15 Hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur that will show you a lesser-known side of the city

Boasting gleaming skyscrapers, a beautiful mix of modern and colonial architecture, a myriad of natural attractions, vibrant nightlife… Kuala Lumpur has something in store for everyone. No wonder the number of tourists visiting the Malaysian capital has increased significantly in recent years. Most tourists are interested in the city’s main attractions, like the twin towers, Bukit Bintang, and the iconic Menara. Don’t get me wrong; all of these places are beautiful and worth visiting but are also commercialized and too crowded most of the time. Fortunately, you can still find some hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur behind the facade of modern architecture.

If you’re looking for a different experience and want to discover a lesser-known side of this multicultural city, keep reading. We compiled a list of the best hidden places in Kuala Lumpur. Let’s start with…

A charming fishing village that will take your breath away

Located roughly one hour away from Kuala Lumpur’s center, Sekinchan is one of the most picturesque fishing villages in Malaysia. Sekinchan is a colorful sample of maritime life famous for its endless stretch of lush-green paddy fields and amazing seafood. If you’re looking for a peaceful place that isn’t visited by many tourists and yet is surrounded by beautiful nature, I strongly suggest you consider visiting Sekinchan.

Talking about things nature lovers shouldn’t miss how about…

A spectacular firefly boat ride?

Kuala Selangor

Our world has more than 2,000 species of fireflies but there are only a few places on our planet where you can experience the magic of synchronous fireflies. However, most tourists aren’t aware that you can actually experience this just outside of the capital, near Kuala Selangor. Kuala Selangor is a peaceful fishing village with amazing nature that’s perfect for people that want to take a break from the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur and experience one of the most dramatic light displays in the eastern hemisphere.

Looking for a cheap flight to Kuala Lumpur? Use this Qatar Airways offer and save up to 25% off on your flight.

While we’re at it, we can’t talk about unique things in and around the city without mentioning…

The street market in KL’s oldest village

If you’re looking for an authentic experience, only a few places can match what Kampung Baru has to offer. This village looks seemingly ordinary during the day, but the real magic happens at the night market. Kampung Baru is supposedly the oldest traditional Malay village in Kuala Lumpur and a place where you can find traditional Malay apparel, jewelry, books, handicrafts, and of course, mouth-watering Malay dishes, including satay, rojak, nasi lemak, grilled fish, and many others. The village is also one of the last oasis of traditional rural life in Kuala Lumpur, and one of the last places where you can see traditional timber homes, surrounded by banana and coconut trees. It’s a sight that you probably wouldn’t expect to see in a bustling city like Kuala Lumpur but also another proof of the many layers of contrast this city has to offer…

If you need another proof of Kuala Lumpur’s contrast, get…

A quick history lesson at a tribal village

If you’re looking for a day trip that features an authentic experience, Pulau Carey is the right place for you. The island has been home to the Mah Meri tribe for centuries and today, it has become a place where people can come and learn about their history, culture, and heritage. The Mah Meri people are known as “the Masked Men of Malaysia” and are famous around the country for their mask craftsmanship. Some of the things you can expect to see here are the cultural show, the brilliant open-air museum, and if you’re lucky, a traditional wedding ceremony.

Related: unknown tropical islands in Malaysia for a peaceful vacation

Talking about traditional things, you should also see…

The oldest traditional house in Kuala Lumpur

Rumah Penghulu hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur

If you look at it on a first glance, you might not discover anything special or unusual about this building, especially comparing it with some of the city’s modern architectural wonders. But you probably don’t know that the Rumah Penghulu is one of the oldest surviving traditional Malaysian houses in the capital. Even though it might not look like it, this house is one of the last and best-preserved samples of Malaysian vernacular architecture. If this isn’t a reason enough to visit, you should also know that the house has a traditional Malaysian garden that features over 50 species of plants and trees.

Some people say the best way to learn about a new culture is through their food. One great starting point for this is to…

Have a unique dining experience in Pasar Seni

hidden gems in kuala lumpur

Nyonya is a unique culinary style that combines Chinese ingredients with distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay community. Not only is this food delicious but it also showcases the multiculturalism of Malaysia as a country in which different cultures have peacefully coexisted for centuries. My favorite Nyonya restaurant is Precious Old China in Pasar Seni. The restaurant is a real gem with a rather descriptive name (Precious Old China). The restaurant has three different sections for dining, each of which equipped with authentic antiquities and dishes. Locals say that the food prepared here is the most authentic Nyonya cooking you can find in Kuala Lumpur, as the original recipes have been transferred from generation to generation for years…

Talking about unique dining experiences, how about…

A dinner in the 1920s’?

hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur

Before visiting Kuala Lumpur, I really didn’t think that I’ll find one of the coolest remnants of the old colonial charm of the city in a restaurant, but it happened. Dating back to the 1920s’, the Coliseum Café & Grill is one of the oldest restaurants in the city. What’s interesting about it is that the restaurant preserved its interior throughout the years. Even today, you can see old original furniture that will give you a glimpse into the past of Kuala Lumpur under British Rule.

