Steamy Semarang, with its giant port, rapidly developing city centre and affluent outskirts, is home to a large Chinese population whose influence on local life is evident in the city's culture and cuisine. The inner core of the city dates back to the Dutch colonial period and many of the fine old buildings from this era are being renovated. When complete, this old quarter will no doubt become the focus of a visit for most travellers.
Much of the city's dynamism, however, is centred not on resurrecting past glories but on celebrating current success. This can be sensed in the giant new malls and wealthy business hotels around Simpang Lima (Five Ways) square. Indeed, Semarang is the provincial capital of Central Java and – perhaps more than Solo and Yogyakarta, the cities favoured by tourists – offers an authentic travel experience for those looking to understand Java today.