Malacca City, also known as Melaka, is a coastal area of southwestern Malaysia with a rich and unique history. There are so many diverse influences that make Malacca an interesting and one-of-a-kind place to visit.
Founded in the late 1300s by the Sumatran prince Parameswara, Malacca quickly established itself as an Islamic sultanate. Although the city is relatively small, the Strait of Malacca became a significant trade route between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The land was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511 and remained a Portuguese colony until 1641. For the next 180 years, the Dutch ruled Malacca with sporadic interference from the British. The city continued to be under foreign control, becoming a British territory in 1826. It was also briefly occupied by Japan during World War II. Malacca remained under British rule until the formation of modern-day Malaysia in 1963.
You’ll have a lot to see and learn about when you visit this part of the world. After reading our ultimate guide to Malacca City, you’ll want to find out for yourself why the entire capital is listed as a World Heritage Site!
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How to get to Malacca City
Malacca City is about 150 kilometres south of the centre of Kuala Lumpur. There are regular public transport options to take you between the two cities in a few hours.
The most common way is to take a non-stop KKKL Express bus from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. You can get to this bus terminal by taking the train from KL Sentral to Bandar Tasik Selatan, then walking across the road. The bus will drop you off at Melaka Sentral, where you can then take a taxi to your accommodation.
There is also a small airport in Malacca that operates flights to and from Penang, as well as Pekanbaru, Indonesia. Since it is served by so few destinations and airlines, taking the bus from Kuala Lumpur is usually the most convenient route to Malacca City.
What to expect in Malacca City
The official language in Malacca is Malaysian, which is mutually intelligible with Indonesian. That being said, Malaccan Malay has its own distinct pronunciation. Since the area was once under British rule and is heavily reliant on tourism, English is spoken by most, particularly within business. You might also hear many minority languages, including Chinese, Tamil, and Portuguese Creole.
Ringgit is the currency used in Malacca and the rest of Malaysia, and you’ll see it written as both RM and MYR. You’ll easily be able to tell all of the bank notes apart as they are all different colours with clearly printed numbers. Tipping here is not common at all and won’t be expected.
Due to its diverse history, there are many religions practised in Malacca. While almost 70% of the local population are Muslim, 25% are Buddhist and many others follow Hindu and Christian faiths.
How to get around Malacca City
The best way to get around Malacca City is by walking. Many attractions are located within one central area, meaning you don’t need to rely on transport much as a tourist.
However, if you’ve walked enough, hop on a colourful trishaw to take you home. These unique, three-wheeled forms of transportation are always vibrantly decorated with flowers, souvenirs, and even pop culture references. Many have illuminating lights to make your evening ride fun and memorable!
For areas further out, you can book a taxi using Grab (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber).
The best time to visit Malacca City
Like many other Southeast Asian cities, Malacca City has stable and reliable weather year-round. The daytime is generally 30 to 35°C with very high humidity. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, although May and June are perhaps the driest months. Climate-wise, there’s no bad time to visit Malacca!
Since it’s such a food destination, however, you may want to avoid visiting during Ramadan. The Muslim population in Malaysia fasts for an entire month around May and June. While there will still be food available, you may feel a little guilty around others that are refraining from eating!
Things to do in Malacca City
Wander Jonker Street
You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities in Malacca City. Jonker Street is one of the most popular areas for both locals and tourists. It’s a fantastic shopping district, with many antique and souvenir shops.
One of the best things to do in Malacca at night is head to Jonker Street for the famous evening market. Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday until midnight, the street is closed and filled with friendly vendors. Even if you don’t want to spend too much on shopping, you’re sure to enjoy being amongst the lively atmosphere. There are always performers to watch while eating some mouth-watering street food.
Many of Malacca City’s main attractions are also located on and around Jonker Street, so it’s the perfect area to begin exploring.
Relax at Melaka Botanical Garden
Located in the suburb of Ayer Keroh is the luscious 359-hectare botanic garden. Here you can explore the Forestry Museum, look for some of the monkeys hanging around, or enjoy the afternoon in one of the many beautiful picnic spots. It’s also a popular spot for locals to get some outdoor exercise with their families. If you’re looking for free things to do in Malacca, this is one of the most relaxing options!
Take a Cooking Class
The perfect activity to encapsulate the heart and soul of Malacca is a cooking class. Cat, a local Malaccan, invites tourists into her home to learn how to cook Peranakan or Malay dishes. This hands-on experience is great for both budding chefs and those who simply want to prepare their own authentic, home-cooked lunch.
Explore the Sand Dunes
Klebang Beach is home to gorgeous white sand dunes that many tourists don’t even know about. A 15 to 20-minute car ride from Jonker Street will take you to this picturesque location (known as Padang Pasir Klebang in Malaysian). From the carpark, the dunes are a further 20-minute walk away. It’s the ultimate place for a photo shoot or to watch the sun go down. There are nearby food vendors too, so you can stay exploring as long as you like without getting hungry.
Places to visit in Malacca City
Melaka Straits Mosque
Although this mosque is one of the newest attractions in the city, it has become an iconic landmark. It was constructed in 2006 on a man-made island and appears as though it’s floating on the sea. It is a particularly beautiful place to watch the sunset, and you should definitely stay to see the entire building lit up at night.
Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum
Learn about the history of the ethnic Chinese-Malays known as Peranakan at one of the best Malacca attractions. In Malaysia, Baba refers to the male descendants, while the women are called Nyonya. The museum is full of intricately carved woodwork and furniture, as well as gorgeous silk embroidery.
Malacca City doesn’t have too many high-rise buildings, so Shore Sky is the place to go for stunning views. This sky tower has a large observation deck, which is 163 metres high. From the 43rd floor, you can see 360-degree views of the city, as well as the Strait of Malacca and Besar Island.
Malacca is perhaps best known for the vibrant terracotta-red structures that make up the Dutch Square. Interestingly, the buildings were originally white until 1911 when the British repainted them their new colour.
The Stadthuys, which translates to city hall, is a historical building that sits at the heart of the area. Construction was completed in 1650, along with the nearby red clock tower. The Christ Church sits opposite the Stadthuys, and while remarkably similar-looking, it was built much later between 1741 to 1753. The unique Anglican church is the oldest in Malaysia and holds three Sunday services in three different languages (English, Mandarin and Malay).
Malacca Batik House
Those interested in textiles will adore visiting here. Batik is a traditional Indonesian technique that’s also popular in Malaysia and Singapore. The house is both a shopping area and a workshop, where you can see the unique fabric dyeing process in action.
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
Since we’ve mentioned a mosque and a church already, why not add one of Malaysia’s most famous temples to the list? This Chinese temple practices Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, and follows feng shui principles. It’s located near Jalan Tukang Emas, colloquially known as Harmony Street, and faces the Malacca River.
What to eat in Malacca City
There are countless Malacca food options that are unique to the area. Here are a few delicious dishes and treats you should definitely look out for.
Satay celup: This local speciality is a great dish for sharing. Think of fondue, but with skewered meats and vegetables dipped into thick, spicy peanut sauce.
Durian cendol: You’ll find durian everywhere in Southeast Asia, but Malaccans seem to adore it. The fruit is blended with the classic Malaysian dessert, cendol, which is a green jelly made with rice flour. It’s the perfect treat in the hot weather!
Chicken rice balls: A favourite in Malacca that you’re sure to find everywhere. There are a few different stories about the origin of their rounded shape, and many restaurants serve them up in their own signature styles.
You also must try some Nyonya dishes. This cuisine is named after the female cooks of Peranakan descendants. You’ll find a ton of great, authentic Nyonya restaurants in Malacca, like Kocik Kitchen and Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant. Try some ayam pongteh, a chicken and potato stew, or a cincalok shrimp omelette.
Where to stay in Malacca City
Although Malacca City may be heritage-listed, there are many modern accommodation options to choose from. Here are two recommendations that merge both contemporary and traditional design.
Mori Residence: The boutique Mori Residence has five beautiful rooms that sit above a Chinese tea house. The quiet atmosphere is ideal if you’re after a relaxing getaway. It is the perfect place to stay if you are vegan or vegetarian, as all the dishes at their restaurant are meat-free. That being said, anyone can enjoy a peaceful experience here. It’s only a three-minute walk to Jonker Street and surrounded by inviting cafes and quaint shops.
Courtyard @ Heeren Boutique Hotel: Both luxurious and homely, Courtyard @ Heeren consists of 15 rooms and suites that incorporate various traditional design elements. Modern facilities are combined with Peranakan style to create a remarkably unique and welcoming atmosphere. The hotel is on the main street of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and next to many great museums.
Tours to do in Malacca City
There are many guided tours you can take in Malacca City to make your trip even more memorable and informative.
Eight-hour guided historical tours are perfect for first-time visitors who want the full cultural experience. Visit all the top tourist attractions, have your lunch taken care of, and get to know the multicultural heritage of Malacca City. If you’re coming from Kuala Lumpur, you can have your transfers to and from Malacca organised for you.
If you want to learn fascinating stories while sticking to a budget, join the Melaka Free Walking Tour. Learn about how the city was founded and then conquered by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Discover more about the Chinese immigrants who settled in Malacca and hear about the city’s independence from Britain.
Day trips from Malacca City
While still technically located in the state of Malacca, you might like to take a day trip out to Tanjung Bidara Beach. It’s a 45-minute car trip and is a beautiful spot to unwind once you’re done exploring the attractions in the main city. The beach itself is pristine and untouched, meaning you’ll be able to find a private swimming spot to enjoy by yourself or with your travel buddy.
As you I’m sure you’ve now realised, Malacca City is a destination like no other. If you’re looking for a city that’ll provide both a fun and educational experience, look no further than Malacca.
Want to learn how to travel on a Budget? Check out our dedicated “Budget Conscious Travel Guide”
Recommend budget tours in Malacca City
- Learn to Cook Authentic Peranakan and Malay Cuisine in a Local’s Home in Malacca
- Taming Sari Tower Malacca Admission Ticket
- Malacca Duck Tours Admission Tickets
- Historical Melaka
- Melaka Full Day Tour Including 4 Admission Tickets With Lunch
- Melaka Zoo & Bird Park Tour with Lunch
- Full Day A’Famosa Theme Park Experience
- Guided Historical City Of Malacca Day Tour With Lunch
- The Shore Sky Tower Malacca Entrance Tickets
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