The culturally rich UNESCO World Heritage city is one of Malaysia’s most colourful
The best things to do in Malacca
1. Score some wares
Visit the Sunday morning flea market (from 7.30am to 12.30pm), off Jonker Street on Jalan Hang Lekir. Here traders display and sell antiques, secondhand merchandise and kitschy knickknacks which make for fun browsing. Stop by TS Lim Trading on Temple Street to look at and buy Peranakan beaded shoes, a craft that is slowly disappearing since not many have mastered the embroidery skills to produce such intricate wares.
2. Explore Jonker Walk
This famous street lined with heritage houses dating back to the 17th century. Its antique stores, handicraft and souvenir shops, art galleries and delectable eateries are an ode to the Baba Nyonya people (also known as Peranakans) who used to live and carry out commerce in this enclave. Visit the night market every Friday to Sunday for trinkets, food and the occasional fortune-telling.
3. Enjoy a river cruise
Take a leisurely cruise down Melaka River, passing historical buildings, old go-downs, settlements and newer buildings with playful murals depicting the town’s rich culture. The best time to go is dusk, when the weather is not too hot and the lights along the banks are lit up.
4. Discover its heritage core
The Stadthuys was a civic administrative centre built by the Dutch during their colonial occupation. This historical structure, located in the heart of Malacca city, is hard to miss with its red exterior and neighbouring red clocktower. As such, you’ll often find crowds of tourists gather for photo opportunities with the terracotta-red buildings in the background. Visit the history museum to gain insight into Melaka’s past, from the great Malay Sultanate to the colonial powers.
5. A taste of nonya culture and cuisine
Peranakan culture, rooted in Chinese immigrants who came to British Malaya, is revealed in the kitchen through Nyonya cuisine, the result of fusing Chinese cooking styles with ingredients and spices used widely in the local Malay community. Sample favourite Nyonya dishes at institutions like Nancy’s Kitchen, Nyonya Makko, Amy Heritage and Donald & Lily.
Learn more about the Peranakan people at the beautiful Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. Arranged to look like a typical Baba Nyonya residence from the 19th century, the museum features elaborate woodwork, antique furniture and porcelain collections.
6. Festival fun
The Kristang, a community with mixed Portuguese and Malay or Indian ancestry, honours the patron saint of the fishermen in June every year. Join in the festivity of folk songs and dance at the Fiesta San Juan and Fiesta San Pedro at the Portugese Settlement in Ujong Pasir if you’re in Melaka in June.
7. A birds’ eye view
Go up The Shore Sky Tower for a 360-degree panaromic view of Melaka and beyond. Entry tickets to the 43rd-floor observatory platform of the skyscraper are USD4.40 (RM18) and USD3.60 (RM15) for adults and children, respectively.
8. Cook up a storm
Sign up for a cooking class and learn to prepare Nyonya dishes such as ayam pongteh at The Majestic Malacca with its Master Chef Pow Chiah Kuan. The class takes place in the courtyard of the elegant 1920s colonial mansion formerly owned by a Chinese tycoon.
9. Hit the sand dunes
Head to the sand dunes near Klebang Beach, a hot spot for professional and amateur photo shoots. Enthusiasts have taken to sand-boarding on these mountains of sand.
10. Climb Bukit Cina
Escape the crowds of tourists by going on a hike at Bukit Cina, a serene recreational hill for joggers with trails running through an old Chinese burial ground. Get a bird’s-eye view of Melaka from the top of the hillock.
Where to eat in Malacca
10. Explore its cafe scene
Even a small town like Melaka isn’t immune from burgeoning coffee specialty stores and hipster cafés. Grab a break between sightseeing for coffee and artisan food at The Daily Fix, Kaya Kaya Café, Calanthe and Backlane Coffee. As night falls, stop by Geographer Café, a corner lot pub on Jonker Walk with lots of flair. Known for its reasonably priced drinks and snacks, it’s packed during peak hours, but try to get a seat out front for people-watching. Alternatively, check out Barlacca Lounge, next to the Melaka River.
11. Try its local treats (and bring some home as souvenirs!)
Satay celup is ubiquitous to Melaka. Skewers of seafood, meat and vegetables are dunked into a pot of rich peanut sauce. Capitol Satay Celup is the most popular outlet serving this snack, with long queues in the evening. Or head to Ban Lee Siang Satay Celup, another popular alternative.
For the sweet tooths: indulge in a bowl of cendol, a dessert of finely shaved ice and pandan-flavoured starch jelly in coconut milk and palm sugar, the perfect recipe to cool down in the tropical heat. Aunty Koh’s Cendol, Jonker88 and The Kappan House are the locals’ favourites for cendol. It has also become almost mandatory to purchase boxes of pineapple tarts from Melaka for those back home. The sweet pineapple jam on a crumbly buttery crust can be found in LW, Bibik House and Bee Bee’s.