Malaysia is a dream destination for tourists. Why? There is no one reason.
It’s cultural richness and serene beauty coupled with historical sites and famous places that look larger than life make it nothing less than a dream. Although Malaysia is a complete package for every kind of traveller, it particularly appeals to history fanatics for a long list of landmarks that are evidently steeped in Malaysian heritage. The history of this Malay country is fascinating and brings along with it a mix of numerous cultures from all over Southeast Asia.
Malaysia is unique and interesting with a historic and modern side blending in almost flawlessly. Here are 12 most famous historical buildings that are a must-visit to experience the antiquity of Malaysians.
12 Most Famous Historical Places In Malaysia
- Malacca Sultanate Palace
- Bukit China
- Kampung Kling Mosque
- Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- The A’Famosa Fortress
- St. George Church
- Kuan Yin Temple
- Cheng Hoon Teng
- Snake Temple, Malaysia
- St. Paul’s Church
- Hang Tuah’s Well
- Hang Jebat and Hang Kasturi’s Mausoleum
1. Malacca Sultanate Palace
The Malacca Sultanate Palace lies towards the north of the historical city of Malacca. The palace is an imitation of the ancient Malay kingdom of Sultan Mansur Shah that was the most ornate royal palace ever built in the 15th century. The seven-storey, it is said, was constructed entirely with carved, wooden pillars without using any nails. It was struck by lightning and destroyed the year after the sultan ascended the throne. The Malacca Cultural Museum in this palace showcases many artefacts from that period allowing a glimpse into their culture.
Set in the foot of St. Paul’s hill, the palace has other attractions as you go up the hill. The Melaka Stamp museum has a collection of more than 2000 stamps from all eras and from around the world. Make sure you see the ones from the times of British! The Melaka Islamic Museum is a great place to learn about Islamic history. Located along Jalan Kota, it offers insight into the introduction of Islam to Malacca. Close-by is St. Paul’s Church, the oldest church in Malacca, situated at the summit of St. Paul’s Hill. The ruins at this 150 years old site are of a construction by a Portuguese fidalgo (nobleman) captain. Centuries have passed but this faded sanctuary remains beautiful and breezy overlooking the central Malacca city.
Location – Jalan Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
Open – Tuesday-Sunday (Closed on Mondays)
Timing – 9 am to 6 pm
Entry – RM3.00 (locals) RM5.00 (foreigners) RM2.00 (children)
2. Bukit China
Also known as the China Hill, Bukit China is the burial ground for 20,000 ancient Chinese of Malacca. It is a park with wild woods and a peaceful setting. Most locals visit it for walks and exercise. Less than 1 km away, there is Melaka river which is loved by the tourists for its scenic beauty. A cruise ride through the river is a must!
Another must-visit is the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum, a world UNESCO site. It portrays the Peranakan culture that goes back to the 19th century.
Location – Jalan Puteri Hang Li Poh, Bukit Cina, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia
Open – 24 hours
Entry – Free
3. Kampung Kling Mosque
Kampung Kling, one of the oldest mosque in Malaysia, was found by Indian traders, respectfully referred to as Klings. The mosque was first built in wood and later rebuilt using bricks. It is located on the Goldsmith-street, also called “Harmony street” because of the coexistence of temples and mosques. The architecture of the mosque is a beautiful blend of Chinese, Indian, Arabic and Malay. Unlike the usual dome structure of mosques, Kampung Kling has a triple-tiered green pyramid-like building. The structure and writings inside the mosque clearly show Chinese and Indian-Muslim influence.
The mosque offers robes for both men and women as it is required to put them on before entering the holy place. A guide is present inside to give you detailed information about the culture and history of the place along with some interesting local insights.
Location – Jalan Tukang Emas, Melaka 75200, Malaysia
Timing – Varies but Mornings and afternoon are considered the best times for a visit.
