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Jakarta Travel Guide, Tours & Things to Do, Indonesia

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos.
Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide

One of the first things you’ll notice about Jakarta is that it has somehow managed to keep the hordes of tourists that head to Bali and Lombok at bay.

In fact, you might not see another international traveller for the entire time you’re in town. This can be both a blessing and a curse, but it does make for a raw and real travel experience. You’ll discover a fascinating and increasingly sophisticated megalopolis — where the speed of development is matched only by the enthusiasm and vitality of the local population.

This Jakarta travel guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: National Monument. Image: Bigstock

Popular Jakarta tours and experiences

Jakarta for history lovers

The Indonesian capital acquired a wealth of stately architecture in its Dutch colonial days (when it was known as Batavia).

History buffs should head for Kota Tua (Jakarta Old Town) and learn more of the city’s backstory at the Maritime Museum, Museum Bank Indonesia (it’s a bit of a process to gain entry, so plan ahead), and excellent History Museum (Museum Fatahillah). It’s also well worth visiting the National Museum in Central Jakarta, which holds a wealth of historical artefacts (more than 140,000 pieces at last count).

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: Museum Bank Indonesia. Image: Bigstock

The National Museum is situated by Merdeka Square — home to the National Monument — the vision of Sukarno, the Republic of Indonesia’s first president. The monument marks the country’s independence from the Dutch. Spend some time exploring the vast square and marvel at the fact that in such a densely populated city, there is so much open space here to enjoy.

Top cultural activities in Jakarta

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, and unsurprisingly, mosques play a central role in daily life in the capital.

Istiqlal Mosque is the largest in Southeast Asia and a tranquil haven from the traffic chaos outside. There are local guides on hand to show visitors around.

Across the way, the beautiful Catholic Cathedral is a symbol of the pluralistic nature of Indonesian society (Indonesia also has the second largest Christian population in Southeast Asia).

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: Istiqlal Mosque. Image: Bigstock

Jakarta stages a large number of annual festivals, and attending one is a great way to get beneath the skin of the city’s cultural scene. Java Jazz Festival and the Jakarta Food and Fashion Festival are two high profile options, but there are lots of others.

For some local colour at any time, head to Glodok — Jakarta’s Chinatown — a jumble of produce markets, authentic street food stalls, and trinket stands.

Great places to eat in Jakarta

There are many fabulous places to eat in Jakarta, but Café Batavia is famous and it’s easy to see why.

As you step inside, you are instantly transported to another time. Downstairs is a lounge bar that is still home to live music, while upstairs you can eat a deconstructed gado gado while looking at the mind-bending street performers in the square below. Cafe Batavia is a delight and shouldn’t be missed.

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: Café Batavia. Image: Alamy

While not a uniquely Indonesian phenomenon, the brunch buffets at many of Jakarta’s luxury hotels are legendary. Most offer an array of Western and Asian canapés, entrees, main courses, and desserts. Two of the best options are Hotel Mulia and the Kempinski. Treat yourself and book for brunch even if you’re not staying in-house.

Where to shop in Jakarta

Shopping could very easily be considered Jakarta’s unofficial favourite pastime.

There are monuments to consumerism across the city, ranging from the very basic flea market to the ultra-chic and shiny mall. Central Jakarta’s Grand Indonesia houses all the standard chain stores like Gap, Zara and H&M (and it has lovely air conditioning). Bargaining is the name of the game at the Blok M discount mall in South Jakarta.

If you suddenly find yourself in the market for a gramophone or antique diving helmet, head to Jalan Surabaya.

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: Shop at Jalan Surabaya for antiques and bric-a-brac.

Ways to relax in Jakarta

If you feel like a holiday massage or spa treatment, there’s a salon on just about every Jakarta street.

However, why contend with the traffic, noise and fumes? Motorbike transport company Gojek has branched out to offer mobile massages and cream baths (an Indonesian hair treatment), and will come to your hotel or Airbnb apartment.

Once you’ve been suitably primped and prodded, head out for rooftop drinks at Cloud Lounge or Skye. There’s something quite liberating about being 50-odd storeys above the chaos of the city.

Jakarta travel guide
Jakarta travel guide: Snowbay Waterpark

And finally, if you’re looking for a way to beat the Jakarta heat, splash down at one of the city’s many waterparks. Kids and big-kids-at-heart will love Pondok Indah Water Park, complete with an Olympic-sized pool and wave machine. Up in the Ancol recreational precinct on Jakarta Bay, Atlantis Water Adventure has eight pools and a set of awesome slides. Snowbay Waterpark south of Central Jakarta also has great amenities, but get there early; it gets insanely busy!

For more inspiration, visit www.indonesia.travel.

Browse our range of Jakarta tours and experiences here.

Do you have any tips to add to our Jakarta travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Samantha Wasson

About the writer

Samantha Wasson is a Sydney-based freelance writer and former educator. She lived in Vietnam for three years and has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Travel highlights to date have included studying German in Freiburg, volunteering at an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai, and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.

 

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