Top Things To Do In Melaka
The Ultimate Guide to Unique Things to Do in Melaka
Malaysia’s UNESCO Heritage City of Melaka
Melaka is a city of history and culture with over 600 years of heritage. The city was founded around 1400 under the rule of the Malay sultans and became one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia. The city was also a centre of Islamic learning and culture. Melaka was invaded by the Portuguese in 1511 who took control of the port to gain access to the lucrative spice trade route. After building a fortress known as A Famosa the Portuguese controlled the city for 130 years before being conquered by the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1798 and built many Dutch-style buildings like the Stadthuys which remain today.
When the British Empire took control they destroyed almost all of the original fort built by the Portuguese to prevent it from being seized and used by another power.
Today, visitors can explore the architecture and history of this historic city at the Melaka Museum or by walking through its UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Melaka Vs Malacca
Melaka or Malacca? Why does this city have two names? Melaka is the city name in the Malay language while Malacca is the English name spelling. The Malaysian state government has decided to cease the use of the more commonly Anglicised spelling of the state name “Malacca” and use “Melaka” going forward to avoid the confusion caused by the two names. Both are still commonly used but I have chosen to use the Malay spelling for this post.
1. Melaka Straits Mosque
The Melaka Straits Mosque is perched right over the waves and is also known as the “floating mosque” as it appears to float when the water level is high. This beautiful structure is found a few kilometres out of town so to reach it I recommend booking a Grab car. As the distance isn’t too far I walked here but the way there is not too scenic so you are better off getting a car and exploring other parts of Melaka by foot.
Planning your visit to coincide with sunset will give you the chance to see the mosque in the daylight and at night when it is just as impressive with its glowing green lights.
Visitors are permitted to enter the mosque even if they are not of the Islamic faith but a dress code must be followed. Visitors are required to cover their legs and shoulders with clothes that are not too revealing. Men must wear long trousers, shirts with sleeves, and headgear. Women must also cover their heads with scarves or hats. Visitors are able to borrow clothing to ensure they are appropriately dressed to enter.
2. The Shore Sky Tower
The Sky Tower Melaka is the tallest building in Melaka. Visit the viewing deck on the 43rd floor for 360-degree panoramic views of the city. I chose to visit at night – well actually didn’t quite make it in time for sunset but the night view was amazing. This would be a fine place to watch the sunset so check the time before you plan your visit.
Ticket prices at the counter at the tower are as follows:
RM25.00 (Mon – Thu)
RM 35.00 (Fri – Sun)
Child (Aged 3 to 12 years old)
RM18.00 (Mon – Thu)
RM25.00 (Fri – Sun)
3. Jonker Street Night Market
The Jonker Street markets are one of the most popular things to do in Melaka. With hundreds of stalls offering food, drinks, clothing & souvenirs there is something to satisfy all tastes. Vegan options are few and far between but I did find a few things to try like dragon beard candy and mango sticky rice. I recommend bringing your own cup and container to you can avoid single-use plastic.
The markets are on from 6:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Where To Stay In Melaka
The BEST place to stay in Melaka is the Yote 28 hostel. Hands down my favourite hostel out of my 3 months in Asia. The staff are amazing and will make you feel right at home and give you lots of tips on what to see, do, eat & drink. The social vibe is great which is helped by some friendly drinking games & a karaoke room. The bathrooms are beautiful and always kept clean and the beds are comfy with amazingly cold aircon. Do yourself a favour & book with Booking.com or Agoda.
4. Trishaw Ride
You can’t go far in Melaka without spotting one of the outrageously decorated trishaws flashing lights and blasting music. Undeniably a tourist trap but consider me trapped! A ride in a Pokemon-themed vehicle was an absolute blast. A ride around town for around 30 minutes including a stop at A Formosa will cost 25 ringgits (approx $8 AUD).
5. Menara Taming Sari
The Menara Taming Sari towers of the city of Melaka and is a great way to take in the sights. The glass cabin rotates around the central pillar as it takes you 110 metres into the air. The 360-degree panoramic views are breathtaking.
Pricing is different for Malaysians and foreigners.
- Malaysian Passport Holders (Adult) – RM 17
- Malaysian Passport Holders (Child 2-12) RM 11
- Non-Malaysian Passport Holders (Adult) RM 23
- Non-Malaysian Passport Holders (Child 2-12) RM 15
Tickets are cheaper pre-booked on Klook than purchased at the ticket box.
6. Church of Saint Paul
The Church of Saint Paul is one of the oldest churches in Malaysia. The church has a long history that dates back to 1521 when it was first built by Portuguese Jesuits. It was rebuilt many times over the centuries but still retains its 16th-century Baroque style, making it one of the most iconic buildings in Melaka today. The church is built on a hill overlooking the city so the views from the top are great too.
7. A Formosa & Porta De Santiago
A Formosa is a fortress that was built after the Portuguese conquered Melaka and began their colonial rule. Using forced labour, they built the fortress which consisted of long ramparts and four major towers. One of the towers was a 60-m tall four-storey keep, known as A Famosa (‘The Famous’), which was the tallest building in the region from 1512 until it was destroyed by the Dutch in 1641.
