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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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) —
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.
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 KL||65RM||£11.67|
|Food and Drink||130RM||£23.35|
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…