A large grassy expanse in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) is where Malaysia declared independence in 1957: The word “merdeka” means “independent” or “free.” The city’s best-known historic landmark, the square is home to structures including the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, museums, and a cathedral.
There is no charge to visit Merdeka Square and no need for a guide: Many visitors arrive here naturally as part of exploring downtown. However, it’s a rare Kuala Lumpur city tour that doesn’t include a stop at Merdeka Square and an overview of some of the signature sights, and time-pressed travelers often prefer the convenience of a tour to piecing together the city on foot. Some travelers come here just to visit the Textile Museum or the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Merdeka Square is a must for history fans.
- Thanks to its location in the heart of town, Merdeka Square hosts everything from rock concerts to exhibitions.
- Don’t forget sunscreen if you’re planning to hang out on the grass.
- Merdeka Square is flat and wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
Merdeka Square is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur, roughly halfway between Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek LRT stations. It’s a short walk from Masjid Jamek and around 15 minutes’ stroll from Chinatown for those exploring on foot, while the riverfront lies just behind the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
When to Get There
Merdeka Square is always open and particularly attractive at night, when the arched frontage of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is lighted; the square gets especially lively on weekend nights. As the spot where Malaysia first declared its independence, it often hosts Independence Day parades and celebrations on August 31.
“Merdeka”: Malaysian Independence
In 1957, the nation now known as Malaysia was a British colony known as Malaya, and Merdeka Square was known as the Padang, or Parade Ground, and used for sports as well as parades. It took its current name after Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, declared independence here in the small hours of August 31, 1957.