24 hours in Melaka, Malaysia

Last November, while in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to take a short overnight trip to the picturesque UNESCO world heritage city of Melaka. Spending 24 hours in Melaka was the perfect way to relax after a busy few days of sightseeing in the busy metropolis that is Kuala Lumpur. Between the half-maintained colonial architecture, the dated cars and the quiet atmosphere, spending an overnight in Melaka felt almost like time travel.

Found on the coast, the city of Melaka started as a fishing town but during the 14th century became a strategic port in Asian trade routes (sounds like a similar story to Hoi An in Vietnam, right?). Over its history Melaka has passed through many different colonisers: first were Chinese traders, then the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, the French and the British. Evidence of the European colonisers can still be seen in the beautiful colonial architecture. In 2008, the city was named a UNSECO World Heritage site for its unique architecture and cultural importance.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia unique architecture

How to travel to Melaka

Melaka is almost equidistant between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which makes it convenient to travel to from either of these Asian hubs. The only way to really travel to Melaka, be that from Singapore or within Malaysia, is by bus. If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur like us then you will find no shortage of daily buses to Melaka (look for “Malacca”, the regional area when booking). We found that the early morning buses were cheaper and thankfully some of these leave from hotels in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, preventing the need to navigate trains out to the main bus terminal (TBS station) in the early hours. If you’re willing to travel to the station early then you can get the cheapest coaches on offer, but we were too sleepy after a busy few days to contemplate an early morning commute. We booked our buses online in advance via this site and found it reliable.

The bus journey from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka takes between 2-3 hours. To get to Melaka we took a small day-tour-sized bus, on which we were the only passengers. For the return we got a coach which was very comfortable, especially considering it only cost £2.50, We definitely preferred the bigger coach as the chairs fully reclined and had foot rests, plus there was a personal AC. On arrival we were dropped off about a 30 minute walk from the Dutch Square, but on the return we had to departed from Melaka Bus Station which was not walkable and definitely warrants a taxi.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia

Getting around Melaka is incredibly easy as everything you could want to do is situated within a walkable city centre area. During our 24 hours in Melaka we found no need to use taxis, other than to get to the bus station for our trip back to Kuala Lumpur.

Where to Stay?

With only 24 hours in Melaka we decided to go super cheap on accommodation, as we were not going to be in it for very long. We stayed at the One River Residence hostel which pleasantly surprised us! It’s basic, but with a comfortable bed, hot showers and good wifi, we were content. Unfortunately there was only one plug socket in our room so we had to take shifts at recharging our devices but it wasn’t really an issue for us. The social space was quite relaxing, with an open air view of the river below. The host was lovely and accommodating, letting us into the room despite arriving much earlier than check-in and booking a taxi for us. There was however no safe which I wish we had checked before as it definitely adds a level of security!

We recommend staying near the river for its proximity to the main centre while still offering peace and quiet.

Where to Eat

As recommended by our host we headed straight to Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball, the best place in town to try the Melaka’s famous rice balls and chicken. Be prepared to stand in a queue to get a table as this place is super popular with Malaysian tourists! But the queuing was worth it for the juicy chicken. The rice balls were not like what we expected. They were really sticky so has a somewhat interesting texture and I felt maybe a bit bland – the chilli definitely added a nice kick to the dish.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia chicken rice balls

When the afternoon heat gets too much be sure to head to Inside Scoop to try some of their homemade ice cream. We tried the chocolate (highly recommend, super rich and made with Malay cocoa), salted caramel, mango and lemon ice cream – the perfect refreshments to help cool down.

On the weekend Jonker Street hosts a night food market which is apparently the bees-knees. Unfortunately with only 24 hours in Melaka we didn’t get to witness the night market as its only on Friday and Saturday nights. But we image that it is the go-to place to grab dinner on weekends. Unfortunately we took a quick power nap before heading out for dinner, and accidentally slept through until 8:30pm. Oops. By the time we finally headed out to find dinner the options were extremely limited. We ended up wandering in a bit of a panic that we’d have to settle with The Hard Rock Cafe before stumbling upon Jonker Street Hawker Centre (see map). This place was clearly the go-to midweek dinner option with both tourists and locals getting their evening feed. Thankfully we were able to fill up with some fabby Indian cuisine (all while being serenaded by some mediocre live music).

Note: Midweek Melaka during off-season is very sleepy at night, be sure to head for dinner at a normal time to guarantee finding food.

How to spend 24 hours in Melaka

As it goes with many of the UNESCO town that are protected for their architecture, there isn’t a lot of “attractions” as per say. The main beautify of spending time in places like Melaka is to soak up the streets and buildings and just enjoy being somewhere that flashes back to the past. This makes Melaka the perfect place to recharge your batteries and slow down between destinations. That said, here are some things you should try to do and see while spending a calm 24 hours in Melaka.

