About Melaka / Malacca
Melaka, also known as Malacca, is a beautiful historical port city and UNESCO World Heritage Site for Culture, just 150km or 2 hours drive south of Kuala Lumpur.
Melaka is known for the Peranakans, the term used to describe descendants of mostly early Chinese settlers of South East Asia and later Arab and Dutch.
The highlight of Melaka is the beautiful mix of Peranakan and Malay cuisine and preserved historical buildings from the colonial times under the Dutch and British.
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Melaka City Travel Tips
Let’s start with some helpful travel tips for visiting Melaka.
Transport: The easiest way to go around Melaka is to simply walk around, as almost everything is easily reachable on foot.
Stay: The best is to book accommodation in the center of Melaka.
Internet, calls: The easiest way to stay connected on your trip to Melaka and Malaysia is to get an affordable local SIM card, either at the airport or in one of the supermarkets or phone stores. You can also buy an affordable Malaysia eSIM online through Airalo or Holafly.
Currency: The currency used in Melaka and Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit, abbreviated as RM, and 1 USD is around 4.5 Malaysian Ringgit.
Tours, activities, tickets: There are plenty of options online, but the most extensive selection of trusted ones is found on Klook, GetYourGuide, Viator, and the local provider worth checking out is Tripcarte.
Melaka Travel Map
Top things to do in Melaka
1. Visit Red Square, Stadthuys & Christ Church
Melaka’s beautiful Red Square, also called the Dutch Square, is the icon of the city and houses colonial structures like the Stadthuys, Christ Church, and the Queen Victoria Fountain. The bordeaux red buildings are the most picturesque spot in Melaka, and the square is portrayed on all Melaka postcards.
Red Square’s Stadthuys is the oldest remaining Dutch colonial building in the Orient, which was first used as the government seat by the Dutch and later the British.
2. Eat all the food at Jonker Street Night Market
A must-visit in Melaka is the Jonker Street Night Market which operates on a three-day-a-week system on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Since 2010, Jonker Street Night Market has been an icon of this historical city, offering a great night out for exploring the culinary delights, local handicrafts, and culture through its 450 and counting stalls.
We loved the food at Jonker Street Night Market, and some of the best things were definitely: Coconut Ice Cream, Durian puff, Papaya salad, pure Mango smoothies, and veggie rolls.
Even though everyone (us included) focuses mainly on the food at Jonker Street Night Market, you can also find an immense range of other stalls. There are stalls with local handicrafts, clothing, packaged snacks, herbs, spices, teas, jewelry, toys, and souvenirs. If you’re into tattoos, you can also get a temporary tattoo at one of the Henna stalls.
Read all about it in our article Jonker Street Night Market: Full Guide.
3. Cruise on the Melaka River
The best way to explore Melaka’s riverside is on the Melaka River Cruise, a 45 minutes round trip, costing 30RM (about $7) for foreigners and 25RM for local adults.
Melaka’s river cruise runs daily between 9 am and 11 pm and the best time to go on the river cruise is towards the sunset as you watch the city’s countless beautiful lights turn on.
You can buy tickets for the Melaka River Cruise right next to the tourist information center opposite Red Square or purchase them online.
Book your Melaka River Cruise Ticket on Tripcarte.
4. Ride in a cyclo or trishaw
A very popular thing to do in Melaka is riding in the colorful and funky cyclos named trishaws.
The trishaw ride in Melaka lasts 1 hour and costs 40 Malaysian Ringgit (about $9), and they take you around the central part of town.
The most popular time for taking a trishaw ride in Melaka seems to be at night when all the trishaws are glowing with lights. It’s also the time when the trishaws are playing very loud music from their onboard loudspeakers.
We didn’t go for a ride, as we loved going around on foot, but we can imagine it being a fun activity.
Note: We’re not sure, but it seems like the music they play on the trishaws is adjusted to the people on the trishaw, so for example, we’ve heard Indian music played for Indians, and Chinese music played for Chinese.
