For a small country, Indonesia has had such population growth that its capital Jakarta has engulfed small villages nearby, transforming into the bustling, vibrant city that it is today. Full of life and colour, you certainly won’t be lonely with its nine million residents – and another two million commuting in and out daily for work.
If you’re looking for action, you’ll find it here on Jakarta’s jam-packed streets, which are filled with minibuses, taxis, motorcycles and bajajs (motorised rickshaws). Here are some of the top things to do in Jakarta, where it’s worth jostling with the crowds:
Things to do in Jakarta
National Monument and National Museum
There are some wonderful monuments to visit in central Jakarta. Among them is Monas, the National Monument in Merdeka Square and the nearby National Museum. Nicknamed the ‘Elephant Building’, you should recognise it immediately from the elephant statue out the front. With more than 140,000 artefacts in collections spanning hundreds of years, the National Museum is well worth a visit.
Time permitting, soak up Indonesian culture and admire the architecture at places such as Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta Cathedral and Presidential Palace. Depending on the time of your visit, it’s likely you’ll find yourself queuing in the heat for hours, but at least these attractions are located conveniently close to each other in the city centre.
Shopping Malls in Jakarta
Sightseeing aside, shopping is one of the favourites of things to do in Jakarta. Lots of great shopping here, down to the very cheap!
Make a beeline for Plaza Indonesia or FX Sudirman mall if you’re after designer goods, or Mangga Dua for decent quality but well-priced imitations. Though you won’t find Indonesian souvenirs at FX Sudirman, you will find an amazing transparent, cylindrical slide that will get your adrenaline pumping as you shoot from the 7th floor to the 3rd in seconds.
If you’re interested in shopping for traditional wares in Jakarta, then look no further than Pasaraya department store, where you will find a fabulous range of batik and traditional handicrafts.
Street Food in Jakarta
A trip to Jakarta wouldn’t be complete without trying the amazing Indonesian food – it’s the top thing every visitor should do!
CC2.0 / Ruocaled
As you explore the city you’ll come across many street food vendors, so make sure you try something you’ve never tasted before. Specialties include ayam goreng (chicken deep-fried in coconut oil), ketoprak (tofu, vegetables and rice vermicelli in peanut sauce), soto ayam (yellow spicy chicken soup) and gado-gado (salad with assorted vegetables, tofu, eggs and shrimp chips). Try it all; you won’t be sorry.
If you need a respite from the city, an easy trip by bus will take you to Ancol. As Jakarta’s largest integrated resort, it makes for a wonderful day or week-long trip out of the city. With hotels, restaurants, an international championship golf course, beaches and several theme parks, such as Dunia Fantasi, Atlantis Water Adventure, Ocean Ecopark and SeaWorld, there’s something here to entertain and thrill the whole family.
Okay, so there aren’t really a thousand islands, but there are around 128 of them in the Bay of Jakarta! CC 2.0 / Jorge Láscar
Jump on a boat (either a ferry or chartered tour) and leave the crowds of Jakarta behind to explore this natural World Heritage site made up of a multitude of picturesque, secluded islands. Go swimming or snorkelling in the blue lagoons among vibrantly coloured coral, spend a day fishing, explore islands such as Tidung, or breathe in the fresh, sea air as you lie on the white sandy beaches and relax under palm trees.
If you wish to stay on a little longer, the islands of Pulau Melintang, Pulau Petondang and Papa Theo have been specially developed as holiday resorts with cottages, restaurants and diving and sailing facilities.
CC 2.0 / buitenzorger
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to explore a volcano, so if you have some time up your sleeve, put on your walking shoes and take a day tour by boat out to Krakatau. If you like to explore more unique experiences when you travel, then hiking up Krakatau should be on your list of things to do in Jakarta.
Hike up to the crater rim and wander around the steam vents to see the remains of prior volcanic eruptions and marvel at the vast ocean view. Not only can you explore a volcano with an informative tour guide, but you’ll also have the opportunity to catch your own dinner straight out of the ocean and snorkel at nearby islands as well.
And those are our top picks of things to do in Jakarta! Tell us what your favourites are in the comments below.
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
For first-time visitors, the Thamrin area is a convenient location to make as your base. Don’t have a big budget? Try the Holiday Inn Express Jakarta Thamrin. If you’re travelling with family, Pullman Jakarta Indonesia might be a good choice. Visit Expedia for more deals.