What are the best things to see and do in Jakarta?

Jakarta isn’t the most obvious tourist attraction, but there are more things to see and do in the undiscovered city than you might think. Check out Forbes Travel Guide’s list of the five best things to see and do in Jakarta:

1. After landing in Jakarta, take off again with a vertical trip to the peak of the National Monument (Monas), a marble tower topped with a sculpted flame that “burns” 132 meters over this vast metropolis. A centerpiece of the city, in central Jakarta, Monas was begun in 1961 by independence leader and former president Sukarno and completed in 1975. From the top, zoom in on what is said to be Southeast Asia’s largest mosque Istiqlal (Independence Mosque) and take in Jakarta’s rolling cityscape (smog and all). At the base, learn about Indonesia’s fight for independence at the National History Museum and join local families enjoying a stroll or bike ride around this national marker.

2. The malls in Jakarta are not just for shopping; they’re often the place to stay, eat, play and people watch. While there are more than 70 to choose from, the Grand Indonesia and nearby Plaza Indonesia (both near Monas) will give you a taste of what the Jakarta mall craze is all about. A Broadway-themed floor at the Grand Indonesia lights up with occasional live music. Restaurants, ice cream shops and cafes abound. Recharge at Kopi Luwak, a coffee shop that sells the full-flavor luwak coffee—an Indonesian delicacy that makes a great gift.

3. Experience one of Indonesia’s most beautiful and fascinating traditions in the country’s capital with a visit to a wayang museum and performance. Wayang, a type of traditional theater prevalent on the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java, comes in two forms: shadow puppet shows and those with elaborately dressed human performers. Based off of Hindu tales and influenced by Indonesian traditions, the performances unfold to gamelan music and a Javanese-language script. See a large collection of wayang at the Museum Wayang in Jakarta’s old town (Kota), the former Dutch colonial hub. Or, for the truly curious, experience an entire show at Taman Ismail Marzuki Arts Center or Wayang Orang Bharata Jakarta, a theater packed with locals. Just note that the performance lasts for hours, so sit in the back if you want to sneak out before pulling an all-nighter.

4. Learn all about Indonesian history and culture at two of the city’s most notable museums, the Indonesian National Gallery and the National Museum. The National Museum, one of Jakarta’s best-kept secrets, boasts 140,000-plus artifacts that illuminate the country’s diverse people and rich history. The National Gallery displays fine art in permanent and temporary exhibitions that truly impresses, with modern work from noted Muslim artists among the highlights.

5. Hotel staff and tourist agencies often point travelers to Kota, the old town of Batavia that was once the thriving center of Dutch colonial Indonesia. The main square, lined with European-style buildings, comes to life for festivals and weekend events. The famous Café Batavia is a must-visit if you’re in the area, as is the Museum Wayang. Venture far from the square, however, and you’ll encounter littered streets and abandoned, unpreserved buildings with slums not far away. Indeed, the run-down Kota is certainly not the vibrant hub it once was, and appeals most to history buffs and those who want to see a different side of the city.

  • On September 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Jakarta?

    Jakarta draws residents from all over the Indonesian archipelago, and the restaurants in the bustling city reflect the mix of unique cuisines. The capital city is the natural place for the culinary-curious to sample the country’s spectrum of cooking, as well as fine international cuisines. Here are the Forbes Travel Guide editor’s picks for the best restaurants to visit in Jakarta:

    1. Payon. For authentic Javanese cuisine, visit Payon, in the bustling and high-energy Kemang area of South Jakarta. The local and foreign cosmopolitans come here to escape urban life — the restaurant is an oasis of greenery in a city of skyscrapers and you can dine on traditional, well-made dishes under an open pagoda.

    2. Huize Trivelli Heritage Resto & Patisserie. This historic restaurant, operating out of a 1939 house, is a family restaurant in the truest sense — the menu of original dishes has been handed down over several generations. The offerings include traditional Indonesian meals adjusted for the Dutch palate, while the décor reflects the family’s Javenese-European and Chinese cultural traditions.

    3. Lara Djonggrang. This spot is a go-to restaurant as much for its enchanting ambiance as its menu made up of a range of traditional eats from across Indonesia. Antiques and cultural artifacts are displayed in a dimly lit, mystical setting — statues from Javanese temples, traditional instruments and shadow puppets among them.

    4. SATOO. Those looking for a variety of types of cuisine can head to Satoo, the international, upscale buffet at the Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta. It is so popular (with both locals and visitors) that reservations are highly recommended. Go hungry, and leave room for multiple trips to the dessert bar.

    5. Anatolia. At the top of the list for authentic gourmet Turkish cuisine, Anatolia is also a good pick for vegetarians who will find a slew of options here. This Kemang-area eatery serves up belly dancing performances in the traditionally decorated space (think Persian carpets and artifacts adorning the walls).
  • On September 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Jakarta?

    Jakarta offers some luxurious places to stay for both business and leisure travelers. Here’s where our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend staying during a visit to Indonesia’s capital:

    1. Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta. Expect stellar service and all-out luxury at Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This hotel leans towards the business travel, but it offers resort-style amenities such as a pool set in a lush garden, a modern gym with steam rooms, and a huge international buffet that draws non-hotel guests.

    2. Hotel Indonesia Kempinski. Built under President Sukarno for the 1962 Asian Games, this spot is one of Indonesia’s first luxury hotels. Now conveniently connected to the Grand Indonesia shopping complex, Kempinski has modern décor and elegance and offers stylish dining and drinking on its rooftop bar and best-in-town Italian restaurant, Casa d’Oro.

    3. Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta. Located in the central business district, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta is an escapist’s destination all year long. The gracious and accommodating staff offer personalized service to guests amid a tranquil hotel ambiance (we love the large rooms and private balconies). The luxe hotel spa offers a full range of relaxing treatments, including a must-try Javanese massage.

    4. Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. Known for its superb service, Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta employs a staff that gets even the smallest details right. The recent renovation paid off — the hotel’s sleek guest rooms are some of the finest in the city. Got down time? Head to the outdoor swimming pool or to one of the several upscale dining spots.

    5. The Ritz Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place. The smaller of two Ritz-Carlton properties in Jakarta, Pacific Place is made up of all suites and offers club service to every guest. Check in on the 21st-floor lounge, which features fantastic views of the city. The hotel, which is connected to the Pacific Place mall, also has a spa, gym and pool.
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