Blending progress and tradition, you’ll find skyscrapers and historic buildings side by side in Malaysia. Although Malaysia shares a border with Thailand and Indonesia, it has a unique British legacy that has influenced its architecture, language, culture and legal system. It might surprise you to discover that this Southeast Asian country is a member of the Commonwealth and although the country became independent in 1957, English is widely spoken.
There are two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. The latter sits on the norrthern part of the island of Borneo. Malaysia is a multiethnic and diverse country with the Malays, Chinese and Indians being the three main ethnic groups. There are also numerous indigenous groups and smaller ethnic communities. This potpourri of ethnic groups create rich cultural tapestry.
One attraction in Malaysia is the variety of cuisines that you’ll find in this cultural melting pot. Visiting Malaysia is an adventure for your taste buds. From spicy rendang and tasty satay to the must-try national dish called ‘nasi lemak’, a culinary adventure in Malaysia is a tasty experience. Nasi lemak is a moor-ish rice dish with egg, roasted nuts, anchovies and cucumber.
Being born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, I simply love the diversity of this nation, and its boundless beauty. In my country, you can explore the tropical rainforest, admire the capital city’s skyline, relax on stunning beaches by the clear blue sea, or enjoy different cultural celebrations and beautiful temples. Whether you prefer the cities in Malaysia, nature, or learning new things, it’s a special place for everyone to enjoy and remember forever.
Cities in Malaysia
Visiting Malaysia? Treat yourself to the Premium Lounge at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
20 Malaysian Cities
1- Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant metropolis where towering skyscrapers coexist with the city’s rich cultural diversity.
This city in Malaysia is home to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which is a 451.9 m (1480.9 feet) landmark that is 88 storeys high and the world’s tallest twin structures.
You can admire the view of the city from the observation deck on Level 86.
Adding to the city’s skyline is the world’s second-tallest building, Merdeka 118.
This 678.9 m (2229.7 feet) skyscraper was designed with diamond-shaped glass facades that signify Malaysia’s independence and diversity.
As the wealthiest and largest city in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur stands out from other cities in Malaysia as a beacon of progression.
- From Kuala Lumpur: Batu Caves Half-Day Tour – explore iconic Hindu caves as a day trip.
- Kuala Lumpur: KL Tower Admission Ticket – get a bird’s-eye view of KL.
- Chef-Designed Small-Group Food Tour – discover the best places to eat.
2- George Town
George Town is the capital city of Penang state, which occupies an island and part of the mainland in the north-west of the peninsular.
George Town combines old-fashioned charm with modern living, with narrow streets that hide a treasure trove of well-preserved heritage buildings.
Discover British colonial history, take photographs of Penang’s famous street art, walk through its markets and indulge in the local culinary delights.
Famous attractions include Clan Jetties, Khoo Kongsi temple and Penang Hill.
One of the most fun things to do in George Town is to take the funicular train past lush greenery to the peak of Penang Hill.
Recommended tour: George Town: Private Half-Day Historical City Tour
Ipoh is in the state of Perak in the western part of the peninsular, about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
In Ipoh’s old town, you will see charming colonial-era buildings, some of which have been transformed into trendy cafes and boutiques.
Start your day early at this quaint town and drink coffee in one of Ipoh’s local ‘kopitiam’, traditional coffee shops that make the sweet white coffee that is a must-try.
Venture to the cave temples, like Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong, where you will find intricate temples nestled within limestone caves, offering a serene and spiritual experience.
Ipoh is also known for hot springs, which you can experience at a resort, and nature lovers will appreciate exploring the Kinta Valley and its limestone hills.
Recommended tour: From Kuala Lumpur: Private Ipoh History & Food Day Trip
Malacca sits along the Malacca Strait in southwestern Peninsular Malaysia and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is definitely worth exploring.
With a rich history as a bustling trading port, Malacca has some impressive colonial-era architecture with Portuguese, Dutch and British influences.
Landmarks to tick off your so-see list are Christ Church, the A Famosa fortress and Saint Paul’s church.
Going on a river cruise along the Malacca river offers another view of the town’s captivating architecture.
On weekends, try Malaysian street food and shop for local souvenirs at the Jonker Street night market.
Enjoy a cold beer or have a romantic al fresco dinner at restaurants and bars situated along the Malacca river while you enjoy the cooling night breeze.
