Kuala Terengganu is the capital of the great state of Terengganu in Malaysia. The state lies along the coast of the South China Sea and stretches for almost 13,000 square kilometers. Located inside the state of Terengganu you will find beautiful little villages and towns, as well as idyllic islands and of course the star attraction which is the capital of Kuala Terengganu itself.
One of the great draws about a visit to Kuala Terengganu is that is offers such diversity. As well as strips of sandy beach, you will also find a mix of Chinese and Malay culture here thanks to the sizeable local Chinese community. As part of a trip here you can walk around the town and visit pretty heritage buildings and museums, or you spend time mussel picking and squid fishing.
Whatever you choose to do, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to the food, which mixes Peranakan cuisine with typical Malay dishes and plenty of fresh seafood.
Here are the best things to do in Kuala Terengganu:
1. Relax on Pantai Batu Buruk
If you want to find some sand in Kuala Terengganu then head for Pantai Batu Buruk which is one of the most popular beaches in the city.
Here you will find a long strip of sand and you can take in the pretty scenery across the water.
The beach is crowded at the weekends as local families descend so you may want to give it a miss at this time.
It is also conveniently located across from the Cultural Centre Stage where you can watch a cultural show so you may want to check out the schedule at the same time.
2. Walk through Chinatown
Kuala Terengganu is blessed with a large Chinese population and with that in mind you can visit the pretty area of Chinatown when you are in the city.
This part of Kuala Terengganu would have been founded at the end of the 19th century and is known as Kampung Cina in Malay.
Here you will find many traditional shops and houses that are built in the Chinese style and you can wander around the winding streets here and enjoy the sights.
This part of town is also a heritage sport according to the World Monument Watch Program of UNESCO.
3. Visit Teck Soon Heritage House
You will recognize the Teck Soon Heritage House before you see it as it is painted in three different hues of blue.
The house stands in the heritage area of Chinatown and would have been part of the famous Teck Soon Trading Company in the days of old.
Now it has been transformed into a museum which will tell you all the history of the Chinese culture in Kuala Terengganu which is called Peranakan or Straits Chinese culture.
4. Climb Bukit Puteri
Close to the Central Market in Kuala Terengganu you will find a flight of stairs which mark the beginning of Bukit Puteri.
The climb to the top is around 200 meters and once you get to the summit you can enjoy beautiful views over the city which make the climb worth it.
At the summit of the hill you will also find the crumbling ruins of a fort that would have dated from the 19th century.
There is not much left of the fort now except for some ceremonial bells and cannons.
5. Visit the Ho Ann Kiong Buddhist Temple
Located in Kampung China, which is the Chinatown area of Kuala Terengganu, is the Ho Ann Kiong Buddhist Temple which is one of the most visited spots in the city.
The Ho Ann Kiong Buddhist Temple is the primary place of worship for the Buddhist community here and is a riot of color.
Make sure to check out the ornate courtyard which is filled with aromatic incense smoke as well as the colorful interior.
The varied colors are said to represent the diversity in Kuala Terengganu.
6. Travel to Pulau Duyung
If you fancy a trip out of the center of Kuala Terengganu then you can head to Pulau Duyung which is the largest island in the estuary across from the city.
The island is famous for its fishing boat building businesses and you can come here and see how the boats have been built much in the same style and using the same tools for centuries.
Getting to the island is part of the fun as you get to take a local ferry across and take in the cool breeze and views from the vantage point of the water.
7. Discover Masjid Terapung
Masjid Terapung means ‘Floating Mosque’ in Malay and sits around 10 kilometers away from the center of Kuala Terengganu.
The mosque is an ode to classic Islamic architecture and is painted a brilliant white.
It stands above a magnificent manmade lake which uses water from the nearby Ibai River and it is especially beautiful around sunset.
Locals and visitors alike flock here to take pictures of the gleaming white structure reflected in the limpid waters of the lake and you can visit the mosque outside of prayer times as long as you are dressed modestly.
