best things to do in melaka

Things to do in Melaka Malaysia – UNESCO World Heritage + More

We’re having a lazy time of it in Melaka by all accounts and that’s primarily because 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 custom and everyone wanting to be somewhere else for the holidays!

We got here by way of the Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur, find out about our journey.

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 museums are in to be found in a very small area. Our hotel – the Casablanca Guest House is well located a few minutes walk from the famous for Jonkers Walk.  Jalan Hang Jebat, which transforms from a regular street each Friday, 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.

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Melaka’s History

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.

Traditional Dress of the Baba & Nyonya
Traditional Dress of the Baba & Nyonya

It’s geographical position – right on the spice trading routes led to Melaka becoming an incredible 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).

Dutch Bricks
Dutch Bricks

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.

Where to stay in Melaka

If you’re arriving from Cameron Highlands you’ll likely arrive late. We recommend booking into a great location, so you can step straight into the culture that is Melaka.

The Majestic Malacca Hotel

188, Jalan Bunga Raya, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia

A delightful luxury hotel in a heritage building dating back to 1920. Located on the banks of the Melaka River, this boutique hotel has a spa and an outdoor pool. There’s free wifi throughout.

  • Floor to Ceiling windows in all rooms
  • Teak bedframes
  • Ensuite bathrooms with luxury bathroom amentiies
  • Airport transfers
  • 24 hour reception

Book yourself into luxury at the Majestic Malacca Hotel now!

The Blanc Boutique Hotel

26 JALAN KUBU, 75300 Melaka, Malaysia

Located on Jonker Street, this is a heritage building with air-conditioned rooms, there’s free Wifi throughout the hotel.

  • Rooms have a flat-screen TV with cable channels
  • Kettle, private bathroom and free toiletries and hairdryer
  • Fabulous location

Book one of the best locations in Melaka now!

Omni Hostel Malacca

No. 18-1 Jalan Kampung Pantai, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia

Great new hostel in a fab location. Great location, free tea, coffee and filtered water.

  • A/C Rooms with free wifi
  • Close to Christ Church Melaka
  • Rooms have private bathrooms

Book this fabulous budget option in Melaka now

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.  It’s here that we learn about the integration of the Chinese and the Malays.

Lantern outside the Museum
Lantern outside the Museum

There are tours around the house on an hourly basis. 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.

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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. We decline.

The Maritime Museum Melaka

Housed in part in a replica of a Portuguese ship, 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.

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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 1980’s diving gear seem to display 35 years of dust and little else.

The Islamic Museum Melaka

It costs us 2RM entry fee to visit this museum, which is housed in the old Islamic Council Building.

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The French family with two teenage girls decide to ignore the ticket seller and visit the top floor for free, where the girls flounce around stamping their feet and generally sighing loudly until Maman gives into them and leaves.

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.

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The Arrival of Islam in Melaka and Malaysia

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.

The Stadthuys Melaka

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.

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

The Transport Museum
The Transport Museum

There are many artifacts, dioramas without explanation, many random sign boards and not much story line throughout.

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Mostly it appears that the signage has been both designed and produced by someone who’s just taken a design course and who wishes to incorporate everything they ever learned into a single sign, which makes virtually all of them unreadable and somewhat incomprehensible.

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Possibly the BEST item in the entire museum is the comical signage for where to find the toilets.

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The Democratic Process Museum charts the process of democracy – giving definitions of government types throughout the world and also displaying some excellent old posters, which seem to have no bearing on the democratic process, but which are interesting all the same.

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The Governors Museum Melaka

Also included in our fee for the Stadthuys is the Governors Museum (in the former Governors Mansion) – which sits further up the hill (you can enter from St Paul’s or from the Stadthuys).

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It’s where former Governors have displayed gifts they were given while in office. It’s a smorgasboard of bizarre and expensive keepsakes.

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St Paul’s Church Melaka

St Paul’s was originally built by the Portuguese in 1521 and sits on a hill above the town.

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The church was visited by St Francis Xavier (of Assisi).  He 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.

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

Christ Church Melaka

Christ Church is probably THE symbol of Melaka that everyone recognizes.  It was completed by the Dutch in 1590.  Its painted the same pink color as the Clock Tower and the Stadthuys.

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There’s very little to look at inside, there’s a man selling souvenirs and memorial stones to long dead westerners.  It’s the cat lying on the road outside captures most people’s attention.

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Porta de Santiago, Melaka

This is all that remains of the Fort that was built by the Portuguese in 1511.

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It was Sir Stamford Raffles (of the Raffles Hotel, Singapore fame) who stopped the Dutch destroying the fort. It’s a shame he didn’t get here a little earlier!

The Fort "way back when"
The Fort “way back when”

The River Banks in Melaka

One of “the” things to do appears to be taking a river cruise.  After watching several full boats steam along at full pelt, causing wake that early made the river burst its banks we decide to spend the money on a beer and walk along the river instead.

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It’s pretty.  And quiet after the throngs of Jonkers Walk.

Melaka’s Independence Museum

We take 10 minutes to walk around the incredibly in depth Independence Museum, which 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.

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Melaka’s Musical Trishaws

Unlike trishaws and rickshaws of other cities, the trishaws here in Melaka are heavily decorated. The Disney “Frozen” franchise features heavily at the moment, but there are also some spectacularly different ones.

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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.

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Melaka is a relatively quiet and easy city to visit, it’s no wonder we continue (four times!) to bump into Maxime and Jorres throughout our time here.  It seems we’re fated to visit the same places at the same time and, pick the same food to eat too!

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We’ll all head off tomorrow, we’re off to Kuala Lumpur and they’re heading (via KL) to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  We get to bid a joint farewell to a wonderful cultural melting pot and head to the big city.

Plan Your Trip to Malaysia

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