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Navigating Semarang: 10 Must-Do Activities for First-Timers

As the bustling capital of Central Java, Semarang, Indonesia is a top destination on any traveler's to-do list. Within this vibrant city, you'll find a lot to explore, from historical landmarks to natural wonders and a cosmopolitan metropolis bursting with culture, cuisine, and a story that spans centuries. If you want to experience the real Indonesia, get started here. Known as "The Venice of Java," the striking city of Semarang is traversed by multiple rivers for a picturesque retreat regardless of itinerary.


01 Explore the historical charm of Semarang Old Town

Semarang's charming old town will give you a striking glimpse into its colonial history. Founded by the Dutch in 1682, this centuries-old city retains the quaint ambiance and vibrant culture that made it so famous. Filled with sophisticated architecture and a preserved colonial city you don't want to miss, Old Town is like taking a step back in time. You'll discover preserved buildings, ancient streets, and fortified wonders ranging from medieval to modern.

Lawang Sewu Eka Rakhmat Nugraha / Getty Images

02 Discover the art of batik at Semarang Batik Village

This settlement in Semarang's city center is a place to discover the traditional Indonesian art of batik. Here, you can try your hand at this ancient art alongside dedicated and experienced craftsmen who've mastered it through the generations. Dive deeper into the history and skill behind this practice at one of many tiny villages scattered throughout the country. You'll also find local outlets to shop from showcasing a variety of exquisite batik motifs.

03 Immerse yourself in nature at Semilir Eco Park Village

Embrace the freshness of nature in this eco-park, which offers stunning views from every angle. A popular favorite among tourists and locals alike, Semilir Eco Park Village features several scenic areas that bring otherwordly adventures to life. Visitors can also stop by Gunungan Resto, the savory restaurant that serves nutritious meals daily. Travelers also love photo-worthy top spots such as Memories Street, European Square, and Rainbow Slide.

04 Have a family day out at Saloka Fun Park

Gather the whole crew for a rowdy day of fun at Saloka Fun Park, which features thrilling slides, rides, and wonders beyond your wildest dreams. The Illusion Zones offer space to see the unbelievable, while five jaw-dropping zones of excitement delight the senses. Each zone is home to 25+ innovative attractions and adrenaline-pumping coasters, along with delights such as a vintage ferris wheel, water bottles, and even a haunted house.

05 Take in panoramic views from Kelir Slope Viewing Station

Kelir Slope Viewing Station provides once-in-a-lifetime views of the Indonesian countryside. From this elevated area, you'll experience panoramic views paired with eye-catching photo opportunities. Bring your camera because you'll want to snap a pic around every corner. Located about an hour from downtown, this scenic oasis is within easy reach from downtown, so you can see the whole city shining at sunrise.

A view of waduk jatibarang or jatibarang dam from a forest hill in Semarang, Indonesia. Neilstha Firman / Getty Images

06 Witness the grandeur of Brown Canyon

The Brown Canyon of Semarang is a geological wonder that you need to see to believe. While it may be an active mining area, the sand and rocks themselves are a tourist-worthy attraction. Over time, the hills have seemingly melted into their environment for an aesthetic appearance equivalent to the Green Canyon in the U.S. If you're a nature lover, this is your destination for experiencing the outdoors in all its glory, along with a tree, cliff, and lake-covered landscape formed by the mine.

07 Visit the culturally rich Sam Poo Kong Temple

Explore this historical five-temple complex that showcases traditional Chinese and Japanese architecture. All religions are welcome to come worship within this complex, and Sam Poo Kong is the oldest Chinese temple on the premises. It covers an expansive 1,020 square-meter complex painted in bold red with the traditional pagoda-style roof that Indonesia is renowned for, so line up, share your spirituality, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind view.

08 Step back in time at Pendem Ambarawa Fort

The Pendem Ambarawa Fort, also known as "Pendem Fortress," scores points for its innovative design and mysterious underground fortress that's open for exploration. Built in 1834, Ambarawa Fort is a historic destination with a story to tell. Inside, you'll discover an expansive display of war supplies, military barracks, and storage sheds used for strategizing during the Diponegoro War.

Historical Building, Fort Willem I, at Ambarawa, Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia Aufa Fahmi / Getty Images

09 Refresh your senses at Kali Pancur Waterfall

Who doesn't crave the majestic ambiance of a waterfall? Nogosaren village speaks to aquatic lovers everywhere, offering some of the most mesmerizing natural beauty you'll find this side of the equator. Kali Pancur Waterfall is the most breathtaking, falling a massive hundred meters from between the rocks, along with scenic hiking trails, rock reliefs, and beautiful areas to explore. Snap some pics and savor the beauty because this is one environmental adventure that you don't want to miss.

Low angle view landscape Kali Pancur waterfall Noor Wahid / Getty Images

10 Savor local flavors at Waroeng Semawis

Indulge in Chinatown's finest cuisine at an ever-changing night market bristling with action every night of the week. Along the route, you'll discover an assortment of culinary foods and flavorful beverages to enjoy. Many travelers will discover exquisite bites that make their mouths water, including delicious treats and trinkets to use at home or on the go. From spicy to sweet and every taste in between, there's something in store to satisfy your taste buds.

Roadside Stall Selling Jackfruit hoangtran7ice / Getty Images

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