Kuala Lumpur highlights in a day

The Petronas Towers

There is far to much too see in this gleaming metropolis for a single day to truly do the city justice. But for those with just a brief stopover before hitting the beaches, our Kuala Lumpur highlights guide makes sure you don’t miss out the crucial attractions.

Sightseeing around KL can be exhausting with the heat and humidity, so it’s important not to try to cram in too much, especially with young children in tow. Thankfully getting around town is easy thanks to reasonably-priced cabs and quick, air conditioned metro system.

Kuala Lumpur highlights in one day

Such is the prestige which Malaysians hold the Petronas Twin Towers, to visit the city and not see them up close is tantamount to treason. These iconic skyscrapers have appeared in countless computer games, moves and TV shows, representing the rapid ascendency of Asia’s latest economic powerhouse.

The tallest buildings on the planet until 2004, make sure you get up early to walk between the towers along the skybridge as only limited tickets are available.

You may think that’s quite enough sightseeing for the day and want to hit the shops. And why not? Shopping is taken to new levels of professionalism in the city’s various shopping centre and peerless amongst these is KLCC Mall, handily located directly below the Petronas Towers. Shop till you drop amongst the world’s foremost fashion houses at bargain basement prices. And arrange collection at the airport upon departure to pay zero tax.

If you’ve had enough of tall buildings for the day and fancy a change, ignore nearby KL Tower and head for something completely different such as a rainforest in the centre of the city. Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve contains countless trails and a wealth of strange and exotic creatures from parrots to primates. Admission is free and is especially worthwhile if you have young kids.

After the new and the natural comes the old. Step back in time to explore the nation’s past and visit some historical highlights in KL, such as Independence Square (known as Dataran Merdeka), or simply Merdeka Square. This large expanse of grass is where the Union Flag was lowered and Britain finally ceased control of the territory. The kingdom of Malay was then born at that moment, with the title Malaysia coming a little later.

Just around the corner from Merdeka Square is Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, a building of vast architectural importance and revered as a classic example of Anglo-Asian colonial workmanship. Intercity train services have since relocated to KL Sentral, although a small museum charts the development of railways in Malaysia.

Also nearby is the National Museum, with its host of exhibits catering for all possible tastes. Children will love the weaponry, dad will be drooling over the classic cars and mum will be stunned by the elegant period fashion. If you only see one museum during your highlights of Kuala Lumpur tour, the National Museum most definitely should be it.

Time for a rest, and what better place to kick back and relax than the bustling Chinatown area of the Malay capital. Here you will find temples galore in both Buddhist and Taoist styles for those still with spring in their step, not to mention the countless rows of market stalls for souvenir shopping that gives the area its real buzz, along with some of the best value restaurants in the city. It is also easy to chill out with a beer and watch the world go by at any one of the streetside cafe-bars.

That may well be enough highlights of Kuala Lumpur for any one day sightseeing. But for the young at heart or perhaps those that have stocked up on too much coffee en route, continue the journey west to the fashionable suburb of Bangsar. Just a few stops on the metro lies this expat haven of trendy bars, restaurants and clubs. Feast on all manner of international treats including Argentine steak or authentic Spanish tapas before putting on your dancing shoes and rubbing shoulders with the city’s bright young things.