One of the city’s most historic and colorful districts, Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is home not only to Chinese but also to Indians and Malays. Besides bustling Petaling Street Market and grand Central Market, the area offers temples, clan houses, and shophouses, plus a wealth of hawker stalls, cafés, and eateries.
There’s no charge to enter Kuala Lumpur Chinatown and you don’t need to join a tour to soak up the atmosphere at the Chinese and Hindu temples, sample the goods at the many delicious hawker joints, or hunt for bargains at the markets. With that said, Chinatown is an essential stop on any Kuala Lumpur food tour, not to mention walking tours, city tours, heritage tours, shopping tours, and night tours.
Kuala Lumpur Chinatown tours typically check off some of the area’s temples, particularly Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the city’s oldest Hindu temple, and Chinese temples such as Guan Di Temple and Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, as well as historic Central Market. Tours often visit Petaling Street Market, while the hawker stalls on Madras Lane are a food-tour must.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is a must for fans of food, history, and culture, and a major photographic draw.
- Bargaining is essential both at Petaling Street Market and Pasar Karat.
- Visit on an empty stomach to make the most of the snacking opportunities.
- Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is challenging to manage in a wheelchair, but not impossible.
How to Get There
Kuala Lumpur Chinatown sits in the heart of the city, just across the Klang River from Merdeka Square. Pasar Seni MRT is the best station for most Chinatown destinations, but you can also reach it from Masjid Jamek LRT and Maharajalela Monorail. Parking is thin on the ground so driving is not advised.
When to Get There
Kuala Lumpur Chinatown has something to offer from morning to night, but afternoon is the best time to visit to make the most of the markets and eateries. The Lunar New Year period, generally in January and February, is a particularly colorful time to visit the area, with temples and streets dressed in lanterns.
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinese History
Kuala Lumpur owes its existence to Chinese prospectors, who set up camp here while searching for tin and gave it its unromantic name, which means “Muddy River Junction.” Chinese finance and energy played a major part in the city’s growth, and many credit Yap Ah Loy, an early leader of the Chinese community, with developing it from a disease-ridden settlement to a thriving town.