Hectic Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and has a rather unfortunate nickname as it is often referred to as the ‘Big Durian’ in reference to the famously pungent Southeast Asian fruit. Many tourists treat Jakarta as an entry and exit point to Indonesia, but if you are passing through the city and have some time to spare then there are a wide range of attractions to enjoy from quirky museums to a variety of national monuments.
Jakarta is also a great place to learn more about Indonesia’s complicated history, and you can visit a variety of culturally and historically significant locations such as the old town and the port which will give you a glimpse of how the city would have looked in past times. As well as harking back to the days of old, Jakarta is one of the most modern cities in Indonesia, and you can spend time embracing this cutting edge side to the city at its famous malls, bars, and restaurants. Jakarta may be crowded, loud, and busy, but it certainly isn’t boring.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Jakarta…
1. Go shopping in Menteng
One of the main pastimes in Jakarta is shopping, and if you want to take advantage of this fully then head to the district of Menteng which is famous for its flea market.
Here you will find a huge range of goods including arts and crafts, miles of textiles, and even food items.
The main market is known as Jalan Surabaya Flea Market which first started operating in the 1970s and is also known for its antiques.
Some of the signature items that you will find here include ornate wood carvings and vinyl records, and the market is over half a kilometer long which means that you will be spoilt for choice whatever you budget.
Bargaining is expected so don’t be afraid to haggle if you spot something you like.
2. Admire Istana Merdeka
Istana Merdeka sits in the center of Jakarta and is the presidential palace located close to Merdeka Square.
As this is the current residence of the sitting president in Indonesia, it is not open to the public, although it is well worth swinging by and admiring the exterior as this is one of the most historically and politically significant buildings in the country.
The building dates from 1879 and it is here that the historic flag changing ceremony happened when the Dutch Colonial period ended and Indonesia declared independence.
3. Take a day trip to the Thousand Islands
Amazingly, the Thousand Islands are considered part of greater Jakarta which means that if you are looking for some beach time in the city you won’t have to venture too far.
Just a few hours outside of the city center finds you at the Thousands which are called Pulau Seribu in Indonesian and you will find gorgeous beaches, coves, and inlets here.
The best way to enjoy the islands is to take a boat tour which will let you hop from one island to another and allow you to take in all the best sights at the same time.
If you are looking for a little luxury then Pulau Macan is home to an upscale resort where you can enjoy some fine dining and delicious cocktails at sunset.
4. Check out Monas Tower
Monas Tower is the most famous monument in Jakarta and stands proud in the city as a symbol of independence in Indonesia which was declared in 1945 after years of Dutch colonial rule.
The monument is located in Merdeka Square which means ‘freedom’ in Indonesian and there is a gallery where you can learn more about Indonesia’s often tumultuous history.
The main draw however is a trip to the observation deck at the top of the tower which affords views in all directions across the city.
5. Visit Ragunan Zoo
Ragunan Zoo sprawls over an impressive 185 hectares of land and you will find an amazing 3,600 species here.
Just some of the Indonesian animals that call the zoo home include Komodo Dragons and graceful orangutans, and there are also a variety of species from other parts of the world.
The zoo is also home to an array of pretty indigenous flowers and plants and is a great place to come to learn more about the Indonesian wildlife.
Note that the zoo is closed every Monday and make sure to wear plenty of insect repellent when you visit to ward off the insects.
6. Explore Indonesia at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Indonesia is well known for being made up of over 17,000 islands and is split into 26 provinces.
As a result, it is unlikely you will even be able to scratch the surface of this immense country on a trip here, but if you want to get an overview of the highlights then head to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah or Beautiful Mini Indonesia.
This park is arranged according to province and you will find models of traditional homes and can learn about the local traditions, costumes, and diverse ways of life across the archipelago.
This is a great place to come if you are travelling with children and gives you a whistle-stop tour of the country if you don’t have time to actually visit each province in person.
7. Marvel at Istiqlal Mosque
Istiqlal Mosque has the claim to fame of being the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and has a capacity of 120,000 worshippers at any one time.
It is located near to the national monument of Monas so it makes sense to visit both at the same time.