And if you’re a fan of unusual quirky things, you should definitely check out…

One of the most unusual museums in town

Malaysian police museum

If you’re a fan of unusual, quirky museums, you’ll love the Museum of the Royal Malaysian Police. The museum is home to some rare old documents and artifacts you most likely wouldn’t get the chance to see otherwise. The museum features classified documents, uniforms and weapons, and other exhibits dating back as early as the British colonial days. Finally, the best part is that you can explore this quirky museum for free!

Next, we can’t talk about the quirky alternative side of Kuala Lumpur without this…

Restored old building turned into an art hub

Zhongshan Building hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur

The Zhongshan Building was an old building from the 1950s’ that was falling apart until it was transformed into an art hub in 2017. Today, this four-story property is more alive and colorful than it ever was. Inside, you can find several art galleries, creative studios, and even vinyl purveyors, making the old Zhongshan Building one of the hotspots of alternative art in Kuala Lumpur. If you like art, this is one place you don’t want to miss.

Talking about alternative quirky places you don’t want to miss…

Bring joy to your inner child

bamboo playhouse

Many people visit the Perdana Botanical Gardens, but only a few make it to the Bamboo Playhouse. This playhouse has 31 elevated platforms, it will surely bring joy to your inner child, and is one of the most Instagrammable places in town due to its unique architecture and picturesque surroundings. Finally, it’s also a great picnic spot where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of Kuala Lumpur’s largest botanical garden.

As you can see, this city is surrounded by scenic nature. Another proof of that is…

Kuala Lumpur’s hidden oasis

Forest Research Institute Kuala Lumpur

The Forest Research Institute is a must for nature lovers and the locals’ favorite place to get away from the busy streets of the capital. There are a lot of activities in which you can indulge in, including following one of the hiking trails, having a picnic or just getting lost in this endless stretch of greenery located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

But, if you want to explore nature further away from the city’s busy street, consider taking a walk along…

A scenic route that leads to a scenic waterfall

Pisang River falls

Did you know that you can go on a jungle trek only 25 km away from Kuala Lumpur? Neither did I when I visited for the first time! The trek goes through a set of tunnels in the Pisang River Valley under the Karak Highway all the way to the 30-meters tall waterfall. It usually takes around 30-40 minutes to complete the trek. The route remains relatively unfrequented as it lies off the beaten track and it’s perfect for people that want to explore the best of Kuala Lumpur’s surrounding nature.

Since I mentioned the best of Kuala Lumpur’s surrounding nature, I have to tell you about…

An amazing view of the city many people don’t know about

Bukit Tabor Kuala Lumpur

All the places on this list are relatively unfrequented but if you really want to get off the beaten track in Kuala Lumpur, one of the best suggestions I can give you is the Bukit Tabur Hill. The hill is in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, near the Kluang Gates Dam (20 km away from the city). There are two routes: the eastern and the western section, and I would suggest taking the latter one. The eastern section is more challenging and there has been a series of accidents in the past, including fatal mishaps. It takes roughly 3-4 hours to reach the top, where you’ll witness a spectacular sight; Kuala Lumpur on the left, the Kluang Dam on the right, and the Gombak forest reserve in the middle.

A hidden architectural gem at an unexpected place

Moroccan Pavilion hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur

One of the most surprising sights during my hidden gems hunt in KL was this fascinating sample of Moroccan architecture. The Moroccan Pavilion is one of the hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur that showcase the multicultural soul of the city. The building was built as a proof of the friendship between the two countries and this gorgeous establishment is one of the finest samples of Moroccan architecture outside of Morocco. Today, this place remains off-the-beaten-track as it’s located far from the city center and most tourists aren’t aware it exists. However, I can totally see this pavilion becoming one of the most Instagrammable places in town.

The fascinating local art of pewtersmithing

Royal Selangor visitors center

With such a rich culture and heritage, Malaysians sure have a lot of things they can be proud of. One of them is the local art of crafting fine pewter. Fortunately, there still is one place where you can learn about this fascinating craft. Royal Selangor has been producing the finest pewter in the world since the second half of the 19th century. Today, the company even has a visitor center where people can learn about this craft and experience it first-hand. The best part? All visitors get a free guided tour that introduces them to the basics of pewtersmithing and gives them the opportunity to see some traditional pewtersmithing tools.

For some reason, the visitors center still doesn’t attract a lot of visitors, despite its good location. In fact, it’s one of the best neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, in terms of proximity to the main tourist attractions. You can book a hotel near this place using this Goibibo Promo Code.

Helpful resources for visiting Kuala Lumpur

For the cheapest flights to Kuala Lumpur, this Qatar Airways offer can get you up to 25% off on your flight. I use it when booking my flights to Asia and it helped me save hundreds of dollars throughout the years. Alternatively, consider booking your flight ticket of this place online using Mobikwik Coupons.

