Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and a sprawling metropolis of high-rise buildings, luxury hotels and shopping malls. It also has an historic old town that is a melting pot of different Asian cultures, due to the vast amount of Indian and Chinese immigrants. Most trips to Malaysia start in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and you should definitely spend time in the city rather than just passing through. Below you’ll find our recommended 3-day Kuala Lumpur itinerary, which is perfect for first time visitors.
Day 1 – Morning:
Petronas Towers viewpoint – What better way to start your first morning than the most iconic site in the city? The Petronas Twin Towers viewpoint is a great way to capture a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur and although some people opt to do the attraction on an evening, we think you get a much better view of the surroundings in daylight. Tickets cost between £15-20 per person and we strongly recommend booking on their website days in advance so you can plan your day around the visit. You can choose a view from the Skybridge (mid-level) or Observation deck (near the top of the towers).
KLCC park – Spend the rest of your morning wandering around the beautiful KLCC park and surrounding area. This is a very upmarket and well-maintained area of KL and you’ll find luxury hotels, a large shopping mall and multiple lakes and water features. Visiting KLCC park in the daylight gives you the opportunity to capture stunning pictures of the Petronas Twin Towers and surrounding skyscrapers. It’s also a nice place to relax after a long flight.
Bukit Bintang – Bukit Bintang is the name of the wider area of the city centre and is home to many hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and quirky buildings. Although you may not want to shop on your first day, spend some time wandering this futuristic metropolis, seeing just how huge the malls are. It’s a great place to return to for shopping or eating out and we recommend grabbing lunch here – there are so many options! You can access downtown Bukit Bintang from the Petronas Towers via the undercover pedestrian walkway, which is an attraction in itself!
Visit a spa – A spa treatment is a great way to relax after a long flight. Bukit Bintang’s eclectic selection of luxury hotels means there’s no shortage of tranquil spa’s. For great value treatments in an authentic eco setting, check out Alam Beauty and Wellness Spa. The nearby Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and other nearby 5-star hotels also have high quality spas on the more expensive side.
Street food for dinner (Jalan Alor) – In our opinion, Jalan Alor is quite possibly one of the best places in the South East Asia for street food. The area is the heart of street food activity in the capital and the main choice for many locals. The street is busy from 5pm onwards and has at least 30+ places to choose from. You’ll find the food to be cheap but delicious and the menus are very similar so we’d recommend selecting a vendor based on how busy it is. Busy usually means good, fresh food! Beef Rendang, Satay, Laska and the duck soup options are all excellent. Trip Savvy has an excellent guide on Malaysian Street food here.
Nightlife – Although Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country, Kuala Lumpur has a large tourist and expat population. There are two different types of nightlife in KL; you have the high-class cocktail bars and designer clubs of Bukit Bintang or the lively and cheap street bars surrounding Jalan Alor. Both options are very different so we’d recommend sticking to the local ‘street nightlife’ scene on your first night and visiting a classier bar or club for your last night in the city. Kuala Lumpur Pub Crawl will take you to the main bars or stop by Pisco Bar for a more chilled-out vibe.
Day 2 – Morning:
Batu Caves – This must-see attraction is very unlike what you’ll see in the city centre. The Batu Caves are a 20-minute drive north of Bukit Bintang. It’s a series of three large limestone rock caves carved out of the mountain, with an impressive Hindu statue towering at the front entrance. After climbing the steep, narrow staircase to enter, you can explore the caves with other tourists, where you’ll find Hindu shrines, praying locals and huge cave openings lit by natural and candle light. You can get to Batu Caves via a taxi from the city centre, and as always, ask for the meter to be switched on so you aren’t overcharged.
Menara Tower – Return to the city centre and ask the taxi driver to drop you off at Menara Tower, another viewing point that will give you an amazing view of the city. Jump straight into the elevator to the Observation Deck, located 276m above ground level. Although the Petronas Towers viewing point is also worth doing for a different view of the KLCC area, we found the Menara viewing deck to capture much more of the city. One fun activity is looking at a map and trying to point out key attractions and buildings if the skies are clear. We’d recommend booking your visit on their website so reduce queuing time.
Chinatown – Catch a cab a short distance to Chinatown, a great lunch spot and the go-to place for bargain market shopping. Pull up a plastic seat at a busy street food vendor and prepare your taste buds for Malaysian cuisine, our absolute favourite! We recommend trying Nasi Kandar or Nasi Goreng, although most options are a good choice. Chinatown is a colourful and bustling area to explore once you’ve finished eating.
Petaling Street Market – Petaling Street Market is located in Chinatown and is the number one place to go in KL for bargain fashion shopping, gifts and traditional South-east Asian market goods. The hand prepared fruit cups here are also a very good for dessert on the go. If you’re looking for clothing, bags and accessories, ask to look inside/at the back of the street stores; they often keep their higher quality products there. And always remember to negotiate on the price, aiming to pay 60% of the original quote.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple & Sin Sze Si Ya Temple – Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is an 1800’s Hindu temple with an intricate and colourful interior. It’s located a few minutes’ walk north of Petaling Street. Slightly south of Sri Maha Mariamman on foot, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple is a Chinese Taoist Temple with bright red colours and an interior full of antiques. Both sites are easy to get to from Chinatown and are amongst the main temples to see in Kuala Lumpur.
