Like any other major city in the world, Kuala Lumpur has many sights to see, if only one takes the time to do so. Alas, time is money and not all of us are fortunate enough to spend enough time in this city to enjoy it like a local. But if you only have as little as 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur (KL), what could you achieve out of it? That’s where we swoop in to save the day.
When in KL, the best mode of transportation to get around is by car — specifically, e-hailing services. They’re fast, affordable, and efficient. This is important when you have only a limited time to get around town. Another thing to keep in mind is the city’s constant heavy traffic. While it’s not comparable to the standstill traffic in Jakarta and Bangkok, it’s also another point to note when travelling in KL.
A wise person on the internet once said that the whole point of travelling was to eat and that other activities such as visiting museums and tourist attractions were only filler activities to be done in between eating. They’re not wrong, and KL is a city of good food — it only makes sense that you eat and drink your way through it, stopping to rest in between at attraction sites.
So, do you think you can take on KL in 24 hours? If your answer is yes, then read on for our guide.
If you touch down in the morning, you’ll need some fuel to power through the first half of your day. Catch a ride from the airport and head towards the Kuala Lumpur city centre and into Pudu — a haven for local food. There are many cuisines and restaurants to pick from, but our suggestion will be Restoran 168 Wantan Mee & Curry Mee, which is a local favourite hawker restaurant known for exactly what is in its name: wantan mee and curry noodles.
Wantan mee, or wantan noodles, is specifically egg noodles served topped with barbecued pork (char siew) and dumplings in soup on the side. You can opt for the noodles to be in a soup base or dry. The latter is tossed in a soy sauce concoction.
As for the curry noodles, you can pick from your choice of either kuey teow noodles, bihun, or yellow noodles for your thick curry broth. These will be served with deep fried beancurd puffs, shredded chicken, cockles, and bean sprouts.
Don’t expect air conditioning and comfortable seating here — it’s as authentic as it gets with plastic tables and stools, telling the hawker stall owner exactly what you want, and finding yourself a seat. Can’t seem to see an empty table? No sweat — just ask a friendly local if you can share their table. We’re all friendly people here. Wash down your breakfast with a glass of kopi peng — the Cantonese dialect for iced coffee.
After filling your stomach well, hail another car and head towards the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. This 20.9-acre gated park is the world’s largest free-flight, walk-in aviary home to over 3,000 species of birds. Unless you have ornithophobia — fear of birds — this park is an amazing place to spend your late morning catching sight of colourful feathered friends. The best part is that they roam around freely, so nothing is cruel here.
Feeling hungry already? Then head over to the third stop, a 14-minute walk away. You can’t come to Malaysia without having nasi lemak for at least one meal, and one of the best places in town to have it is at Nasi Lemak Tanglin. The stall has been around since 1948, as the owners proudly say. Expect a queue especially during lunchtime — a testament of its long-standing popularity. The coconut milk rice with fried chicken is made better with its original sambal recipe, a spicy and sweet version that really hits the spot. The rice is also fluffy and fragrant, proof that the cooks don’t skimp on the coconut milk. There’s also a selection of side dishes available to complement your nasi lemak with, including rendang, curry chicken, fried chicken, fish, and more.
Next, it’s time to soak up some culture. Walk to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, one of the best places to know more about the history of Islam. There are artefacts, traditional outfits, and art pieces that allow you to develop a deeper appreciation for the artisanal side of this longstanding religion around the world. It also helps that the architecture of this building is beautiful and pristine, with nods towards traditional Islamic architecture.
At the fifth stop, it’s time to unwind and enjoy some good old-fashioned shopping. Where better to do that than in KL’s most iconic shopping mall, situated beneath the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. There’s much to be done here — there are high end and high street fashion brands to fulfil your retail needs. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes available, should you be feeling peckish again or just looking for someplace to chill and have a drink.
Some more notable places to visit in Suria KLCC include Kinokuniya, a sprawling bookstore selling all kinds of books and magazines. If you’re into science, head into Petrosains, a little interactive science theme park. In the lower floors is Aquaria KLCC, a state-of-the-art aquarium home to over 150 species of marine life.
Oh look — the sun is setting. Time to walk over to the Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur hotel, and go all the way up to the 59th floor where you’ll find Vertigo Bar. In the past year, it’s quickly become one of the best spots in the city to view the KL cityscape, thanks to its location on the rooftop of the luxury hotel. Order a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a pint of beer, and just soak in the view. It’ll be magical during the golden hour as the sun sets and the city slowly comes to life.
Did you think that you would be having your dinner in Vertigo Bar? No, we thought better. It’s back to delicious local food, this time out of the city centre. Catch a ride to Bangsar and join the queue to have banana leaf rice at Sri Nirwana Maju Restaurant Bangsar, lovingly referred to as just “Nirwana” by the locals. A popular Indian style of dining, banana leaf rice entails having a banana leaf spread out on your table as a plate.
White rice is heaped onto the leaf, and then the house selection of vegetables. Pick your gravy — dhal, fish curry or chicken curry — to be drizzled onto your rice. Then, pick some protein. There are fried chicken, mutton curry, tandoori chicken, fried fish, and more to go with your banana leaf rice. One thing’s for sure, you won’t leave this restaurant feeling hungry.
Our last stop brings you to one of KL’s best cocktail bars, Coley. Tucked away on a quiet street in Bangsar, this award-winning bar serves up some of the city’s best drinks that have been given a local twist. Think gin and coconut, whisky bubble tea, and tequila pineapple.
If you prefer to stick to the classics, may we suggest the Hanky Panky, a cocktail originally created by famed Savoy Hotel bartender, Ada Coleman? Coincidentally, that was who Coley was named after. The bar also serves some original creative cocktails that do not disappoint.
End your night by heading back to your accommodation, or towards the airport.