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Despite the fact it’s a small city, there are plenty of things to do in Melaka. It’s one of my favourite places in Malaysia and I’m always surprised it doesn’t get more visitors. If you love culture, food and architecture, make sure to add Melaka to your Malaysia itinerary.
Not only is it easy to reach from Kuala Lumpur but it’s also not far from Singapore so you could consider stopping off when travelling by bus between the two countries. In this Melaka travel guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know for the perfect trip.
Mosques, colonial churches and Hindu and Chinese temples sit on every corner making Melaka a cultural melting pot. The gorgeous old-style houses are just as elaborate, telling tales of days gone by.
Visually, Melaka reminds me a bit of Hoi An in Vietnam, one of my favourite places on Earth. It’s simply a charming place to wander whether you hit up the must-see Melaka attractions or just relax and enjoy the slow pace of life.
E-sim data plan
Copy of Lonely Planet Malaysia
Getting there: flight, bus, train (12GoAsia)
Accommodation: Hotels on Booking.com // hostels on Hostelworld
Tours: GetYourGuide / Viator
Read next: All the best things to do in Southeast Asia and my Southeast Asia backpacking itinerary
A quick history of Melaka
Now a UNESCO World Heritage City, Melaka was set up by a fleeing Sumatran prince in the 14th century. Next to arrive were Chinese settlers whose ancestors
The city then became a stomping ground for European colonialists with the first invasion from Portugal in 1511.
The Dutch kicked out the Portuguese food and set up windmills in Melaka Square which you can still see today. Like a sick game of chess, Holland traded Melaka for Jakarta in Indonesia, giving Melaka to the British who then ruled Malaysia for almost 200 years.
Indian workers, who nowadays make up almost 10% of the Malay population, were recruited to help build the empire. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Malaysia finally gained independence.
How long to spend in Melaka?
Honestly, you could see all of Melaka in one day as the city centre is tiny. However, my best Asia travel tip is to take your time and enjoy the sleepy cities when you find them. Save your big city energy for KL!
If you’ve got two days, you could spend the morning of one taking a trip to Melaka Straits Mosque. There are a couple of museums that could also fill some time, and if you’ve got a third day you could relax and enjoy the cafe scene. It’s really up to you but I feel that 1-3 days would be optimum.
Where to stay in Melaka
There are plenty of places to stay in Melaka for all budgets. I would recommend the following places.
- Ola Lavanderia Cafe – this sunny yellow cafe and hostel has private and dorm beds with AC. Tea and coffee are included, plus there’s laundry facilities and bicycle rental. Beds start from $10.
- Yote 28 – this modern and shiny hostel has all your amenities, comfy beanbags, games, Netflix and beds for $13. Flashpacking for sure!
- Hotel Puri Melaka – this gorgeous hotel built in Malay heritage style with carved wooden details and period artwork is a bargain with rooms starting at $50 a night.
- The Rucksack Caratel – this charming boutique hotel has double or twin rooms with bathtubs from $32 a night, as well as large caravan rooms with up to four beds inside. You’ll also have access to a swimming pool and stylish games area.
How to get to Melaka
Many people arrive by bus from Kuala Lumpur which takes around 2 hours and arrives into Melaka Sentral, a 15-minute taxi ride from town. Taxis wait around the station but your cheapest option is calling a Grab. Book your KL to Melaka journey on 12go.
Melaka is also a 4-5 hour bus journey from Singapore. Aside from having to get off twice for customs, it’s an easy journey. Book on 12go.
Things to do in Melaka
Melaka is a wonderful city to visit whether you’re with friends, family or travelling solo in Malaysia. It’s great for eating and comes alive at weekends when Jonker Street Night Market pops up.
While Melaka is generally a quiet, low-rise city, you’ll be shocked to see (and hear!) tuk-tuks decked in Hello Kitty and Minions accessories and blaring chart music like Nicki Minaj. Honestly, they’re ridiculous and add to the character to this weird and wonderful city.
My recent trip to Melaka was pretty chilled although I still managed to fit in the activities below. Here are my top things to do in Melaka…
1. Go house-spotting
The first thing you’ll want to do when you arrive in Melaka
Wandering between cafes and snapping photos was how I spent most of my time in Melaka.
As briefly mentioned, the Chinese community in Melaka makes up a percentage of the population. The words Straits and Peranakan refer to the ancestors of Chinese people who settled in Malaysia during colonial rule.
