Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman

Top choice in Banda Aceh

With its brilliant-white walls, ebony-black domes and towering minaret, this 19th-century mosque is a dazzling sight. The best time to visit is during Friday-afternoon prayers, when the entire building and courtyard are filled with people. A series of retractable shades in the tiled courtyard offer all-weather protection for worshippers. A headscarf is required for women.

The first section of the mosque was built by the Dutch in 1879 as a conciliatory gesture towards the Acehnese after the original one burnt down. Two more domes – one on either side of the first – were added by the Dutch in 1936, and another two by the Indonesian government in 1957. The mosque survived intact after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, a sign interpreted by many residents as direct intervention by the Divine. During this time the mosque served as an unofficial crisis centre for survivors, and bodies awaiting identification were laid on the public square in front of the mosque.

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Nearby Banda Aceh attractions

1. Water Tower

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A legacy of Dutch rule is this rather squat 1880s water tower, which now stands as a city landmark.

3. Museum Negeri Banda Aceh

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4. Tsunami Museum

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A visit to this beautifully designed, hard-hitting museum commences with a walk through a dark, dripping tunnel that symbolises the 2004 tsunami waves…

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In the same compound as the Museum Negeri Banda Aceh, the Rumah Aceh is a fine example of traditional Acehnese architecture, built without nails and held…

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8. Gunongan

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All that remains of Aceh’s powerful sultanates today is on view at Gunongan. Built by Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607–36) as a gift for his Malay princess wife…