8. Explore Istana Maziah
One of the prettiest buildings in Kuala Terengganu is the Istana Maziah which means the Maziah Palace.
This is former palace of the sultan and it stands near the central market and was constructed in the traditional colonial style.
Unfortunately the palace is closed to the public expect for certain public holidays when you can visit but it still makes a great spot to stop by, especially if you have an interest in traditional architecture.
9. Eat at Chinatown Hawker Center
If you want to enjoy an eclectic meal in Kuala Terengganu then head for the Chinatown Hawker Center.
Here you will find a large outdoor food center which has a range of food stands that include traditional Chinese and Malay dishes so that there is something for everything to eat.
This is conveniently located close to the Ho Ann Kiong Temple so you can easily combine a trip to both at the same time and if you come here in the morning you will find a craft market.
In the evening you can choose from a huge number of delicious dishes such as fried noodles, soups, and grilled fish.
10. Browse at the Central Market
If you want to get a look at some of the lush local produce in Terengganu then head to the Central Market which is filled with exotic ingredients.
The market has several floors and the ground floor is dedicated to fish, meat, vegetables and fruit.
The upper floor is made up of local products such as hand woven textiles known as kain songket as well as batik pieces.
This is the local market and is known as Pasar Payang and it is a good place to come to pick up some souvenirs cheaply.
11. Visit Zainal Abidin Mosque
Zainal Abidin Mosque is the central mosque in Kuala Terengganu and has pride of place in the city.
The mosque is easily recognizable as it is topped with nine gleaming domes and it is also covered with ornate latticed windows.
This means that if you are inside you can watch how the light is patterned across the floors and non-Muslims can visit provided that you dress modestly.
12. Shop at Wanisma Craft and Trading
Anyone who wants to pick up some gifts or souvenirs in Kuala Terengganu should head to Wanisma Craft and Trading.
Here you will find items such as traditional printed batik and brass ware and you will even be able to check out the crafts men and women as they work.
As such this is a great way to support the local community and also stock up on local handicrafts at the same time.
13. Take a trip to Pulau Redang
If you want to get out of Kuala Terengganu proper then head to Redang Island or Pulau Redang as it is known in Malay.
The island is part of the wider Redang Island Marine Park and this part of Malaysia is known for having a range of underwater delights.
These include some 500 different kinds of coral and over 3,000 species of fish.
You will also find over a thousand kinds of bivalves here and as you would expect, snorkeling and diving are popular pastimes here.
This makes a great day trip outside of Kuala Terengganu or you can stay overnight here the serenity of the island.
14. Browse at Pantai Batu Buruk Night Market
If you want to enjoy a slice of traditional local life in Kuala Terengganu then head to Pantai Batu Buruk Night Market which sets up around dusk next to the main beach in the city every Friday.
Here you will find a range of street food carts which sell delicious locals snacks such as meat skewers which are cooked over charcoal.
You will also find some other items for sale such as children’s toys and clothes and this is an ideal spot if you want to see how the locals hang out in Kuala Terengganu at the weekend.
15. Shop for souvenirs at Kraftangan Malaysia
Located around 4 kilometers to the south of Kuala Terengganu is Kraftangan Malaysia which sells high end handicrafts.
If you are looking for some traditional textiles such as hand woven kain songket this is the place to find them and there is a Songket Heritage Exhibition here.
This will explain to you a little bit about the history of kain songket and this makes a good choice if you want to buy crafts or souvenirs in the city.
16. Fish for squid
Perhaps one of the more unexpected activities that you can enjoy in Kuala Terengganu is the chance to ‘jig’ for squid.
If you go down to the local beaches in the evenings, you will find locals and fishermen fishing for the plethora of squid that swim in the waters here.
This involves using a traditional technique to pluck the squid from the sea and this is one of the highlights of a trip to the beach here.
You can also enjoy the glowing sunsets and vistas across the water at the same time.
