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Home Travel Guide Malaysia Travel Guide 10 Best Cities to Visit in Malaysia in 2023-2024

10 Best Cities to Visit in Malaysia in 2023-2024

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If you’re planning your travels for 2023-2024 and are on the lookout for the best cities to visit in Malaysia, you’re in for a delightful journey. Malaysia boasts a diverse range of cities that cater to every traveler’s taste, from bustling metropolises teeming with cultural attractions to serene coastal towns perfect for beach lovers. Join us as we explore the top 10 cities to visit in Malaysia, each offering a unique blend of history, culture, natural beauty, and modernity that promises an unforgettable experience.

1. Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, with a population exceeding 8 million, stands as Malaysia’s capital and its largest city. This bustling metropolis serves as a captivating fusion of cultures, culinary treasures, and captivating attractions. Whether your interests lie in contemporary skyscrapers, ancient temples, serene green spaces, or lively markets, Kuala Lumpur caters to every traveler’s desires.

Among the must-visit gems in Kuala Lumpur are the iconic Petronas Towers, the enchanting Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the awe-inspiring Batu Caves, and the enlightening National Museum. Additionally, the city’s culinary scene offers a delectable array of delights, spanning from street food gems to upscale dining establishments, drawing influence from Malay, Chinese, Indian, and various other culinary traditions. Navigating Kuala Lumpur is a breeze with an array of transportation options, including walking, cycling, efficient train systems, buses, and taxis. Furthermore, the city boasts excellent connectivity to other Malaysian destinations and international locations through its two well-connected international airports.

Kuala Lumpur Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur

2. Penang

Penang, a Malaysian state comprising Penang Island and Seberang Perai on the mainland, is celebrated for its rich culture, diverse cuisine, and natural beauty. This destination lures travelers with a desire to experience Malaysia’s multiculturalism, history, and modernity.

Some standout attractions in Penang include George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering a vibrant blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and colonial influences. Penang Hill provides panoramic views, while Penang National Park offers diverse natural landscapes. Kek Lok Si Temple showcases impressive Buddhist architecture, and Penang’s renowned cuisine boasts dishes like char kway teow, asam laksa, and nasi kandar. These highlights make Penang a must-visit locale for those seeking a taste of Malaysia’s finest offerings.

Malaysia Penang National Park
Penang National Park

3. Malacca

Malacca, also known as Melaka, is a historically significant Malaysian city that provides travelers with a deep dive into culture and cuisine. This city was once a bustling port and a hub for trade in Southeast Asia, with a rich tapestry of influences left behind by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial eras. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Malacca boasts a treasure trove of attractions that vividly depict its diverse heritage.

Some must-see and must-do experiences in Malacca include:

  • A visit to A’Famosa, the remnants of a 16th-century Portuguese fortress, standing as one of Asia’s oldest surviving European structures.
  • Exploring St. Paul’s Church, a hilltop church initially constructed by the Portuguese and later repurposed as a Dutch burial ground.
  • Admiring the Dutch Square, a brick-red plaza graced by the Stadthuys, once an administrative building and now a museum, and the Christ Church, Malaysia’s oldest Protestant church.
  • A leisurely stroll along Jonker Street, the central avenue of Chinatown, brimming with antique shops, souvenir boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Immerse yourself in the Peranakan culture, a captivating fusion of Chinese and Malay traditions, either through a visit to the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum or by savoring local delights such as laksa, cendol, and chicken rice balls.
  • Marveling at the modern beauty of the Straits Mosque, a structure built on stilts above the water, offering breathtaking views of the Malacca Strait.
  • Reveling in the panoramic cityscape from the Shore Sky Tower, Malacca’s tallest observation deck, providing a sweeping 360-degree vista.
  • Embarking on a trishaw ride around the city, a colorful and delightful mode of transportation that ensures you catch all the city’s sights and sounds.
Malaysia Malacca Christ Church Melaka
Christ Church Melaka

4. Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, commonly referred to as KK, stands as a lively and diverse city nestled on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. Serving as the capital of Sabah, a state celebrated for its stunning natural landscapes and abundant wildlife, KK serves as a gateway to a multitude of exciting attractions and adventures. These include Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in all of Southeast Asia, the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, a marine sanctuary encompassing five islands and vibrant coral reefs, and Kinabalu Park, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich biodiversity.

