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Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia situated in the western-central of West Malaysia. Many people don’t know this, but it’s completely possible to visit there on a budget as there are many free things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Its name has been translated as “muddy confluence”, ‘Kuala’ is the point where the two rivers meet, and ‘Lumpur’ means ‘mud’. Simply known as ‘KL’, this vibrant city is one of the cheapest travel destinations in South East Asia, well-suited for backpackers, solo travelers, and budget holidaymakers.
Spending 3 days in Kuala Lumpur gives a perfect time to discover the old heritage buildings, places of worship, and hidden gems. Keep reading to learn all about the best free things to do in Kuala Lumpur!
Free Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
One of the must-visit attractions is Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka). Whenever you asked the local people or flip through a guidebook, this site has always been mentioned and come across everyone’s mind at the top of the travel bucket list.
The country’s independence day was held here by the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman on 31st August 1957 to mark the end of British rule over Malaya and free from colonization by other countries. Every year, it becomes an important venue to host the Independence Day celebration, parades, religious festivals, and international marathons.
Merdeka Square is surrounded by several notable historic landmarks. The Moorish and Neo-Mogul architecture-style Sultan Ahmad Samad building was built in 1897 by the British colonial administration and later converted into a superior court in the mid-20 century.
Standing next to this building are the National Textiles Museum where you can learn about the textile-making of Malaysian traditional clothing and the KL City Gallery displays the model of historic sites and iconic buildings around Kuala Lumpur. It is a small entrance fee to enter these two museums.
The mega tall Merdeka 118 at the backdrop is the upcoming residential, hotel, and office building, which stands proudly at 679 meters and will be the second-highest building in the world upon completion in 2022.
Take a 30-minutes brisk walk, or catch a 10-minutes Grab car (an e-hailing car service just like Uber) or taxi ride to the National Monument located at the hill slope off Jalan Tugu.
This bronze sculpture was built in 1966 to commemorate those who died fighting for Malaysia’s struggle and freedom against the Japanese occupation during World War II and the 12-years Malayan Emergency which claimed 11,000 lives.
There is a garden by the monument site planted with some unique floras planted and it gives a fantastic panoramic city view.
The stunning Masjid Jamek is among the oldest mosques in the city and was used as the Muslim’s primary place of worship until the replacement of the National Mosque in 1965.
The amazing Moorish and Mogul-style mosque is beautiful both from the inside and outside and consists of three onion-shaped domes, a pair of stylish minarets, and Chhatri pavilions. Floral elements and motifs are the common features of the mosque.
Some old gravestones are found near its garden because the land was previously used as the first Muslim cemetery. Walk behind the mosque to watch the Klang River and Gombak River merge together as the water flow towards the Malacca Strait.
Wander along the bustling Petaling Street, an undercover market filled with rows of stalls where vendors sell watches, designer bags, ‘branded’ shoes, jewelry, clothes, belts, sunglasses, hats, and toys. It is fun and interesting to watch this street become chaotic.
You can test your bargaining skills and get a great price for something appealing. If you are hungry for food, there are several hawker stalls along the alleyway and night food stalls to fill up your appetite any time of the day: Chinese buns, steamed dumplings, stir-fried, chicken floss buns, curry noodles, wonton noodles, coconut pancakes, and fresh fruits, to name a few.
The Central Market next to Petaling Street offers a different feel and a unique shopping experience. It’s definitely one of the best free things to do in Kuala Lumpur! Once an old wet market in 1881, it has been transformed into a cultural heritage site. Many of the stores here are boutique shops, art galleries, local handmade gift shops, and jewelry shops.
There are several eateries specializing in Malay and Indian food, as well as local food chain coffee shops. Festive events and local small exhibitions are occasionally hosted here and you can learn about Malaysian history, background, and different cultures.
Petronas Twin Tower
Admire the impressive Petronas Twin Tower which stands at 452 meters above the ground. These twin towers had held the title of “The Tallest Building in the World” from 1998 to 2004, but today still dominated the position as “The Tallest Twin Building in the World”.
