Jakarta City Guide

Two words to keep in mind if you plan on having an Indonesian holiday: tropical and history. Jakarta is a place teeming with cultural and historical offerings. However, you would also have to consider the heat. It is recommended to take taxi or limos to have a good coverage of the prominent landmarks scattered around the city. Also, cool and comfortable attire that will keep you from stress will help you fully enjoy your tour. Get ready for a slew of landmarks as you hop around Jakarta with these stopovers.

The National Museum (Museum Nasional)

Located at the heart of Jakarta (Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat), this shall take you deep into their culture with their massive collection of geographic, pre-historic, and ethnological artifacts depicting Indonesian history. Although it became a national landmark only in 1862, this fascinating piece of architecture was originally home to the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, which dates back to 1778. Your trip could apparently consume a whole day, which might not even be enough for one with a penchant for history.

The National Gallery

This is totally different from the National Museum. Definitely a treat for the certified lover of art, the Gallery takes you into the world of visual arts and their rich background as illustrated by some of Indonesia’s renowned painters. It sits east of Freedom/Merdeka Square (Lapangan Merdeka), a notable Jakarta landmark. It also houses artwork from known artists from Vietnam and India.

National Monument (Monas; Monumen Nasional)

Standing tall at the very center of Merdeka Square, it gives you a bird’s eyeview of the bustling city at its observation deck. A major entertainment hub, this is where national festivals and international events are mostly held for the public to enjoy. It also serves as the address for the Museum Gajah Mada, another place that you can visit for their cultural heritage.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII; Miniature Park of Indonesia; “Beautiful Indonesia in Little Park”)

As its name implies, TMII is “Little Indonesia,” housing all that could possibly be featured that is truly indicative of anything Indonesian. However, it’s not as “little” as it may bring you into thinking, as it is a park that sits on a vast expanse of 300 acres. Also dubbed as “Indonesia’s different cultures all in one place,” it aims to offer nearly all the sights to behold in Indonesia – all in one stop. You will be able to witness Indonesia’s ethnical diversity with artifacts representing the different ethnic groups that have thrived in their islands – with custom houses, buildings and classic styles that are characteristic of traditional Indonesian architecture.

Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Jaya Ancol; Ancol Dream Park; Ancol Bay City)

If part of your Asian holiday requirements is to visit a theme park and your idea stops at just Hong Kong, then you’ve got it all wrong. Indonesia has their own version, Ancol, which is the biggest entertainment park in Jakarta. This sits on a reclaimed piece of land at the Bay of Jakarta, which welcomes throngs of visitors every year. A theme park with nearly 50 rides – water park with waterfall, river and wave pools, slides, and kiddie pools; oceanarium; art market; golf course; wakeboard park; beaches; hotels; nightclubs; and restaurants – who says you can only have these in Disneyland or Ocean Park? If you can have it all in one place, then Ancol is Indonesia’s amusement park gem! However, with these features and the multitude of events that transpires in this place, expect heavy human traffic, most especially on weekends.

Jakarta Old Town (Old Batavia; Kota Tua)

Spanning across North and West Jakarta near Glodok China Town, this small, quaint town is surprisingly one with a rich sense of not just Indonesian but Chinese and Dutch culture. You get a sense of nostalgia as you walk through its streets with sights that bring you to Indonesia’s past. The old architectural details of its museums, cafes and buildings speak much of its Dutch colonial past. It still features the old Dutch town hall building and is home to a string of museums (Bank Indonesia Museum, Museum Wayang, Museum Maritime, Museum Mandiri). For the photography enthusiast, Old Batavia serves as the perfect backdrop.

Ragunan Zoological Park

Situated in South Jakarta (Ragunan, Pasar Minggu), this is the first and biggest zoo in Indonesia that is home to the endangered beast, the Komodo dragon, and other notable animal species such as the Sumatran tiger and the dwarf buffalo. Nearly 3,000 animal species call this 185-acre zoo their home. It features a safari park and is known to have one of the largest primate centers in the world, apparently at 23 acres. This is the exact spot for the animal lover or wildlife photographer. It’s not everyday that you get to see a Komodo dragon. Only Indonesia offers you that chance. Their parade of orangutans is another loved feature as well.

Istiqlal Mosque (Masjid Istiqlal)

And for a religious trip stop, you may consider dropping by what is known as the largest mosque in all of Southeast Asia. Indeed a sight to behold, this mosque is huge enough to accommodate 120,000 people. It is ideally situated in Central Jakarta (Jalan Taman Wijaya Kusuma) near Merdeka Square. The mosque was designed by a Christian architect from North Sumatra, Frederich Silaban, and built in the 1950s. Istiqlal denotes independence, and the structure serves as a reminder of their own struggle to achieve it.

Candi Shiva Mandhir

Built in the early 1950s in honor of a Hindu god, Shiva, this temple used to be very small. However, the growing number of devotees and visitors called for its expansion in 1975. Situated at Jalan Pluit Barat Raya, it was built primarily for worship services of the Hindu group, Sindhis. The temple is replete with images of Shiva, which they deem as a god with great power and influence. However, this is not your normal tourist attraction that you can snap your shutters with or enter with much excitement like a theme park. There are restrictions. You have to be dressed accordingly, shoes must be removed prior to your entrance, and you need permission to gain access.

Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Theater; Jakarta Art Building)

Historically, this structure is otherwise known as the Schouwburg Weltevreden, which seems to be a reminder of their Dutch colonialization. Situated near the famed Istiqlal Mosque, it serves as a concert hall for major art and media programs such as theater shows and performances, musicals and anything related to the media arts. Originally structured from bamboo, it now maintains its Neoclassical structure that it has been made of since the bamboo theater deteriorated in the 1820s.

Ciliwung River Ride

This could be that part of your itinerary that begs to differ. When you travel, you have this tendency to put on your list something that you can only get from that particular place. And that’s what this attraction is known for. A different kind of sightseeing adventure, you get to cruise the Ciliwung River on a raft, or what they refer to as a getek, standing up. You don’t get to sit as in tour ferries as there isn’t any. The navigator is a rope that the raftsman tugs on – not a steering wheel. However, this is not your ideal backdrop for the perfect social media profile photo. Your sights are introduced to the other side of Jakarta, one that reeks of desolation. But that’s still part of the adventure so you might as well partake in the activity.