5. Visit St Paul’s Church
St Paul’s Church in Melaka, built in 1521, is located on the small hill above the Red (Dutch) Square and is the oldest church building in Malaysia and South East Asia.
Even though it’s not entirely preserved (the roof is missing), it does contain the tombstones of influential people from those times that were previously found scattered around the area.
And right in front of the church, you will also find an old white lighthouse built much later in 1849.
From the hill where St Paul’s Church is, you can arguably have the best view of Melaka and even see the sea.
6. Check out A Famosa
Right under St Paul’s hill, you can find A Famosa, the remains of the old Dutch fortress.
7. Find the street art
Melaka, along with Penang, holds an immense amount of street art that is waiting for you to be discovered.
Melaka’s street art project helped transform many of the old forgotten streets to become the centerpieces of tourist attractions.
You can find murals in many locations spread out around Melaka’s downtown. The most known street art spots in Melaka are My Kiehl’s Heritage, street art along the river, “The Well” on Jalan Hang Kasturi, and the art on Jalan Kampung Pantai street.
“The Well,” Jalan Hang Kasturi street, and Jalan Kampung Pantai street are all right next to each other, and the best way to find all of them is to just write “The Well street art” on Google Maps. This area is also the most interesting because it portrays lifelike murals of local life.
Note: Some street art might not look like in our photos or photos of others online when you come, as they do deteriorate through time.
My Kiehl’s Heritage
Street art on the river
Jalan Hang Kasturi
Jalan Kampung Pantai
8. Enjoy delicious Melaka food
One of the most important things to do in Melaka is to taste all the delicious food, especially the local Nyonya cuisine, the fusion of local Malaysian and Indonesian food with Chinese and later Indian cuisine.
We really loved all the food we tried in Melaka, and some of the best dishes we had were Nyonya Laksa (spicy noodle dish) and Nyonya Cendol (a delicious dessert).
If you love trying new delicious food like us, read our guide about the Jonker Street Night Market in Melaka.
Read more in the section below: Where to eat in Melaka.
9. Visit the floating Melaka Straits Mosque
The beautiful “floating” Melaka Straits Mosque is about a 15-minute drive from the center, and it’s pretty unique, as it looks like it’s floating when it’s high tide.
And if you visit when it’s low tide, you might get the chance to even go down to the “beach” right next to it. We saw many photos online of that, and it looks super cool. But, unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky.
The mosque is open from 5 am until late at night, so you can visit during sunrise or sunset.
Melaka Straits Mosque visiting tips
Although the Melaka Straits Mosque is a bit out from the city, you can easily reach it with a taxi or, better yet, by booking a Grab car.
And it’s not hard to get a Grab ride back either, as some reviews on Google say (that it’s so far away and remote that nobody will come and pick you up). 😉 We had a fantastic Grab driver who shared our love for Vietnam pick us up in a few minutes after requesting a ride.
Dress code: Before entering the Melaka Straits Mosque, women have to cover their hair, arms, and legs, and men are also provided with a robe to cover their legs in case they are wearing shorts.
All the clothing which you use for covering is provided for free.
10. Visit Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Melaka is the oldest traditional Chinese Buddhist temple in all of Malaysia, and its details are genuinely remarkable. We loved observing all the decorations on the roof, walls, and inside the temple.
No matter if you’re religious or not, we’d say it’s well worth a visit, as it’s an integral part of Melaka’s history and an insight into the culture of the Chinese community here.
11. Stroll through Tokong Street
In Tokong Street, where the Cheng Hoon Temple is, you can also find the Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Temple, the oldest existing Hindu temple in Malaysia, and the Kampung Kling Mosque.
It’s great to see the diversity and harmony between the different communities in Melaka.
12. Observe Melaka from above
Along with St Paul’s hill above the Red Square in Melaka, you can observe Melaka from the Taming Sari Revolving Tower and The Shore Sky Tower.