Recommended tour: From Kuala Lumpur: Historical Melaka Day Tour with Lunch
Kuantan is on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, facing the South China Sea.
This Malaysian city in Pahang state has pristine beaches, tranquil landscapes and a vibrant local scene.
From relaxing on Teluk Cempedak Beach to marvelling at the Sultan Ahmad Shah State Mosque’s architecture to taking a historical excursion to the Sungai Lembing Mines, there’s plenty to do in Kuantan.
A hike up Bukit Panorama offers lovely views but you’ll want to start early in the morning (5 am) to catch the sunrise at the peak of the mountain.
The beautiful mountain trail and the tranquillity of the hike are also enjoyable at sunset.
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6- Kota Bharu
Kota Bharu is a cultural and trading centre with vibrant markets, beautiful mosques and strong customs and traditions around crafts.
Visit the Handicraft Village and Craft Museum for a showcase of this traditional artistry.
Shop local goods at the bustling Siti Khadijah Market and visit the Istana Jahar museum for a glimpse into royal history.
Although Kota Bharu is a stronghold of Malay culture and the Muslim religion, you might be surprised to learn that the Wat Photivihan Buddhist temple is home to a huge sleeping Buddha.
7- Kuala Terengganu
Kuala Terengganu is on the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia and is a city with beautiful beaches facing the South China Sea.
It’s another city in Malaysia with a rich history rooted in maritime trade and Malay Islamic culture.
Impressive buildings to visit are the Crystal Mosque, which is adorned with crystal-like decorations made from glass, crystal and steel, and the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, also known as the floating mosque.
Pasar Payang is the place to go for local crafts, textiles, traditional goods and to immerse yourself in the local culture and find unique souvenirs.
Despite being the federal administrative centre of the country, this city has one of the biggest botanical gardens in Malaysia.
It’s a popular destination for anyone who wants to get away from the frantic pace of Kuala Lumpur and to participate in recreational hobbies such as rollerblading and watersports.
A relaxing thing to do is to have a picnic at the Putrajaya Botanical Garden and go kayaking at the Putrajaya Lake.
As you paddle at the lake, you can snap a selfie with the Putra Mosque also known as the pink mosque in the background.
If kayaking sounds too strenuous in the humidity, take a leisurely boat cruise to admire the city’s fairytale architecture from a different perspective.
Recommended tour: Kuala Lumpur: Putrajaya Tour with Traditional Boat Cruise
9- Petaling Jaya
Originally a satellite town developed to alleviate urban congestion of the capital city, Petaling Jaya has evolved to stand on its own as a dynamic city.
This Malaysia city is popular for its mega shopping malls and entertainment parks like the Sunway Lagoon theme park.
Indulge in local delights at the SS2 street food lane, where you’ll get the chance to try a durian (a popular local fruit with a pungent aroma!) buffet and other affordable mouth-watering dishes.
Wat Chetawan is a Thai Buddhist temple complex that is a symbol of the Thai-Malaysian community and a great example of traditional Thai Buddhist architecture and culture.
- Petaling Jaya: Escape Adventure Park PJ Admission Ticket
- Kuala Lumpur Street Food Tour “Off The Eaten Track”
10- Johor Bahru
One of the top attractions of this southern Malaysian city is Legoland, which some say is one of the best theme parks in the world.
Malaysia’s Legoland has a LEGO-themed water park and a stunning Sea Life aquarium.
Another attraction in Johor Bahru is the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque, a 19th-century mosque influenced by the Victorian architectural style.
For some time at the beach, Desaru Beach is the place to go for a relaxing day and is equipped with barbeque pits, perfect for families.
Kluang is a fun day trip from Johor Bahru with lovely surroundings of hills and farms.
The beautiful town worth a visit.
Enjoy a cup of coffee with a classic local breakfast meal such as kaya toast while you enjoy the scenic railway view at Kluang Rail Coffee.
See and pet farm animals at UK Farm, Malaysia’s largest family-owned goat and sheep farm where you can see many farm animals on a sprawling 100-acre space.
Taiping is best-known for its picturesque Lake Gardens and is historically significant as one of Malaysia’s oldest towns.
As the wettest town in Malaysia, it contributes to the lush oasis of Taiping Lake Gardens, which is perfect for leisurely strolls and picnics.
At the Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, you’ll find regional animals like orangutans, the Malayan tiger, and the Malaysian sun bear.
