Colonial charm, high-end shopping malls and
a wild natural side
The diversity of Medan’s people is best represented by the variety of religious landmarks dotted around the city, such as the octagonal Mesjid Raya Mosque, and the dragon-bedecked Maha Vihara Maitreya Buddhist temple. Medan’s Indian Quarter centres on the city’s oldest Hindu shrine, Sri Mariamman, around which the vibrant streets are lined with bustling markets and filled with the heady aromas of fresh produce and street food kiosks.
A thriving coffee culture is evident throughout Medan, thanks to Sumatra being a popular place to grow coffee beans, including the revered kopi luwak civet coffee. Cafes often serve up traditional dishes like nasi goreng, and are a trendy place to be seen, as are the upmarket megamalls selling big-brand fashion at flagship stores dotted around the city centre.
Fine examples of Dutch colonial architecture line the city’s main street, which goes by many names, including Jalan Balai Kota to the north to Jalan Brigjend Katamso further south. The Art Deco Old City Hall and Maimun Palace date back to the 19th century, while Tjong A Fie Mansion is a relic of the city’s Chinese community.
Beyond Medan lie some of Indonesia’s finest natural landscapes, first crafted by volcanic activity. The vast Lake Toba, created by a giant volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, is popular for hiking, kayaking and boating, while the lush primary rainforest around Bukit Lawang is home to wild populations of orangutan. Mount Sinabung is an active volcano in the region popular with hikers whenever it is open to the public.