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Chinatown Kuala Lumpur – 21 Top Things To Do 2024

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Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is a kaleidoscope of colour, full of rich history and heritage – a marvellous mix of the old and new, Malaysia’s largest Chinatown is one of Kuala Lumpur’s best places for shopping, street food and street art.

From Petaling Street market stalls to the magical murals of Kwai Chai Hong, there is lots to do in KL’s Chinatown with something to suit all budgets and tastes (literally).

New Kuala Lumpur Chinatown highlights include REXKL, an old 1940’s cinema transformed into a arts hub; Merdeka 118, Malaysia’s tallest building plus the ‘River of Life’, a ‘mist’ see free attraction that bellows out over the Klang river and lights up at night.

From tranquil temples to massive markets, here is our guide to Kuala Lumpur Chinatown’s best things to do in 2024:

How to get to Kuala Lumpur Chinatown

The best way to get to KL’s Chinatown if you are travelling by public transport is to take the LRT (train), metro or public bus.

The nearest underground MRT station to Chinatown is Pasar Seni MRT, around a 2 minute walk from Petaling Street.

The LRT (the Kuala Lumpur Light Rapid Transit) goes from KL Sentral station to Pasar Seni LRT (it shares the same station as the Metro).

Alternatively buses 103, 104, 152, 190 and 780 alight in or around Chinatown.

The Go City KL bus purple route (route 2) also connects Chinatown with busy areas like KLCC and Bukit Bintang – whilst it used to be free to all, foreigners will now be charged a 1 MYR from 1 January 2024.

You might like our KL transport guides:

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown best hotels and accommodation

Budget ($)

Chinatown Hostel by Mingle
Budget accommodation housed in a colonial building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur Chinatown. Private or dormitory-style rooms available. Check rates and availability for Chinatown Hostel by Mingle >

Mid Range ($$)

Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur
Highly rated 4 star hotel with restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and bar. Check rates and availability for Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur>

Luxury ($$$)

Else Kuala Lumpur
Stylish and contemporary 5 star boutique hotel with outdoor infinity swimming pool, fitness centre, lounge and restaurant. Check rates and availability for Else Kuala Lumpur >

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Kuala Lumpur Chinatown things to do

1. Central Market / Pasar Seni

Built in the 1880s and with a rather grand art deco entrance painted in baby blue and white, Central Market in Chinatown has seen it all over the years.

Central Market / Pasar Seni -Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur
Central Market / Pasar Seni -Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

Likely the most visited attraction and popular thing to do in Chinatown, Central Market started life as a wet market but now has over 100 arts and crafts and souvenir stalls.

Spread over two levels, Central Market is a nice way to browse lots of shops and is enclosed so it is a good place to shop in KL when it’s raining.

There is also an eclectic events schedule including live music, pop-up shops and cultural shows.

Central Market / Pasar Seni -Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur
Central Market / Pasar Seni -Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

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Chinatown’s cool art complex is a must visit and a marvellous mix of the old and new – REXKL is a quirky shopping center, food court and arts workshop housed in a former 1940’s cinema.

REXKL chinatown Kuala lumpur

Winning several design and conservation awards, the historic REX cinema is now a thriving cultural hub full of bars, vintage stores and pop up art exhibitions (with the beautiful Book Xcess store on the top floor – more on this later).

A perfect example of how a historic building can be retained yet reinvented, popular food joints in the ground floor basement include Phil’s Pizza, Ticklish Ribs and a really cool grocery store called Kedai Runcut (who needs 7-Eleven?).

REXKL chinatown Kuala lumpur

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3. Petaling Street

One of the busiest shopping districts in Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown’s Petaling Street is a bustling hive of food stalls, market stalls and restaurants.

Whilst it is still OK to visit in the daytime, the best time to visit Petaling Street is early evening or at night when it really comes alive.

Jalan Petaling Street Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Petaling Street Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

Petaling Street is fantastic for shopping, including lots of ‘counterfeit’ goods at low prices – stall holders are generally assertive (but not aggressive) and will invite you to browse their stalls.

It is marked by two huge Chinese entrance gates at either end of the street and we’d estimate there are over 250 stalls, shops and restaurants along this one stretch.

If you don’t like crowds, best to avoid at night as some of the stalls can be very close together.

Jalan Petaling Street Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

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4. Kwai Chai Hong

Chinatown’s most colourful area with vivid street art and brightly painted walls, Kwai Chai Hong street art avenue is KL at its best.

Kwai Chai Hong Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

Once a dreary side-street and cut-through from Chinatown, Kwai Chai Hong has been transformed into a multicoloured mecca with lots of incredible photo opportunities. It is also a very popular place for newly wedded couples to have photographs taken.

One of Kwai Chai Hong’s side alleys has an array of murals and historic objects like one of KL’s oldest lamp-posts or a table made of plastic plates – tucked away inside is a couple of hipster bars too so you could combine marvellous murals with mojitos. Cheers!

