Ingloriously dubbed ‘Sukarno’s final erection’, the 132m-high National Monument (aka Monas), which rises into the shroud of smog and towers over Merdeka Square, is both Jakarta’s principal landmark and the most famous architectural extravagance of the former president. Begun in 1961, Monas was not completed until 1975, when it was officially opened by Suharto. The monument is constructed from Italian marble and topped with a sculpted flame, gilded with 50kg of gold leaf.
Entrance to the monument is via an underground tunnel below the huge terrace; follow the crowds. You'll have to purchase a magnetic-strip entrance card for an additional 35,000Rp – though it's redeemable against public transport and some other museums. Tickets to the top usually sell out, so to avoid disappointment aim to get here before noon weekdays (and 9am weekends) for the first session, or around 6pm for the evening session.
The lift to the top of the monument leaves every hour, and there's capacity for 600 at the top. If you'd rather not queue, you can just walk up to the goblet – the first platform on the monument – for a lower view over the square. A section in the base is devoted to a small history museum with dioramas of notable moments in Indonesian history.
Note that from Monday to Thursday the entrance/exit point is only from the southwest and northwest gates.