Things to Do in Jakarta
With a history dating back more than 1,500 years when it was a part of the Sudanese Tarumanagara kingdom, Jakarta has managed to preserve a healthy dose of the old to contrast the dizzying new development. For a taste of Jakarta’s ancient roots, take a walk through old downtown Kota, where you’ll find the National Museum -- one of the best archeological museums in Southeast Asia.
To put your finger on the pulse of the city, visit the National Monument (Monas) in the middle of Independence Square on a weekend, when the sense of national pride is palpable, or press through the crowds of the Jalan Surabaya Antique and Flea Market, where it seems you can find anything under the sun.
Jakarta Chinatown, better known to locals as Glodok, was born after the massacre of 5,000 Chinese in 1740, when the remaining population were moved to a separate settlement outside the city walls. Today it’s a bustling hub where Chinese eateries, temples, street markets, and medicine shops nudge up against electronics stores.
The Indonesia National Monument (Monas) towers 433 feet (132 meters) above Jakarta’s geographical center, topped with a gilded flame. Designed by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, it houses a museum of dioramas and an observation platform.
Opened in 1868, in a grand building on Merdeka Square, Indonesia’s National Museum is one of Jakarta’s most fascinating attractions. A rich collection spanning hundreds of thousands of years covers everything from early hominids to the archipelago’s spectacular range of textiles, along with gold, statuary, and architectural models.
Jakarta’s old port, Sunda Kelapa is a popular stop on any tour of historic Jakarta (or Batavia, as it once was). Wooden 2-masted pinisi sailing ships still moor here, while porters move goods to and fro as they have since the 13th century. Converted warehouses hold the Maritime Museum, and a watchtower and lighthouses stand guard over the bustling harbor.
In East Jakarta, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia Mini Park) showcases the sheer diversity of this archipelago of approximately 18,000 islands. The 247-acre (100-hectare) space houses full-scale replicas of homes from different cultures, plus museums, theaters, gardens, a waterpark, an aviary, an IMAX cinema, a cable car, and more.
In a historic building on Fatahillah Square, at the heart of Jakarta’s Old Town, the Wayang Museum is devoted to Indonesia’s rich tradition of puppetry. Puppets are on display from across the archipelago, as well as Asia and Europe, and include shadow puppets, giant costume-style puppets, and rod puppets more similar to those found in the West.
Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah) is the heart of the Jakarta Old Town (Kota Tua) with a cobbled square with historic colonial buildings. Notable landmarks include the Cafe Batavia restaurant and bar, Wayang Museum of puppetry, and Jakarta History Museum, housed in the old town hall.
Jakarta’s best-known street market, Jalan Surabaya Flea Market (Pasar Jalan Surabaya) offers a cornucopia of choice, from factory-made junk and (generally) fake antiques to vintage finds. Head here for everything from textiles to jewelry, furniture, old coins, ship salvage, rare vinyls, old typewriters, and ancient cameras.
Jakarta’s favorite recreation area, Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Ancol) occupies a slice of waterfront. First opened in the 1960s, the site houses beaches, hotels, a gondola, food options, and tourist attractions. Some of the best-known are: Fantasy World (Dunia Fantasi), Ocean Dream Samudra, Sea World Ancol, and Atlantis Water Adventures.
Jakarta’s middle classes love a good mall as much as any southeast Asian cosmopolitans, and South Jakarta’s Pejaten Village contains many key elements. A medium-size mall, Pejaten Village has junk food by the gallon, popular Indonesian mall brands such as Matahari department stores, and a smattering of international brand names too.
More Things to Do in Jakarta
Ancol Ocean Dream Samudra, an “edutainment” theme park, centers on dolphins but is home to creatures including sea lions and penguins. In addition to animal and stunt shows, the park has a 4D cinema and an underwater theater with shows featuring dolphins and divers. Children will enjoy the small selection of rides and the bird park.
Indonesia’s first outpost of the children’s edutainment concept that’s taken the world by storm, KidZania Jakarta occupies over 80,000 square feet (7,500 square meters) of space in South Jakarta. Younger kids will thrill to the opportunity to role-play careers from firefighter and doctor to beauty therapist in a miniature model city.
Sibling to the hugely popular Waterbom Bali, Waterbom Jakarta is a North Jakarta water park. Occupying around 9 acres (4 hectares) of landscaped grounds in Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK), it offers slides, artificial waves, a lazy river, and areas for younger kids. There are a range of food options as well as gazebos for rent.