Some things to look out for here include the beautiful Islamic motifs such as stars used to decorate the mosque as well as the water features that are repeated inside.
Non-Muslims are welcome to visit the mosque outside of prayer times providing that they dress modestly.
8. Relax on Ancol Beach
You might not imagine that a big city like Jakarta has a beach but it does in the form of Ancol Beach which is part of the wider Ancol Jakarta Bay City.
The beach here consists of a strip of golden sand that skirts along the sea front and although this is technically a public beach you will have to pay an entry fee to enjoy the facilities.
There are a number of swimming pools along the shore line and you can recline on a rented sun longer and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere outside of the city center.
There are also a range of other attractions in the same complex such as a Sea World and a water park.
9. Enjoy Kota Tua
Kota Tua also goes by the name Old Town Batavia and is one of the most historically significant parts of Jakarta.
As you walk around the area you will find pretty architecture that dates from the Dutch colonial period and you can also visit the cobbled central town square which is the signature feature of the area.
This is seen as the cultural heart of the city and many artists and photographers gravitate here to take in the relaxed atmosphere and old world feel, and the area is also studded with cafes so you can have a drink and enjoy the surroundings.
It also has a high concentration of museums so you can learn some history here at the same time.
10. Visit the National Museum
The National Museum goes by the name Museum Nasional in Indonesian and is the place to come if you want to know more about this fascinating country.
The museum tells the story of the history, art, culture, geography, and ethnology of this country, and is separated into different galleries that include collections like early Indonesian ceramics and Hindu art through the ages.
The museum has been in operation since 1868 so it is also a historical gem in its own right.
11. Have fun at Dunia Fantasi
Dunia Fantasi is Jakarta’s answer to Disneyland and fans of the famous theme park from the United States may find many parts of it surprisingly familiar.
There is a Main Street here as well as a Puppet Castle and you will find a range of over 30 rides such as the Niagara Flume and the Halilintar twister.
There is also a Star Wars section and a large Ferris wheel that lets you take in the views all over the park.
This is a great choice if you are looking for something to do with children and there is also a theatre that has a range of shows about Indonesia.
12. Stroll around Taman Anggrek Mall
Jakarta is a city that is famous for its malls but the biggest of these is Taman Anggrek Mall in the west of the city.
Locals claim that some 10,000 people visit the mall every day and you will find a vast array of shops here that are suitable for all tastes and budgets.
As well as retail outlets you will also find cafes and eateries all over the mall and it is well worth a trip to see some of Jakarta’s famous mall culture firsthand.
Other attractions in the mall include a large cinema and it even has an ice skating rink.
13. Admire the National Gallery of Indonesia
Located at Merdeka Square in Gambir is the National Gallery of Indonesia which is one of the best museums in the city and has some 2,000 pieces of Indonesian art work.
For any art lovers or those who don’t know much about Indonesian artists this is definitely not to be missed and it takes you on a colorful journey through different regional pieces.
There is also a separate section dedicated to foreign collections and you will find paintings, ceramics, photographs, and sculptures here.
14. Watch a Music Festival
Indonesia is not very well known abroad for its music which is a real shame as there is an extremely talented music scene here.
This is reflected in the range of music events held here including concerts and festivals and many visitors find that these are the highlight of a trip to Jakarta.
Some of the most famous musical events held in the city include Hammersonic which is a metal music concert that takes place annually in April and the yearly Jakarta International Jazz Festival in March.
15. Visit Jin De Yuan
Located in Glodok is Jin De Yuan which is a spacious Buddhist temple that was built in 1755. It is one of the most important places of worship for the Buddhist community in the city and some signature points to look out for include the roof which is topped with two ornate dragons with pearls in their mouths.
Inside the temple you can take in the aromatic incense as well as ceremonials bells and a collection of ancient calligraphy.
16. Dine at Seribu Rasa Menteng
Jakarta is a food lover’s paradise and you will find restaurants and street food stalls all over the city.
One of the most famous restaurants in the city however is Seribu Rasa which means ‘A Thousand Tastes’ and is set in a beautiful colonial style mansion.
