best things to do in melaka

The Best Things to Do in Melaka Malaysia

Melaka’s an easy place to visit. It’s very similar to Penang in that respect, perhaps a little more compact than George Town with places to visit.  Most of the Melaka museums are in to be found in a very small area. It’s best to get a centrally located place to stay, so that you’re right in the action, although it’s relatively quiet here.  Most of the evening attractions center around Jonkers Walk and the whole downtown area is safe and easily walkable.  Here are the best things to do in Melaka, Malaysia.Saturday and Sunday night into a pedestrian scrum of stalls and food hawkers.

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Where to Stay in Melaka

There are a host of places to stay in Melaka – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Melaka, mid-range places to stay in Melaka, and budget accommodation in Melaka.

The Majestic Malacca Hotel, Melaka: The Majestic Malacca Hotel is found in the best-rated area in Melaka right by the riverbanks. This five-star hotel in Melaka has rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, a four-poster bed, a seating area, air-conditioning, a desk, a private bathroom with a bathtub and a shower, free WiFi, and a flat-screen TV. This luxury Melaka hotel also has a casual dining experience at The Mansion which serves a variety of cuisines. The Gin O’Clock bar not only serves drinks but also allows you to try your hand at mixing your own gin-based cocktails. The Majestic Malacca Hotel is the perfect luxury hotel to stay at when in Melaka. Check room rates at Malacca’s Majestic Hotel here.

Imperial Heritage Hotel, Melaka: The Imperial Heritage Hotel is found in Jalan Merdeka in Melaka, surrounded by Melaka’s top attractions, and historical sites. The rooms at Melaka’s Imperial Heritage Hotel are equipped with air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a desk, black-out curtains, a coffee/tea maker, an in-room safe, and a private bathroom with a shower. There are different Asian cuisines served at their Salt & Sugar Restaurant, amazing breakfast at Cheng Ho Café, and a relaxing break at the London Bus Café. This mid-range Melaka hotel also has a Himalayan Crystal Salt room, and a gym. If you’re looking for an excellent mid-range Melaka hotel, then the Imperial Heritage Hotel is a fantastic place to stay in Melaka. See rates and availability here.

The Nines Hotel, Melaka: The Nines Hotel is situated right at the heart of Melaka, conveniently nearby fantastic restaurants, hip cafes and bars, cool shops, and Melaka’s top attractions. This budget Melaka hotel has rooms with air-conditioning, flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge, a safety deposit box, a desk, a fitted wardrobe, an iron/iron board, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer. This budget hotel in Melaka also has a cafeteria, an air-conditioned shared lounge, and free WiFi. The Nines Hotel in Melaka is a great budget-friendly option with super service in Melaka. Want to read more reviews and check rooms and availability at the Nines Hotel? Check them out here.

Our Plans for Melaka

We got here by way of the Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur, and there’s more on how we did that here.  We’re chilling out in Melaka, as we’re biding our time.  We have a flight booked from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan, Sabah on Borneo on July 19th – to coincide with just after the end of Ramadan – the Muslim fasting month.  Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country – it’s the official religion and we wanted to be sure that our travel plans fit in with both local customs and everyone wanting to be somewhere else for the holidays!

The Best Things to do in Melaka

There are heaps of museums here in Melaka, as there’s a lot of history here.  Even more museums than George Town in Penang.  And there’s some great food here, primarily, I think because of the mix of cultures that have left their mark on the foods here.  So let’s get going!

Visit the the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum Melaka

There’s a huge amount of history here in Melaka and it doesn’t stint when it comes to museums, with some better than others. We took our first stop in the Baba and Nyonya Museum on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, in the heart of the old district.  It’s here that we learn about the integration of the Chinese and the Malays.

There are tours around the house on an hourly basis, these cost 4 RM on top of the entrance fee of 16 RM for adults and 7 RM for children. This is the family home of a seven generation of Straits-born Chinese and has been run as a museum since 1985. It truly is as though time has stood still here. It was acquired by the Chan family in 1861 as three terrace lots.

