Melaka (Malacca) is one of the most historic destinations in all of Malaysia. With an old town that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Melaka is filled with charming Peranakan shophouses, old churches, unusual-looking mosques and one of the best restored old towns in the country. Tourist attractions aside, Melaka is also known for the food. Chendol, chicken rice balls, Peranakan food and Portuguese cuisines are just some of the things your tastebuds should try while here.
For a practical and efficient weekend trip to Melaka, this itinerary and travel guide aims to tell you how the town should be done within 2 days.
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If you are taking the very first morning bus from Singapore, you would have arrived in Melaka at around noon. If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur and are taking the early morning bus, you would have arrived at around 10am. After dropping your bags in the hotel, head out to the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum (update: temporarily closed). A reconstruction of an actual sultan’s palace, the magnificent structure now houses a museum showcasing the local Malay culture. A visit here is as much about the photogenic exterior as it is about the interesting museum pieces inside. It’s also recommended to visit this place in the morning when the sun will be shining on the palace museum, making for great photos.
Afterwards, head to A’Famosa or Porta de Santiago. Dating back from 1511, the fort was built by the Portuguese to solidify their hold on Melaka. After the Dutch took over the city, they imprinted the logo of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which can still be seen there to this day.
Afterwards, climb up the series of steps to the hilltop St. Paul’s Church. Another Portuguese construction, the church was turned to a burial site after the Dutch took over. The stones plaques displayed around the walls of the church are actually tombstones erected by the Dutch back in the 1600s.
If you are thinking of where to have lunch around the heritage area of Melaka, I would recommend having chicken rice balls for your first meal in the city. In view of the crisis that gripped the tourism sector in Melaka, many of the chicken rice ball venues in the old town have closed. A 10 to 15 minute cab ride away is Huang Chang (BB-376, Taman Melaka Baru, Batu Berendam, open daily except Wednesday and Thursday from 8AM to 3PM). This restaurant is refreshingly out of the tourist trail and you’ll find yourself dining with locals rather than those restaurants in Jonker Street that cater primarily to tourists.
Afternoon is an excellent time to visit Dutch Square, the center of tourist activity in Melaka. Famous for its fiery red Christ Church and Stadhuys, the buildings around the square date back from the 1700s when Melaka was under Dutch influence. Now you might wonder why I did not combine Dutch Square with the other heritage sites prior to lunch. The reason is because the Christ Church and Stadhuys would have been against the sun during the mornings. This makes a huge difference especially during sunny days. You’ll be able to appreciate the vivid redness of the buildings when you visit during the afternoon.
One of my favorite museums in Melaka is the Baba and Nyonya Museum (daily 10AM to 1PM, 2PM to 5PM except Fridays to Sundays until 6PM). Built in 1986, the venue showcases the life and times of the Peranakans, or the Chinese-Malay people across the Straits of Malacca who have their own unique culture and cuisine.
One of the recommended activities in the city is the Melaka River Cruise. There are merits to doing in the day and the evening. If you do it during the day, the wall art would be more visible while doing the cruise during the evening allows you to appreciate the lights by the riverside. The cruise is priced at MYR 30 for foreigners and MYR 25 for Malaysians.
Probably one of the liveliest night markets I have seen in the entire Malaysia is the Jonker Street Night Market. This is another reason why a weekend trip to Melaka is recommended as the night market is only open from Fridays to Sundays between 6PM and midnight. You’ll get to see a lot of interesting food and souvenirs. While here, don’t miss out on coconut ice cream, chendol and the local popiah.
Another evening activity you can do in Melaka is to climb up to the observation deck of The Shore Sky Tower. At 163 meters tall, this is the highest building in Melaka and you can catch views as far as 50 km away. The observation deck is open from 5PM to 10PM from Friday to Sunday. The best time to visit is during sunset at around 7+PM.
Start the day early by watching the glorious sunrise at the seaside Straits Mosque of Melaka. The structure has a floating-like position whenever the water level is high which is compounded by the fact that the structure is situated at land’s end.
Afterwards, drop by Cheng Ho Museum (open daily 9AM to 5:30PM) to check out artifacts related to Chinese exploration of Melaka from 600 years back. The building housing the museum is itself believed to have been built by Chinese explorer Cheng Ho as a storehouse during his time in Melaka. The museum also serves simple breakfast. I had bee hoon (vermicelli) here.
While here, make a stop at the Kampung Kling Mosque next door. Personally, I found the architecture quite interesting as it does not resemble a mosque at all. The design is said to be a cross between Chinese, Sumatran, Hindu and Malay sensibilities. The mosque also has a minaret with a pagoda-like rooftop.
Spend the rest of the day at your leisure before making your way back to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. For some family fun, you may wish to check out my suggestions under the “Melaka for Families” section below.
If you are heading back to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur for the evening, it would be great to leave at around 3PM to 4PM (for Singapore) or 6PM (Kuala Lumpur) in order to reach your respective destination before it gets too late. Also, do note that the international border between Malaysia and Singapore tend to get jammed during Sunday evenings so leaving early certainly has its merits.
Melaka For Families
- A’Famosa Water Theme Park – 11 rides and attractions including pools and slides at Malaysia’s largest water theme park. Suitable for children of all ages. Those 90cm and below in height can enter for free. The theme park is located in Alor Gajah, around 30 minutes away from Melaka city proper.
- A’Famosa Safari Wonderland – Appealing to both kids and adults, this safari minutes away from the water park is filled with ostriches, flamingos, lemurs, giraffes, camels, zebras and more.
Where to Stay in Melaka
Midrange: The Rucksack Caratel – Garden Wing feels like a world away with its beautiful garden views. Rooms are stylish with a slight hipster vibe. Excellent value for money.
Luxury: Majestic Malacca – A luxurious colonial hotel located by the river, the Majestic Malacca is perhaps the most upscale accommodations to be had while in the city.