The food served here will give you a snap shot of a range of Indonesian cuisines and you will find classic dishes with an upscale twist.
Conveniently located in the center of town in Menteng, Seribu Rasa also has a variety of draft beers so that you can enjoy a cold drink with the spicy Indonesian food.
17. Walk around Taman Suropati
Jakarta is not known for its parks which is why Taman Suropati is such a welcome delight.
It is less of a large park and more of a strip of greenery in the middle of a square, although it is also in a culturally important part of town and looks out over a plethora of colonial style bungalows from the 1920s many of which were built in the art deco style.
It is a great place to go for a wander in the afternoon when the sun isn’t too fierce and there is an art market held here where you can check out a range of works including pretty Indonesian paintings.
18. Visit Museum Wayang
Wayang is the Indonesian name for traditional puppets and is one of Indonesia most prized cultural traditions.
To learn more about the history and cultural importance of wayang, head to the puppet museum which will take you on a journey through time and explain how these amazing objects are made.
Located in the old town part of Jakarta, this is a quirky museum that is not to be left off the itinerary and collections include fearsome masks, wooden puppets, and a show that is held every Sunday at 10 o’clock in the morning.
19. Check out the sailboats at Sunda Kelapa Port
Many visitors miss a trip to Sunda Kelapa Port but this is actually one of the most important parts of the city.
Famous in the days of old, the port is the main reason that Jakarta grew so prosperous and you can still see the wooden schooners here which are powered by their graceful sails and still look much as they would have done in ancient times.
20. Visit Jakarta War Cemetery
Many people won’t realize that Jakarta was invaded during the Second World War and many servicemen from Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands were killed here.
The cemetery in Jakarta now acts as a memorial to all those who lost their lives during the conflict and this makes a moving visit for those who want to understand the history a little better.
The Dutch section is notable as it has a scenic chapel as part of the grounds.
21. Make a splash at Atlantis Water Adventure
Atlantis Water Adventure is another of the attractions on offer at Ancol and is a vast water park complex that is perfect if you want to cool off on a hot day.
The park has eight distinct areas and you will find a large wave pool as well as a variety of fun slides and pools for different age groups.
This is a good family-friendly activity and shows a different side of Jakarta away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
22. Visit Museum Bank Indonesia
Museum Bank Indonesia is not one of the best known museums in the city but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable.
It sits in the headquarters of a former bank which has been lovingly restored and tells the story of Indonesia’s currency from past times until the present.
There are a range of interactive exhibits as well as some touch screen sections and a special gallery dedicated to the spice trade for which Indonesia is so famous.
There is another section that takes you through the story of the financial crisis that hit in 1997 and another area with a dazzling array of currency from all over the world.
23. Walk around Glodok
Sitting in Taman Sari is the area of Glodok which is also known as Jakarta’s Chinatown.
It has the claim to fame of being the largest Chinatown in the country and is also one of the biggest in the world and would have started out life here during the Dutch Colonial Period.
It is now home to a range of temples, markets, and shops and you can stroll around and admire the traditional Chinese architecture and also visit its famous electronics center which is the one of the largest in all of Jakarta.
Also make sure to look out for the medicine shops that have a range of unusual remedies including dried frogs and other oddities.
24. Take in the views at Awan Lounge
At the top of the Kosenda Hotel is Awan Lounge which can serve as a welcome break in the middle of the hectic city.
This rooftop bar includes a vertical garden with trees studded around the area and the signature feature here is a glass skylight that plunges down over nine floors and is not recommended for those who don’t have a head for heights.
In the evenings you can sip a cocktail here and take in the sparking lights of the city below.
25. Visit Museum Tekstil
The textile museum is one of the less visited museums in Jakarta but it is well worth the trip if you are interested in learning more about traditional Indonesian weaving and fabric painting techniques.
The museum has over 2,000 different pieces on show including famous Indonesian batik items and you can see vintage textiles as well as newcomers to the arts scene.
There are a range of antique looms on display as well as a lovely garden which houses plants used to make dyes for the fabrics.
They even have classes here where you can study how to make Batik art work.