The capital of Malaysia isn’t the oldest city on the planet but it has its fair share of historic sites amid a dazzling catalogue of modern buildings.
Kuala Lumpur is little more than 150 years old and in that time has seen a 19th century economic boom thanks to tin, a dreadful fire, a huge flood, decades of British rule and Japanese occupation during the Second World War.
The city, which sits on the banks of the Kelang and Gombak rivers, is famous for its Petronas Towers and has become known in recent years for its shopping, but its historic and colonial heart is Dataran Merdeka – Merdeka Square. It was there, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, that Malaysian indepence ceremonies were held back in 1957.
While Dataran Merdeka is an iconic attraction in the city, not many people know the stories behind the 10 historic buildings in the area – all of them aged over 100. The best way of discovering these colonial, Moorish, Tudor, neo-Gothic and Islamic jewels and the stories behind them is to join a walking tour. They’re run three times a week, organised by Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
Plan your travelFor flights, rooms and reviews: Opodo, Expedia, Hotels.com, Easy Voyage, Late Rooms and TripAdvisor. The tour stops at the following attractions:
The Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Built between 1894 and 1897, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (pictured above) is the first example of Moghul architecture in Malaysia and features a 41m-high clock tower, arched colonnades and copper domes. Before serving as the office for the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, it was the home of the Supreme Court.
Old City Hall
Built in 1896, the distinctive Old City Hall has black domes and an interesting roofline of Islamic arches and dome-shaped pavilions. Nowadays it serves as one of the oldest theatres in the country, known locally as Panggung Bandaraya.
The Government Printing Office
Architects AC Norman and J Russell built this fine Moghul-India inspired building in 1898 to meet the printing needs of the then British colonial authorities in Malaya. Government reports, official government books and even train tickets were printed there. Today, it’s the KL City Gallery with artworks and historic items, and also has a Tourist Information Centre.
Federated Malay States Railway Station
Built in 1905, the railway station has a striking design of alternating red bricks and white plaster bands, along with an Islamic-style façade with raised onion-shaped domes derived from Moghul architecture. The building now houses the rather specialist National Textile Museum (pictured).
The Chartered Bank
Dating form 1919, the three-storey symmetrical Chartered Bank has a protruding porch and arches on the ground level, showing off its Moghul elements eloquently. The building has been converted into Restoran Warisan, a restaurant serving local traditional food for lunch and dinner.
The Cathedral of St Mary
The cathedral was the first brick church built in what was then the Federated Malay States, and also one of the first Anglican churches in the region. Dating originally from 1895, it was rebuilt in the English Gothic style after a fire in 1922. The church’s pipe organ is a much celebrated, built by one of the greatest organ makers in the world, Henry Willis.
Former High Court Building
This bright, two-storey building has a neo-Moorish exterior with four towers – typical of its time. Built in 1909 by the British, it’s now occupied by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture.
This attractive fountain is more than a century old, was imported from England and assembled in Kuala Lumpur. It has some charming and colourful Art Nouveau tiles that sparkle in the sunshine.
The Padang, which is today known as Dataran Merdeka, is where the British Union Jack was lowered and the flag of an independent Federation of Malaya, raised for the first time on August 31 1957 – ending British rule after 151 years. It was also the site for many a cricket match organised by the Royal Selangor Club. The square was renamed in 1990.
Royal Selangor Club or The Dog
Built in 1884, the Royal Selangor Club was set up as an exclusive club for the growing expatriate community back in colonial times but it’s since opened to Malaysians. The building has mock-Tudor touches and fronts an expanse of well-trimmed green lawns, giving it a real English feel. Tourists registered on the heritage walking tour can go into the club for refreshments at the Long Bar, and imagine watching a cricket or rugby mat on the Padang.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur and other info:
Get more info on the The Dataran Merdeka Heritage Tour at the Malaysian Tourism site.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a major hub in Asia and served by Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways
For hotels in Kuala Lumpur try Hilton, Accor and Crowne Plaza
Search flights & accommodation at Opodo, Easy Voyage or Expedia UK – in Australia, Canada or the USA
For accommodation ideas and reviews look at Hotels.com, Late Rooms or TripAdvisor