Whether you’re gazing up at the gleaming PETRONAS Twin Towers, stuffing your face with amazing street food, shopping multi-floor megamalls or soaking up the city’s rich history and culture, there’s something to do in Kuala Lumpur (KL to locals) for every interest. And don’t worry — even on a short visit, you can still soak up some of the best that Malaysia’s capital has to offer. With 24 hours in the city, here’s how to maximise your time, with tips straight from our local Kuala Lumpur tour guides.
Start your day with a quick jaunt outside the city centre with a KTM train ride from KL Sentral to Batu Caves. The ride should take you around 30 minutes and the trip is well worth it, especially in the morning since this is one of KL’s top attractions — so getting here early will mean less crowds. This massive limestone outcrop located just north of Kuala Lumpur features a series of caves that are home to temples and Hindu shrines. Its main attraction is the large statue of the Hindu God Murugan at the entrance, where you’ll also find a cardio-boosting 272 step climb to the main cavern. Just note that no matter what time of day you visit, there are monkeys almost everywhere (and sneaky ones at that) so be careful not to feed them or even have snacks or pop cans in plain view, which they’ve been known to grab.
Following your time at Batu Caves, we recommend checking out KL Bird Park, home to what’s known as the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary. To get here, make your way back to KL Sentral where it’s a five-minute train ride to Pasar Seni, with the bird park about a 20-minute walk from the station. The sprawling park, located in Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, is home to approximately 200 species totalling over 3,000 birds. The park features four sections and it’s in the first two where you’ll find birds flying freely in the aviary, which closely resembles their natural habitat.
Now that you’ve spent your morning doing some substantial sightseeing, we’re guessing you may have worked up an appetite! One of the best places to get a quick, local and wallet-friendly meal is in Brickfields, KL’s Little India (also one of the stops on our KL Food Experience Tour). Hop in a taxi or take an Uber and then spend some time exploring before settling on a restaurant, many of which feature heaping (and very satisfying) banana leaf meals — basically steamed rice and a variety of curries atop a banana leaf. Vishal Food and Catering is a local favourite.
Once your appetite is satiated, it’s time for some culture. Hop back in a taxi or an Uber to pay a visit to the Islamic Arts Museum, which boasts amazing Islamic arts from around the world. The top-notch collection of Islamic artifacts combined with amazing architecture make this a worthwhile addition to your KL itinerary. The extensive collection includes Islamic decorative arts, textiles, jewellery, pottery, carpets and more. Once you’ve had your fill of culture, make your way on foot to Central Market for some souvenir shopping, and, if you’re hungry, a snack from the market’s top floor food court.
A short walk from the Central Market area you’ll find Petaling Street (also known as KL’s Chinatown). If you grabbed a snack at Central Market and you’re not quite ready for dinner yet, you can spend some time browsing and bargaining your way through the array of stalls and kiosks selling everything from t-shirts and knockoff handbags to souvenirs, toys, electronics, shoes and more. Once you are in search for something to eat, you won’t have to look too hard to fill your belly. Petaling Street and the surrounding areas are a street food paradise, with your primary options being cheap and delicious Chinese food.
If you feel like extending the evening with a drink or two, make your way to PS150 Bar, located about a five-minute walk from Petaling Street. Hidden behind a deceptively nondescript entrance, the bar has a speakeasy feel and serves up some of the city’s best Asian-inspired cocktails.
For travellers on a short visit, we’d recommend having a layover that will allow you to spend two to three hours in the city centre, and another hour for travelling to and from the airport, allotting at least another hour to go through customs.
The best way to get from the airport to the sites is by taking the KLIA Ekspres train, which should get you into the city (KL Sentral) in around 30 minutes. Trains depart every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours. You can catch the KLIA Express train at Level 1 at KLIA terminal, or at Gateway@KLIA2 at KLIA2 terminal.
If you want to see KL for two hours for a morning or afternoon layover, make your way to KL Sentral and explore Brickfields, also known as Little India. Go for a quick meal at an Indian restaurant and simply spend some time exploring on foot, soaking up the rich culture and vibrant atmosphere. (Pssst! Our Kuala Lumpur tours are perfect for when you only have a couple of hours to explore!)
If you’re in KL for an evening or nighttime layover, head to Chinatown (Petaling Street) to grab a quick meal at one of the many roadside stalls. Then go for a cocktail at PS150, a hidden bar serving creative drinks. After that (depending on how much time you’ve got left on your layover) take a train ride to KLCC to see the city’s iconic landmark, the PETRONAS Twin Towers.
Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of incredible food, cool city hustle and bustle, infamous architecture (we’re looking at you, Petronas Towers) and just about everything else we love about Southeast Asia. Jump on a KL tour with Urban Adventures to see the sights and eat the bites of this vibrant Malaysian city with the people that know it best, the locals!