Porta De Santiago was one of the four main gateways into the Portuguese fortress A Formosa. After the Dutch captured Melaka in 1641 they renovated & enlarged the fortress and engraved the coat of arms and the inscription “ANNO 1670” marking the year it was done.
In 1795 the British destroyed the fortress out of fear it would be captured and used against them. William Farquhar used gunpowder to blow up the fort and only a timely intervention by Stamford Raffles saved the Porta de Santiago & surrounding houses.
Santiago Bastion is part of the original Portuguese fortress. In 2002 when the site was being excavated for planned construction works the wall of the fortress was unearthed. Construction plans were halted and an archeological dig of the site was carried out in 2003 & 2005 revealing an almost complete circular wall. A walkway has been built over the ruins so visitors can see this incredible historical site.
8. River Boat Ride
Exploring the Melaka River by boat is one of the top things to do in Melaka. This scenic experience takes you through the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Melaka and gives you commentary about the history of the city.
There are a couple of different companies that do cruises and have varying prices & lengths.
Prices for the Melaka River Cruise are:
- Malaysian Passport Holders (Adult) – RM 21.25
- Malaysian Passport Holders (Child 2-12) RM 12.75
- Non-Malaysian Passport Holders (Adult) RM 25.50
- Non-Malaysian Passport Holders (Child 2-12) RM 21.25
9. Vintage Night Market
I came across the night market because I spotted it from the Sky Tower and thought it looked interesting. After using Google Maps to work out what it was I discovered it was a vintage market and headed straight there from the tower. There was a huge selection of quality vintage clothing to look through and the vendors are very friendly.
10. Ship Museum
This huge wooden ship is a peculiar sight on the banks of the Melaka River in the historical district.
The museum main exhibits the replica of Flor do Mar with 34 metres high, 36 metres long and 8 metres wide; houses exhibits, artifacts and documents from the golden era of Malacca and shows how political control of Malacca was essential to the establishment of maritime dominance in the region and also displays the trading link of Malacca from the early time through the colonial era until independence.
11. Dutch Town Centre
The Red Square in the heart of Melaka is made up of a collection of historical Dutch buildings which have been painted a vibrant red.
The Stadthuys (an old Dutch spelling, meaning city hall) is a historical structure situated in the heart of Malacca City, the administrative capital of the state of Malacca, Malaysia in a place known as the Red Square. The Stadhuys is known for its red exterior and nearby red clocktower. It was built by the Dutch in 1650 as the office of the Dutch Governor and Deputy Governor.
One of the most impressive buildings in Melaka is the Dutch Church, which was built by Dutch settlers in 1822. This church has an impressive interior with a richly decorated ceiling and stained-glass windows that were imported from Holland.
The Dutch Square, one of the most famous tourist spots in Melaka, has been renamed to Red Square in honor of the Russian revolution. It is home to two historic buildings – Christ Church and Stadthuys. The church was built by the Dutch in 1753 as a replacement for an earlier church destroyed by fire. It is now home to a museum that tells the story of Christianity in Malaysia. The Stadthuys building was once used as a meeting place for the Dutch administration and it is now home to some shops and restaurants.
12. Walk Along The River
The Melaka River flows from the hills of Mount Benam to the Straits of Malacca. Along the river, you can find street art, bars, and some of the best views in Melaka. The river has been a key transportation route for traders and travellers, as well as a source of water for the locals & also home to many street art murals.
Melaka is famous for its historical temples that reflect the blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures.
The Cheng Hoon Teng temple is one of the most important temples in Melaka. This Chinese temple was built in 1645 and is the oldest functioning temple in the country.
Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Temple, built in 1781, is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia. Dedicated to Vinayagar or Ganesha, the elephant deity
14. Vegan Dining In Melaka
Melaka is famous for its rich heritage and culture. It has been a melting pot of different cultures and religions since the 16th century. This mix of cultures ensures a wide range of cuisines and there is no shortage of vegan options in Melaka.
The following are some of the best vegan restaurants you can find in Melaka:
- Man Yuan Fang – Chinese restaurant with an enormous menu with a lot of different dishes. Mainly Chinese but also lot of western style dishes.
- Shui Xian Su Shi Yuan – Small & simple vegetarian restaurant with a variety of delicious Malayan meals. Good selection of local noodle and rice dishes.
- Mei Lin Vegetarian – One of the largest Chinese vegetarian restaurants in Malacca with an extensive menu with all mostly being vegan.
- Chin Hua Vegetarian Food – Vegetarian buffet with lots of choices in the buffet including fake meat and vegetable options, all at good prices (large plate for under 10rm).
- Geographer Cafe – Right in the heart of the Jonker Street markets you will find this coffeehouse and restaurant in a restored old building.
16. Museums & Galleries
Museums are a great way to learn about the history and culture of Melaka & Malaysia.
- Sultanate Palace Museum
- Malaysia Architecture Museum
- Cheng Ho Cultural Museum
- Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
- Villa Sentosa
- Malaysia Prison Museum
- Melaka Art Gallery
- Malacca Submarine Museum
- Jaya Mata Knife Gallery
Here are a couple of extra things I didn’t get a chance to do during my stay but would be worth looking into:
There is so much to do in Melaka that you could easily spend a week or more exploring and still have things to do! I hope you enjoy your time in Melaka as much as I did and please reach out if you have any questions