Alongside Penang and Singapore’s Koon Seng Road, you’ll find some of the best Straits architecture in Malaysia. These buildings are known for their bright colours and antique windows and shutters, as well as their use of Chinese characters and hanging lanterns.
2. Stroll around the Red Square
Also known as the Dutch Square, the Red Square is often considered to be the heart of Melaka, and it’s one of the best spots to see the impressive colonial Dutch-inspired architecture.
Faithful to its name, the buildings surrounding the square are all painted red, with this photogenic element only adding to its charm – and probably the reason why the square is featured on so many Melaka postcards!
Prominent buildings to admire within the square are the 18th-century Christ Church and 17th-century Stadthuys. Built in 1650, Stadthuys is the oldest remaining Dutch colonial building in Southeast Asia and, in more recent years, was converted into a History and Ethnography Museum.
3. Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
I first visited this museum back in 2015 and it’s still going strong today. Baba & Nyonya in the heart of the UNESCO Old Town is a fascinating place to learn about the history and customs of Chinese settlers who arrived in Malaysia, often called Straits people.
This ornate house is the ancestral home of four generations of a Peranakan family. By visiting, you can learn about their culture and customs through furniture and household items. It’s an important thing to do in Melaka to understand the rich, mixed heritage of Malaysian people.
Entry is 18 MYR.
4. Visit Melaka Straits Mosque
Melaka Straits Mosque (Masjid Selat Melaka) is just a short drive from town is worth a visit while in Melaka.
Also known as the Floating Mosque because it sits on an island above the water, this gold-domed mosque was only completed in 2006, making it several centuries younger than some of Melacca’s religious buildings.
Non-Muslim guests are welcome to go inside the mosque provided they dress conservatively and women cover their hair. You also need to leave your shoes at the door.
Getting there: We caught a cheap Grab (Asia’s answer to Uber) to man-made Melaka Island which only cost 10 MYR each way. You could also consider riding a bicycle there but possibly not during the sweaty summer months unless you have a hat.
5. Seek out the street art
Like George Town, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, there’s so much vibrant street art dotted around Melaka. I loved finding it and taking photos, especially in the early morning before the crowds came out.
The best bit is Kiehl’s Wall which is a giant rainbow masterpiece and selfie backdrop. You’re bound to find it whether you’re looking for it or not – you can’t really miss it! However, if you’re keen to see all the best bits, follow my street art guide to Melaka.
Street art is a relatively new phenomenon in Malaysia but it’s taken off. Ernest Zacharevic is a Lithuanian artist who became well known when he completed some quirky, 3D murals in George Town, Penang for a local festival in 2012.
As he became famous, he was asked to complete more street art in Ipoh and other cities around the world. Although he hasn’t done any work in Melaka, there’s still some colourful art worth seeking out.
Browse my Malaysia street art archives.
Temples in Melaka
6. Wander Tokong Street AKA ‘Harmony Street’
As a multi-ethnic nation, there are amazing temples wherever you go in Malaysia. In Melaka, they’re particularly well-preserved and part of the reason the city gained UNESCO Heritage status. To see numerous religious houses on one street, head to Tokong Street dubbed ‘Harmony Street’.
Temples to see on Tokong include…
7. Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (the oldest temple in Malaysia)
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest temple in Malaysia, decked in red lanterns is Taoist, Confucianist and Buddhist and founded by the Chinese population of Melaka.
8. Kampong Kling Mosque
I haven’t been inside Kampung Kling Mosque, which is just a few moments from Cheng Hoon Teng, but I always love seeing it from the outside. As one of the tallest points in low-rise Melaka, it stands out like a beacon. It’s the oldest mosque in Melaka dating back to 1748.
A third religious house to visit on Tokon Street is Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthi Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in the city. The colourful entrance tower leads to a shrine featuring Ganesh.
9. People-watching + nightlife at Geographer Cafe
There are cheaper and more authentic places to eat in Melaka but there’s nowhere better to sit and people-watch than Geographer Cafe.
This sunny yellow cafe is a gorgeous place to while away a lazy afternoon. It’s also one of the few places for nightlife in Melaka. It won’t be an all-night rave but you can sink some beers while enjoying a vibey atmosphere.
10. Indulge at Jonker Street Night Market
One of the best things to do in Melaka for foodies is take a trip to Jonker Street Night Market, locally known as Jalan Hang Jebat, held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It can’t rival the hawker food in Penang but it’ll still blow you away.
