It’s never too early (or too late) to start thinking about your next travel destination. Despite having a travel wish list which includes countries like New Zealand, South Africa and Greece, I also want to visit Southeast Asia. Not only is Southeast Asia tropic and budget-friendly, but the landscape is breathtaking! One of the countries that I’m looking forward to visiting is Indonesia. Comprised of 17,000 islands, Indonesia boasts pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, waterfalls, volcanoes and lush forests. Although Indonesia is known for Bali’s beaches and Ubud’s sacred temples, I’d also like to visit Jakarta.
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and it is a huge metropolis (about the size of Singapore). It is one of the largest cities in the world and its infamous for traffic jams.
Many refer to Jakarta as “the city of contrasts” because it is traditional and modern. There’s also a large gap between the rich and poor. Luxury skyscrapers are right next to shantytowns and slums.
While some travelers may decide to skip Jakarta, explore Jakarta in 48 hours or visit other places throughout Indonesia, I’m drawn to Jakarta’s ethnic and cultural diversity. With over 300 ethnic groups who speak 200 languages, here’s a list of what to see in Jakarta if you want to discover the multicultural heritage.
Places to Visit in Jakarta
Best Cultural Things to Do in Jakarta
Jalan Surabaya Antique Market
One of the places that caught my eye when planning a trip to Jakarta is the Jalan Surabaya, an exotic antique market in central Jakarta. I love handcrafted ornaments, ceramics, and antique wood sculptures, so I wouldn’t want to miss visiting this market and picking up a few souvenirs. I would also relish the opportunity to talk to the merchants. I can only imagine the photos and stories I would have to share!
Cultural Significance: Jalan Surabaya has been around for over 40 years. Antiquing is a craft passed down from generation to generation. Most merchants at the market today are second generation traders. Before the market, merchants carried their crafts on their shoulders and sold their goods on the street.
City Bus Tours
Although I prefer getting to know a city intimately on foot, I can’t resist wanting to go on Jakarta’s free city bus tour – that’s right, this tour is completely free. This tour not only helps you get acquainted with the landscape but also introduces you to many of the capital’s historic sites.
Betawi Cultural Village
The Betawi are the indigenous people of Jakarta. They come from different races and ethnic groups including Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Arabic and Portuguese.
Cultural Significance: The Betawi Cultural Village of Setu Babakan preserves the indigenous Betawi culture. In this small village, I would marvel at original Betawi architecture, watch cultural performances and try the flavorful Indonesian cuisine.
Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral
Jakarta is home to the Jakarta Catholic Cathedral and Istiqlal Mosque (Independence Mosque). These two spiritual places are right across from each other and symbolize religious harmony and tolerance.
Cultural Significance: Did you know that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world!
Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. It has five floors and a large prayer hall in the center of the dome. During your visit, book a free guided tour to learn more about Islam and its influence on local culture.
Places to Stay in Jakarta
Merlynn Park Hotel is a centrally located 4-star hotel. With average rates of $46-$64 USD (based on a standard room), this is a good price for accommodations in Jakarta. Merlynn Park offers free breakfast, pool access and lots of other amenities that would make for a relaxing stay.
Planning a trip to Indonesia made me realize that Jakarta is way more than just a gateway city. It deserves more than a day or two of exploration and I can’t wait to share my experience visiting for the first time with you soon.
Other Jakarta Travel Planning Resources
Here are some other blog posts I found helpful in planning a trip to Jakarta.