When traveling, sometimes you’ll find a city with such warm smiles and friendly people that it takes you aback. For us, Malacca is one of those cities. We arrived after spending 10 days in the bustling Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
At a first glance, Malacca (also spelled Melaka) is a somewhat sleepy coastal town roughly halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Yet once you scratch the surface, you’ll find there is much more happening here than you may expect since the city has nearly half a million residents and a rich history.
So if you find yourself here in possibly one of Malaysia’s friendliest cities, these are the things you won’t want to miss.
11 Best Things to do in Malacca, Malaysia
1. Stroll along the Malacca River
The Malacca River is one of the city’s icons. It snakes through the heart of Malacca and both sides feature a beautiful boardwalk that is enjoyed by tourists, joggers, and locals. There are also beautiful bridges spanning the river frequently, making it easy to truly experience the area.
At night, the banks of the river light up with colorful decorations. It’s a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by.
2. Visit Jonker Street Night Market
If strolling along the river is one of the most relaxing activities in Malacca, then the Jonker Street Night Market is its polar opposite. We’re no strangers to a night market in Southeast Asia, but this one is as busy and crowded as it gets.
There are lots of little stands selling everything from chicken satay to infomercial-style salesmen selling shower-heads.
Jonker Street seems much more about the products than it is about the food, but there are still great options to be had and it’s absolutely worth a visit if you’re in Malacca.
The market is open from 6 PM to 12 AM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
3. See Melaka Straits Mosque at sunset
Melaka Straits Mosque is a mosque located on a small man made island off the coast of Malacca. At high tide, it appears like it’s floating! It’s also one of the most beautiful place to see a sunset in Malacca.
4. Visit the Kee Ann Food Street
If you want to visit a night market that has great food, but isn’t nearly as busy as Jonker, then head to Kee Ann Food Street. The market is open from 6 PM to 12 AM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
We actually found this on accident, as it took place right in front of the hotel we were staying at. The food is incredible, and we really enjoyed visiting the different vendors and sampling a little bit of everything. We ended up preferring this market to the Jonker Street Market!
5. Take a river cruise
Walking along the Malacca River can be quite the excursion, especially on a hot day. So taking a river cruise is a fun way to learn a bit about the history of Malacca while taking in the sights from the comfort of a shaded seat.
The cruise takes about 45 minutes and costs 30 RM ($7.27 USD) for a foreigner ticket. It’s honestly a bit overpriced, but it’s still a cool experience. You can purchase tickets and board the cruise at the Melaka River Cruise Boarding Port.
6. Cool off with a tasty drink
Ready for the freshest juice you’ve ever had? There are lots of stands around the Dutch Square area that are selling fresh watermelon juice, and they really do mean fresh.
They drill a hole in the top of a watermelon, stick a handheld mixer in, and puree the watermelon right there on the spot.
As for a little ice to be added, or for a watermelon that has been cooling on ice. On a hot and humid Malaysian day, this is hard to beat. Expect to pay about 5 RM ($1.21 USD) for a small watermelon.
7. Eat some local cuisine
Being a port city, Malacca is famous for its seafood. Restaurants and food stalls alike are serving us a massive variety of seafood, so there is sure to be something new to try.
Prawns, fish, crabs, cockles, oysters, and so much more are baked, fried, cured, and cooked in more ways than we can count. There isn’t a specific dish to try, so think of it as a culinary adventure.
8. Visit Dutch Square
Dutch Square is a beautiful square in Malacca that features red buildings that reflect the Dutch Colonial Style. This area definitely gets very crowded and touristy. But it’s still fun to come and look around since it’s a major historical site.
9. Learn the history
We’d need several blog posts to cover the entirety of Malacca’s history, but here are a few key points.
Prior to independence, the city has been ruled/occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Japanese. Evidence of the Portuguese occupation is best seen in Kota A Famosa, a Portuguese fort built in 1511.
The Dutch left their mark in the heart of the city, in what today is known as Dutch Square. There you will see one of the best examples of the Dutch influence, the Christ Church. It dates back to the mid-1700s and is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.
During the British rule, Malacca was overshadowed by Penang and Singapore, but today the evidence of British rule is clear in the language. Nearly everyone we spoke with in Malacca spoke English at a conversational level.
The Japanese rule was a particularly hard time for the residents of Malacca. Today, there stands the Malacca Warrior Monument which commemorates the soldiers and volunteers who lost their lives fighting agains the Japanese occupation.
10. Admire the incredible street art
Colorful street art is all over the place in Malacca. In alleys, on sides of buildings, trash cans…It’s really fun to wander around and admire all the incredible art.
11. Go shopping at Dataran Pahlawan
Dataran Pahlawan is a mega shopping mall located right in the heart of Malacca. They have everything from clothes to electronics and yummy food. Plus, there’s air conditioning so it’s a nice place to come on an extra hot day.
Malacca is a really beautiful place. At night, all these beautiful twinkle lights come on along the river. It’s the perfect place to take a long leisurely stroll and take in the beautiful sights around you.
If you get the chance to come to this historical city, we highly recommend it! It’s beautiful, the food is great, and there’s plenty to do. What’s not to like?