Entry – Free
4. Sri Mahamariamman Temple
This Hindu temple with Dravidian architecture is located in Kuala Lumpur and is a major tourist attraction. It was found in 1873 but only recently it got its own building. As you enter, you will pass through the Raja Gopuram (gate tower) which a five-storied building with 228 idols sculpted on it. All of these idols portray various Hindu Gods which gives the tower a colourful outlook. The Gopuram is the feet of the temple. The main shrine is placed inside the Garbagraham which is the head part of the structure. This temple worships Sri Maha Mariamman, the incarnation of goddess Parvati. She protects her devotees from bad happenings during their visit to a foreign land.
One must remove their shoes before entering the temple. The shoes can be stored for a small fee just outside the temple. Taking photos is allowed, so carrying a camera will be a good idea.
Location – Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Open – Everyday
Timing – 6:30 am – 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm – 9:00 p
5. The A’Famosa Fortress
A Famosa, the former Portuguese fortress is among the oldest European architecture in Southeast Asia and the Far East to have survived for hundreds of years. “A Famosa” means “The Famous” in Portuguese. Located in Malacca, the Porta de Santiago gate is the only surviving part of the fortress today. This site has an interesting history attached to it.
The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1511 when they wanted to collect their rewards and build a shelter. Over time the fort expanded and turned into a Portuguese colony. The fort changed many hands after that from Portuguese to Dutch and ended in the control of Britishers, who decided to demolish it. But, a few parts of the fort were left untouched and also underwent reconstruction.
This site can be reached via a Trishaw, taxi or car.
The place is small and is surrounded by various attractions: Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall (one of the biggest shopping malls in Malacca), Stadthuys (built by the Dutch for their officers), Flora de la Mar Maritime Museum (the history of sea and a restored Portuguese ship).
Location – Jalan Kota | Bandar Hilir, Melaka 75000, Malaysia
Entry – Free
Open – 24 hrs
6. St. George Church
St. George Church is a 19th-century Anglican church built by British East India Company. This is the oldest church in Southeast Asia. With a combination of Neo-classical, Georgian and English Palladian architecture, the church has Doric columns. Earlier the church had a flat roof which proved inept so it was changed to a gable. Beautiful oil paintings made by Captain Robert Smith hang on the walls of the church. The Malaysian Federal Government declared St. George’s church as one of the 50 National Treasures of Malaysia.
Recently, St. George Church celebrated its 200 years of service and is currently working towards serving the disadvantaged.
There is a Cathedral of the Assumption nearby which was the first Catholic church in Penang. The TOP Penang, Street Art in George Town, MOIS club are some close places to enjoy the modern city life.
Location – 1 Farquhar Street, George Town, Penang
Timing – 08:30 am – 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm Tuesday – Saturday; All day Sunday
7. Kuan Yin Temple
This temple was built in the honour of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin by the early Chinese immigrants. The story of Kuan Yin is a tragedy until she turns into a goddess. The temple appeared as a majestic Chinese styled structure after completion and took about 4,000 Spanish dollars which was a heavy sum back then. It was rebuilt twice after that, once in 1895 and then in 1982, to expand its capacity.
Once you enter the temple, you are in a large courtyard which leads to the entrance of the porch that further takes you into a screened anteroom. Earlier the deities were placed in different prayer halls but now all of them are placed in the same hall.
The temple is still worshipped by people and is a holy place for Chinese. The place is unlike any other temple and Chinese New Year is the most festive period to visit.
Location – Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Timing – 5 am – 6 pm daily
Entry – Free
8. Cheng Hoon Teng
Cheng Hoon Teng, a Chinese temple, practices the principles of feng shui. It is the oldest functioning temple that practices the Three Doctrinal Systems of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. The temple has several prayer rooms and each is dedicated to different gods. One of them is dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kuan Yin.
The temple shows influence by the craftsmanship of Guangdong and Fujian. Unlike other Chinese temples, Cheng Hoon Teng does not have images of gods. Instead, dragons are used to illustrate the gods. The roof is the most majestic part of the temple. With its curved roofs and gable design, it represents the Chinese architecture well.
There are a few small Chinese temples nearby Cheng Hoon Teng. Jonker street is best for local street food and shops serving sweets and savouries.
