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Visiting Melaka – A City Guide
Melaka is a city oozing with charm, from its colonial architecture to its vibrantly decorated rickshaws, from the sharp punctuation of spices to the welcoming aroma of native fruits. This city by the strait is all about both history and modern life.
Melaka: city layout and top attractions
Melaka, built to straddle the Melaka River, became one of the great historical trading points in Southeast Asia thanks to its location on the Straits of Malacca. Now, the entire historical city centre is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s compact and walkable, with notable Portuguese, Dutch, and British structures visible throughout. Melaka’s Chinatown is dotted with temples, mosques and churches, as well as vibrant shopping areas. You can stroll along the river to spot colourful street art.
The pink Christ Church Melaka anchors the energetic Dutch Square, with its bright rickshaws and hawker stands. Nearby, you can explore the historical architecture of the Stadhuys, a former meeting house which now contains a History and Ethnography Museum. In Chinatown, Jonker Street is Melaka’s main thoroughfare. It comes alive at night, bursting with street food stands, small boutiques, stylish cafes, and antique shops. Overlooking the city are the remains of A Famosa, a Portuguese fort that later fell into Dutch and British hands.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Melaka
Spicy and sweet, sour and fragrant, the food of Melaka is all about flavours. Cuisine is influenced by the mix of Chinese and Malay culture. This is a city where Chinese pork sizzles beside Malay satay, where cold coconut treats are sold alongside pungent durian fruit. And the city’s food scene truly blooms when the sun goes down.
The most famous dining experience is the Jonker Street night market. By day, this area is lined with buzzing trendy cafes. At night, the street shuts down to vehicles and fills with stands selling spicy noodles, grilled meats, and colourful concoctions. Outside of that central thoroughfare, there are eateries dotting the backstreets and lined along the river, serving a spicy tamarind-stingray soup called asam pedas or sticky sweet grilled satay on skewers. East of the river, you can try traditional Nyonya food, which mixes Malay and Chinese influences.
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Shopping in Melaka
Melaka shopping combines the sleekly modern with the traditional, with air-conditioned malls as popular as independent boutiques. While modern malls offer entertainment and respite from the heat, the charming stores in colonial buildings offer a current-day twist on Melaka’s heritage, with the old repurposed for the trendy new.
In Melaka’s Chinatown, Jonker Street is lined by historic storefronts containing stylish boutiques, local artisan shops, and antique stores. You can buy paintings by contemporary local artists, Malaysian handicrafts, or antique sculptures. Shops range from high-end to low, with one-of-a-kind specialties sold alongside souvenirs. The street is more lively at night, when lanterns light up the footpaths and locals come out for their evening stroll. If you need an easy place to shop and cool off, you can try the Dataran Pahlawan shopping mall in Banda Hilir, located near A Famosa and other heritage sites. It offers a range of fashion stores, international brands, and entertainment venues.
Best things to buy on Jonker Street
Culture & Nightlife in Melaka
Nighttime is when Melaka comes alive. Charming cafes coexist with stylish clubs, open-air restaurants overlap with live music venues and people take to the streets around the Melaka River. Whether you’re interested in a relaxed beer at a bar, a Bollywood movie in a cinema or a full night of dancing, Melaka has something for you.
Chinatown, with Jonker Street as its pulsating centre, brims with fashionable bars, creative restaurants, and chic cafes with live music. This is where street life is as exciting as anything on offer at the many nightclub venues, with street performers often popping up to entertain alongside the street food stands and boutiques. You can catch a film near A Famosa at Golden Screen Cinema in the Dataran Pahlawan Mall, whether you prefer Hollywood or Bollywood offerings. Portuguese Square contains a cluster of outdoor cafes and restaurants that buzz at night, and often live performances are staged in the square.
Contemporary Art Galleries in Melaka
Leisure in Melaka
Heritage and history define multicultural Melaka, with temples, mosques, shrines and museums throughout the city. As you stroll among the diverse architecture, duck down a side street and perhaps you’ll discover a Hindu shrine or incense sellers in front of a Chinese temple. Here, every corner can surprise.
Melaka is dotted with many temples and shrines that are open to explore. The Chinese Cheng Hoon Teng temple has ornately decorated prayer halls; you can visit and light incense along with the local worshipers. St. Peter’s Church, located at Jalan Bendahara, is a Portuguese Catholic church. It’s the oldest functioning Catholic church in Malaysia. You can visit the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, which contains artefacts of the Malaysian-born Chinese population of Melaka.
Religious Sites in Melaka