When most people think of visiting Indonesia, they think of visiting the gorgeous places in Bali, to see its incredible temples and stunning waterfalls. That being said, the capital, Jakarta is a great little spot for a few days visit, especially if you’re already in Java. Now, being such a big and populous city, it can be hard to pinpoint the best things to do in Jakarta; especially when the sights are dotted all over the city.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when we visited Jakarta for the first time. After all, our previous Indonesian trips had been to Ubud in Bali.
Now, Jakarta is a hive of activity, and I don’t say this lightly! It’s a buzzing city and it’s full of people! This will be the first thing you notice in the city, especially with all the traffic in Jakarta. Though, regardless of traffic, there’s a heap of the best things to do in Jakarta that are well worth a gander if you’re visiting for a few days.
This sprawling exciting city is the hyper-centre of Indonesia and absolutely worth taking time to explore when in the area.
With that in mind, take a look at some of the best things to do in Jakarta. Have a great trip!
1.) The National Monument
This immense structure is an icon of the city and is situated in the beautiful Merdeka Square. Standing at a colossal 132m high, the National Monument pays homage to the struggle for Indonesian independence and is revered across the country. Honestly, if you’re interested in the history of Indonesia as a country, you’ll want to see this place.
Aside from the beautiful architecture of the structure, it is also possible to climb to the observation deck for stunning views of the vast city. Though, just make sure you visit on an un-smoggy day. Views can be hampered when it’s like this.
Also, for a great place to stay, we checked into The Hermitage which is in a historic building with a gorgeous rooftop pool, bar and views over Jakarta.
We loved it.
2.) Fatahillah Museum
Exploring Fatahillah Museum (or the Jakarta History Museum), is easily one of the best things to do in Jakarta if you want to know more about the country and the origins of Jakarta itself.
Built at the historic centre of Jakarta, it has a shed load of history to explore and housed the most beautiful (and old) city hall building that is over 300 years old. In fact, it’s said that the building itself was modelled after Dam Palace (in Amsterdam), too.
Once here, make sure to see the stone tablets, murals and the Tugu inscription which dates all the way back to the 5th Century. Though it’s a replica (of what’s in the national museum) it’s still incredible to see.
Afterwards, if you fancy a special dinner, pop over to PAL8. They serve up some tasty Indonesian dishes. Their kecombrang is amazing.
3.) Istiqlal Mosque
As the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, the Istigal Mosque is definitely worth seeing and is a hugely important building in the heart of Jakarta.
Originally constructed in 1978, this mosque has a capacity of 200,000 and features a beautiful marble courtyard with several decorative minarets. Inside, vast columns hold up the central dome and the walls are decorated with Islamic reliefs and iconography.
This truly is an amazing structure is almost hard to miss when you’re in this area of Jakarta.
It’s one of the most iconic buildings and the best things to do in Jakarta if you want to see more of how diverse the city is.
4.) National Museum of Indonesia
Situated in close proximity to Merdeka Square, the National Museum offers a staggering collection of relics and artefacts pertaining to the history of Indonesia and its cultural heritage.
So, you know, if you’re up for a bit of culture, you should definitely head here! This is especially true if you get caught in a seasonal rainshower, too. It’s one of the best things to do in Jakarta if the weather gets bad.
Oh, also, within the collection, are some incredible stone Hindu-Buddhist artwork, a treasure room full of gold artefacts, a collection of ancient ceramics and even a selection of prehistoric finds such as fossils and ceremonial weaponry, too.
Also, don’t forget to visit the Indonesian Museum (above), too. It’s well worth a visit.
They’ve got a heap of artefacts and stunning buildings to explore.
5.) Merdeka Square
This monumental square is one of the main sights of Jakarta and spans over a 1km square. To put it into perspective, this square is five times the size of the gigantic Tiananmen Square in Beijing! In the centre of this open space is the National Monument, and surrounding this iconic statue is a series of footpaths, wooded areas, and beautiful water features.
When you’re in Jakarta, take some time (and some pretty sturdy walking shoes) to visit this square. It’s one of the best things to do in Jakarta that’s gorgeous on a sunny day.
6.) Jakarta Cathedral
Although dwarfed by the immense Istiglal Mosque, seeing the Cathedral is easily one of the best things to do in Jakarta.
Created in 1901, this church has served as the seat of the Roman Catholic establishment in Jakarta since its inception. The front façade of the church features some ornate Romanesque decoration and two stunning white spires.
Plus, the delightful interior has a classic design and is very reminiscent of a lot of European cathedrals. The Cathedral of Jakarta offers a different view of religion in the country and is a fantastic reminder of the countries Catholic roots.
This all being said, you might find this a total bore if you’re not into history and churches in general.
7.) Thousand Islands
The Thousand Islands are a chain located off the north coast of Jakarta and provide a plethora of opportunities for those wanting to step outside the boundaries of the capital.
For us, we knew we had to have a little taste of these islands and it’s relatively easy to organise a trip (or a stay) when visiting Jakarta.
Now, there isn’t quite a Thousand Islands to explore, but there are loads’ each with their own charm. Once you arrive in Jakarta, speak to the concierge in the hotel that can help organise your tour. We decided on hiring a boat and skipper to take us for the day, but if you want to keep costs lower, you can opt for a shared tour that’ll take you to the main islands.
It’s a great way to take a trip from Jakarta itself and see a totally different side to this area of Indonesia.
8.) National Gallery
Created in 1999, the National Gallery aims at showcasing beautiful Indonesian talent and is the perfect place to visit to check out some rather significant artwork from Indonesia.
This fantastic complex contains over 1700 individual pieces from well-known Indonesian artists such as Raden Saleh, Affandi and Basuki Abdullah (if you don’t know who those are now, you’ll certainly will and will probably be a fan by the time you leave). The art gallery also has some foreign pieces of work here from artists like Hans Harting and Victor Vasarely.
For art lovers, exploring the National Gallery will be a total gem and one of the best things to do in Jakarta!
Also, if its views and cocktails you’re after, pop over to the rooftop bar of Skye. Perched over fifty floors up (in the Grand Indonesia Tower), it’s one epic place to watch the sunset.
9.) Taman Mini Indonesia Park
To gain a much deeper appreciation of Indonesian culture and the historic daily life of the country, head across to Taman Mini Indonesia Park.
Spread over 250 acres, this park displays a large amount of Indonesian heritage and tradition in the form of different areas that showcase all the different culture of Indonesia and how diverse the population is.
Each area has a heap of historic buildings that are hundreds of years old. Oh, and some dino buildings that are a little newer, too! 😉
It’s a great way to see the whole extend of what islands constitute Indonesia and their incredibly rich diversity.
We loved it here.
10.) Jakarta Chinatown
More commonly known as Glodok, this area of Jakarta is the city’s Chinatown and one of the biggest in the whole country.
You see, Jakarta has been inhabited by Chinese migrants since the 17th century.
Still, to this day, this population remains an important part of the city.
Centred on Pintu Road, the Chinatown features some fantastic traditional architecture and a hap of food stalls, too. Oh, and lots of little markets and colourful temples that are well worth seeing.
We loved visiting the temples, here, and it feels so different from the other areas of Jakarta.