My friend and I tucked into mua chee which are gooey rice balls rolled in peanut, as well as about five other sweet and savoury dishes.
Other (unhealthy but delicious) things to eat include deep-fried ice cream, coconut ice cream served in whole coconut shells, quails eggs, and snackable popiah rolls.
I like that Melaka is popular with Malaysian holidaymakers as well as Westerners because it feels more local than the markets in Thailand which are specifically aimed at foreign tourists. Even the locals come out to eat and sing karaoke making it a great place to be at the weekend with a real party atmosphere.
11. Gawp at the Hello Kitty tuk-tuks
Melaka’s Windmill Square has to be one of the strangest places ever with its Dutch windmills and Catholic churches. To me, it just feels wrong but I know a lot of tourists love
It’s here in the central square that you’ll find the outlandish Hello Kitty tuk-tuks adorned in glitter and cuddly toys. Seeing masculine-looking guys driving them around always make me smile!
In the evenings, the trishaws are lit with flashing LED lights while stereo music and disco balls turn the experience into your own personal disco as you ride along the streets! Of course, the trishaws are kitsch and touristy, but that’s somewhat part of the appeal in this case.
Again, it’s very silly, but perhaps you’ll feel less self-conscious of the gawping onlookers once you’ve descended into giggles.
12. Dig into the street food
The more time I spend in Malaysia, the more I love
I doubt many people around the world have Malaysian cuisine on their radar, maybe because there aren’t many Malaysian restaurants overseas. After eating the food in KL’s Chinatown and Little India (Brickfields), I’d describe Malay food as the best of Chinese and Indian with some extra delicious dishes thrown in.
A few things to eat in Mekaka include:
- Biriyani on a banana leaf in Little India
- Dim sum in the endless Chinese restaurants
- The national dishes of nasi lemak (in just about any local restaurant)
- Laksa, a rich noodle soup that can either be made with coconut milk (curry laksa) or tamarind (assam laksa)
- Popiah, fresh egg rolls filled with veggies, peanuts and tofu
- Cendol, a sweet shaved ice dish you can try for dessert
- Chicken rice balls from one of the many restaurants serving them.
Read next: The best food in Melaka
Most of the food in Melaka is very affordable: you can get a hearty meal for 10-15 MYR including a drink in many authentic local restaurants. I ate so much in Melaka and never had a bad meal.
13. Drink coffee at a cute cafe
For such a well-preserved UNESCO city, I was surprised by how many modern coffee shops there are in Melaka. It can almost rival the number of cafes in George Town, Penang‘s coffee hub!
The flat whites and cappuccinos are as good as any I’ve had at home, and the quirky cafes are the ultimate escape from the sticky afternoon heat. The shabby-chic decor reminded me of the Insta-friendly cafes in KL. We all need a cool cafe from time to time, right?
As well as your standard Western coffee, you can also try local Malay coffee. If you’re trying to be healthy, you might want to give this one a miss because it contains bucketloads of sugar as well as butter. It’s very sweet and moreish, served in tiny cups at local coffee shops.
If you need your caffeine fix but don’t fancy paying inflated prices at the fashionable cafes, Malaysian coffee is less than a quarter of the price of a flat white.
Read next: My Melaka cafe guide
14. Cycle to A Famosa Portuguese ruins
For a fun activity, hire a bike and cycle up to Porta de Santiago, the oldest European ruins in Southeast Asia. This fortress dates back to 1511 and, while it’s understandably dilapidated today, it’s one of the most famous things to do in Melaka (the name ‘A Formosa’ actually translates to ‘famous’ in Portuguese).
The best part of a visit to Porta de Santiago is the views over Melaka, right the way out to the coast. Visiting for sunset is the best time of day. If you’d rather not cycle there, you can hire a local taxi driver to take you.
15. Visit the historic St Paul’s Church
St Paul’s Church is the oldest church in Southeast Asia. Although some parts of the historic structure are now beyond repair, it’s still a fascinating place to visit in Melaka. The original church was built in 1521 by Portuguese colonialists to honour the Virgin Mary.
The site has had many uses over the years; it was one of the first modern schools in the Malay Peninsula. In addition, its hilltop location made the church a strategic landmark for navigators sailing into the city through the Straits of Melaka. However, the British did the structure no favours after using it to store gunpowder in the early 1800s.