Beyond its natural wonders, Kota Kinabalu emerges as a cultural melting pot, where individuals of various ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs coexist harmoniously. Immerse yourself in the local culture by exploring the city’s museums, temples, mosques, and bustling markets. Furthermore, KK’s delectable cuisine mirrors its multicultural heritage, offering a delightful array of dishes, including seafood, noodles, rice, and exotic fruits, which are a must-try during your visit.

Malaysia Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu

5. Kuching

Kuching, the capital and most populous city of Sarawak in Malaysia, sits on the island of Borneo, nestled along the banks of the Sarawak River. Kuching is a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. Sarawak Cultural Village: This is like a living museum where you can learn about the different ethnic groups in Sarawak, like the Iban, Bidayuh, and more. You’ll discover their traditional customs, crafts, and food. Plus, you can enjoy cultural performances and try your hand at their arts and skills. Here are some of the top attractions to visit in Kuching:

  • Semenggoh Wildlife Centre: It’s a place where rescued orangutans find refuge. You can see these endangered animals in their natural habitat and also learn about conservation efforts. The feeding times are especially interesting when the orangutans come down from the trees to eat.
  • Bako National Park: Even though it’s small, this national park offers diverse landscapes and wildlife. You can hike through rainforests, mangroves, and more while spotting animals like proboscis monkeys and hornbills. The coastal scenery with unique rock formations is a must-see.
  • Kuching Cat Museum: This museum is all about cats. “Kuching” means “cat” in Malay, and the city loves its connection to these furry creatures. The museum has over 4,000 cat-related items, from art to mummified cats, and explores cat history from around the world.
  • Sarawak State Museum: It’s Borneo’s oldest museum and one of Southeast Asia’s best. You can explore exhibits about Sarawak’s natural and cultural heritage, covering things like history, animals, and more. Notable attractions include a replica longhouse and a huge blue whale skeleton.
Borneo Orangutans Islands
Orangutans

6. George Town

George Town serves as the capital of Penang, a Malaysian state, and it has earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation since 2008. This city is a lively blend of history, culture, and modern living. Here’s a rundown of what you can explore and enjoy in George Town:

  • Explore the Historic Center: Take a walk through the city’s historical heart to admire colonial buildings, visit museums, and learn about its diverse communities. Must-visit attractions include the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Khoo Kongsi clan house, and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion showcasing Baba-Nyonya culture.
  • Admire Street Art: George Town has become an outdoor art gallery with captivating murals, sculptures, and installations depicting local scenes. Notable pieces include “Children on a Bicycle,” “Boy on a Bike,” and “Little Children on a Sampan.” You can enhance your experience with guided tours or bike rentals.
  • Enjoy Multicultural Cuisine: Satisfy your taste buds with diverse cuisine reflecting George Town’s multiculturalism. From Malay and Chinese to Indian, Nyonya, Thai, and Western dishes, there’s something for everyone. Must-try foods include “char kway teow,” “laksa,” “nasi kandar,” “rojak,” and “cendol.” Explore various dining options, from hawker stalls to cafes and restaurants.
  • Celebrate Diversity with Festivals: Immerse yourself in George Town’s vibrant festivals, including Thaipusam, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Vesak Day, and Christmas. Enjoy cultural performances, art exhibitions, music concerts, and film screenings featuring local and international talents. Don’t miss annual events like the George Town Festival, Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and Penang International Food Festival.
Malaysia George Town
George Town in Malaysia

7. Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru, the capital of Malaysia’s Johor state, sits at the southern tip of the peninsula, opposite Singapore. With over 850,000 residents, it’s Malaysia’s second-largest city, rich in history dating back to the 16th century. Renamed Johor Bahru in 1862 by Sultan Abu Bakar, who left lasting landmarks like the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque and the Sultan Ibrahim Building.

This dynamic city is a tourist magnet, especially for Singaporean visitors, featuring attractions such as Legoland Malaysia, Forest City—a futuristic eco-city on reclaimed land, and the waterfront Danga Bay. It’s also a vital commercial and industrial center, integral to Iskandar Malaysia, housing the bustling Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Senai International Airport, multinational corporations, and universities. With its diverse population, Johor Bahru offers a culinary smorgasbord, from local favorites like laksa Johor to international dishes, and a vibrant nightlife scene with bars, clubs, and karaoke lounges.

Legoland Malaysia in Johor Bahru
Legoland Malaysia in Johor Bahru

8. Ipoh

Ipoh, the capital of Malaysia’s Perak state, nestled beside the Kinta River in northwestern Peninsular Malaysia, stands as the country’s eighth-largest city, boasting a population of approximately 840,000 as of 2021. This vibrant city is renowned for its rich history, diverse culture, delectable cuisine, and natural wonders.

