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It started life in the mid 19th century as a centre for tin mining and its name means muddy confluence in Behasa Melayu, Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city in Malaysia. The population of the city itself was estimated at 1.6million in 2006 but the urban of Greater Kuala Lumpur is more than seven million. Moreover, population-wise and economically Kuala Lumpur is growing faster than any other city in the country.

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The parliament of Malaysia has its seat in Kuala Lumpur but the executive and judiciary have been in Putrajaya since 1999. Malaysia has a monarch and the official residence, Istana Negara, is also located in the city centre. A world city, Kuala Lumpur is home to a number of significant sporting and cultural events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Formula One championship.

From its humble beginnings and being chosen the capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896 through to gaining its independence from British Colonial rule in 1957, Kuala Lumpur has remained the capital and was named as such with the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

How To Get ThereKuala Lumpur Melaka and Penang (Lonely Planet Country & Regional Guides)

The city’s main airport is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, located 75km south of the city centre at Sepang. The destination is easily accessible from most parts of the world by air, surface and sea links and more than 45 international airlines fly into the country. The country’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has a global network that services six continents as well as a national network servicing more than 36 local destinations.

Where to stay

The city has a countless range of options when it comes to accommodation. This includes anything from backpacker hostels through to high-end five-star options. The city is split up into different ‘neighbourhoods’ and from Bukit Bintang through to Chinatown, there are a number of choices for each.

Top things to see and do

Main attractions

Dataran Merdeka- Otherwise known as Independence Square, this sits in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It was here that the Malayan flag replaced the Union flag for the first time back in August 31, 1957 when Malaysia declared its independence. It is also here that the annual National Day Parade (Hari Merdeka) takes place.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building- This is one of the most significant buildings from the time when the British were in Malaysia. It was named for Sultan Abdul Samad who was the sultan of Selangor when construction began. Its Moorish architecture was inspired by the Islamic mosques that AC Norman (the architect) saw when he was posted in India and it served as a base for a number of British administration departments.

  • Istana Negara- This is the National Palace occupied by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia). Originally built by a Chinese millionaire in the late 1920s, the Japanese took control of it during their occupation from 1942 for three years and turned it into an officers’ mess. After the Japanese surrender, the Selangor State government purchased it, undertook its renovation and it then became the palace of the Sultan of Selangor until 1957. The palace is not open to visitors so the main gates are a very popular spot for tourist photographs.

The Kuala Lumpur tower (Menara Kuala Lumpur)- is the fifth largest tower in the world when measured to the tip of its antenna. It serves as a communications tower and there is a revolving restaurant near the top which offers a view of the whole city.
Tugu Negara- This means National Monument in Malay and stands as a reminder to those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom, both against the Japanese during the second world war and also in the Malayan emergency which lasted from 1948 to 1960. The monument stands near the Malaysian Houses of Parliament. Every year on July 31, the King of Malaysia, the Prime Minister and the heads of the military pay their respects to the fallen heroes by laying wreaths at the monument.
The Aquaria KLCC is an underwater attraction located beneath the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. It is home to more than 250 species of land and aquatic animals from Malaysia and other parts of the world. There is also information on conservation programmes for a number of fish and turtles.

  • Zoo Negara- This is the national zoo and it relies solely on the proceeds from the gate, which means that the park is supported to a great extent by sponsors and partners. The zoo has more than 5,000 animals made up of over 400 species.
  • The Petronas Twin Towers- The headquarters of the Petronas oil and gas company were completed in 1998 and this became the tallest building in the world. They have now been surpassed by Taipei 101 but they remain the tallest twin buildings in the world. Visitors can view the city from the Skybridge or podium which is 170m from the ground.
  • Petaling Street- This is Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown and is well known for its imitation clothing and other goods, but is a great place to practise your haggling skills.
  • Batu Caves- This is located just outside of Kuala Lumpur and consists of a limestone hill which houses a number of caves and cave temples. Named for the Batu river which passed the hill, the caves attract 1.5 million visitors a year for the Thaipusam Hindu festival. The Caves are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.


Kuala Lumpur is also the cultural hub for Malaysia and, as such is home to a number of cultural centres. These include the National Museum which displays friezes and artefacts collected from throughout the country.

The Islamic Arts Museum boasts more than 7,000 Islamic artefacts and is situated next to the National Mosque.

