Jakarta, Indonesia

From its Dutch Colonial old town to its vibrant Chinatown, Indonesia’s capital is a dynamic blend of cultures and influences. Mosques and cathedrals coexist with Chinese temples, modern shopping centers share pavements with traditional street markets, and Indonesian theaters draw the same crowds as Dutch concert halls.

Your guide to Jakarta.

Despite its sprawling size, Jakarta offers much to discover given just one day. National monuments that pay homage to Indonesia’s independence; museums and galleries depicting ethnology, art and history; and myriad religious buildings celebrating faiths from every corner of the world. Oh, and did we mention the coffee’s pretty great too?  

Exploring.

There’s a reason they refer to Jakarta as a megalopolis. The city radiates a frenetic energy, the pace of which can make London, New York and Tokyo seem calm by comparison. But this, along with a world of contrasts, is part of Jakarta’s charm. In the old town you’ll encounter countless Dutch colonial-era buildings while its Chinatown neighbor bears all the hallmarks of Shanghai. The city’s National Monument is centrally located and close to several notable attractions; the 200 year-old National Museum, Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta Cathedral and the National Gallery of Indonesia. The 17th Century Dutch Cemetery and the Neo-Palladian style presidential palace are also nearby.

Eating and drinking.

Rarely do you come across a culinary offer as diverse as that you find in Jakarta. The city’s cuisine is as far-reaching as its cultural influences, encompassing everything from fine-dining to simple street food turned out of makeshift kitchens. Even Jakarta’s shopping centers offer up an eclectic dining selection within their food courts. Betawi, Dutch, Arabic and Indian flavors all influence Indonesian cooking, with many dishes featuring a signature spicy kick. Jakarta is also abundant in coffee houses; hardly surprising considering Indonesia exports some of the world’s highest grade beans. Cafés here range from the humble and traditional to award-winning brunch spots, garnering global acclaim. 

Shopping.

Jakarta is a shopper’s dream, filled with lively markets and contemporary shopping centres offering homespun crafts and high-end labels. This offer extends east-to-west across the city, but you needn’t venture further than the centre to find shopping of both varieties. Markets typically specialize in Indonesian wares, from Batik fashions and wooden figurines to puppets used in traditional performances. Prices aren’t fixed and you’ll need to haggle to avoid paying over the odds. For a shopping experience akin to that you’d find in the west, head into one of the city’s many shopping centres, where air-conditioned micro-climates provide a cool way to shop.

Beyond Jakarta.

Venturing to Jakarta’s outer fringes brings you to the forested Ragunan Zoo and Taman Mini Indonesia Indah; an attraction honoring Indonesia’s architecture and culture. If seeking respite from Jakarta’s unyielding pace, the towering trees and expansive walkways of Ragunan Zoo is where you’ll find it. Set in acres of rainforest, it’s one of Jakarta’s only green spaces, offering the chance to observe monkeys, elephants and other exotic wildlife in a beautiful natural setting. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah offers an equally rich experience. Translating as ‘beautiful Indonesia’ a visit here expands on the customs and traditions intrinsic to everyday life across the country’s islands.