The term “Baba and Nyonya” refers to the honorific term given to a Straits-born man and woman.  Much of the culture here is driven by the blending of the Chinese and Malay customs

There are no photos allowed inside the house, but it’s possible to buy glossy books in the gift shop at the end of the tour.   There’s more about what to expect in this Melaka heritage museum here.

  • Address of Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum: 48-50, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum:  Thursday-Sunday 10 am to 12:30 pm, 2 pm to 5 pm
  • Entry Fees for Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum:  16 RM (adults), 11 RM (Children)

The Maritime Museum Melaka

Housed in part in a replica of a Portuguese ship, known as a “Carrack”, the Flor de La Mar, the Maritime Museum (6RM) charts much of Melaka’s history. There’s an audio tour that delivers little more than the extensive written signage. The interior of the ship is blessedly air-conditioned with an inordinate amount of models of ships inside.  There’s information on Portugal’s explorations and conquests, as well as Panglima Awang, known as the Malaysian Magellan.

Some parts of the museum are fascinating – detailing the currency and growth of trading here.  Other parts are painful, especially the second floor, where random exhibits of 1980s diving gear seem to display 35 years of dust and little else.

Since we visited, the museum has expanded.  The second part of Melaka’s Maritime museum is hosted in an old “godown” (an old warehouse at a port) that belonged to a plantation and trading company called Guthrie.  This two-level museum focuses on the ocean and mankind and covers fishing boats, birds, marine animals, and fishing villages

Also covered in the tickets to the Melaka Maritime Museum is the Royal Royal Malaysian Navy Museum. There are two parts to this museum, on the outside, there’s a decommissioned patrol boat which you can walk around the outside of, but not go inside, and some old navy guns.  Inside Melaka’s Malaysian Navy Museum you’ll find a Navy helicopter, the history of the navy, and what they do today.

  • Address of Maritime Museum Melaka: Jln Merdeka, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of Maritime Museum Melaka:  Closed Monday.  All other days 9 am to 5 pm
  • Entry Fees for Maritime Museum Melaka:  10 RM (Adult foreigners) 6 RM (Child foreigners)

Visit Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple in Melaka

Melaka’s Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest working temple in Malaysia and holds a UNESCO World Heritage award for architectural restoration.  This temple practices Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  The site here was founded in 1645, with more buildings added in 1673 and it was the main place of worship for the Hokkien community in Melaka.  The main hall of the Cheng Hoon Teng temple was added in 1704, with renovations in 1801. 

  • Address of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple:  25, Jalan Tokong, Kampung Dua, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Cost to enter Cheng Hoon Teng Temple:  Free, but donations are welcome
  • Opening hours of Cheng Hoon Teng Temple:  7 am until 4 pm daily

This is one of the places to visit if you come on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur

Enjoy the views at the Taming Sari Revolving Tower in Melaka

This 24-story revolving tower in Melaka is both the first and the (now second) tallest revolving tower in Malaysia, after The Shore Sky Tower built in 2014.  It reaches 110 feet (33 meters).  The name, “Taming Sari” comes from Malay folklore and means either “the main shield”, “beautiful shield” or “flower shield” and is a shield believed to have been used by Hang Tuah, a legendary Melakan warrior who lived in the 15th century.  The Taming Sari was believed to have given physical invulnerability to the wearer.

The revolving viewing platform gives a 360-degree view of Melaka and can hold 66 people at once.  You enter the platform at ground level and the whole platform rises, taking about 7 minutes before returning to the ground.  You can buy tickets here.

  • Address of Taming Sari Tower: Jln Merdeka, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Entrance Fee for Taming Sari Tower:  Foreign Adult 23 RM, Foreign Child 15 RM
  • Opening hours of Taming Sari Tower:  Weekdays 10 am until 11 pm, weekends 9 am until 11 pm

Explore the Sultanate Palace Museum of Melaka

This replica of the original sultanate palace of Melaka houses the Malaysian Cultural Museum, which includes more than 1300 items related to Melkaka’s history.  You’ll find items including photographs, musical instruments, drawings, and weapons across 3 floors and 8 rooms here.