The best one, according to most people, is the Taming Sari Revolving Tower, which supposedly gets you a better 360 view, unlike The Shore Sky Tower.
We planned on visiting the Taming Sari Revolving Tower, but in the end, we didn’t have enough time to do it.
13. Visit Kampung Morten village
Kampung Morten village, the only remaining traditional village of the first Melaka settlers, is only about a 20-minute walk from Jonker Street and Red Square. The houses are nicely decorated, have yards full of greenery and flowers, and now serve as homestays.
You can see parts of the Kampung Morten village on the Melaka River Cruise if you don’t plan to visit it specifically, and that’s what we did.
14. Enjoy food and drinks by the river
Melaka’s riverside is filled with small cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy some food and drinks and is especially alive in the evenings.
We love every city with a river and Melaka is one of them, especially because you can walk so close to it.
15. Visit a cool cafe
Melaka offers plenty of cool-looking cafes with creative interiors and great food and drinks, like The Daily Fix Cafe, The Stolen Cup, The Baboon House, and Calanthe Art Cafe.
We enjoyed dinner at the Geographer Cafe, which looked especially great during that time. And we had a delicious vegetarian Tom Yam here, and we miss it so much that we would return to Melaka just for that. It was served in a coconut, and it was so so delicious!
16. Learn about history at Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum
History lovers should check out the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum with a collection of traditional art, costumes, jewelry, weapons, and other interesting historical artifacts.
The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum was built in 1986 as a modern reconstruction of a palace of the Melaka Sultanate based on the historical information gathered from the Malay Annals, the literary work of the Malay maritime empire composed between the 15th and 16th centuries.
Note: The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum is closed until 12th October 2022 due to renovations.
17. Visit Flor de la Mar – the maritime museum
Not far from the Red Square is the Maritime Museum, which is actually housed in a replica of the ancient Portuguese ship Flor de la Mar.
We didn’t end up visiting inside, but it looks cool from the outside, so it’s worth making the short walk down to it. And if you’re going for the Melaka River Cruise, the jetty is right next to it.
18. Visit Datuk Wira Dr. Gan Boon Leong’s bodybuilding statues
The quirkiest attraction in Melaka is definitely the statues portraying the father of Malaysian bodybuilding, Dr. Gan Boon Leong, and a counterpart to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
We forgot to take a photo of one of the statues we passed right next to Jonker Street, but they’re big and golden.
19. Observe the wildlife
It might come as a surprise, but Melaka offers quite an interesting collection of animals. The most interesting ones are the huge monitor lizards that are cousins of the scary Komodo Dragons.
You will find the monitor lizards all along the Melaka river: below the bridge at the Red Square, swimming in the river, down at the river close to St Francis Xavier Church, and further up towards Kampung Morten village.
Seeing giant monitor lizards in Melaka was a huge surprise, as before we came, we only heard of otters being present on the riverside. And even though we really looked forward to seeing otters on our 4 or 5 walks along the river, we didn’t see any in the end!
More things to do in Melaka
Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
Visit the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum to get an insight into the local Peranakan culture and history.
Pantai Klebang Sand Dunes
The sand dunes of Melaka at Pantai Klebang are nothing special, but they would serve as a great spot to watch the sunset.
Jonker Street Hawker Centre
As we were busy going around other places and visited the Jonker Street Night Market three times, we didn’t end up seeing the Hawker Centre.
You can find the A Famosa Waterpark next to A Famosa, which we didn’t have the chance to visit, but it seems like it offers some great rides.
And there’s another popular waterpark called Bayou Lagoon Water Park, a bit further out from the city.
Skytrex Adventure Melaka
We only heard about the Skytrex Adventure park after we left Melaka, and we’re so sad we didn’t go as it looks like a fun, adrenaline-pumping activity.
Best time to visit Melaka
Melaka has a lot of rainy, humid days all year, but it is still great to visit year-round, and if you’d like the sunniest and driest month, go in February.
