Planning a trip to Jakarta? Given the number of wanderlust-inducing islands in Indonesia, there’s a good chance you may find yourself transiting through Jakarta at some point, but not really planning a full vacation in this sprawling city. But, just because you’re transiting, doesn’t mean you should spend your time cooped up indoors, missing out on some amazing adventures. It turns out, Jakarta has a lot to offer travellers and it’s well worth putting in the time and effort to discover the very best parts of the city. So, here are my tips on how to spend two days in Jakarta…
Visit Kota Tua and the Jakarta History Museum
A great place to start your day and get your first taste of Jakarta is by visiting Kota Tua, the ‘old town’ of Jakarta. While your mind may picture Jakarta as huge buildings and a dense population, Kota Tua will show you another side, with some really gorgeous Dutch-inspired buildings to see, like the Jakarta History Museum. The museum is on the site of the original town hall, which was the capital of the Dutch East Indies in the 17-the century and served as the epicentre of the Asian spice trade during the time! Wander the museum or just stroll around the square outside. Find Kota Tua here and the Jakarta History Museum here.
After your visit to the museum, stop in at the historic Cafe Batavia. The downstairs area is smoking (yuck) but they do have live music, so it can be worth choking down a few lung-fulls of second hand cigs. If not, head upstairs to the airy cafe space where you’ll find a bright, open seating area that’s adorned with tonnes of cool, old photos. The place was built between 1805 and 1850, so it has a pretty impressive history. Service at the cafe is a bit slow, to be honest, but it’s still worth a visit for a drink or two and a bite to eat if you need it. Find Cafe Batavia here.
Join a free walking tour
Now you’ve eased into the day, it’s time to really get exploring. While it may not be your first instinct to join one, a walking tour is a great way to see Jakarta and discover another side to the city. The guys at Jakarta Good Guide offer free walking tours that are pay-as-you-wish, which just means you tip the guide however much you want to at the end. They offer six different walking tours, but the two best for first-timers are the City Centre and Old Town tours. These will give you the best taste of the city and impart some pretty cool history knowledge in the process. Find Jakarta Good Guide here.
Relax with a massage
After all that walking and sightseeing, you should really take some time to relax! The best way to do this is with an hour of foot reflexology or a full body massage. That’s right, close your eyes and float away to nirvana while your friendly massage therapist rubs away all the stress and tension. The perfect way to unwind! Find Kokuo Eastern Reflexology here.
Dinner at Dapur Babah Elite
For a fantastic dining experience in a unique setting, you have to eat at Dapur Babah. It would be very easy to walk right past this spot, but once you push through the front doors you can’t help but be impressed by the historic, beautifully decorated, dark interior of the restaurant. It oozes Dutch and Indonesian influences, making it feel like a movie set, stuffed to the hilt with antiques and artefacts. The food here is fantastic and they have plenty of options for vegetarians. I highly recommend! Find Dapur Babah here.
Evening drinks and incredible views
If you’re in need of a night-cap, take yourself up to SKYE Bar & Restaurant for the very best views of Jakarta. Head directly to the Skye Lounge where you can get your hands on their fantastic cocktail and wine lists or just kick back with a nice cold beer. You’ll find yourself treated to yummy snacks, if needed, as well as breathtaking views of Jakarta. It’s a great spot to really give you perspective on how huge the city is and watch it come alive with lights (a great spot for photos!) Find SKYE Bar & Restaurant here.
Shop up a storm at the Grand Indonesia Mall
If you love shopping, you should definitely take a trip to the Grand Indonesia Mall. This place is huge and a great spot to escape the heat if you’re visiting in the middle of Jakarta’s warmest months. You’ll find the Mall bursting with shops, everything from electronics and homewares to fashion of all shapes and sizes. It’s a great spot to snap up a bargain and get your hands on things you just can’t buy back home. Find the Grand Indonesia Mall here.
Visit the Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral
For amazing photography opportunities and a really interesting way to spend an hour or two, visit the Istiqlal Mosque. Outsiders are welcome and you can get your hands on a robe on site, to cover up with. The mosque welcomes visitors from all over the world and you’re welcome to observe prayer time, if you like. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see a huge mosque and experience the place for yourself, it’s a truly beautiful space and photographers will love it!
After you’ve finished at Istiqlal, walk across the road to the stunning Jakarta Cathedral, another gorgeous spot for photographs. The two religious spaces work together closely and have a whole lot of respect for one another – it’s pretty impressive and sets a fantastic example for the rest of the world, in my opinion. Find the Istiqlal Mosque here and the Jakarta Cathedral here.
Check out the Flea Market
Take a trip to the Flea Market at Jalan Surabaya and spend an hour or so looking through all manner of bric-a-brac. You’ll find the street lined with little stalls packed to the hilt with everything from arts and crafts, second-hand goods, jewellery and more. You’ll also find stalls selling stuff like knock-off handbags, so just be prepared for the mix of things and don’t give up if you arrive and only see the ‘new’ stuff. Walk a little further and you’ll find the second-hand and antique goods. It’s worth walking the entire length of the street. Find the Flea Market here.
I was taken around Jakarta on a bus with the media group I was with. One of my favourite moments from Jakarta was when my friend Luke, from Backstreet Nomad, and I left a restaurant and opted to walk back to the hotel rather than hop back on the bus. Walking along the bustling streets was a bit overwhelming at first, but then it just because amazing. We wandered past little street food stalls preparing local treats that smelled amazing, some were playing live music and serving nice cold beers. Everyone was incredible friendly and gave us big smiles and waves as we strolled by. My advice to anyone would be to not be afraid to just go for a walk and find those fantastic, hidden spots that stay with you forever.
If you really want to learn about Indonesia’s history, you should spend an hour or so at the Museum Nasional. The highlight for me was when we were shown some incredible gold artefacts that changed my view on Indonesian history forever. The museum was built in 1862 and hosts pieces from as far back as the 9th century, they’re absolutely incredible. It’s crazy to imagine how they were created and to picture the people wearing them. There are some real treasures here and, like I said already, they kinda blew my mind. I hadn’t ever really considered Indonesia’s history properly until seeing them! Find the Museum Nasional here.
Dinner at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis
For an incredible dinner in a beautiful setting, I recommend eating at Tugu Kunstrking Paleis. From the outside, this grand spot is gorgeous, but when you go inside, it’s even more impressive. The huge room is adorned with antiques and stunning furniture and lights, offering up a warm, welcoming ambience. The food here is also fantastic, serving up really great Indonesian fare with a bit of a fancy edge to it. Great food, gorgeous setting = winner! Find Tugu Kunstkring Paleis here.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Mercure Jakarta Sabang and found it a great base for my two nights in Jakarta. The room was a great size, nice and spacious with plenty of room to spread out and get comfortable. The room included a huge bed, corner seat and a desk to sit and work. I found it to be really comfortable and welcoming, making my two nights easy.
The hotel is located centrally, which meant I could walk to a few places quite easily and find my way around with no trouble. It was also nice and quick to get to the places we had arranged to visit and there were plenty of good spots to explore on foot from the hotel too.
The staff were really lovely, taking excellent care of us and making sure our stay was seamless. The breakfast buffet each morning was great too, offering up plenty of delicious options for hungry travellers and vegetarians (me!).
Overall, I’d recommend the Mercure Jakarta Sabang as a great spot for two nights in Jakarta. It offers accommodation that’s reliably good, comfortable and easy, making your stay enjoyable and seamless. Not only that, but it’s budget friendly too! Find the Mercure Jakarta Sabang here.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.