Jakarta’s old port, Sunda Kelapa is a popular stop on any tour of historic Jakarta (or Batavia, as it once was). Wooden 2-masted pinisi sailing ships still moor here, while porters move goods to and fro as they have since the 13th century. Converted warehouses hold the Maritime Museum, and a watchtower and lighthouses stand guard over the bustling harbor.
It’s easy enough to wander around Sunda Kelapa, and the harbor is an essential stop on any guided or self-guided tour of Old Batavia (Kota Tua) or Jakarta Old Town. Arrange for a private guide to learn more about the role the vanished town of Sunda Kelapa played in Jakarta’s—and Indonesia’s—history. Guides can help negotiate a boat ride around the harbor. Organized walking tours make navigating both old port and old town a breeze.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A must-do for history buffs, Sunda Kelapa is one of Jakarta’s most authentic attractions—smells and all.
- You might see Sunda Kelapa signposted as “Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa”: the word “pelabuhan” simply means port, or harbor, in Indonesian.
- Wear comfortable shoes to visit Old Batavia. The cobblestones can be hard on the feet.
- The 2-masted pinisi sailing ships are a traditional Indonesian craft. Generally made on the island of Sulawesi, they are still very much working vessels.
How to Get There
About half a mile (1 kilometer) north of Fatahillah Square, the heart of Jakarta Old Town, Sunda Kelapa port is easy to reach on foot from Old Town or the Kota Tua bus station. While the subway system remains uncompleted, many visitors prefer to explore Jakarta either with a private driver or on an organized tour.
When to Get There
While the bustling fish market that used to bring the harbor to life burned down some years ago, early morning is still a great time to visit Sunda Kelapa port. The sailors sleep on their boats and get up around dawn, when the light is right for photography. During the middle of the day, it can be extremely hot.
From Sunda Kelapa to Jakarta
Sunda Kelapa was the original settlement on which Jakarta is based. After Prince Fatahillah destroyed the original port in 1527, he rebuilt it and called it Jayakarta, meaning “Victorious City.” Almost a century later, Dutch colonial forces destroyed Jayakarta and built a canal city, which they called Batavia, in its place. When Indonesia achieved independence after World War II, the city took the name Djakarta (Jakarta).