Kwai Chai Hong Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Kwai Chai Hong Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

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5. Bunn Choon

Located on Kwai Chai Hong, you may well get a sense of deja vu when you visit Bunn Choon even if you haven’t been before.

Given its bright yellow exterior and red lanterns outside, Bunn Choon often features on Instagram; indeed walking on Bunn Choon, you face a gamut of selfie takers and professional photographers.

Still, who cares when the Bunn Choon restaurant serves up such delicious cantonese cuisine and specialises in egg-cellent egg tarts. Many people even say Bunn Choon is the best egg tart in Kuala Lumpur (no yolk – sorry not sorry).

Bunn Choon is open for egg tarts and more Tuesdays to Sundays from 7:30am

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6. The River of Life

One of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular attractions, the ‘River of Life’ is free to visit and located very close to Merdeka Square and Kuala Lumpur Chinatown.

An attempt to regenerate the area with colourful street art and light shows, the River of Life is both a street-art hotspot in Kuala Lumpur plus a waterfront attraction.

Look for the mist emanating from the water or incredible illustrations on the surrounding building walls (it looks particularly epic at night).

In 2023, a new observation deck (‘anjung tinjau’ in Malay) opened directly overlooking the river and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building so this is the best way to view the new KL River of Life street art.

Check out the River of Life here, KL’s ‘mist ‘see attraction >

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7. Masjid James Sultan Mosque

Masjid Sultan Abdul Samad mosque dates back to the 1900s and is one of the first mosques in Kuala Lumpur.

It was once the most popular mosque in KL for worship until the National Mosque opened in 1965 (which is also free to visit).

Located on the confluence where the Klang and Gombak rivers meet, the mosque is easily combined with the River of Life and you can often hear the call to prayer.

The mosque has an iconic shape with three shiny domes and a several brick tower minarets meaning you can see it from all over Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.

Tourists and non-worshippers are allowed to visit the Masjid James Sultan mosque; gowns are available to borrow and shoes must be taken off.

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8. Book Xcess

Located in the REXKL building, the Chinatown Branch must be the most beautiful bookshop in Malaysia.

Located on the top-floor, the colourful bookshelves sit amongst the old cinema walls and screen.

Book Xcess REXKL Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

This Chinatown bookshop is always busy but mainly with people taking pictures or even impromptu photo shoots – so if you do visit, please do try and buy something (English language books are available too).

This isn’t the only quirky Book Xcess branch in Malaysia – If you are visiting Ipoh, make sure to check the Book Xcess store that is located in an old bank vault where the books are displayed in old safety deposit boxes.

Book Xcess REXKL Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

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9. Guan Di Temple Chinatown

Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is often very busy and hectic so we appreciate the respite and peaceful grounds of the small Taoist Guan Di Temple.

Guan Di Temple Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

The temple was built in the 1880s and the smell of burning joss sticks and spiral incense lures you in (it looks very pretty too).

One of the finest Chinese temples in KL’s Chinatown, there are several stalls inside and a sea of red lanterns when we visited.

Whilst not an epic temple, Guan Di is serene and worth a quick trip – shoes do not need to be taken off.

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10. Old Kuala Lumpur Street Art, Lrg Petaling 2

One of Chinatown’s hidden gems, this secret street art spot depicts the history of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown with some impressive illustrations.

To find this lovely lane of street art, head towards Bubble Bee Cafe on Jalan Petaling – the street art lane can be found on the right hand side of Pik Wah Bar and Cafe on an alley called Lrg Petaling 2 on Google maps.

A tale of two cities, it is also ironic how this side-street depicting so much of Kuala Lumpur’s and Chinatown’s history is also one of the best viewpoints to see the new Merdeka 118 tower juxtaposed against the old town skyline.

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11. Merdeka 118 Tower

Easily seen from all over Chinatown, Merdeka 118 is set to be the largest skyscraper in Malaysia and the second tallest building in the world (thanks to a weird extra bit they’ve added to the top).

Merdeka 118 Tower Kuala Lumpur

Merdeka 118 is still under construction at the time of writing (January 2024) but it is set to be one of biggest shopping destinations and malls in Kuala Lumpur, plus will have an epic observation deck and viewing platform.

Merdeka 118 Tower Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

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12. Merdeka Square

Merdeka Square is a famous Kuala Lumpur landmark where Malaysia’s independence was announced in the 1950s (meaning it is also known as Independence Square).

The Malaysian flag was raised here for the very first time in 1957 to signify the end of British rule (and replace the Union Jack flag that had previously flown there).

Merdeka Square

Full of colonial charm including black and white tudor style buildings plus a cricket green, it also has a huge flagpole (check out how big the Malaysia national flag is here!).

