While Kuala Lumpur is trailblazing the designs of a modern capital city, these little spots showcase the country in all its heyday finery, and preserve and protect Malaysia’s historic culture, religion, and identity for little or no cost to the curious weekend traveller.
If you want to have a different sort of weekend and be a tourist in your own home city of Kuala Lumpur (or visit the Malaysian capital if you live elsewhere in the country), we’ve rounded up a few museums and historic sites that you can visit and get a real sense of the past.
P. RAMLEE MEMORIAL HOUSE
While seemingly simple in exterior and location, this unassuming little museum in the Setapak area of KL pays homage to Malaysia’s most revered of talents, Tun Teuku Zakaria Bin Teuku Nyak Puteh, known by his stage name P. Ramlee. A triple threat performer, his contributions to the movie, music, and literary industries in the 1950s shaped a lasting legacy in Asian entertainment, and none have approached the extent of his influence since. The memorial adds to its special status by being the actual former house of the entertainer, and preserves many of P. Ramlee’s personal effects in addition to numerous memorabilia and paraphernalia of his professional life. Guided tours are available, but must be arranged prior to your visit.
Address: P. Ramlee Memorial House, 22, Jalan Dedap, Taman P Ramlee, 53000 Kuala Lumpur
Ticket price: FREE (but donations are welcome)
Hours: 10am – 5pm (Tuesday to Sunday), 10am – 12pm and 3pm – 5pm (Friday), closed on Mondays
THEAN HOU TEMPLE
This ornate, six-tiered temple dedicated in reverence to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu (Tian Hou) was built by the seafaring Hainanese who came to Malaysia during the economic boom of Malayan times, and is one of the largest temples in Southeast Asia. Its hilltop location makes for a beautiful sightseeing stop, and the tranquil atmosphere of the temple will give you solace from the hectic pace of the capital city below. Enjoy the serenity of the sacred Boddhi tree, Chinese medicinal herb garden, and a little tortoise pond among the dragon-inspired columns and pagoda rooftops. If you’re lucky, you may just even get to witness a wedding, or see people practicing some martial arts. Do remember that the periods of Wesak Day and the Mooncake Festival will see many devotees visiting the temple, so plan your trip accordingly.
Address: 65 Persiaran Endah, Off Jalan Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan 50460
Ticket price: FREE
Hours: 9am – 9pm daily
This building constructed in the bygone era of 1928 Malaya is one of Kuala Lumpur’s least-discovered attractions. For those fascinated by medical science and the history of Malaya’s own Institute for Medical Research (IMR), this museum is perfect for people curious enough to understand the bio-development of Malaya since the 1900s. Displays are demarcated in sections of exotic items such as ‘dry specimens’ like rodents, squirrels, flying foxes, and ‘wet specimens’ like snakes, frogs, and bats. Do note that a call beforehand to check on opening hours is advised, and that a security guard may request visitors to temporarily trade identification documents for a visitor’s pass.
Address: Institute for Medical Research, Jalan Pahang, 50588 Kuala Lumpur
Ticket price: FREE
Hours: 8am – 5pm (Monday to Friday)
RUMAH PENGHULU ABU SEMAN
You may be surprised to know that this exquisitely preserved kampung house smack dab in the middle of modern KL was transported all the way from Kedah piece by piece, then meticulously restored where it stands today! As part of the Heritage of Malaysia Trust’s efforts to preserve and conserve the country’s architectural heritage, this quintessential Malay cottage is frozen in time, showcasing the unique and beautiful craftsmanship from the early 1900s. The outside of the house is free for you to take pictures and survey, but those who wish to go in must schedule a guided tour that gathers at 11am and 3pm.
Address: 2, Jalan Stonor, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Ticket price: FREE, RM10 for guided tour/donation
Hours: 10am – 5pm (Monday to Saturday)
NATIONAL TEXTILE MUSEUM
Among the many attractions in the Merdeka Square, the National Textile Museum is definitely worth a visit to really understand the multi-cultural harmony through clothing and accessories. Housed in the popular heritage building that is the landmark to the historical field, this Mughal-style architecture has housed many government offices prior to being refurbished as a museum. From the distinctive bead work popular to the Baba Nyonya communities, to the weaved motifs of ethnic Sarawak and Sabahan tribes, and the elaborate embroidery found in Malay and Indian fabrics, this comprehensive cornucopia shows how the people of Malaysia are joined at the seams and yet still possess cultural individuality.
Address: National Textile Museum, 26 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, 50500 Kuala Lumpur
Ticket price: FREE
Hours: 9am – 6pm
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM
Opened in 1998, this museum housing artefacts and examples of Islam throughout Asia’s history of civilizations is one not to miss for culture enthusiasts. Over 7,000 preservations are displayed in 12 permanent galleries, and fine displays of the Islamic influence in areas such as architecture, the written word, metal and woodwork, pottery, textiles, and even weaponry dating back to and before the time of Old Malaya. Viewing the preserved items from both here and other regions in which Islam was present in such as India, North Africa, and China will captivate you for over two hours. Many visitors have praised this museum for its world-class maintenance and regard it as Southeast Asia’s largest museum of Islamic art.
Address: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Perdana, Jalan Lembah, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Ticket price: RM14 (Adults), RM7 (Students and Senior Citizens over 60 years old, FREE for children under 6 years old. Tickets are charged at RM12 and RM6 respectively when the Special Galleries are closed.
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily, including public holidays
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