  • Address of Sultanate Palace Museum: Jln Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Cost to enter the Sultanate Palace Museum:  Adults 2RM, Children 1 RM
  • Opening hours of the Sultanate Palace Museum: Closed Monday.  Tuesday – Sunday 9 am to 5 pm.

The Islamic Museum Melaka

It costs us a 2RM entry fee to visit the Melaka Islamic Museum, which is housed in the old Islamic Council Building.  The building was first constructed under Dutch rule with the second story being added by the British, the covered porch on the top floor is glorious.  The museum contents are not so much Islam 101 – more like degree level, I come out with more questions than answers, and actually that for me, makes this a great museum.  It’s not unlike the museum of the Sikh religion at Amritsar’s Golden Temple in India, which also left me with lots of questions.

The history of Islam in Melaka began when Parameswara embraced the religion following his marriage to a Pasai Princess in the 15th century.  Melaka became a center for the spread of Islamic culture and politics in the region.

  • Address of the Islamic Museum, Melaka: Jln Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of the Islamic Museum, Melaka:  Closed Monday, Tuesday – Sunday 9 am until 5:30 pm
  • Entry Fees for the Islamic Museum, Melaka:  Adult 2 RM, Children 1 RM.

The Stadthuys Melaka, aka Melaka’s Town Hall

This is one of the most recognizable buildings in Melaka – the salmon pink town hall – the oldest Dutch building in Asia, built after Melaka was captured by the Dutch in 1641 – it was built as a copy of the town hall in Hoorn, the Netherlands.  Building work didn’t finish until 1660 and it was built on the ruins of the Portuguese Fort (you can see all that remains of the fort at the Porta de Santiago).  This is thought to be the oldest Dutch building in East Asia. 

It now contains several museums (the Melaka Museum of Education, the Melaka Museum of History & Ethnology, the Melaka Museum of Literature, the Governor’s Museum of Melaka, and the Melaka Democratic Museum all for a single 10 RM entry fee ) – in both the main building and others behind it.

  • Address of Stadthuys Melaka:  Dutch Square, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka
  • Opening Hours of Stadthuys Melaka:  Check the opening times of the individual museums
  • Entry Fees for Stadthuys Melaka:  10 RM for foreign adults

The Democratic Process Museum of Melaka

Melaka’s Democratic Process Museum charts the process of democracy, specifically within Malaysia, but also across the world.  What’s particularly interesting is that the museum outlines definitions of government types throughout the world as well as the progress of democracy.  The Democracy Museum also displays some excellent old posters, which seem to have no bearing on the democratic process, but are interesting all the same.

  • Address of Democratic Process Museum: Jln Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of Democratic Process Museum:  Closed Monday, Tuesday – Sunday 9 am until 5 pm
  • Entry Fees for Democratic Process Museum:  Adult 5RM, Child 2RM.

The Governors Museum Melaka

Also included in our fee for the Stadthuys is the Governor’s Museum of Melaka.  This Melaka museum is housed in the former Governors Mansion, it sits within the Stadthuys complex, but further up the hill.  You can enter this museum from St Paul’s Church or the Stadthuys. It’s where former Governors have displayed gifts they were given while in office. It’s a smorgasbord of bizarre and expensive keepsakes.  It’s not unlike the Museum of Royal Regalia in Bandar Seri Begawan, which I wrote about here.

  • Address of the Governors Museum, Melaka: Jln Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of the Governor’s Museum, Melaka:  Closed Monday, Tuesday – Sunday 9 am until 5:30 pm
  • Entry Fees for the Governor’s Museum, Melaka:  Adult 10 RM Child 5 RM included in Stadthyus fee.

