The Getaway
Explore Jakarta: Top 15 Things You Can't Miss

Jakarta, Indonesia's busy capital, is a megalopolis of paradoxes. Skyscrapers jostle with slums, street food carts serving mouthwatering nasi goreng rub up against gourmet eateries, and the city's more than 10 million residents represent a melting pot of cultures. Jakarta blends the modern with the traditional and offers a myriad of activities to suit varied interests. There are historical landmarks and museums, thrumming nightclubs and sophisticated bars, and the Thousand Islands are but a mere hour's journey away. This is one concrete jungle you won't just want to swing through.

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01 Explore historical landmarks like Monas

In the center of Merdeka Square, a popular urban green space, you'll find Indonesia's National Monument (Monas) celebrating the country's independence from the Dutch. Designed by the architects Friedrich Silaban and R.M. Soedarsono, the tower's eventual dimensions were informed by the date of independence. Construction on what's jokingly known as "Sukarno’s final erection" began in 1961 and was interrupted by a coup attempt and funding shortages. Artisans created dioramas to depict Indonesian history on the structure's ground floor, and these were installed by the mid-1970s when Monas was opened to the public. The tower is crowned with a gold-plated bronze flame that weighs 14.5 tons. Visit in the evening to see it lit up in all its splendor. There are many museums in the area too, some of which are covered by the Monas entrance card.

Indonesia. Jakarta. The national monument (Monas) User10095428_393 / Getty Images

02 Indulge in a heavenly cream bath at a local salon

A cream bath sounds like something Cleopatra may have luxuriated in during her reign in Ancient Egypt. But you can get a cream bath at various salons in Jakarta. You won't be dipping your body in milk. Instead, hair is washed and then smeared with cream. While the cream does its magic, you get a wonderfully relaxing head, neck, and shoulder massage to loosen knots and melt away tension. After that, stylists steam the hair and wash off the cream. Cream baths often use hydrating ingredients, such as aloe vera and candle nut to stimulate healthy hair growth and leave locks glossy.

Woman hair massage at home, stock photo Deepak Sethi / Getty Images

03 Navigate the city like a local using Gojek or Grab

Go where you want to quickly with the help of ride-hailing super apps like Grab and Gojek, which offer affordable transport in taxis and atop motorcycles or gridlock-beating ojeks. You can also use the apps to shop online and have goods and services delivered to your accommodation. Grab and Gojek employ millions of drivers for consumers' convenience. Thanks to technological advances, moving from one of the Indonesian capital's hotspots to the next like a pro has never been easier.

04 Experience Jakarta’s vibrant nightlife by club-hopping

Jakarta is a fast-paced city with the pandemic firmly in its rearview mirror. Whatever you're in the mood for, you'd best believe this place can give you a good night out. Jenja is a hit with expats and locals alike. You may see international DJs at Domain, and you'll do no better than to party at Colosseum, where the acoustics, lighting, and spaciousness combine for an epic time. Dine at Leon before taking to its dance floor, or head to Illigals for an intense karaoke session. Other favorites include the impressive H Club SCBD, W Superclub Gatsu, Golden Tiger, and Helen's for yet more singalongs and chicken wings when you've worked up an appetite.

the atmosphere of the night in the city of jakarta Dmaryana / Getty Images

05 Treat yourself to a luxurious rooftop cocktail

It's been a long day, and you just want to sit down somewhere to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a nice, cold beverage. With its myriad skyscrapers, Jakarta has no shortage of rooftop bars serving cocktails, mocktails, and dazzling skyline views. Check out Chāo Cháo Rooftop for a photogenic sunset and custom mixology. There's also KITA Bar at the Park Hyatt Jakarta, Henshin at The Westin, and K22 Bar at the Fairmont, if you're into trusted hotel brands with a fantastic ambiance.

06 Discover the indie art scene at independent galleries

Art lovers will find much to celebrate in Jakarta. Established in 2008 by the poet Goenawan Mohamad, Salihara Arts Center is an independent hub where writers, journalists, performing artists, and visual artists hone their craft and use creativity to challenge the status quo. The community is vibrant and worth exploring, especially during an exhibition or festival. Akili Museum of Art, owned by businessman Rudy Akili, is where you'll find more avante-garde works, and Nadi Gallery's showcases are often independently curated. Edwin's Gallery grew from photographer Edwin Rajarho's parents' garage to become one of the city's most active arts and culture institutions.

