This post is sponsored by Uber. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own as always.
Evergreen but stylish that is. Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities in Asia that pulsate with both modern attractions as well as historical landmarks, thanks to its rich history of being richly multicultural. There’s always something to see here, whether you’re a tourist discovering the city for the first time, or a local just looking to explore.
I am lucky enough to know Kuala Lumpur both as a local (as I lived here during my childhood and have lots of family here) as well as a tourist – having now lived half my life abroad. I’ve also learnt to appreciate the city more – playing tour guide to a lot of friends who are visiting the city. I’ve curated the below list of places to go and visit if you’re in KL, with an eye for the stylish and sophisticated traveler who wants to be seen as in-the-know – not any ol’ tourist.
In Kuala Lumpur, I tend to use UberBLACK more than anything else. I love how easy, pleasant and convenient my commute and travel has been with UberBLACK. I also find that with Uber’s “Scheduled Rides” feature, I can plan my appointments and meetings more efficiently as most of the time, I find my car arriving to pick me up much quicker.
By the way, the Scheduled Ride feature can be used up to 30 days in advance, so if you’re a planner like me, you can easily schedule airport pickups to and from the airport easily in advance.
KL’s award-winning mega mall is that one place you need to block an entire day for. Pavilion Mall, in all its 7-storey-glory, sits in the heart of the upscale Bukit Bintang area. It’s first of all a shopping haven—you can find high-end designer brands, mid-range fashion labels, and popular local stores. There’s also a spectrum of dining options available in nearly every cuisine imaginable. But if you came to chill, there are recreational places for you to enjoy, too: check out the Golden Screen Cinemas and Red Box Plus karaoke hub.
The inside of Pavilion KLCC mall. It is a one of the largest malls in South East Asia and boasts almost 600 stores ranging from mid to high-end.
Up for a night of fancy dining? It can’t get any better than Strato Italian Restaurant. Perched atop Troika Tower, this fine restaurant boasts striking views of the city that you can enjoy over homemade pasta, scrumptious pizza, and decadent tiramisu, among many Italian favorites. The modern ambiance is only enhanced by the superb staff—I’ve personally had lively conversations with them!
Malaysia has its fair share of upscale shopping centers, but standout ones like Starhill Gallery simply keep people coming back. The luxe structure plays a huge part in the shopping experience: towering dome-shaped interiors and reflective marble floors comprise the mall. It’s home to the largest watch and jewelry gallery in the world, as well as powerhouse brands from local and international fashion scenes.
L: Starhill Gallery is a shopping destination catering to both local and international luxury brands.
R: The beautiful view greeting all diners at Strato Italian Restaurant.
If Pavillion and StarHill Gallery malls are all about the sophisticated and glamorous side of Kuala Lumpur – it’s time to get back to the essence of the city – how it all started. Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman is one of the first and oldest streets in KL. Before there were giant malls, there was Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, where ordinary people will go to get their shopping done.
It’s a busy stretch of a road dotted by dining spots and charming stores. The retail businesses you will find here go decades back and there are so many great finds at rock-bottom prices. Haggling and negotiating for a good price is common, and I know my mom and her friends still come here once in a while, as they get a sense of satisfaction from the act of getting the best prices possible for their purchases.
Taking a stroll through Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman immerses you into a cultural and shopping experience more authentic than any other!
A cafe that springs way back into 1921, Coliseum Cafe is a nostalgic destination in Kuala Lumpur. Just stepping into the place can make you feel like you time-travelled—the interiors are decked in vintage furniture and aged trimmings. To these day, locals frequent it for the hearty dishes—and the memories. If you’re a tourist, you’re bound to enjoy the tender steaks and Hainanese chicken. Down it with good (and cheap) beer and you’re in for happy hour, the Malaysian way!
And the best part about the Coliseum Cafe? It was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer and novelist. He used to travel around South East Asia, and had stopped in Kuala Lumpur for a spell, frequenting the Coliseum Cafe often – perhaps he found inspiration here for some of his greatest works like “The Old Man and the Sea” ?
History and delicious food at reasonable prices. What more could you want?
I rarely go on vacations, but if I am on one, I wouldn’t deprive myself of a chance to visit a spa—and in KL, I have my favorites. The Spa Village at the Ritz Carlton Hotel is one. This serene retreat whisks you away from the hustle and bustle of the metro. Their services are a balanced blend of global healing practices and traditional therapies of the region for your maximum rejuvenation. It’s uber spacious and stylish, with a well-trained staff to boot!
The Spa is located at the Ritz Carlton, and if you are in KL do yourself a favor and dine at Ritz Carlton Hotel. The cuisine at this lavish hotel is award-winning for a reason. For breakfast (or brunch!), you can pick from a selection that includes a diverse array of international and local flavors—think fresh oysters, premium cheeses, succulent meats, vibrant desserts. It gets better—many dishes are prepared à la minute. Top it off with free-flowing champagne!
This rejuvenated area next to the Klang River is so new that I would not have known about it if not for my architect brother, who was involved in the rejuvenation project. The Promenade is a welcome respite from the heat and provides new perspective on the Sultan Abdul Samad courthourse, one of the oldest and historic buildings in Malaysia.
The Sultan Abdul Samad Promenade is situated behind the historic Sultan Abdul Samad buidling.
If you’re looking for an alternative to dining spots and relaxing spas, feel free to explore the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. Sprawling across 20.9 acres of land, it’s one of the largest bird parks in the world and houses around 200 species, 90% of which are native to South East Asia. The birds roam freely overhead and on-land, making an incredible interactive experience for visitors.
I’ve never seen so many birds my whole life – including 7-8 peacocks – all of which are quite tame. The white peacock seen here is also one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen.
So one of the things I enjoy is getting souvenirs and gifts from my travels for my family and friends in Los Angeles. However, I am not a fan of campy keychains and t-shirts bought at the airport gift shop. In Kuala Lumpur, one of my go-tos when trying to find tasteful and sophisticated gifts is heading over to Ilham Gallery – a gift store that features art objects and souvenirs from Malaysians.
So many tasteful souvenirs to choose from at Ilham Gallery. The t-shirts feature well-known as well as up-and-coming local artists.
To cap off a full day of touring, nothing beats a dinner at the Kuala Lumpur Tower Sky Restaurant—also known as the Atmosphere 360. It’s the ultimate destination for you to enjoy sweeping views of the lit-up metro as you indulge in a lavish spread of Malaysian dishes. But the most interesting part is, it’s a revolving restaurant—so expect to have loads of fun looking for your seat as you go back and forth towards the buffet table.