House of Sampoerna

Top choice museum in Surabaya

Undoubtedly the city’s best-presented attraction, the House of Sampoerna is the home of one of Indonesia’s most famous kretek cigarette manufacturers (now owned by US giant Altria, formerly Philip Morris). Whatever you think about the tobacco industry, this factory and museum make a fascinating place to visit. The building itself is a wonderful 19th-century Dutch structure, originally an orphanage but later converted into a theatre (indeed, Charlie Chaplin once dropped by).

The former lobby is now the museum and is something of a shrine to the Sampoerna empire. It has exhibits on the use of cloves and the history of kretek in Indonesia, alongside uniforms and drums of the Sampoerna marching band and other quirky company curios. There's also an incredible collection of cigarette lighters, holders and cases, mainly from Europe, as well as some Ming dynasty china and a vintage Heidelberg printing press.

Upstairs there’s a bird’s-eye perspective of the factory’s shop floor, where hundreds of women hand roll, trim and pack the Dji Sam Soe brand (banned from most countries as the tar content is so strong). The fastest rollers here churn out 4000 cigarettes a day, their fingers a blur of motion. Because air-conditioning can affect the tobacco (and fans would blow it around) it's a steamy, humid workplace.

You’ll be accompanied by a highly informative, English-speaking guide; the complete tour lasts between 30 minutes and an hour depending on your interest. Note that the factory section closes around 3pm.

After your visit, be sure to have a drink in the excellent neighbouring cafe-restaurant (open until 9pm) and consider a trip on the company's intriguing sightseeing bus tour, the Surabaya Heritage Track.