If you’re a student visiting Kuala Lumpur, you can get 20% off on your flight to Kuala Lumpur with this STA Travel deal.

For the best travel insurance on the market, go to World Nomads.

For some amazing, budget-friendly tours in Kuala Lumpur, I recommend Intrepid. This offer gets you 15% off on all tours in Malaysia. 

To save on all bus, train or ferry rides in Malaysia, use Bookaway and save up to 15%.

If you want to rent a car in Kuala Lumpur, save as much as 25% off with this Sixt special offer.

To save on accommodation in Malaysia’s campital, this Booking.com code gives you a discount on all accommodation rentals in Kuala Lumpur.

Finally, don’t forget about the visa requirements. Most countries’ residents can enter Malaysia visa-free but if you’re from a country that requires a visa, you can get an eNTRI visa here quickly and hassle-free.

Did you ever visit the Malaysian capital? What do you think about this list of hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur? Do you think I didn’t mention some places that are worth mentioning? Let me know in the comments!

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26 thoughts on “15 Hidden gems in Kuala Lumpur that will show you a lesser-known side of the city”

  1. I’ve come close to visiting but have never made it and like many tourists, may not have visited the outskirts. I love night markets and those views are spectacular. Is there a time of the year that’s best for visiting?

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    • Thank you, Marcia and I’m glad you enjoyed this post and it inspired you to visit Kuala Lumpur. The best time of the year to visit is between May and July or between December and February

      Reply
  2. I just thought KL is another South-East Asian city to visit with scyscrapers and huge buildings everywhere that doesn’t interest me much. I didn’t know it has so many things to offer, especially the waterfall, the traditional houses, the tribal village, and more. I would love to experience these and now, I guess I would increase the number of days of stay in KL in my Malaysia itinerary.

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    • Indeed it does, Shreya. It’s one of the most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love your time in KL

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  3. These are indeed some unique experiences, which I could never relate to Kuala Lampur. Specially the fishing village or the view from Bukit Tabur Hill and even the freely boat ride. Have been to Kuala Lampur plenty of times on a layover, but never explored the place. Looks like finally the time ha come to tick it off y list.

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  4. What a fun trip this would be! I love how you include some really different and unique ideas of things to see and not just big tourist attractions. This is my kind of trip.

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  5. Your post took me on a very nice tour to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve never been to Malaysia, so for me, every part of it is “lesser known.” Good to know that you can go on a jungle trek only 25 km away from Kuala Lumpur.

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  6. Wow! Thanks for this post Daniel. I’m considering a trip to Malaysia and Singapore later in year or early next year and it would be awesome to check out these hidden gems.
    Bukit Tabur Hill, Forest Research Institute and Pulau Carey would be my top priorities in this list. I haven’t heard of these places earlier.

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  7. This post is perfect for me because I’ve been to Kuala Lampur once and done all the typical touristy things to do. So I now need to know about the off beat stuff, and I absolutely love the idea of visiting a scenic fishing village! Also, tribal village sounds like a great place to explore and a firefly boat tour is right up my alley, I took once in the Philippines and absolutely loved it.

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    • I’m glad you liked it, Medha. I’m sure you’ll have a great time trying out some of the things on the list. The firefly boat was a mesmerizing experience.

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  8. I’ve been to KL only a couple of times, and of course I’ve never visited, or heard about these places. I would like to visit some of the places, like the Moroccan Pavilion , Bukit Tabur Hills, and the Forest Research Institute next time I get a chance to visit KL. Thank you for bringing the hidden gem of KL to the surface.

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  9. You convinced me to visit Kuala Selangor with the firefly boat ride. It sounds absolutely magical! And the Forest Research Institute looks and sounds so perfect for getting back in touch with nature.

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  10. Thank you for sharing all these Kuala Lumpur secret attractions. You’ve got me with the waterfalls at Pisang River! So happy that it’s just 25km away from KL

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  11. Hey Dan! I am a Malaysian and this is by far the most satisfying list I’ve read about Kuala Lumpur (KL, to locals) for a long time as you took time to explore all these nook-and-crannies in and around the city. I am hoping more needs to be done to improve accessibility and affordability to places like Sekinchan, Kuala Selangor and Carey Island because these places are absolute gems.

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  12. I totally agree. Kuala Lumpur indeed has a lot of hidden gems. We were there last week and we had a great time. We totally enjoyed the firefly boat ride. It was a unique experience. Too bad we were not able to visit the Coliseum.

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    • Thank you, Clarice. It’s awesome that you took the firefly boat ride last week! It was one of my favorite experiences in and around KL

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  13. This is an amazing list! I find it a bit hard to tell my friends the attractions near Kuala Lumpur, I myself have ticked only a couple in your list.. My boyfriend’s coming over next month and I am just so excited to take him to all these nice places especially the firefly boat ride and Bukit Tabur, if the weather permits. Thanks for the list and keep up the good work 🙂

    Reply

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