take it slow and easy if you can’t handle it! But trust me, the views from the top as well as inside the caves are more than worth the effort!
Kuala Lumpur may not hold some of Malaysia’s best or most popular attractions, but it still has more than enough to keep you occupied for at least a few days and after repeated visits over many years is one of my favourite cities in the world! You may not initially warm to it, and the taxi drivers will definitely induce a murderous rage inside you, but the longer you spend in this sprawling, chaotic, slightly run down and quintessentially South East Asian city, the more it grows on you.
What about you? What are your favourite things to do in Kuala Lumpur?
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Yeah, I agree. I royally ignored KL for other areas in Malayasia. But I did manage to visit Batu caves, Petronas and Suria KLCC. However, I think Colonial District and Jalan Petaling would have been fun. Next time for sure.
Most people do I think Deepika, I’m glad I’ve given you reason to return though, it is a great city with a lot to see and do.
One of my faves! I heart KL, a lot. 😉
Me too! 😀
This looks a fantastic city! I like the idea of visiting the not-so-popular places, I’ll bet there are more hidden gems and great experiences than the well written about cities.
It absolutely is Rachel, KL is seriously underrated and often ignored, and you are so right there is so much to see and do there. These are just some of the highlights that you could fit into three days!
Sounds like a tiring yet exciting three days 🙂
When we get out to this area of the world, we won’t ignore KL! I’ve read so many wonderful things about the place so we’ll definitely be stopping by for a while 🙂
Great decision, I’m sure you won’t regret it! ;D Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
I spent three days or so in KL a few years back and absolutely loved it! My favourite spots were Jalan Petaling and the Bird Park! We also went to the planetarium, purely to make the most of the aircon – randomly we found ourselves watching a movie narrated by Tom Hanks about the evolution of meteors!
Haha that is awesome! I never knew Tom Hanks narrated anything at the planetarium? Right, that’s something for me to go and check out on my next trip there! ;D
It might not still be showing, that was a couple of years ago! But the planetarium was kinda cool as I remember it!
Worth checking out I think! ;D
Perfect timing! I was only thinking this morning I need to start thinking about KL (as we fly home from there later this year). I’m looking forward to the street food 🙂
The street food is awesome! There are fantastic food courts literally littered all over the place, and check out the satay chicken stalls at the end of Jalan Petaling (opposite the 7/11). Heaven!
Ooo, yum thankyou thankyou! We’ll definitely be chowing down some satay chicken! Do the Malaysians do banana spring rolls like the Thais?
I know very little about this part of the world, but it appears somewhat like I picture it. Nice selection for a quick visit, but I tend to skip malls, even at home. 🙂 Is KL a decent city for parks and green space?
I tried to get a broad selection, there is SO much more to do, too much to fit into 3 days! ;D
Yeah there are certainly plenty of parks and green spaces, the one outside the KLCC mall is a nice place to view the towers, and there is always the lake gardens as I mentioned, lake Titiwangsa, the bird park, butterfly park, the zoo, the canopy walkway at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) ,,, I could go on! ;D
One of my friends recently visited KL en route to do some volunteer work and really enjoyed it. How many floors were in that shopping mall?
Oh god, in Berjaya Times Square? About 15 or 16 if memory serves, and each floor was HUGE! The KLCC mall was much smaller but much more high end, and when you consider these are just two of many, many malls … it is a great place for people who like shopping!
It is! Do you have plans to go? 🙂
Sometime in the distant future. I have just moved to the Caribbean so lots to explore here for now
Hope you have a great time there! 🙂
Thank you for sharing this awesome insight into KL! Looks like an incredible city to explore – so diverse!
It really is! I’m glad you enjoyed the post Alli, hope it has persuaded you to visit one day! ;D Thanks for the comment.
Kuala Lumpur was a city that I found a little difficult to get along with. I didn’t hate it, but I can’t say I really liked it either. I did enjoy the Museum of Islamic Art and Little India, though.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that, and to be fair parts of KL does take a little getting used to, especially the damn taxi drivers who are enough to induce a murderous rage in anyone! And I totally agree it is more than a little rough around the edges. But the positives really do outweigh the negatives if you take the time to see them. The Islamic museum really is fantastic. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Wow I didn’t realise Kuala Lumpur was so sci fi like! Those caves appeal to me the most, looks like you did a lot!!
I’ve actually been to KL quite a lot for both short and extended visits, so I’ve got to see quite a lot of the city that many visitors don’t see. Ha, I don’t know if Sci Fi is how I’d refer to KL itself, but some of the malls are certainly pretty impressive! The Batu Caves are astounding and well worth a visit if you are ever in the city. Thanks for the comment Laura. 🙂
My friend is going to Malaysia this summer and I’m gonna forward him this article!!! Very interesting read, especially for someone like me who’s never been to the place.
Thank you Sabina, I hope he finds it useful. Malaysia is absolutely amazing. You should go with him! ;D
I would love to visit KL. Didn’t get the chance when I was in SEA, but hope to at some point. And I will take some of your advice. 🙂
Glad to be of help Tracie. 🙂 Hope you enjoy KL as much as I did!
Great rundown of things to do in KL! I loved the city, and I never got why many people don’t. KL is where I met up with my family during our trip to Asia and none of them liked it so much, except me. I loved Batu Caves and the delicious street food on offer, but now I wish checked out those malls, they look crazy!
Thank you! Well some places aren’t for everyone I suppose, but KL has always had a rough time in the reputation stakes! ;D There’s always another trip?
Great tips here especially for the Petronas Towers. Personally I´d like to see the Batu caves.
Thanks Christina, the Batu caves are fantastic! Well worth a day trip.