They are linked with the Skybridge at Level 41 and 42, which is open to the public, and you need to purchase a ticket in advance to enter. This iconic megastructure is home to a six-story Surian KLCC shopping mall with countless shops, a science museum, an aquarium, a concert hall, and an exhibition centre.
The best time to view is when the towers are lit up at night and sometimes brighten up colorfully in conjunction with special events.
Stroll around the beautiful KLCC Garden right below the twin towers. This 50-acres garden offers the best view of the twin towers and the surrounding skyscrapers. Families love to spend their weekends here to have picnics and relax in this tropical urban park planted with 1,900 indigenous trees and palms.
Joggers and sports lovers come to enjoy their running or light exercise in the morning or late evening. If you happen to be around the mall after dinner, you can stay back and watch the spectacular ‘Lake Symphony’ which starts at 8 pm with the musical water fountain performance.
KL Eco Forest
Step into one of the country’s oldest forest reserves, KL Eco Forest, nestled in the heart of the city centre situated right below KL Tower. It is the closest to nature and able to escape from the busy Kuala Lumpur city.
It is easy to feel ‘lost’, like entering into another part of the world to enjoy the quietness of the jungle. There are two easy walking trails that can lead to the Canopy Walk which offers an extensive view of the city skyline.
Go window shopping at Bukit Bintang, known as the city’s shopping heaven that is filled with shopping malls, department stores, and food cuisines.
The Pavilion mall has numerous shops selling a range of luxury international bags, watches, and clothes, such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Rolex, Michael Kors, and Calvin Klein.
Where else, Lot 10 is an Asian-theme shopping centre that has a huge Don Don Donki department store selling Japanese snacks, fresh sushi, drinks, and cosmetic products, as well as an underground Chinese food court where you can sample Hong Kong and Malaysian food.
River of Life
Enjoy the dazzling River of Life during nightfall near Masjid Jamek. The riverfront has been rejuvenated under the urban river restoration project to give a new life to the river and its surrounding. It was listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful waterfronts in the world!
You can watch the dancing fountains with splendid night light shows and is known as the “Blue Pool”, thanks to the striking blue lighting that turns the river into a brilliant blue shade.
Thean Hou Temple
This majestic Thean Hou Temple is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.
It is built by the Hainanese people who descended from China and is dedicated to Thean Hou, the sea goddess who protects and watches over the fishermen who go out to the ocean. The statue is housed inside the temple with the Goddess of Mercy and Goddess of the Waterfront.
Take the time to wander around the temple ground and appreciate the unique design structure that combines traditional and contemporary styles with cravings and murals.
Red lanterns hang from the edges of the rooftops and across the temple complex. It is one of the favorite places for pre-wedding photography and Chinese devotees come here to make their offerings to bring good luck and prosperity during Chinese New Year.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple here. This Hindu shrine was originally founded in 1873 by the Pillai family as a private shrine before it opened its doors to the public in the late 1920s. It is named after Mariamman, the South Indian mother goddess also known as Parvatti.
Step into the 23-meters tall entrance to explore the shrine and admire the colorful statue of Hindu gods that were sculptured by artists from southern India. It is usually packed on Deepavali, the festival of lights, to offer their prayers on a holy day.
Visiting the Batu Caves is one of the best free things to do in Kuala Lumpur. Take a half day-trip to the magnificent Batu Caves either by grabbing a car or commuter train from KL Sentral. The Hindu shrine is built upon the 400-million year’s old limestone and is used to dedicated to Lord Murugan.
When arriving at the foot of the temple, you will be greeted by the 41-meter tall statue of Lord Murugan. Slowly climb up the colorful 272-steps to visit the shrines, view the rock formation, and enjoy the beautiful KL landscapes.
The caves are also home to different native plants, long-tailed macaques, several species of bats, and spiders. A Hindu festival called Thaipusam is held every year and you can witness the devotees walking a great distance from Sri Mahamariamman Temple to the top of the shrine in the wee hours to perform their prayer and ritual.
Final Thoughts: Best Free Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
This post was all about the best free things to do in Kuala Lumpur. Now you know exactly how to visit Kuala Lumpur on a budget!
This post was contributed by Jack Lim from Endless Travel Journey.