Kuala Lumpur, a city home to 1.73 million inhabitants, has everything on offer – from nightlong karaoke bars and cat cafés to exclusive rooftop bars. There’s something for everyone!
And although there have been places where I have spent more time than others, I still had a hard time picking just one. So I cheated a little – you’re getting my top three instead. So, in no particular order, here are my three favorite hangouts in KL.
Welcome to Malabar Café. One of the places I visit the most in all of Kuala Lumpur. This little street kitchen was a surprise discovery by one of my flat mates when she headed downstairs to buy groceries one day. She came back and mentioned that there was a tiny little restaurant brimming with locals near our house, and so she thought it must be good.
Not long after, we all went there to try it and since then it’s become a favorite hangout for all of us.
Think plastic chairs, tables and cups with mismatched steel cutlery and you have Malabar.
The place is so small and local, that I was incredibly surprised to find that they in fact have a Facebook page! Their menu is almost completely in Malaysian Bahasa, and features all the national dishes of Malaysia, with a handful of Indian classics. But that’s primarily because the two brothers who run the kitchen and their staff are predominantly Indian Malay.
Having the menu in Malaysian Bahasa made the first few visits extra fun as we tried to guess what was on the menu, and did a bit of experimenting here and there. It also meant that we managed to pick up quite a few Bahasa Malaysian words fairly early on.
Not only is the food authentic and SO DELICIOUS, it’s cheap. You could order almost one of everything from the menu and the total would come to less than 50 DKK!! This is not even a slight exaggeration.
When my roommate’s parents visited, she took them to Malabar and between the three of them, they tried everything from appetizers, various mains and several desserts, and their total came to about 30 MYR! This was definitely a pleasant surprise to my roommate’s German parents who were happy to find out that their lunch for three people had only cost them around 7 Euros!
It appears that Malabar Café has some sentimental value to all of us, as we’ve all brought guests from home to the café at least once! Besides this, Malabar is also simply practical. Don’t have any food in the fridge? Go to Malabar. Don’t feel like cooking? Go to Malabar. Sunday evening blues? Malabar anyone?
I mentioned in a previous blog post about my apartment, and that many of the other exchange students live in the same condominium too. This means that Malabar has quickly become a meet-up and hangout area for many of us.
One particular example that struck me the most was after the mid-semester break when everyone had just come home from traveling. My roommates and I had gone down to Malabar because we had no food at home, having emptied our fridge before we left on holiday. Once we got to Malabar, we found all of the other exchange students there as well!
They were there for the exact same reason – just got back from holidays and didn’t have anything to cook.
I have visited the second of my favorite spots in Kuala Lumpur less frequently than Malabar Café. However, it’s impressive enough that it deserves a spot on this list. In the middle of the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur’s towering skyscrapers in its central business district lies a small (actually quite large) patch of green grass. This is KLCC Park, a 50-acre urban sanctuary.
The park is abuzz with people and activities, no matter the time of day. In the morning, you will likely see people jogging along the soft-surface jogging track that winds along the park. In the afternoons, it’s common to see schoolchildren in their uniforms playing at the gigantic playground or boating around in the paddling pool. The evenings in particular are my favorite.
This is when the sun is slowly setting on the city and the lights come on from all of the surrounding skyscrapers. Things quiet down a little more at this time and you can spot people doing yoga on the grass or quietly reading a book under a tree. Because it’s Malaysia and the temperatures don’t go below 25 degrees at any point, the evenings are a nice time to take in the cooler temperatures.
The buzz in the park grows again at night, as there is a water show in the middle of the park from 8-10pm at each hour. This water show is quite popular and attracts crowds of tourists and locals.
The park is also a perfect vantage point for taking a photo of the famous Petronas Towers. Most of the professional or blogger photos you will see of the towers are taken from this park.
Besides being a perfect place for getting those ‘grams, there’s just something special and wholesome about having a place to kick back and take in everything happening in the busy city around you while you sit with your toes in the grass. And that’s why this wonderful place lands itself a spot on my list of favorite places in Kuala Lumpur.
Returning to food for a second, let me introduce you to my home away from home – Kopenhagen Koffee.
This is my hideout when the culture shock of Malaysia becomes a bit too much for me – i.e. visa issues!
It’s a small café run by a Danish man and, as the name suggests, it’s a coffee shop featuring Danish delicacies. They specialize in smørrebrød, grød (Danish porridge) and coffee imported from The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen.
Each of the names of the menu items has some association with Denmark, e.g. my favorite go-to lunch is ‘Århus Alternative’, and for breakfast I’m likely to go for a ‘Versatile Viking’.
Besides the food tasting of home, I like this place because of its ambience. When you walk into the café, you feel like you’ve walked straight into a BOLIA catalogue. Everything is Danish design, with Georg Jensen jugs and Royal Copenhagen cutlery. It’s definitely a stark difference to Malabar Café, but oh well – it’s all about the balance, right?
I first came to Kopenhagen Koffee together with the two other Danes studying with me at the University of Malaya. The place had been recommended to me by one of my friends back home whose family used to visit it during their expat posting in Malaysia not long ago.
Needless to say, all of us were incredibly impressed and happy to have a found a little piece of home during our stay abroad.
Evidently, we’re not the only ones who feel this way. When I visit on weekends, the café is a bit busier with many families having brunch there. A lot of these families are mixed families, half Malaysian and half Danish.
Talking to one of the families, I found out that this was a place they liked to bring their children, so they could get a hint of their parents’ home culture, even while growing up in Malaysia.
When I come in on weekdays to study, the café is a little bit quieter. But that gives me ample time to interact with the incredibly friendly staff. Most of them have actually either lived – or hope to live in Denmark. They are always happy to chat about Denmark – which can be a godsend when you are feeling particularly homesick.
One of the waitresses even did an exchange at CBS! She came up to me and asked if I went to CBS after having seen ‘My.CBS.DK’ on my computer screen as she recognized it from her time abroad!
And there you have it, a few of my favorite spots in Kuala Lumpur. If you happen to be in the city, regardless of whether you are visiting or staying in Malaysia for a longer period of time, do make sure to visit these places. I can almost guarantee you will love them as much as I do!