Street food/Restaurant for dinner – We opted to visit Jalan Alor for a second night in a row due to how much we loved it – we just tried a different street food vendor. Feel free to do the same or dine in a more sophisticated setting in one of Kuala Lumpur’s high-end restaurants. The restaurants in the Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La hotels are particularly excellent but on the pricier side. Check out Opium KL for a cheaper but highly-rated alternative. View the top restaurants in Kuala Lumpur on Tripadvisor here.
Day 3 – Morning:
Perdana Royal Botanical Gardens/Butterfly Park – The Perdana Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful areas of Kuala Lumpur. It’s a large flower garden to the west of the city that was originally intended as a recreational park but soon became a botanical garden after the introduction of many different plant species. Spend your morning strolling around the gardens and exhibits, taking pictures and enjoying the tropical KL weather. It’s also free to enter!
Right next to the garden is the top-rated Butterfly Park, an extension of the main botanical gardens but with the addition of numerous species of butterflies, fish and insects. The park is small but only costs around £5 per person and worth seeing whilst you’re in the area.
Islamic Arts Museum/Royal Police Museum – Just outside of the gardens there are two museums – a museum for Islamic Arts and and the Kuala Lumpur Police Museum. The police museum is an interesting dive into the history of Malayisan police, from the uniforms and equipment to key events since its inception. It’s well worth seeing especially as there’s no entrance fee. On the other hand, the Islamic Arts Museum has a number of exhibits that explain the contributions of Asia to Islam and artefacts ranging from clothing and household items to traditional arts and crafts. Explore the museum of your choice – each will take 1-2 hours.
National Mosque of Malaysia – Right next to both museums you’ll see the National Mosque. This impressive building is the centre of the country’s main religion and an impressive piece of architecture to take pictures of.
Downtown shopping – Your last day is a perfect opportunity to explore the mega shopping malls of KL. Pavillion KL and Suria KLCC (beneath the Petronas Twin Towers) are the main malls that we’d recommend. They’re huge, modern and have all the worldwide brand name stores that you’d expect. South-east Asia does shopping malls very well and Kuala Lumpur’s selection will keep you entertained all afternoon. For more Asian-centric brands and shops, check out Berjaya Times Square Mall. Take regular breaks in quirky snack shops (or grab some Teh Tarik) throughout the Bukit Bintang mall complex. Check out Travel Vui’s shopping mall guide here for more information on the best places to shop.
Even if you’re not keen on doing lots of shopping, the malls are worth seeing regardless and have a number of cool attractions, events and entertainment on offer depending on the day you visit. If shopping malls aren’t your thing, see more ‘other top things to do in Kuala Lumpur’ below.
Lake symphony – After you’ve freshened up and relaxed at your hotel after a busy afternoon of shopping, head to KLCC lake just outside the shopping mall in front of the Petronas Twin Towers. At 8pm, 9pm and 10pm every night the lake is host to a music and light fountain show. It’s a cool and particularly romantic way to start your evening.
Skyscraper bar – It’s your last night, why not make it one to remember? Kuala Lumpur has numerous high-rise hotels and skyscraper buildings and no shortage of panoramic view sky-bars. We recommend dressing up and going to the Skybar at the top of The Traders hotel. Enjoy tall cocktails alongside a neon lit pool and glance at amazing views of the Petronas Twin Towers. The bar is quite sophisticated and relaxed up until 10pm and then it turns into a more upbeat club.
We hope you enjoyed reading our 3 day itinerary! Follow the whole thing to the letter or use it as a base and substitute your own must-see attractions and places. 2 to 3 days is the perfect and recommended amount of time to get a broad experience of the city, however if you’re staying longer there’s no shortage of things to do. Browse more of our Kuala Lumpur travel tips below and be sure to share your own experience of KL with us in the comments.
Other top things to do if you’re in Kuala Lumpur for longer:
- Bukit Tabur Mountain
- Central Market
- Istana Negara
- Berjaya Times Square Mall and Amusement Park
- Sultan Abdul Samad Building
- Merdeka Square
Where to stay:
Kuala Lumpur is tied with Ho Chi Minh as one of the cheapest major cities we’ve visited and the hotel choices are excellent. Even if you’re on a budget you can find a nice 4 star hotel in the centre of town! We recommend staying in the lavish Petronas Towers area of the city for easy access to the main sites and a public transport hub to other areas of the city. Stay in the world-class Shangri-La for £70 a night or grab yourself a suite overlooking KLCC Park at The Traders hotel.
Travel tips for visiting Kuala Lumpur:
- If 2 or more people are travelling, the quickest and cheapest way to get from the main international airport to Kuala Lumpur city centre is by taxi. Expect to pay around £15. The journey time is just over an hour to downtown Bukit Bintang.
- Kuala Lumpur is near the equator and experiences a hot, tropical climate year-round. Pack for summer but don’t forget your emergency rain coat.
- Taxis are cheap and easy to find so use them to save you walking everywhere. Choose yellow/pink taxis over the blue ones as they’re cheaper. Uber is also becoming increasingly popular in KL, although you will need a pre-paid data SIM for your phone (or connection to wifi) to take advantage of it.
- The monorail is another good transport option and cheaper than catching a cab.
- Kuala Lumpur is very much a shopping and entertainment city and the malls are excellent. If you’re flying home from Kuala Lumpur, buy your gifts, electronics and fashion at the end of your trip to save you carrying it around Malaysia.
- Although the city has some excellent restaurants, you must try the street food of Jalan Alor at least once, it’s delicious! Malaysia is famous for its street food.
- Download offline Google Maps and plan out attraction locations before you set off. It’ll save you a lot of time.