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Climb a tower
There's no doubt that Kuala Lumpur's most famous – and impressive – landmarks are its towers: the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower. While both buildings offer stunning photo opportunities from their bases and various viewpoints around the city, to truly experience them you have to go up. Seeing Kuala Lumpur from the viewing platform in either building (or from the Twin Towers' Skybridge) gives a lofty, 360-degree perspective that's the perfect way to start or to top-off a trip to Malaysia.
Haggle for a deal
Tacky, hot, sweaty, cheap, tourist trap – call it what you will, but no trip to Kuala Lumpur is really complete without a stop at Petaling Street. The centre of KL's Chinatown, this market strip is lined by vendors flouting all kinds of goods. Here, only one rule exists: don't settle for the first price. Haggling, and the banter that goes with it, is all part of the fun.
With three major cultures and races making up Malaysia's population, it's no surprise that different religions are visible and notable all across Kuala Lumpur. Make a day of exploring them. Start by taking a taxi out to Batu Caves – a Hindu temple found inside a huge cave above a 272-step staircase that doubles as a monkey playground. Then, head back into the city to visit Masjid Jamek in KL's old quarter. This tourist-friendly mosque is situated at the very heart of Kuala Lumpur – the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers – and is open to visitors (as long as they are suitably covered up). Finally, drop by St Mary's Cathedral, just a short walk away from Masjid Jamek, for a small but well preserved piece of colonial Anglican architecture.
If anything in Malaysia can stand up to the fame of the Petronas Twin Towers, its the country's food. Known for its blend of Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisines, food plays a significant role in Malaysian life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the variety of eateries in Kuala Lumpur, and while the city's fine dining scene is always growing, it's the road-side and street corner mamaks and nasi kandar (mixed rice) stalls that offer the most authentic dining experience.
You could spend your entire visit to Kuala Lumpur eating your way across town and not get bored. But there is more to the city than just its food, so Forbes Travel Guide’s editors suggest exploring this short list of the best things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur.
1. Go to the top of the Petronas Towers. These instantly recognizable twins of KL’s skyline are wildly popular; tickets to the sky bridge and observation deck sell out early. Get in line first thing in the morning or ask your hotel to book ahead for you.
2. Visit Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. This enormous bird park houses the world’s largest free-flight, walk-in aviary and is home to more than 3,000 birds. It’s a short cab ride from the city center and is a great afternoon activity for kids and adults alike.
3. Visit the aquarium. Like the Bird Park, Aquaria KLCC is a haven for kids and since it’s indoor and air-conditioned, is a nice break for parents too. Don’t miss the moving walkway, through which you can see sharks and an enormous stingray swimming overhead.
4. Eat at Hutong Lot 10. On the basement level of Lot 10 Shopping Mall sits this hawker-style food court, where you can try all manner of traditional Malay dishes, like tender five spices beef brisket, in cool, air-conditioned comfort. It’s a great way to try the local dishes while people watching.
5. Go to the butterfly park. You can see more than six thousand butterflies from more than 120 species; it’s a beautiful sight to behold.