Indonesia, Jakarta, Merdeka Square, National Monument Monas

Getty Images/Westend61

Merdeka Square

Top choice in Merdeka Square & Central Jakarta

It is here that Jakartans come to take a breather from the traffic. The figurative centre of Jakarta, Merdeka Square (merdeka means independence) is actually a trapezoid measuring almost 1 sq km. In the 19th century, the Dutch called it Koningsplein (Kings Square) and it became a focal point for the city after they moved the government here from old Batavia (Kota). It's always had an important role in local life. The main entrance is on the south side.

Merdeka Square was long home to many different government buildings. Beginning with Sukarno (and continuing with Suharto) efforts were made to turn it into a real park. After many fits and starts, almost all the buildings were cleared by the mid-1990s.

Unfortunately, the government took a dim view of Merdeka's use for protest rallies during the upheavals of 1998 and 2002, and so built the massive iron fence around the square that you see today (you may still see a small protest or two outside the square when you visit). Access (and egress) is often hampered by this barrier. Still, when you're inside strolling under the trees, watching kids play pick-up football, discovering the deer enclosure and delighting in a simple meal, you'll fully appreciate this grand expanse.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Merdeka Square & Central Jakarta attractions

1. Deer Enclosure

0.24 MILES

Dozens of pint-sized spotted deer wander a large tree-shaded enclosure in the southeast corner of the park.

2. Arjuna Wijaya Statue

0.25 MILES

Built in 1987, this enormous statue near a major road junction depicts the Hindu hero Arjuna in his chariot pulled by eight horses.

3. Monumen Nasional

0.34 MILES

Ingloriously dubbed ‘Sukarno’s final erection’, the 132m-high National Monument (aka Monas), which rises into the shroud of smog and towers over Merdeka…

4. Galeri Nasional

0.42 MILES

Over 1700 works of art by foreign and Indonesian artists are part of the National Gallery collection. While only a few works are on display at any time,…

5. Museum Nasional

0.44 MILES

The National Museum is the best of its kind in Indonesia and an essential visit. The enormous collection begins around an open courtyard of the 1862…

6. Immanuel Church

0.46 MILES

This classic church dates from 1834. The interior is smaller than you'd think but it has an evocative round dome and an organ from 1843. Ask to see the…

7. Tugu Tani

0.58 MILES

A post-independence and appealingly bombastic statue depicting a farmer who became a soldier in the fight for independence from the Dutch. It shows the…

8. Gedung Pancasila

0.64 MILES

Gedung Pancasila is an imposing neoclassical building built in 1830 as the Dutch army commander’s residence. It later became the meeting hall of the…