I am going to KL may12-15 and found this article to be super helpful in terms of what to do! Thank you!! Hopefully Ill manage to follow your schedule 🙂
Thank you Steph! Hope you enjoy your trip, it’s an awesome city. 🙂
That Berjaya Times Square Mall looks insane! I have to check that out!
It really is awesome, you should go for it!
can we go to twin tower skybridge for free?
No, it used to be free but they introduced a charge about 4 or 5 years ago now. It’s only about RM 10.
I love KL and all of these places are definitely worth a visit! It is well worth more than a few days though
I definitely agree, I think it is such a shame travellers generally only spend a few days here. I come back to KL all the time (I use it as a hub for the region too) and can easily spend weeks here at a time. So much to see and do that I haven’t even mentioned here!
Love your photos, KL sounds amazing!
Thanks, it really is!
Thanks for this, there is a lot of info here. Me and my fiancee are heading to KL at the start of next year (as part of a bigger trip around Malaysia and SEAsia) and are starting our research. The info in here is absolutely amazing, so much better than the guidebooks. I do have a question though, what is it like getting around KL, is there a good train/monorail system? If so, do you know the details?
Hi Dan, thanks so much I’m glad you’re finding it useful. the train system in KL is pretty decent and covers most of the city fairly well including outlying areas like the Batu caves. They are extending it all the time too. Tickets are fairly cheap and are charged for the distance traveled. There is also the KLIA Express train which goes non-stop between KL Sentral train station and KLIA.
I’m visiting Kuala Lumpur in a couple of months so this is really useful. I didn’t know about the Batu caves, they look amazing. Thanks for the suggestions.
The Batu Caves are well worth a visit Mike, just keep an eye out for those damn monkeys! ;D
I haven’t been to KL in a few years, your’e really making me want to go back after reading this!
Glad to hear it Chanel, you should! ;D
Thanks, I’m visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time and this was so useful.
Thanks Paul, happy to hear it. 🙂
Perfect timing on finding this, we are flying to KL tomorrow from Bangkok (a last minute change of plans) and are planning the trip right now, we’ll be there a good few days too! Thanks.
Glad to be of service Megan, hope you have an awesome time in KL, come back and let me know!
Seems great fun. My husband really want us to visit malaysia. Hope to be there soon. Can u suggest me other cities in malaysia i must not miss? 🙂
There are a ton of must see places in Malaysia, just check out my Malaysia guide in the destinations section 🙂
I know this may be a little bit out of your realm of experience but we are travelling as a family with our young daughters (10 and 4), KL looks like a lot of fun but would you say it is kid friendly?
KL is absolutely kid friendly, as a city it is great anyway but there are so many free parks you can take them and so many kid friendly attractions. Even the malls are great places (check out the theme park in Berjaya)!
I had no idea KL could look and sound so amazing, I totally admit I didn’t take the time to explore it (I spent a night there and then left to explore Malaysia), I wish I had spent more time there now.
You missed out John! ;D It’s a good excuse to go back there though, right?
Really useful, thank you.
Glad to hear it Manjulika 🙂
Love this post, so informative
So much to pack into so little time! I cannot wait to get to KL and your post is making me even more excited!
Glad to hear it Phil, have a great time there!
Have always thought of KL as underrated. Looks like you do as well.
Definitely. I wish more people would give it a chance!
I definitely agree, a few days is not enough for KL! I loved my week there the last time I visited (have been twice) and there is always something else to do. You have highlighted a lot of the great spots though. Amazing post. I really need to go back soon!
Thanks Lee, me too! And no it definitely isn’t.
I love KL! Although reading this has made me realise there is so much I haven’t seen yet! I definitely need to go back.
KL is amazing, I can’t wait to go back myself!
Another city on my never ending bucket list! Thanks!
Haha you are more than welcome Natalie! ;D
I have to admit I’ve never really given Kuala Lumpur all that much thought, I’ve flown through it a few times on my way around SEAsia and it never really appealed to me for some reason. Maybe I’ll have to rethink that and check it out.
KL does suffer from that quite a lot to be fair Alex but trust me, the city is more than worth getting to know for a few days. Those that take the time are generally surprised and don’t regret it!
The bird park and butterfly park sound right up my street! Are they expensive to get in?
No they aren’t, I admit I forget the exact price off the top of my head now but they are both pretty good value for money.
I am going to Malaysia in just two months and I can’t wait! Kuala Lumpur looks unbelievable.
It Is Louise, have an awesome time!
One of my favourite cities in Asia, I love KL, especially the food there! So amazing!
The food is stunning! There’s a chicken satay stall just round the corner from Jalan Petaling which I always go too, plastic chairs, BBQ smoke and the best chicken satay ever! I love it!
This is a very helpful and informative read. I’m going to KL for the first time next month. I can’t decide if I wanna stay for 4 or 5 days in KL. Can you recommend more things to see or do if I stay an extra day or two? I think 3 days is too short for me….
Thanks Rick, I’mglad you found it useful. I think an extra few days in KL is a great idea, and you can always spend a day or two just exploring the neighbourhoods around some of these sites themselves and getting to know the city a little better. Butif you want something specific how about FRIM, the forest research institute of Malaysia? There are tons of temples, mosques and churches like Thean Hou Temple or the National Mosque, there are tons of malls if you like that sort of thing like the mid valley megamall, loads of museums … You will find a LOT of stuff you want to do when you are there just by walking around too.
Perfect guide for our upcoming trip! Thanks.
Happy it helped Les!
I have a layover in KL before I head to Thailand next month! This is great timing!
Planning my KL weekend around this, thank you!
Amazing! Hope you have a great time!
‘Nice one Michael.
I’m hoping to go to Thailand again in 2023 and will definitely spend at least 3 or 4 days there as I like to take my time! 😀
Me too! I can’t wait to get back to seAsia in general! Hopefully by then they will all be fully open with no restrictions.