St Paul’s Church Melaka

Melaka’s Church of St Paul’s was originally built by the Portuguese in 1521 and sits on a hill above the town.  It is, albeit a ruin, the oldest church in South East Asia.  The church was visited by St Francis Xavier (of Assisi).  St Francis was buried here for a time before his body was transferred to Goa.  His tomb remains here surrounded by a wire fence and no signage whatsoever.  His statue does, however,  adorn a plinth at the front of the ruins of the church.

It wasn’t long after they arrived, that the Dutch completed Christ Church at the base of the hill, and then St Paul’s started to fall into ruin.

  • Address of St Paul’s Church Melaka: 1935, Jln Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of St Paul’s Church Melaka:  Open 24 hours
  • Entry Fees for St Paul’s Church Melaka: FREE

Christ Church Melaka

Christ Church is probably THE symbol of Melaka that everyone recognizes.  It was completed by the Dutch in 1590.  It’s painted the same pink color as the Clock Tower and the Stadthuys.  Melaka’s Christ Church is the oldest functioning Protestant Church in Malaysia.  There’s very little to look at inside, although some of the floorings of the church are made from tombstones with both Portuguese and Armenian inscriptions.  It’s the cat lying on the road outside captures most people’s attention while we visited.

  • Address of Christ Church, Melaka: Jalan Gereja, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Malacca, Malaysia
  • Opening Hours of Christ Church, Melaka: 9 am until 4:30 pm

Porta de Santiago, Melaka aka A Famosa

Melaka’s Porta de Santiago or Santiago Gate is all that remains of Melaka’s Fort that was built by the Portuguese in 1511.  It’s also known as A Famosa –  or The Famous.  It was Sir Stamford Raffles (of the Raffles Hotel, Singapore fame) who stopped the Dutch from destroying the fort in 1810. It’s a shame he didn’t get here a little earlier!

  • Address of Name of Porta de Santiago: Jalan Parameswara, Bandar Hilir, 78000 Alor Gajah, Melaka, Malaysia

Learn some history at the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum

Cheng Ho was the Admiral from the Ming Dynasty, who visited Melaka on his many voyages en route to the West between 1405 and 1433.  It was believed that he set up a warehouse on the north side of the Melaka River.  This museum details the relationships between the immigrant Chinese and ethnic locals.  There’s information on tea houses, navigation, and treasure ships.

  • Address of Cheng Ho Cultural Museum:  51, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
  • Entry Fee for Cheng Ho Cultural Museum:  Adult 20 RM, Child 10 RM
  • Opening hours of Cheng Ho Cultural Museum: Monday – Sunday 9 am to 6 pm

Hike up Bukit China

Bukit China or Chinese Hill is the hillside burial ground in Melaka.  This Chinese burial ground in Melaka dates back to the Ming dynasty and there are more than 12,000 graves here.

Melaka River Cruise

45 minute river cruises on the Melaka River depart day and night from either Spice Garden Jetty or Melaka River Square Jetty.  These river cruises in Melaka come with a pre-recorded commentary that covers the history of the city, the area, and what you’re seeing.  You’ll cover about 9 kilometers in total on these boats that seat 40 people.  Most seats are under cover, (from the sun and rain) apart from the ones at the front which, of course, have the best view! 

Melaka’s Independence Museum

The independence museum of Melaka is incredibly in-depth and celebrates the 1956 Malaysian independence.  Melaka’s Independence Museum charts the move towards and completion of independence.  Its information board upon information, with artifacts, interspersed. The air con is good and we skip out after just the ground floor.  The building is gorgeous and was originally built for the Melaka Club in 1912.  The field that was in front of it (many decades ago) was used for both cricket and polo.   There’s a Mega Mall there now. 