Merdeka Square is often used as an events space and meeting place, such as the main venue for the annual KL running marathon.

Merdeka Square

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13. Kuala Lumpur Chinatown Hawker Centres and Street Food

As Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur is well known for its street food (and not just on Petaling Street), there are several hawker centres in and around the area to enjoy local food – you won’t go hungry in Chinatown!

Tang City hawker centre Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Tang City

Popular hawker centre dishes in Chinatown sell dishes such as curry laksa, curried brinjal (aubergine), Hokkien noodles, chee chong fun, claypot chicken rice and char kway teow noodles.

Hawker centers are dotted all around Chinatown and some of the more popular ones are Tang City or international food courts like the one on the ground floor of REXKL.

Tang City hawker centre Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Tang City

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14. Kasturi Walk

Just outside of Central Market, Kuala Lumpur Chinatown’s Kasturi Walk is a covered outdoor shopping area with numerous souvenir kiosks and food stalls.

Kasturi Walk Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

It is a nice way to browse gifts and trinkets in the open air (and also a nice escape from Central Market if it becomes too busy).

Kasturi Walk is a great place for fresh fruits – one of the most popular stalls is a fresh fruit and fruit stall; their coconut shake is very refreshing and good value compared to nearby bars and restaurants.

We’ve been to Kasturi Walk several times over the last few years and on our latest trip in December 2023, it seems to be a little depleted with fewer stalls than before – hopefully things will pick up again.

Kasturi Walk Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

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15. Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown’s most famous and colourful temple, Sri Mahamariamman Temple was built in the 19th century and is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

The highlight is the incredible  ‘Raja Gopuram’ roof covered with incredible carvings of Hindu Gods and which can be seen from all over Chinatown with a facade of carved Hindu gods.

TheSri Mahamariamman Temple on the edge of Chinatown Kuala Lumpur is free to visit. 

If you wish to enter the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, please remember to dress modestly and take off your shoes at the entrance.

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16. Sin Sze Si Ya Temple

The oldest Taoist temple in Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown’s Sin Sze Si Ya is a short walk from Central Market and is over 140 years old.

The temple was built in honour of local deities Sin Sze Ya and Si Sze Ya and is a peaceful place for local worshippers.

Sin Sze Si Ya Temple Kuala Lumpur Chinatown

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17. Bubble Bee Cafe

A nice place to escape Kuala Lumpur Chinatown’s heat and enjoy cool bubble tea or ice-cream waffles, the Bubble Bee is highly recommended and easy to spot – just look for the incredible street art above the main entrance, depicting a young girl looking out over Chinatown.

Bubble Bee Cafe Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

Open all day for coffee, brunch, wrap, salads and more, Bubble Bee Cafe also features on several Kuala Lumpur Chinatown food tours.

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18. Go KL City Bus  – a Kuala Lumpur Tourist Shuttle

One of the best ways to get around Kuala Lumpur and to or from Chinatown is to jump aboard the Go KL City Bus.

There are dozens of stops all over the city including Chinatown on the purple line (known as GO KL 02 route from 1 January 2024).

Go KL City Bus

The GOKL city bus service now offers several bus routes that connect the busy areas of Chinatown, KLCC,  Bukit Bintang and more.

The GO KL bus used to be free to tourists but now charges a 1 MYR fare to foreigners (which is still very cheap) as of 1 January 2024.

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19. Central Market Food Court

On the upper floor of Central Market, you’ll find a busy food court and hawker centre that many of the locals eat at (as the air conditioning is pretty good).

Comprising around 20 or so stalls, this is one of the cleanest food courts we found in Chinatown Kuala Lumpur with loads of choice and excellent prices.

Cold drinks and fresh fruit juices are also available and some of the tables look out over the shops below.

Central Market Food Court Chinatown

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20. I heart KL sign / Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Yes, it might be a bit of a tourist cliche, but there is a huge (and fun) ‘I heart KL’  sign next to the KL City Gallery – one of KL’s most popular photo spots, expect to queue to pose with the sign during busy periods.

 I heart KL sign

If silly signs aren’t your thing, check out the free displays in Kuala Lumpur City Gallery including a miniature version of KL’s city and iconic landmarks.

You can also enjoy sweet treats at the award winning ARCH Cafe (their stained glass windows and KL lightbulb sign on the ceiling are superb too).

Kuala Lumpur City Gallery Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
ARCH Cafe Kuala lumpur

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Our final Kuala Lumpur Chinatown thing to do:

21. Sultan Abdul Samad Building

As you walk along the River of Life on the left hand river bank by the observation deck and Makan Buzz, the last building you’ll pass before hitting Merdeka Square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building Kuala Lumpur

This is a former Government building built in the 1890s, once home to the British colonial administration.

Look up at the majestic clock-tower at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – the 40 metre clock tower rang out for the first ever time to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Parade 1897 and continues to regularly chime to this day.

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