Elegant Dutch-era architecture, flea markets
and ethnic cuisine
Downtown Jakarta is a monument to the future of Indonesia, intriguing and chaotic by turn. As capital city of a leading economy, its skyline is dappled with the skyscraper homes of banks and corporations.
To delve behind this 21st-century façade, however, is to discover the city’s complex heritage. Feel the pull of Islam in the imposing Istiqlal Mosque, adorned with calligraphy. Seek out the elegant Dutch colonial buildings of Kota Tua, and admire city panoramas from the observation deck of the Monas Tower, proud symbol of Indonesian independence in 1945. Wooden schooners, pivotal to the spice trade on which Indonesia grew rich, line up along the quay at Sunda Kelapa Port on Ciliwung River.
Take a whistle-stop tour of the Indonesian archipelago in miniature among the historic, wooden homesteads and traditional costumes displayed at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. Pop into Museum Wayang to see the traditional puppets with fearsome faces that define Javanese culture.
Lapping Jakarta’s northern shores, Ancol Beach is the ideal spot for enjoying sun-soaked weather, while day trips to the soft-sand beaches of the Thousand Islands provide a snapshot of the natural wonders that lie close to the city.
Instead of picking up souvenirs at Taman Anggrek Mall, embrace the Jakarta of old by haggling for batik sarongs and wooden masks at Jalan Surabaya Flea Market, or raid Chinatown’s discount electronics stores. Sample fine dining by all means, but don’t neglect roadside warungs, where you can taste Betawi rice and soup dishes born from a mix of Arab, Malay, Chinese and European flavours.