  • Address of Melaka’s Independence Museum: Memorial Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan, Jalan Parameswara, Bandar Hilir, 75000
  • Opening Hours of Melaka’s Independence Museum:  Closed Monday.  Tuesday – Sunday 9 am until 5 pm.  Closed at lunchtime on Fridays.
  • Entry Fees for Melaka’s Independence Museum:  FREE

Street Art in Melaka

While it’s nothing on the sister UNESCO World Heritage city of Penang (there’s more on Penang’s artwork installations here), there are some interesting pieces of street art to explore here.  Most of the street art that you’ll see in Melaka is on the sides of buildings along the riverbank, so either take a walk along the riverbank or get yourself on a cruise.   There’s more on where to see the main items of Melaka street art here.

Melaka’s Musical Trishaws

Unlike trishaws and rickshaws of other cities in South East Asia, which are primarily there for people and goods transport, the trishaws here in Melaka are heavily decorated. The trishaws of Melaka are a tourist attraction in themselves.  The Disney “Frozen” franchise features heavily at the moment, but there are also some spectacularly different ones.

Loud pounding music also features. It’s a little surreal and seems both to be completely out of place and absolutely at home.

They’re amusing to watch (at 40 RM an hour we’re just watching) and even more so when a group of folks rents them together and there’s a trishaw conga going on, with competing music.

You can find Melaka’s musical trishaws throughout the city, although they’ll mainly be around the tourist spots.

Head to Jonkers Walk aka Jalan Hang Jebat in Melaka

Jalan Hang Jebat, which transforms from a regular street each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night into a pedestrian scrum of stalls and food hawkers is also known as Jonkers Walk Night Market.

It’s a great, if busy, place to grab something to eat, to drink, and to generally people watch too.

How to Get Around Melaka

Getting around Melaka is really easy.  You’ll see most of the Melaka attractions within less than a square mile, so walking around is easy.  Depending on your hotel you might also be able to arrange bicycle rental.  Grab taxis are also pretty cheap to use if you go further afield.

The Melaka Sentral bus station is about 3 miles from the heritage area of Melaka, so you’ll need a taxi or to get the bus into the heritage area.  A taxi will cost about 15 RM from the Melaka bus station to the heritage area of Melaka.

To take the bus to downtown Melaka from Melaka Sentral, take the Melaka Town Bus 17 route bus.  Tickets cost 1.50 RM each.  This Melaka bus 17 runs backwards and forwards all day and the conductor knows that there are lots of tourists on this bus, so he calls out the stops on the way.

How to Get to Melaka

Melaka is easy to get to from most places in Malaysia.  Check the bus routes and timetables to get to Melaka here.  For a guide specifically from Cameron Highlands to Melaka, we wrote about it here.

A Brief History of Melaka

Melaka was founded in the 14th century by Parameswara, a Hindu prince from Sumatra. The Chinese, in the form of Admiral Cheng Ho, arrived in 1405 and this began the integration with local Malays.  This became known as the Baba’s and Nyonyas – where a Chinese man married a local Malay woman. They’re also known as Peranakan or the Straits (of Melaka) Chinese.

The geographical position of the city – right on the spice trading routes led to Melaka becoming an incredibly powerful trading state. Islam was adopted in the 15th century and then the Portuguese arrived in 1509. They took Melaka by force in 1511 and built the fortress of A’Famosa and sent Catholic missionaries to convert the locals.

Melaka began to decline until the Dutch arrived in 1641 when the port passed into their hands (after an 8-month siege).

In 1795 the British took over (they were allies of the Dutch who had their hands full having just been invaded by the French).  In 1824 Melaka was handed over to the British permanently. Until, of course, Malaysian independence.

Melaka is easy to get to from most places in Malaysia.  Check the bus routes and timetables to get to Melaka here.  For a guide specifically from Cameron Highlands to Melaka, we wrote about it here.

Final Words on the Best things to do in Melaka

Melaka, like George Town, Penang is a really interesting city to visit.  It’s compact, at least for the Melaka attractions you’ll want to see and the Melaka museums to visit.  The accommodation here is great and well-located.  And there are amazing amounts of well-documented history here.  This cultural melting pot in Malaysia is a fabulous place to put on your Malaysian itinerary.

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