17. Dine at Madame Bee’s Kitchen
If you are looking for some delicious food served in a beautiful heritage building then Madame Bee’s Kitchen is the place to find it.
The building is located in the center of Chinatown and serves up amazing Peranakan dishes which are also known as Straits Chinese dishes and are made up of a mix of Chinese and Malay influences.
This is some of the most delicious fusion food in the world and you should make sure not to miss some of the signature dishes here such as the Terengganu laksa which is a thick seafood soup flavored with curry and coconut milk.
You can also try other dishes such as Mee Jawa which are noodles fried with peanuts and vegetables.
18. Visit the Crystal Mosque
The Crystal Mosque is known as Masjid Kristal in Malay and is said to be one of the prettiest Muslim places of worship in all of Malaysia.
The mosque is so named thanks to the large crystal chandelier that occupies the main prayer all and this is also one of the mosque modern mosques of its kind.
The inside even has free Wi-Fi so that worshippers can read electronic copies of the Koran and much of the structure is made up of steel and glass.
If possible try to also visit the mosque at night as it is illuminated in a riot of colors such as pink, yellow, blue and green which make it sparkle under the dark skies.
19. Have a coffee at Star Anise
Locals will tell you that one of the best coffee shops in Kuala Terengganu is Star Anise.
You won’t find any instant coffee here as the place is filled with real espresso and cappuccino variations and the cafe itself is also a popular spot to relax and spend some time soaking up the local ambience.
You can also buy some local produce here which makes a great gift such as organic honey from the region.
20. Ride on Cas Ligas
One of the quirkiest sights you will see in Kuala Terengganu is the Cas Ligas Bus.
This will take you on a heritage tour of the city but the most amazing thing about it is that it is designed in the model of a traditional house in Kuala Terengganu.
The bus really has to be seen to be believed and this is a good way to see the highlights of the city while also enjoying this unique experience.
21. Take a boat ride to Seberang Takir
Seberang Takir is known for being a small and quaint fisherman’s village off the coast of Kuala Terengganu.
As such, if you want to get a glimpse of some of the authentic local culture here then you can hire a local boat and driver and whizz around the village and see how the local people have lived here for centuries.
Visitors are welcome to visit the village and you will find a boatman to take you across from the main jetty in Kuala Terengganu.
Make sure however to be respectful as this is a real working village.
22. Explore Taman Tamadun Islam
One of the quirkier attractions in Kuala Terengganu is Taman Tamadun Islam which is an Islamic theme park which is conveniently close to the main museum in town.
The park has miniature models of famous Muslim buildings the world over which will be fascinating for anyone interested in Islamic architecture and history.
This is also the location of the Crystal Mosque so you can visit both areas at the same time.
23. Have dinner at Restoran Golden Dragon
If you want some delicious Chinese food in Kuala Terengganu then head straight for the Golden Dragon.
Another great thing about this eatery is that they also serve plenty of cold beer so it is a wonderful choice after a long day of sightseeing.
Most of the food here is fish and seafood themed and you can get delicious dishes such as spicy squid as well as whole steamed fish.
24. Learn some history at the Muzium Negeri Terengganu
Muzium Negeri Terengganu is the official state museum of Terengganu and it is also said to be one of the largest in Malaysia.
The museum is actually more of a museum complex and is made up of four separate buildings including the Maritime Museum and a number of models of traditional houses.
There is also a Royal Gallery, and Islamic Gallery, a Craft Gallery and a Natural Gallery and you can learn all about the varied history and culture of this part of Malaysia.
25. Go mussel picking
If you want to have a go at mussel picking then now is your chance as the villages around Kuala Terengganu are known for their mussel farms.
If you want to try harvesting your own then you need to head to villages outside Kuala Terengganu such as Mangkuk, Seitu or Kuala Baru.
You can get to the villages as part of a tour and you can learn how to collect the mussels and find out how they are farmed in this part of Malaysia.