Coffee lovers will want to visit the Tong Coffee Mill to learn about local beans and try local flavours like durian coffee and charcoal-roasted white coffee.
Kemaman in the eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Pahang has lovely beaches facing the South China Sea.
Cherating town is a holiday resort known for its water sports activity, lively beach bars and friendly community.
During the monsoon seasons, this city attracts a lot of international surfers and tourists, as Cherating Beach is well known for its surfing point.
Visit the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary to see turtles and learn about the sanctuary’s conservational efforts.
Kemaman is also famous for its delicious ‘keropok lekor’, a local fried snack made from fish paste.
14- Alor Setar
Alor Setar is a city in the state of Kedah in northern Malaysia.
From the Alor Setar Tower, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the city that are especially stunning at sunset and at night when the city lights up.
Mount Keriang (Gunung Keriang) is a limestone hill with beautiful crystal stones that you can hike up and enjoy the view of surrounding rice fields along the way.
For another photogenic landscape, take a short drive to the blue lagoon in Alor Setar
amidst the paddy fields.
It offers a beautiful and scenic view, especially during sunset to capture the water’s reflection.
Tawau is a city in the southeastern part of Sabah and the third-largest city in the state, after Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.
Visit the Tawau Hills Park to experience lush rainforests, unique flora and the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia.
Enjoy a relaxing time at the beautiful Balung River for a serene boat ride.
Shop at Pasar Tanjung, a lively market offering local goods and enjoy delicious seafood there.
You may also want to relax in the natural hot springs at Tawau Hot Springs, which is a short drive from the city.
Immerse yourself in Sarawak’s diverse culture and traditions at the Sarawak Cultural Village that showcases different indigenous lifestyles.
Spend a full day at Sarawak’s oldest national park, Bako National Park, where you might spot Bornean wildlife such as the proboscis monkeys, bornean bearded pigs and hornbills.
However, for the best chance of seeing orangutans up close in their natural habitat, visit the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre.
The Kuching cat statue is a popular spot for photos as ‘kuching’ is the Malay word for cat.
Cat lovers will visit cat museum as this quirky museum celebrates everything feline-related.
Recommended tour: Kuching City Tour
Miri is a town known for its oil and gas industry, limestone caves, wildlife and cultural diversity.
Climb Canada hill for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes.
At the top of the hill, the Grand Old Lady and Petroleum Science Museum is the place to learn about Miri’s oil history.
One of Miri’s main attractions are the ancient caves at the Niah National Park, where you can admire cave paintings and learn about the region’s prehistoric history.
Head to Miri Handicraft Centre to buy some souvenirs or simply learn about traditional and aboriginal Sarawakian handicrafts and textiles.
18- Kota Kinabalu
If you are up for a challenge, consider climbing this iconic mountain, which is also the highest peak in Southeast Asia.
The Kota Kinabalu Waterfront is a popular spot for its beautiful sea views, lively atmosphere, shopping and dining options and cultural events.
It is also an easy access to boat rides for island exploration, as it faces the open sea and islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
When planning a trip to the marine park, book a boat ride in advance and start your day early to maximise your time there.
Recommended tour: Full-Day Snorkeling Adventure from Kota Kinabalu
Sandakan is a captivating city in Sabah that attracts wildlife lovers.
One of the most popular things to do is to see orangutans in their natural habitat and learn about the conversation efforts at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
You can also see the world’s smallest bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which is dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating sun bears.
The Sandakan Crocodile Farm is the largest crocodile farm in Malaysia with more than 3000 reptiles in the farm.
A must-do is to go on a Kinabatangan wildlife river cruise where you get to spot proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, and a variety of bird species.
Semporan is a place for islands, vibrant marine life, and world-class diving opportunities in the waters of the Celebes Sea.
Go island hopping at Semporna for crystal-clear waters and white beaches at islands such as Mabul, Kapalai and Sipadan.
A must-do is to go diving or snorkelling to see the colourful coral reefs and marine species at world-renowned diving spots like Sipadan.
Experience the unique culture of the Bajau Laut people, also known as “Sea Gypsies,” and learn about their traditional way of life at Bajau Laut Village.
The mangrove ecosystems at Piasau Nature Reserve is great for birdwatching.
Semporna is truly a great place for nature enthusiasts.
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