Location – Temple in Malacca City, Malaysia
Timing – 7 am – 7 pm
Entry – Free (though donations are accepted)
9. Snake Temple
This temple has an interesting history. It was built in honour of Chor Soo Kong, a Chinese man who was adamant about attaining great spiritual powers. He was a healer and helped a great number of people. After his death, many temples were built for him and the Snake Temple is one of them. Initially, it was called ‘Temple of the Azure Cloud’ but when suddenly pit vipers started taking shelter in this temple, its name was changed.
The number of snakes in the area have decreased because of urbanisation, but there are still many you can spot living here. Although there are a few insides, the garden behind the temples is home to several snakes. They are not so aggressive considering the highly aggressive behaviour of pit vipers. Some argue it is because of thick clouds of incense that they have become dull and others say it’s the power of Chor Soo Kong. Snake shows are held every Saturday and Sunday.
Location – Temple in Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Timing – 6 am – 7 pm
Entry for Temple – FREE
Snake Farm – Adults – RM5, Kids – RM3
10. St. Paul’s Church
The St. Paul’s church is located on the hilltop of St. Paul’s hill. The church was built by the Portuguese as a place of worship but when the Dutch invaded Malacca, the church was turned into a burial ground. Only ruins of the original architecture are left here. The big and white-stoned structural remains of the church have two pillars in the front that support the building.
Since it is set on a hilltop, it takes some time to get to it. There are many museums along the way and you might want to make a stop to have a look at them. The actual church begins after A Famosa, with the white stairs. After reaching the top, the view of Malacca city and the coastline is splendid.
The Melaka Sultanate Palace is at the foot of the church which is a replica of the original palace of king Mansur Shah.
Location – Jalan Kota, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Malacca, Malaysia
Timing – Early mornings are considered great for photos and less crowd
Entry – Free
11. Hang Tuah’s Well
Hang Tuah was a brave warrior and his loyalty towards the king was unquestionable. This well was dug by himself for his personal use. After his death, the well was said to have his spirit in the form of a white crocodile. It is said that the crocodile is not visible to all but only to the ones who possess a pure and kind heart. The locals say that the well has grown in size over time and its water has healing powers.
The well is situated in the Hang Tuah village in Kampung Duyung. The village is spread across 8 km of land and shows the whole life journey of Hang Tuah and his four friends who were his fellow warriors.
There are small shops nearby from which souvenirs can be bought. The shops are cheap and have a wide range of goods. Small eateries are also there for quick snacking.
Location – Kampung Duyong, 75430 Malacca, Malaysia
Timing – Open 24 hours
Entry – Free
12. Hang Jebat and Hang Kasturi’s Mausoleum
The place, though small, holds a strong history and past. These mausoleums were built in the name of two of the strongest warriors: Hang Jebat and Hang Kasturi. Their duty was to provide protection to the king as they had specialised in the art of Silat, a Malay martial art.
Hang Jebat was a close friend of the legendary Hang Tuah and had tried to protect him. They were a group of five strongest warriors. The grave of Hang Jebat was constructed in a Chinese style and represents the kind of grave only high officials or ministers used to have.
Hang Kasturi was among the five sworn-in brothers and was killed by Hang Tuah after a misunderstanding. His grave’s architecture is influenced by the art and culture of India. The story of these men is inscribed here for the tourists to read.
These places are a resting ground of the great warriors, so peace and respect should be maintained.
Location – Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Time – Open 24 hours
Entry – Free
But the list doesn’t end here! You can explore some other important Malaysian historical sites and landmarks at Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum, Sam Po Kong Temple, St. John’s fort, Kellie’s Castle, Batu Caves, the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan, Agnes Keith House, Khoo Kongsi, Christ Church Melaka, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Sultan Ibrahim Building. Malaysia has many small historical buildings spread across its land. For diggers of history, there’s plenty to explore! Just take your own pick from the list of interesting historical places to visit in Malaysia. You never know what you may find in which corner!