Also known as Malacca, Melaka is the third smallest state of Malaysia – with a capital city of the same name – but it has a large personality that more than makes up for its small size.
Melaka is often dubbed the ‘soul of the nation’ and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. People travel from all over the globe to explore this interesting city with its bustling markets, colonial architecture and alluring aromas characteristic of local cooking.
There is a rich cultural heritage running through Melaka, which can clearly be seen in the city’s market places, museums, temples and even its parks. Visitors who venture out of the city will find many areas of natural beauty such as beaches, parks and forests abundant with a diverse variety of wildlife.
Highlights include the mid-18th century Christ Church, the oldest Protestant church in the country, and Stadthuys, one of the oldest Dutch constructions in the region and home to a historical museum. Visiting the town’s museums, such as the Baba and Nyonya Paranakan Museum housed in a beautiful townhouse, and its Chinese temples is also highly recommended.
Stroll through the Portuguese quarter to see how today’s descendants of the colonialists live. This is also a good place to sample a fusion of Portuguese and Malay cooking. The district is at its prettiest during Christmas when locals decorate it with lights.
The best place to shop for a bargain and find a delicious cheap meal is at the night market, known as Pasar Malam. The market opens each day at around dusk and sells just about everything imaginable. Take a seat at one of the wobbly tables, order a curry and watch city life unfold around you.
Travel to Melaka - Getting there
Although there is an airport located 10kms from the city, most people arrive at Melaka by bus as the city has a large bus station with regular buses from all over Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, which is 144kms away.
- Worth it? Many people stop here for a day or two on their way through Malaysia.
- What to do: temple-hopping, shopping for a bargain at one of the vibrant markets, keeping cool at the water park, wandering in the Ayer Keroh Recreational Forest, checking out the colonial architecture.
- Best time to go: temperatures remain constant throughout the year although there are heavy rain showers during November and December.
- How Long? Two or three days should be plenty.
- Trivia: According to legend, Melaka was founded by Parameswara, who was either a descendant of Alexander the Great or a Hindu prince.
- Melaka Cultural Museum: known as Muzium Budaya, this large building contains an interesting collection of artifacts.
- Baba and Nyonya Peranakan Museum: a carefully preserved Peranakan heritage town house which gives an insight into traditional Malay life.
- Light and Sound Display: held at Bandar Hilir each evening is a fun way to learn about Melaka’s history.
- Al Azim Mosque: this state mosque is the largest and probably the most beautiful in the area.
- Ayer Keroh Recreational Forest: relax in the shade or take a walk and explore the extensive collection of trees and flowers that have been carefully labeled.
- Malacca Zoo: covering 54 acres, this large zoo contains around 1,200 animals including the elusive Sumatran rhinoceros and seladang.
- A’Famosa Water World: a contemporary international water leisure park located at Simpang Empat, Alor Gajah.
- Christ Church: the oldest Protestant church in the region has a fascinating Dutch and Portuguese history behind it.
- Stadthuys: one of the oldest Dutch constructions in the region is home to an interesting historical museum.
- Portuguese quarter: see how Portuguese culture has fused with Malay traditions in this unique district.
- St Paul’s Church: originally built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, this fortress still holds the graves of many Dutch.