Answers from Our Experts (1)
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.