Get lost wandering

This was how we spent most of our afternoon – heading down random streets and checking out the unique architecture. You’ll find adorable shuttered houses, an abundance of tiled terraces, not to mention these gorgeous windows. We just couldn’t get enough of them – aren’t they perfect for a noisy neighbour?

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia unique architecture

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia unique architecture

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia unique architecture

A’Famosa Fort

As one of the oldest European buildings in Asia, the gate house of the Portuguese fort in Melaka has many tales to tell. The fort was first built when the Portuguese over threw the army of Melaka but over time change to the Dutch hands and then the British, who eventually ordered its demolition in the early 1800s. It is free to explore and has information boards to learn about its history.

Check out the rustic red of Christ Church and Dutch Square

The iconic red square it well worth a look, and of course take a peak inside the church – its actually much bigger than you’d expect. I believe there is a museum just behind the square but I’m afraid we weren’t feeling inclined during our stay and stuck to relaxing in the square instead.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia Christ Church

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia Dutch Square

Walk along the river

Melaka has a beautiful walkway which runs along the river. Lined with trees and cool houses you’re sure to feel at peace taking a stroll here. We even caught a peak of some huge iguanas while wandering along the river paths.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia riverside

Search for street art

Melaka seems to joining in on the trend that has made Georgetown in northern Malaysia super popular – street art. There’s even a whole back lane which is covered in Georgetown-esk graffiti. Aside from that there are a ton of other cool street art installations to go hunting for.

— Don’t know what I’m on about? Check out the Georgetown graffiti here (coming soon) —

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia Jonker Street

The Jonker Street tour

More of a walk than a tour, you can find leaflets which will guide you down Jonker Street telling you all about the different buildings! We stuck to browsing and eating our way down this funky little street (enjoy chicken and rice balls at the start, and then halfway down you’ll find the ice cream shop).

Museums: Okay so we didn’t actually go to any of the museums as none of them particularly tickled our fancy but there are a lot of them (apparently a whole 21!) so it’s worth considering them. Check out the different museums here.

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia

What to Budget for 24 hours in Melaka

Travelled November 2016  |  Cost for 2 people for 1 nights and 1 days in Melaka

Total trip cost:245RM£44
Return bus to Melaka from KL65RM
£11.67
Accommodation50RM
£8.98
Food and Drink130RM£23.35
Activities0RM£0

Yeah, that’s right. During our 24 hours in Melaka we only spent £44. Between two people. Because we didn’t visit any pay-for-attractions we were able to keep everything super cheap. In terms of costs, we enjoyed a late lunch and a couple of drinks which were pretty expensive so if we had been on a budget we could have kept it even cheaper.

Prices are in Malaysian Ringgit and British Pound – conversions are estimates based upon the exchange rate at the time of travel.

We love exploring cute UNESCO towns, so spending 24 hours in Melaka was the perfectly city escape. What is your favourite UNESCO heritage site so we can add it to our bucketlist!

Before you go…

how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia pinterest so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia unique architecture
how to spend 24 hours in Melaka Malaysia pinterest so the adventure begins travel blog living in Asia christ church dutch square

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13 Comment

  1. Sapna says: Reply

    Wow…. That’s a really good budget for travel, food, and stay.
    I pinned the post for my future reference.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks so much. It is incredibly cheap – maybe because it was off-peak season too!

  2. Bryony says: Reply

    I’ve never heard of Melaka which annoys me because it looks like a great little location to visit and obviously isn’t a UNESCO world heritage site for nothing! Malaysia is definitely on my bucket list along with a lot more of Asia which I’m yet to see. Thanks for sharing your top tips love the 24 hours in section and of course, all your fab photos!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks Bryony – I had also never heard of it until we tried to find a side-trip to do from Kuala Lumpur. Hope you make it out to Malaysia one day, the food is to die for!

  3. Meg says: Reply

    I was in Malaysia a few months back and didn’t have the time to squeeze in a trip to Malaka but really wish I did! I heard great things about the night market there. It looks like I would have enjoyed my visit there. Oh well, next time!

  4. I love KL but didn’t get a chance to see any other cities in Malaysia. Now from seeing your post I know I should have! For sure not a bad quick trip as you sent so little money. Maybe one day I will go back and check out this city.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      KL really is a great city to visit for a taste of Malaysia (quite literally, as the food scene is amaaazing). Maybe one day!

  5. I’ve never heard of this place but it looks really cute. Great photos! And always love some budget travel tips! Sounds very doable on a budget 🙂

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      It really is – very budget friendly, but some of that might be due to travelling in the off-peak season and mid-week 🙂

  6. Flo says: Reply

    44 quid? That’s such a steal! Melaka looks like a fantastic place to wander around – those circular windows are so cute!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      I know! We couldn’t believe it when we added it back up..and that’s including some drinks with our lunch!

  7. With its diverse history, Melaka sounds and looks like one incredible and unique place! I would definitely love to visit one day. Thank you for all of the helpful advice and tips!

  8. Olivia says: Reply

    This place is stunning. I love that places like this are able to be preserved for generations to enjoy!

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