Jakarta, the busy and vibrant capital of Indonesia, is mostly the first stop for many of us travelling into the country. There is much more to this sprawling city than meets the eye. For this reason, we must pause; take a couple of days off if not more, to look around.
You are bound to be impressed by places of interest here. Whether it is cultural, historical or natural, Jakarta is filled with sightseeing and tourist attractions, lots of shopping malls, awesome food and some nightlife as well.
Here are my tips to help you out. To me these are the reasons, why you should include a stopover in Jakarta.
Kota Tua, Café Batavia and various museums
Let’s start with the old town Kota Tua. Once the business and central government area during the Dutch colonial era, it is also known as Oud Batavia (Dutch “Old Batavia”). Because of its array of preserved Dutch colonial buildings the place is nicknamed as “Tropical Amsterdam”.
The main buildings around the central Fatahillah square are mostly museums and easily accessible by foot. Jakarta History Museum, Wayang (puppet) museum, Museum Maritime and Museum Bank Indonesia are a few of them. Each one of them is interesting in its own way. You can easily spend half a day here.
I recommend you also visit the Museum of Bank Indonesia. Besides its breathtakingly beautiful architecture, the museum has high tech videos that are informative and interactive. It is also free of charge.
The puppet museum has one of the best collections of Wayang puppets in Java. On Sundays 10 AM, there are free Wayang performances.
Colourful bikes with hats are available for rent in the main square. Rent is 50,000 Rupiah for a 30-minute ride. I was lucky to visit there on 17th August, Indonesia’s Independence Day. The place was exuding cheer and joy.
Housed in a heritage building, the Café Batavia is another famous attraction. Ornately styled with walls full of old framed photographs, its antique decoration and ambiance will take you several decades back. They also host live music. Details on this café in a separate post.
Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta cathedral, Merdeka square, National monument
The Istiqlal Mosque is one place I can never get tired of visiting. It gives me a strange calming feel, it soothes me somewhere inside. This mosque is the largest mosque in South East Asia. The word “Istiqlal” means independence in Arabic, and was built to commemorate Indonesia’s struggle for independence. The huge prayer hall is enough to make any man feel small.
Visit this place with a guide. There are ‘free’ English speaking guides available, but please note that you have to tip them at the end of your tour, approx. Rp. 30,000-50,000.
Just across the road is beautiful Jakarta Cathedral. If you are seeking some more peaceful moments in a busy city like Jakarta, this is the place. They also have a museum upstairs inside the church.
National Monument (Monumen Nasional) is a must visit for every tourist in Jakarta as it is a symbol to be beckon with. It stands to symbolize the fight for Indonesia and constructed under direction of President Sukarno.
Across the street is the National Museum which has exhibits of cultures from almost every part of this beautiful country and seem to trace Indonesia’s history from the beginning. They also have a section where almost all exhibits are made of gold! Keep minimum of a couple hours for this museum.
Presidential palace, Bogor botanical garden, Grand garden café
Go slightly off the crowded city to visit these places.
The first place I would recommend you is the presidential palace, the official residence of the President of Indonesia. I am sure you’d appreciate the grand façades of it. The building was named Merdeka (Freedom) Palace in 1949 after Indonesia regained its independence. It is used as the official venue for state events. Inside, you’ll see political history of the country and also larger than life statues of all presidents of Indonesia including the current one.
There is dress code to visit the palace. You are not allowed to wear cut sleeves, jeans, shorts or open toe shoes or sandals.
The Bogor Botanical Gardens adjoins the presidential palace compound. Spread across 87 hectares it has around 14,000 different kinds of trees and plants of various origin. The main attraction here is a mermaid near the lake full of lotus flowers. This place deserves an exclusive post which I will write later.
After visit to the palace and garden, when you are tired, visit Grand Garden Café to relax and to have a sumptuous lunch. The ambiance here goes well with the surroundings.
By the end of the day you’ll have walked a lot. Time to relax and rejuvenate yourself with a massage at Kokuo Reflexology. It’s a huge place and rooms are filled with recliner massage lounges, mostly 3 to 5 in one room. They have private rooms as well.
For shopping I suggest you carry an empty suitcase with you… for, you are bound to shop to your heart’s content. Numerous shopping malls, and some local markets will make sure your bags are full.
If you have more time you may also visit Miniature Indonesia that has captured the essence of the culture of each province of Indonesia spread over several acres. To enjoy it to fullest, keep half a day aside.
Ah yes, if you are in Jakarta, don’t forget to visit the Antique market. 😀
Getting Around: Jakarta is a huge city but if you plan properly, this is the best you can do in 48 hours in Jakarta. As I mentioned, most of the sights are reasonably close to each other. Taxis and tuk tuks are available and can be an inexpensive way to get around. Just be careful about the city traffic and plan your schedule accordingly.
When are you booking your tickets for Indonesia? 🙂
If you are still looking for some more affirmation, read what Luke is saying about Jakarta.
Note: My visit to Indonesia was made possible by Tourism Indonesia. As usual all opinions expressed are unbiased and based on my own personal experiences.
You may want to read more on Indonesia.
Staying in a luxury Phinisi boat
VW Safari tour from Bali to Ubud
Senggarang, the Chinese village in Bintan
Indonesia in Pictures
A Dance Drama called Barong
Top things to do in Indonesia
Evocative Bali Craft
Tangkuban Perahu – Arising out of a legend
Indonesia from Above
Kawah Putih, the white crater
Indonesia : Beyond Bali & Jakarta
Asian African Carnival 2015
Flying to The Emerald of the Equator
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