The church is located at the summit of St Paul’s Hill, so even if you’re not interested in the history, it’s still one of the best Melaka things to do for the views alone.
16. Take a Melaka River Cruise
Another one of the best things to do in Melaka is to take a 45-minute river cruise. This is a relaxing way to enjoy the colonial and traditional architecture of the city. While the historical commentary isn’t the most insightful, it’s still a laidback way to enjoy Melaka at a slower pace.
Book now: your Melaka river cruise
Look out for Kampung Morten Village during your trip, Melaka’s last remaining traditional village. The village was once the home of early settlers to Melaka. Thanks to government funding, 85 authentic houses still remain, and locals still live here.
Aside from being squashed onto your boat with other tourists, don’t be alarmed by the huge monitor lizards sharing the river with you. If you’re lucky, you might also spot an otter.
If you prefer cooler weather, take the journey at night, when many of the river’s bridges are colourfully lit up, or first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.
17. Explore the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum
With a fascinating array of traditional costumes, artwork, weaponry and other historical artefacts on display, visiting the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum is one of the best ways to discover Melaka’s history.
The unique wooden building design was inspired by the historic palace of the Malacca Sultanate. The museum is a replica of the imagined original site, carefully constructed based on 16th-century historical texts about the original architecture, and even used traditional construction methods and materials to recreate it in the most authentic way possible.
18. Maritime Museum (also known as Flor de la Mar)
Conveniently located next to the jetty for those going on a river cruise, the striking Maritime Museum will likely grab your attention before you’ve even been inside. The entire museum is a replica of the historic Portuguese ship Flor de la Mar and reaches 34 metres tall and 8 metres wide.
Once stepping inside the ship, you’ll find a fascinating museum focussed on Melaka’s Maritime history. Exhibits include model ships, paintings, historic artefacts once used by local seamen and traders, and treasures saved from other local shipwrecks. You can also walk up to the ship’s upper deck and peek inside the captain’s cabin.
19. Get up high and see Melaka from Menara Taming Sari
To find your bearings and better understand Melaka’s coastal location, it might be worth heading up to the Taming Sari Revolving Tower for a 360-degree panoramic view over Melaka. Its epic vantage point of 80 metres high gives you a fantastic lookout over the city, Melaka Straits, Pulau Besar and Gunung Ledang.
The whole experience only takes seven minutes to complete – including five minutes at the top – so make sure you get your camera ready on the way up.
20. Shore Sky Tower
If you prefer to sit back and relax once you’ve found a great view, then another fun thing to do in Melaka is visit the Shore Sky Tower. At 163 metres high, you’ll get picturesque 380-degree views of Melaka and beyond. The viewing deck has benches and telescopes, so you can take your time and get a closer look.
If you’re not afraid of heights, then the best feature of the Shore Sky Tower is definitely the glass floor of the Sky Deck, from which you can see people walking along on the streets far beneath you!
Another well-known Melaka observation deck is at Melaka Skydeck @ Hatten City. However, the views aren’t quite as impressive. So if you only have time for one viewing deck, I’d recommend choosing the Taming Sari Revolving Tower if you’re short on time or the Shore Sky Tower.
21. A’Famosa Water Theme Park
This final activity in Melaka is great for families. A’Famosa Water Theme Park is packed with slides, flumes and tubes that’ll keep kids busy for hours. There’s a shop and cafe onsite should you need to dry off and eat.
A word about A’Famosa Safari Wonderland – you may see this place beside the theme park. While I understand everyone wants to see beautiful animals like giraffe and elephants, I cannot recommend this place because I have seen photos of people riding elephants which should never be done. Don’t go, please!
That’s a wrap! For more inspo, read my other Melaka posts:
- All the best things to do in Melaka
- The best food in Melaka
- 10 cute Melaka coffee shops
- Where to see street art in Melaka
Thanks for reading these things to do Melaka!
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See you next time for more adventures,
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Malaysia quick links
Flights – I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Stay connected with E-sim data plans that don’t require delivery or collection; just span the QR code.
In my opinion, Lonely Planet offer the best guidebooks. Get the latest Copy of Lonely Planet Malaysia.
For Malaysia buses and trains, I use 12GoAsia. The search feature allows you to compare prices and durations.
I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
For activities, I use GetYourGuide and Viator as they both have a huge range of affordable tours.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!