Ipoh’s heritage harks back to its days as a thriving tin mining center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, earning it the moniker “City of Millionaires” and attracting immigrants from various parts of Asia. You can delve into this past at the Ipoh World at Han Chin Pet Soo museum, which vividly narrates the stories of Hakka tin miners and their families.

Ipoh’s colonial-era architecture, an echo of its British colonial history until 1957, graces the cityscape. Notable landmarks include the Birch Memorial Clock Tower, paying tribute to James W.W. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak; the majestic Ipoh railway station, resembling a castle; and the neoclassical City Hall, housing the Ipoh City Council.

Amidst the picturesque limestone hills and caves surrounding Ipoh, you’ll find transformed Buddhist temples like the Perak Tong Cave Temple, Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple and Zen Gardens, and the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple, where Buddhist figures and natural formations coexist harmoniously.

This multifaceted city is also a culinary haven, offering diverse dishes that reflect its multicultural heritage. Among the culinary delights are Ipoh white coffee, bean sprout chicken, salted chicken, and tau fu fah.

Furthermore, Ipoh provides a range of entertaining activities for all ages, from the Lost World of Tambun amusement and water park to the Gaharu Tea Valley plantation, where fragrant agarwood trees are grown, and the eclectic treasures of Memory Lane flea market.

Malaysia Ipoh Birch Memorial Clock Tower
Birch Memorial Clock Tower in Ipoh

9. Langkawi

Langkawi, the alluring Malaysian island, beckons with its myriad attractions and activities. Comprising over 100 islands and islets, only four are inhabited. Its name, Langkawi, hails from Malay words meaning ‘eagle’ and ‘reddish-brown,’ an homage to the island’s abundant red-brown eagles. Notably, Langkawi has been a duty-free zone since 1987, where you can snag imported goods at budget-friendly prices.

Langkawi boasts pristine beaches like Pantai Cenang, Pantai Kok, and Tanjung Rhu for sun, sand, and sea pleasures. Natural wonders include the Langkawi Sky Bridge, a 125-meter-long curved bridge suspended between mountain peaks 660 meters above sea level. You can also explore the Seven Wells Waterfall, a cascading series of seven pools. Langkawi’s cultural richness shines through monuments like Eagle Square, featuring a towering eagle statue, and Wat Koh Wanararm, a Buddhist temple with a magnificent Guanyin statue. Come nightfall, Langkawi offers a lively nightlife scene with bars, restaurants, and clubs, such as The Gulai House, Pahn-Thai Restaurant, and The Danna Langkawi, where you can enjoy live music, karaoke, cocktails, and local cuisine.

Langkawi Cenang Beach
Experience a water parachuting on Cenang Beach in Langkawi

10. Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands, a Malaysian region, provides a refreshing escape from urban heat and bustle, making it a favored destination for nature enthusiasts, tea connoisseurs, and adventure seekers. Here are some captivating experiences awaiting you in Cameron Highlands:

  • Tea Plantation Tours: Explore the region’s tea heritage dating back to colonial times. Visit BOH Tea Plantation or Cameron Bharat Tea Estate, delving into tea-making history and savoring the finest brews amid scenic hills and valleys.
  • Jungle Trekking: Adventurers can explore 14 hiking trails from Tanah Rata, immersing in diverse flora and fauna. Encounter waterfalls, mossy forests, orchids, ferns, and carnivorous plants. Trails suit all levels, some requiring guides and permits.
  • Farm Visits: Beyond tea, Cameron Highlands excels in strawberries, roses, cacti, lavender, and honey. Explore Big Red Strawberry Farm, Rose Valley, Cactus Valley, or Ee Feng Gu Bee Farm, witnessing cultivation processes. Pick strawberries, buy blooms, or taste local honey.
  • Sam Poh Temple: Cameron Highlands boasts the fourth-largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Situated atop a hill overlooking Brinchang town, it offers panoramic vistas, featuring statues of Buddha, Zhenghe, and other deities, a substantial bell, and a drum. Open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.
  • Climb Gunung Brinchang: At 2,000 meters above sea level, Gunung Brinchang is Cameron Highlands’ highest peak. Revel in breathtaking highland and cloud views. Hike for about two hours from Brinchang town or enjoy a scenic drive along a winding road. A watchtower atop offers unmatched scenery.

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