07 Take a nature walk in the Mangrove Forest

Step away from the hustle and bustle and spend some time in the mangrove forests along Jakarta's north coast. You can go for a stroll, get out on a canoe, or ride a machine boat amidst the greenery. Angke Kapuk Nature Reserve Park, also known as Muara Angke Wildlife Refuge, is a conservation area near Mediterranean Gallery shopping complex where monkeys and monitor lizards are par for the course. Birdwatchers can keep their eyes peeled for Sunda coucals and milky storks. Be liberal with your mosquito repellent before you go.

08 Satisfy your foodie cravings with Indonesian street food

Looking to feast and get a taste of authentic Indonesian cuisine on a budget? You have to hit the streets. Carnivores have something to look forward to at Gulai Tikungan or Gultik, where sliced beef is served with a fragrant broth, sauce and spicy rice, and different kinds of delicious satay are available. Prepare to queue on the weekends. If you're more of a pescatarian, Seafood Ayu is the perfect spot to devour crab in padang sauce with a side of stir-fried water spinach and a young coconut drink to wash it all down. Noodle fans must try Mie Ayam Gondangdi, which has a loyal following. Vegans, look out for gado gado at various carts, and if you have a sweet tooth, cheesy roti bakar is the one for you.

Market Stall of Traditional Indonesian Snacks MielPhotos2008 / Getty Images

09 Enjoy a leisurely massage after your adventures

Traveling can be hectic. Call time out and book a pampering self-care appointment with skilled masseuses who use reflexology to revive feet that have been racking up 20,000 steps daily. Or get a glorious full-body massage at one of the numerous massage parlors around town, tending to your muscles with stretching or other traditional techniques associated with the region. There's no hanky panky on offer at establishments like Gaya Spa. The brave may even want to try a snake massage involving a few heavy pressure-applying pythons, a Jakarta specialty.

Asian Woman Getting a Back Massage Kanawa_Studio / Getty Images

10 Visit a cat cafe for some adorable cuddle time

Cat ladies and laddies, you'll be happy to know that Jakarta has some awesome cat cafes. Kopi Cat Cafe by Groovy is in the trendy Kemang area. You can play with the friendly felines while ordering something to eat and drink in a clean environment. There are various breeds, including Maine Coons, British shorthairs, Persians, sphinxes, and more, and they all look well cared for, as is the case at The Cat Cabin.

11 Get a taste of elevated Indonesian cuisine

If fine dining is more your speed, make a reservation at August, named one of the best restaurants in Asia in 2023. Helmed by Hans Christian and Budi Cahyadi, Indonesians with extensive culinary experience gained abroad, August delivers on taste and service. You can expect globally inspired food with Indonesian influences and a focus on high-quality local ingredients. Also check out Plataran Dharmawangsa for refined Indonesian meals and Namaaz Dining for out-of-the-box molecular gastronomy.

12 Shop at local pop-up markets over the weekend

Asian markets are colorful affairs where you can bargain. Score some deals at Jakarta's flea markets, where there are plenty of opportunities for sensible haggling. Tanah Abang Market and Jalan Surabaya are great for finding all sorts of gifts and souvenirs, such as batik prints, jewelry, and home decor. Pop-up markets offer interesting wares if you can catch them.

13 Unwind with a yoga session in one of the city’s studios

Jakarta has a happening yoga scene with several studios to choose from. Fans of Bikram yoga can head for Yoga @42 for a sweaty sesh. Union Yoga holds the occasional glow-in-the-dark practice but is serene and warmly lit the rest of the time. Other local favorites include Gudang Gudang and SoulBox.

Woman, hands or lotus pose meditation on sunset beach, ocean or sea in mental health, mind training or chakra balance. Zoom, peace or zen yogi in calm mudra, relax yoga wellness or sunrise gratitude PeopleImages / Getty Images

14 Take a day trip to the Thousand Islands for a quick escape

Add some island fun to your short Jakarta itinerary with a day trip to the 1000 Islands. In the morning, you can take a ferry or private speedboat from upscale Ancol Marina or the Kali Adem harbor near the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve. You'll need to pick an island. Pulau Pari, Pulau Tidung, and Pulau Bidadari are just some possibilities. Once you get there, you can swim, hike, and chill. Return boats arrive in the afternoon.

Boat in thousand island sea in clear morning. Jakarta, Indonesia. Ali Trisno Pranoto / Getty Images

15 Challenge your friends to a laser tag standoff

When Jakarta's weather refuses to play ball, you can head for the malls and other indoor attractions. Sky Laser Tag in East Jakarta is a super fun option for group or family fun on rainy days. Pretend you're in a faraway galaxy, battle it out, and see who takes the glory.

laser gun game shooting player enjoying leisure activity jacquesdurocher / Getty Images
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