Jakarta is a destination of contrasts and that’s why it’s often referred to as the “Big Durian.” Like the local durian fruit, this city, located on the northwestern corner of the island of Java, has a layer of ruggedness yet is also bursting with rewarding flavor and color.
Start your exploration in the picturesque central district of Kota, formerly Batavia, where the cobblestoned square Taman Fatahillah still shows some Dutch influences. Trace the city’s history since the Stone Age at the Jakarta History Museum. Spot work by Indonesian artists at the Balai Seni Rupa gallery and Ceramics Museum.
Head to Jakarta’s historic port, Sunda Kelapa, and watch brightly painted fishing boats arrive from the outer islands. Learn about Indonesia’s naval history at the Maritime Museum, housed in a 17th-century spice warehouse.
Gaze up at the 450-feet (137-meter) tall National Monument (Monas Tower), in the heart of Medan Merdeka public square. Ride the elevator to the tower’s summit for impressive city views. Check out the ethnographic artifacts at the National Museum. Take a tour of the Presidential Palace or visit the sparkling white Istiqlal Mosque, which can host 120,000 devotees. Admire over 2,000 fabrics and materials at the Textile Museum.
Browse the market stalls of Jalan Surabaya for traditional Indonesian wayang puppets and sarongs. Sample the local street food, which mixes Arab, Chinese, European and Indian influences. Shop for high-end brands at Grand Indonesia or go to the out-of-town Living World, a huge retail and entertainment complex.
Ride the waterslides at Ocean Park or the roller coasters at Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dreamland). See replicas of traditional Indonesian houses at the Taman Mini Indonesia cultural park.
Jakarta is hot and smoggy and monsoon showers are frequent from November to March. Avoid the heat and rain by traveling between sights via low-cost taxis or the large bus network.
This fascinating city is the gateway to many of Indonesia’s natural treasures, including pristine coral reefs, volcanoes, surfing beaches and wildlife, such as orangutans and Komodo dragons.