Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is often referred to as the city of contrasts, and for good reason. Those with a bit of time and patience will find an intriguing juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and shanty towns, sophisticated dining and roadside food stalls, and historic buildings besieged by the city’s notorious gridlock. Couple this with an array of ethnicities, traditions and cuisines, and you definitely have a city worth exploring.
While this 10-million strong megalopolis is not easy to get around, with two days on their hands, visitors should be able to take in some of Jakarta’s more interesting spots – the following itinerary factors in the time you'll spend getting from A to B.
Start your day with a caffeine kick and a leisurely breakfast at the Social House on the first floor of the Grand Indonesia Mall. Sit on the balcony for stunning views of the Welcome Monument on Roundabout Hotel Indonesia, one of Jakarta’s historic landmarks. Stay at the mall for a spot of shopping or head to nearby Surabaya Street Market for an altogether different retail experience. With over 100 street-side stalls selling anything and everything from antiques such as old cameras and grandfather clocks to statues and ceramics, the market has been a fascinating stop for shoppers since the 1970s.
Indulge in an Indonesian feast at the atmospheric Lara Djonggrang restaurant. Named after a legendary Javanese princess who was turned into stone by a disgruntled prince, the restaurant is decorated with Indonesian, Chinese and Middle Eastern antiques. For a breath of fresh-ish air stop at Menteng Park (Taman Menteng) or Suropati Park (Taman Suropati), both favourites with locals wishing to relax amid a spot of greenery. Head north to Glodok, one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world, to feast on delicious Chinese snacks at the Petak Sembilan Traditional Market, before paying your respects at the Vihara Dharma Bhakti (or Kim Tek Ie Temple), which dates back to 1650.
Check out live entertainment at Fatahillah Square in Kota Tua, the Old City, which served as the administrative centre of the Dutch East India Company from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Bask in the charm of the colonial buildings – including the stately Jakarta History Museum housed in the former City Hall building that dates back to 1710 – before heading to Café Batavia for dinner. Housed in a Dutch-era mansion, this lovely café boasts an array of historic photographs and memorabilia. End your day watching the sunset at Sunda Kelapa, a harbour lined with colourful pinisi (traditional sailing ships) which are still used to transport goods across the Indonesian archipelago.
Fill up your energy tank with a coffee and kaya toast – grilled bread with coconut and egg jam – at Sabang 16, before heading to the National Museum of Indonesia for another look into the past. With over 60,000 exhibits from the archipelago and around the world, the museum is an archaeological treasure trove. Cool down with some history of the edible kind at Ragusa Italian Ice Cream, the city’s oldest ice cream shop, dating back to 1947, before finishing your morning at the observation deck of the 132m National Monument (Monas). Built to commemorate the country’s struggle for independence, the monument is also home to a series of fascinating historical dioramas.
Stop for lunch at Sate Padang Ajo Ramon, a street-side stall that serves some of the best beef sate in the city. Newbies should note that the sate comes in a rich and spicy curry sauce. Head south to the expat enclave of Kemang for a taste of the city’s more creative side. Those into contemporary art shouldn’t miss Dia.lo.gue, a minimalist space dedicated to the promotion of cutting edge Indonesian artists. One of the longest running galleries in the city, Edwin’s Gallery hosts rotating exhibitions of works by Indonesian and international artists. Meanwhile, history enthusiasts might wish to take a step back in time at Bartele Gallery, which showcases antique maps, as well as vintage prints and photographs.
Wind down at Bali Heritage Reflexology & Spa, opting for either a traditional Indonesian massage or a more unusual treatment such as a bamboo body massage or a gorilla massage (this involves a therapist working on those muscles wearing a gorilla suit. Yes, really). After a day well spent, reward yourself with a few cocktails and Chinese dumplings at Pao Pao Liquor Bar & Dimsum in the trendy neighbourhood of Senopati. Alternatively, for a feast with a view head to SKYE Bar and Restaurant on the 56th floor of the BCA Tower. Try some of the venue’s international dishes while enjoying stunning vistas of the sprawling metropolis. Still standing? Why not hit the dance floor at X2, one of the city’s busiest nightclubs.