Melaka is home to important historic sights, with landmarks from Portugese, Dutch and British colonial times. Throw in ever-present Chinese and Arab traders and you get an early melting pot, resulting in a unique mix you won’t find anywhere else in Asia. You’ll also find those ethnic roots in the food scene, with the vibrant night market on Jonkers Street and lots of little cafes and restaurants along the river. All of this makes a fun city to hang out and relax and a great getaway from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur!
Why you should go: The Portugese, Dutch and British were in control of the city for 150 years each and Chinese and Arab traders have been there for centuries as well. You can find the traces of the colonial history throughout town. In the center, you’ll find the old church, townhall and clocktower. They have been well restored and a museum explains the history.
Above the town center, you’ll find the old fortress and the ruins of an early church – both worth climbing the hill!
The history of the Chinese traders is well explained in the old town around Jonkers Street. A small museum tells their story with interesting tidbits, like why the old shop houses are so long & narrow!
Jonkers Street is also home to the night market, with lots of delicious street food to try out and some shopping opportunities along your snack-trail.
But what has made me come back is the relaxed vibe along the river. While the tour groups in the square can be overwhelming, the nicely restored path along the river with its many little bars, cafes and restaurants is a great place to take a walk away from the crowds, relax, read a book or enjoy a cup of this or that…
It’s especially nice at night, beautifully lit and lively, yet still relaxed. Small bars have happy hours, restaurants serve basic food and staff is friendly.
Where to Stay: Melaka’s sights, shops and restaurants are all in or near the Old Town and towards the sea. For the most relaxed stay, I’d recommend to stay in walking distance to take in the charm of the city. The 1825 Gallery Hotel on the river has a great location and offers rooms in a traditional decor to support the ambiance of Melaka at reasonable prices.
You’ll find similar, small independent hotels around the Old Town. Read reviews and check prices carefully – some of them are delightful, while others look rather dodgy…
If you are looking for a modern hotel and the reliability of a the brand hotels, the ibis Melaka is in walking distance from old town as well and offers new, modern rooms, pool and gym at budget prices.
Between the Old Town and the ocean, you’ll find a number of large, full service hotels. While they lack the intimacy of the small guesthouses, they offer the comforts of well equipped rooms, 24/7 service, pools, gyms and restaurants. They are also close to the large malls, if shopping is on your itinerary. The Holiday Inn Melaka is much more luxurious than what you’ll find in Europe or the US (they even have a lounge that puts many Marriott or Hilton hotels to shame) and we had two great stays – both at very low prices!
You can find some of my favorite hotels in the table below.
|Casa del Rio||5*||Riverfront||Location, View|
|Hatten Hotel||5*||City Center||Location, View, Pool, Amenities|
|Holiday Inn Melaka||4*||Oceanfront||IHG Rewards Club||View, Service, Lounge, Pool, Rewards, Value|
|Ibis Melaka||4*||Old Town||Accor Live Limitless||Location, Pool, Rewards, Value|
|Courtyard @ Heeren||3*||Old Town||Location, Style|
|Gingerflower Boutique Hotel||3*||Old Town||Location, Value|
I do receive a small fee, if you decide to book through the link, at no cost to you – thank you for supporting my blog!
Where to Eat: I’d suggest the Jonkers Street night market as your first destination for a snack. It’ll give you a good idea of the popular foods in Melaka – you can see them right in front of you and pick something you like. The market is really busy, so your chances are high that the food is fresh and tasty.
Along the river boardwalk are a number of small, local places that offer drinks and food. I tried a few of them and while the food isn’t worthy of Michelin stars, the ambiance is – the views of the river nicely lit up and watching people out for a stroll are nice!
If you are looking for a more upscale dining experience along the river, try The River Grill at the Casa del Rio or the Rainforest Restaurant at the 1825 Gallery Hotel,
How to get there & around: Melaka is around 2h 30 minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur and 3h 30 minutes from Singapore. Keep in mind that border controls can turn the trip from Singapore into a 5-6h trip. There are numerous buses from Kuala Lumpur for less than $10 and very comfortable coaches from Singapore for $20-40. The buses drop off at the central bus station (Melaka Sentral) or at various hotels around the old town. When you book your ticket, make sure to check the location on Google Maps, so you are close to your intended destination.
Getting around Melaka is easy – grab is widely available and very cheap with rides around town around $1-3. A lot more fun are the most elaborately decorated tricycles on the planet. They have gone from flowers to full-on LED light-shows, making it one of the most hilarious rides, especially at night – have your camera ready!
If you are staying in the old town, you’ll be able to walk to most of the places and sights you’ll want to see.
Explore More: To get a “lay of the land” and see where all the hotels, restaurants and sights are, check out my map below and plan your visit to Melaka! Click on the box in the upper right corner for a full map! Where are you going to stay? What’s your number one thing to do? Or have questions – feel free to comment below and I’ll help with your trip!