Other must-dos include the National Art Gallery of Malaysia which is next to the National Theatre and National Library.
Eating Out and Nightlife
The area known as the Golden Triangle is both the business and fun capital in this city. There are many nightclubs and bars as well as restaurants and eateries including the Hard Rock Café, the Rum Jungle, the Thai Club and Nuovo. The so called golden triangle which is formed by Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Imbi and Jalan Sultan Ismail is also home to numerous eateries.
The city also plays host to an annual International Gourmet Festival, ideal for foodies looking to sample a variety of cuisines under one roof.


Shopping is big business in Kuala Lumpur with more than 66 shopping malls. The city is also the Malaysian centre for the fashion industry. Bukit Bintang is the most famous shopping road and has the greatest concentration of retail outlets in the city.
As well the malls, there is the central market which is located near to the Dayabumi Complex and carries a number of arts and crafts as well as antiques, paintings and nic-nacs. The city also has specifically set-aside zones for the sale of textiles and handicrafts. There is also the infamous Petaling Street which is always worth a visit.

Kuala Lumpur Special Events

There are a number of special events going on throughout the year including:

Thaipusam January/February
Hindu celebration held at Batu Caves

Chinese New Year January/February
Celebrations centre on Chinatown and include dragon dancing and fireworks.

Federal Territory Day
Celebrations for the city’s birthday and include fireworks and streamers.

F1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix March
Held at the Sepang International Circuit

Colours of Malaysia June
Held throughout the city this is a celebration of Malaysian culture.

Merdeka Celebrations

This is a month long celebration in August and September and marks Malaysia’s independence.

Merdeka Eve Celebrations

Held in Independence Square in August.


Held in October/November this is the Hindu festival of lights- held throughout the city.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Held in October this marks the end of Ramadam and is celebrated with festivals.

Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival

Held in December this is a shopping festival which includes Malaysian Fashion Week and the Made in Malaysia Exhibition.

How to get around

Public transport in Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the Klang Valley includes bus, rail and taxis. The rapid transit system in Kuala Lumpur is made up of three rail systems which meet in the city (RapidKL RAIL, KL monorail and KTM Komuter). These are either underground or elevated.
By sea Kuala Lumpur is served by Port Klang which is the busiest port in the country.

Social etiquette
Some of the accepted behaviour is in keeping with many Islamic cultures and includes the removal of shoes before entering a home and the avoiding of public displays of affection. Remember that conservative dress is the order of the day. Also a Malaysian handshake may be less than firm and then followed by them moving their hand over their heart.
Fast Facts

Kuala Lumpur is located in the state of Selangor part of the Klang Valley. The Valley is bordered by the Titiwangsa Mountains in the east. The city is at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.

Time: GMT + 8 Hours

Behasa Melayu is the official language of Malaysia but is only one of the languages of Kuala Lumpur (Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil and English.)

Climate: Kuala Lumpur has a year round equatorial climate so is both sunny, warm (maximum temperature between 31-33 degrees) but with heavy rainfall. September to April is the Monsoon season and so sees the greatest rainfall.
Area: The city covers an area of 243.65 km2

Population: The population of the city itself was estimated at 1.6million in 2006 but the urban of Greater Kuala Lumpur is more than seven million.

Islam is the official religion but other religions are also widely practiced.
Electricity: Voltage is 220-240 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. The standard three-pin square plugs and sockets are accepted.
Telephone code: +603

The Ringgitt Malaysia (RM)

Passport/visa requirements:
Visitors to Malaysia must hold a valid passport or travel document with a minimum validity of six months beyond the intended visiting period.

National airline:
Malaysia Airlines (

Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Flight time:
Approximately 12 and a half hours.

Public Holidays

1 Jan New Year's Day.
26 Jan Chinese New Year.
1 Feb* Federal Territory Day.
9 Mar Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of Prophet Muhammad).
1 May Labour Day.
9 May Wesak Day (Birth of Buddha).
6 Jun King's Birthday.
31 Aug Merdeka Day (National Day).
21 Sep Hari Raya Puasa (End of Ramadan).
17 Oct** Deepavali.
27-28 Nov Hari Raya Qurban (Feast of the Sacrifice).
18 Dec Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year).
25 Dec Christmas.

UK Tourist Office details: Malaysia Tourism Office, Malaysian House, 7 Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DU. Tel: 020-7930 7932.

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