After visiting Bali and the Gili Islands of Indonesia, I decided that I wanted to do some more exploring of the lovely country. Jakarta was a short plane ride away from my home base of Bangkok, so I decided to check out the capital city. Keep reading for ten things to see and do if you happen to be stopping in Jakarta.
1. MONAS, National Monument
If you do nothing else in Jakarta, make sure to stop by and at least see the National Monument. This obelisk-like structure stands at the center of Merdeka Square. Visitors can ride an elevator to the top and take in views of the city below. The monument itself is the icon of the city and symbolizes the struggle of Indonesia. I had to wait for a very long time to get to the top, but it was fun to see so far from the tippy top! At the base of the monument is a small museum of dioramas depicting Indonesian history.
Cost: 15,000 rp to visit the top for adults (~$1.15). 4,000 for children (~30 cents). Museum in base cost 5,000 rp for adults (~40 cents).
Insider Tip: This is a extremely popular attraction in Jakarta. I highly recommend scheduling this in the morning one day during your visit to avoid waiting in line for hours. Getting there right before it opens will help to cut back on wait time. Hours: 8:30 – 17:00
2. Museum Bank of Indonesia
Just at the end of the bus to Old Town is the Museum Bank of Indonesia. The restored building was once a bank headquarters and provides a beautiful venue for the museum. It tells the financial history of Jakarta including some interesting facts about their economy, trade and monetary development. One of the best parts of the museum is a room that has currency from every country in the world!
Insider Tip: Great place for a respite from the heat of the city! Museum hours are as follows: Tuesday – Friday 8:00-15:30//Saturday & Sunday 8:00 – 16:00
3. Old Town
This area of the city is filled with European influences, especially from the Dutch. In the center is Taman Fatahlilah, a large square where vendors gather to sell souvenirs and snacks. Rent a colorful bike to ride around and take in the sights. Make sure to stop by Cafe Batavia for a drink (see #4) and walk over to see the last Dutch drawbridge nearby (see #5).
Insider Tip: Do not come here with high expectations. Many of the buildings seemed a little rundown.
4. Cafe Batavia
Located in Old Town, this cafe is an iconic and historical part of Jakarta. The building in which it is housed was the second one built along the large square. When you enter, head up to the ‘Grand Salon’ on the second floor, or the ‘Winston Churchill Bar.’ Decorated with items inspired by the 1930s, take a step back in time with a quick bite to eat or a cooling drink. A great place to feel the Dutch colonial charm.
Cost: Menu items range from 80,000 to 300,000 rp (~$6 – 23).
Insider Tip: A good place to stop and escape the heat!
5. Diamond Bridge
Located a short walk from Old Town, this bridge built by Dutch is a relic from the 17th century. Drawbridges like this, which operates with ropes and is made of wood, were once quite common. Today, this bridge is the last of its kind in a city that is quickly modernizing. It is no longer in use, but serves as a reminder of Jakarta’s history.
Insider Tip: The canal beneath the bridge is quite polluted and therefore smelly. The smell on the walk over can be a bit off-putting.
6. Museum Nasional
This is the oldest and largest museum in Indonesia and houses artifacts that span the country’s rich history. Plan a few hours to take in the extensive collection. The museum has sections that describe human origins in Indonesia as well as textiles, wooden statues, jewelry and much more from various locations in the country’s islands. Well worth a visit.
Cost: 10,000 rp for foreigners (~75 cents)
Insider Tip: The museum is located on one side of Merdeka Square, at the center of which is the National Monument. Visit the monument early in the morning and then plan to spend a few hours at this museum.
7. Pasar Santa
If you are looking for a unique dining and shopping experience make a trip south to Pasar Santa. This traditional market has been transformed into a hip hangout. Small stalls have been turned into a restaurants serving a variety of food, from Indonesian to Mexican and even dessert! Some of the other stalls have become small clothing shops, barbershops and even an old record store! Highly recommend!
Cost: Food items are reasonably priced here! They typically seemed to range from 25,000 – 60,000 rp (~$1.50-$5)
Insider Tip: The second floor of the building is where all the coolest shops are. The lower floors still house a traditional market, though it is still worth walking through just it have a look. It is open from 10:00 – 21:30, but really comes alive at night and on weekends.
8. Rooftop bar
The rooftop at the Kosenda hotel where I stayed was a little hidden gem. Filled with vegetation and ambience lighting, I thoroughly enjoyed my cocktail and bar snacks. While you you may not get the best views in the city, this is still a great rooftop experience that is a little smaller and cozier than some of the more commercial places.
One of the most popular rooftop bars in the city, Skye Bar certainly lives up to its name. Located at the top of the BCA Tower, this bar offer sweeping views of the capital. While the view is reportedly stunning, the prices go with it. For the best views, book a table in advance.
9. Pasar Baru
Known as Jakarta’s ‘Little India,’ this pedestrian street offers great shopping opportunities to both locals and tourists. Have a stroll and check out the textile shops, some of which can create tailor-made pieces in just a few hours. Visitors can also find jewelry, domestics, shoes and such more! If you get hungry, there are some yummy choices for Indonesian food in the area as well.
Cost: Free to walk around! Food cost just a few dollars.
Insider Tip: There are two legendary noodle places here: Bakmi Aboen and Bakmie Gang Kelinci. Gokul Resto is a well-known spot for good Indian food.
10. Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral
Located across the street from one another, these two religious buildings offer a wonderful example of the religious tolerance and harmony of the city. The Mosque claims to be the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia and is certainly the largest in the country. The cathedral is a beautiful example of Neo-gothic architecture. Both are very close to MONAS and Merdeka Square.
Insider Tip: Proper dress is required to visit both religious buildings. The dress code for the mosque is very strictly enforced. A guard examines all visitors before entering. Females must have their head, shoulders and legs covered. Men should wear long pants. You will be turned away without proper dress.
- Bus – I took the bus frequently in my explorations of Jakarta. I found the system quite simple and easy to use. Buses also are not subject to normal traffic as they are in other places. Many of the buses have their own streets and routs, almost like train lines! I will note that public transportation is segregated by sex: men are forbidden from the front of the bus, which is reserved for women.
- Taxi – Taxi’s in Jakarta are quite abundant but make sure to take the BLUEBIRD taxis which run on a meter most reliably. Other kinds of taxi’s may try to scam visitors and overcharge. Only take a bluebird if you need a taxi! Always make sure the meter is on!
- Rideshare Apps – Jakarta does have Uber and Grabtaxi so that you can instantly hire a car for a predetermined price.
- Walk – Jakarta is busy and chaotic, but I actually did a lot of walking, especially around Merdeka Square and the National Monument as well as through Old Town. The heat can deter many visitors from walking, so make sure to check the daily temperature. Also be aware of your surroundings, though I never felt unsafe.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Kosenda Hotel in Jakarta, which I booked through Agoda. I highly recommend checking this booking site to compare prices on different hotels and accommodations in the city.
Trip Planning? Pin this for later!
Have you visited Jakarta? Share your experience in the comments below!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.