7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Malacca, Malaysia
The city of Malacca (or Melaka) is one of my favourite places to visit in Malaysia, as there’s so much to see and do. Plus, it’s only a couple of hours by bus from Kuala Lumpur, or slightly longer from Singapore, making it the perfect destination for a weekend or quick trip. But don’t accept my word for it; check out these seven reasons why you should visit Malacca on your trip to Malaysia.
It’s UNESCO World Heritage Listed
Since 2008, Malacca has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, along with George Town, as one of the historic cities of the Straits of Malacca. The city has a fascinating history, developing from a Malay sultanate through subsequent periods of Portuguese, Dutch and English colonial rule, to being part of independent Malaysia.
Don’t miss visiting the remains of the A Famosa fort and St Paul’s Church, both dating to the Portuguese period and some of the oldest European architectural remains in South East Asia. In particular, the Church was used as a base by the missionary Francis Xavier, and was his original burial site. Next to these sites is the Dutch Square, along with the Stadthuys and Christ Church, dating from the subsequent period of Dutch rule.
To delve more into the more recent history of the city I recommend visiting the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, plus just wandering along Jonker Street (officially Jalan Hang Jebat) and the adjacent streets full of old-style houses.
The Street Food
While the UNESCO World Heritage listing has certainly put Malacca on the radar of international visitors, most of the Malaysians visiting Malacca come for one key reason: the food! The street food in Malacca is some of the best that I’ve experience in Malaysia, and that’s saying something in a country with such an incredible variety of street food.
My number one recommendation is to try the chicken and rice balls from one of the small shops on Jonker Street. My choice was Hoe Kee, but check out which place currently has the longest lines. So cheap and delicious!
Other dishes to try include Nyonya laksa, cendol, Malaccan wonton noodles and fish ball soup. On Fridays and Saturdays, a street market with lots of food options is held along Jonker Street. Otherwise, take a taxi to Portuguese Square outside of the main town to try the local seafood, often with hot Portuguese sauces, on outdoor tables.
Walls of Street Art
While wandering through the streets of Malacca, particularly close to the river and through the warren of alleyways in Chinatown, you’ll quickly spy walls decorated in street art.
One of the best ways to check out the street art in Malacca is on one of the regular cruises along the river (the dock is near the Stadthuys). The most popular time for the cruises is late afternoon or early evening, although it won’t be that easy to take photos along the way and the boats can get crowded. Otherwise, take a slower stroll along the banks of the river (ideally early in the morning before the day heats up). Many of the works reference the history and varied cultures that exist in the city.
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A Beautiful Mosque and Countless Temples
Prior to arriving in Malacca I came across photos of a beautiful mosque perched above the sea. It was a bit trickier to locate and visit the mosque, known as Masjid Selat Melaka or Malacca Straits Mosque, as it’s located outside of the main centre of Malacca. It’s about 4km away from the bridge over the river, located on a recently developed island that has remained largely empty, and is best reached via taxi (about 10 minutes) or on a bicycle. Head there late afternoon, not long before sunset. After visiting inside (robes are provided to cover up), then wait along the shoreline for a beautiful sunset shot.
If you’re interested in visiting more religious sites, there are plenty of Chinese temples along Jonker Street and nearby, the Sri Poyatha Moorthi Temple on Jalan Tukang Besi (the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia) and the Christ Church next to the Dutch Square. The mixture of cultures and religions is one of the most fascinating aspects of Malaysia.
Museums and More Museums
If you walk along Jalan Kota from the Dutch Square, underneath the hill with St Paul’s, you’ll notice museum after museum located on the street, in addition to other museums elsewhere in the city such as the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. It would be impossible to visit them all on a single visit! My only explanation for so many museums is that it must be a popular destination for school excursions.
While I don’t advise visiting them all, visit at least one or two to learn more about the history of the city, Malaysia and Muslim culture in general. The air-conditioned interiors are also usually a welcome reprieve from the tropical heat. My top pick is the Stadthuys, with its exhibits on regional history. In particular I found the displays on marriage customs to be fascinating. Other options include the Maritime Museum (inside a ship), Museum of Literature, Malaysia Architecture Museum, Melaka Islamic Museum, People’s Museum and the Sultanate Palace Museum.
Its Cafe Culture
While the hawker stalls serving up Malacca’s street food aren’t generally the best places to laze over a meal (the queues mean that it’s generally polite to leave as soon as you’ve finished eating), the city has a delightful cafe culture in Malacca to while away mealtimes and hot afternoons, away from the sun. There’s great coffee on offer, and many also serve western style food, if you want a break from traditional Malaysian cuisine.
My number one recommendation is Baboon House, located on Heeren Street, just one street away from Jonker Street. I was so disappointed that I’d just eaten lunch and couldn’t try one of their delicious looking burgers. Another great choice is the distinctive yellow building of the Geographer Cafe on Jonker Street, also the perfect retreat for a cocktail or cold drink. Alternatively, wander along the Jonker Street side of river in the evening to enjoy river-side beers at your choice of bar.
It’s Easy to Reach
As I already mentioned, Malacca is such an easy city to reach and add to your Malaysian itinerary. It’s just 2 hours from Kuala Lumpur (traffic dependent, of course) on one of the many cheap but comfortable, regular buses. It’s possible to visit on a day trip, but I’d recommend spending at least a night to try as much of the food options as possible (and having an empty stomach on arrival!)
Additionally, Malacca can also be reached by direct bus from Singapore. The journey takes about 4 hours (including the waits at border control). If travelling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, consider stopping at Malacca along the way and experiencing this awesome destination.
Want to explore further afield? Here are a few recommendations for top things to do in Malaysia.
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