We visited Melaka at the beginning of July, and the weather was a mix of sun and clouds, with some days having rain in the afternoon. And it was just fine, as we did most of our exploring in the mornings.
Where to stay in Melaka
The best place to stay in Melaka is right in the center, as almost all attractions will be easy to reach on foot.
Many travelers to Melaka want to stay next to the river, and there are limited options you can choose from. However, these are the accommodations we found on the riverside that have good reviews, and we would recommend staying in:
- Casa del Rio Melaka (5-star, resort-like hotel)
- Vspace Guesthouse and Cafe (capsule hotel, right on the river)
- Luxury on Melaka River (luxury 2-bedroom apartment overlooking the river)
- Leju 21 (holiday home for 4 people, right next to the river)
We made a mistake and stayed outside the city center, so each time we went to the center, we had to book a Grab ride which took about 10 to 15 minutes. It felt like a nuisance, especially during the weekend when the Jonker Street Night Market takes place, so it’s much harder to book a ride; you have to wait longer, and there are traffic jams.
Where to eat in Melaka
Melaka’s cuisine is easy to explore because all restaurants are right in the city’s center. You can find all kinds of cuisines from Indian, local Malay, fusion Nyonya cuisine, and Western restaurants.
As mentioned above, definitely try to plan your visit around the weekend, so you can visit the night market, which offers a great selection of delicious dishes.
Dishes you should try in Melaka:
- Nyonya Laksa
- Nyonya Cendol
- Nyonya Kuih
- Popiah rolls
- Dim Sum
- Nasi Lemak
Places we recommend for food in Melaka are:
- Geographer cafe (various amazing dishes, including vegetarian options)
- Christina EE Pineapple Tarts & Nyonya Cendol
- Selvam Restaurant for delicious Indian food (try the banana leaf curry)
The best places for vegetarian food in Melaka are:
- Shui Xian Su Shi Yuan Vegetarian (has Nyonya Laksa!)
- Mei Lin Vegetarian Restaurant
- Vege Good Vegetarian Restaurant
- Hui Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant
- Anthony Vegetarian Restaurant
How to get to Melaka
Visiting Melaka from Kuala Lumpur for a weekend is easy as it takes only 2 hours by car, bus, or train (150km) for less than $5.
We recommend coming to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur with a bus/van, as they’re super comfortable, and they drop you off at either your hotel or the central bus station.
On the other hand, you can also get to the Melaka train station from Kuala Lumpur by train in 2 hours. But as you arrive at the Batang Melaka train station, that’s actually a 1-hour drive away from central Melaka, it kind of doesn’t make much sense.
How to get to Melaka from Singapore
The best way to get to Melaka from Singapore is by bus in 4 hours for about $30.
How to get around Melaka
The easiest way to get around Melaka is on foot as most attractions are in the central part of the city, with only one or two requiring booking a taxi or Grab car.
How many days in Melaka is enough?
Two days is enough for most visitors to Melaka, but you can also visit Melaka on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur as it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.
Of course, you can also stay longer in Melaka (we stayed for almost a week as we took things slow), but usually, a few days is enough. We wanted to visit the Jonker Street Night Market more than once (we went three times), so it was perfect for us.
Prices in Melaka
Melaka is an affordable destination for most travelers, as the prices are much lower than in, for example, Kuala Lumpur. Of course, it also depends on the places you stay and eat at, but the prices seem pretty fair, even for upscale restaurants.
Is Melaka a safe destination?
Melaka, like Malaysia, is a very safe destination to visit, the people are welcoming, and the atmosphere is pleasing. And it’s one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations, so that already says enough. 🙂
Is Melaka worth visiting?
Melaka is definitely worth visiting as a visit to Malaysia can’t be complete without visiting Melaka due to its fantastic food, street art, and bustling night market.
We hope we inspired you to visit Melaka!