Five Essential Activities For First-Time Visitors To Jakarta

With roughly 270 million people living within its borders, Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation on the planet—and for a deep dive into the fascinating array of cultures found across the country, there’s no better destination than Jakarta. This massive metropolis has served as the Indonesian capital since 1961, offering a colossal array of top-tier restaurants, museums, and historic landmarks for both visitors and locals to enjoy. As you plan your first visit to this storied city, don’t miss out on these incredible Indonesian experiences.

Try Flavorful Indonesian Cuisine in PIK

Located just east of Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, Pantai Indah Kapuk—or PIK, for short—is one of Jakarta’s most affluent communities, providing visitors with a wealth of polished restaurants to enjoy during a visit. While the province of Bali has earned abundant acclaim for its spectacular natural beauty, visitors to PIK can experience the island’s culinary prowess at Umaqita, a vibrant venue that offers classic dishes ranging from tipat cantok to bebek betutu. Just west of the restaurant, visitors can swing by Unicorn Rental to grab a bicycle and take advantage of PIK’s many streetside restaurants. For craft beer aficionados, Beerholic offers a massive array of both domestic and international brews, while nearby Cahaya Senja is a top spot for hearty Indonesian classics like nasi goreng, one of the nation’s most beloved dishes.

Explore Kota Tua, Jakarta’s Historic Colonial District

Indonesia officially gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949, but the legacy of the archipelago’s colonial past can be discovered firsthand during a visit to Kota Tua. Once known as Batavia, this historic district was a major trade hub for the Dutch East India Company, with the stately Jakarta History Museum offering ample insight into its development. Other popular attractions range from the colonial-era Toko Merah to the puppetry-themed Wayang Museum—and after exploring the district’s wealth of landmarks, Glodok is a top-tier dining destination. Best known for its large concentration of Chinese residents, the district offers upscale restaurants like Thien Thien Lai, a popular spot for dim sum and other classic East Asian fare.

Uncover Indonesian History at the National Museum

With roughly 17,000 islands united under one nation, Indonesia has a particularly diverse and fascinating history—and for those wishing to uncover the country’s storied past, a visit to the National Museum of Indonesia is absolutely essential. Founded in 1778, this iconic institution is home to more than 150,000 different artifacts sourced from all across the archipelago, with specific wings dedicated to centuries-old Buddhist statues, East and Southeast Asian pottery, and Indonesia’s lengthy legacy of seafaring. For those wishing to gain further insight into the rich array of cultures found across Indonesia, the museum offers a massive ethnography map alongside exhibits that highlight daily life across the different islands.

Bask in the Beauty of Jakarta’s Thousand Islands

If you need a break from the endless Jakarta traffic, the city’s scenic Thousand Islands serve as the perfect escape. Though not quite true to their name (there’s only about 100 of them in total) these tiny isles offer a wealth of native wildlife alongside scenic beaches to sunbathe on. Just past the Java coast, Pulau Ayer offers a wealth of amenities ranging from restaurants to outdoor swimming pools to cozy cottages, while Pulau Rambut is one of the Jakarta area’s top destinations for wildlife lovers. A paradise for birdwatching, this tranquil getaway is loaded with native Indonesian avifauna, with frigatebirds, ibises, and Javan plovers all calling the island home.

Trek Through Jakarta’s Scenic Mangrove Forests

Though Jakarta certainly meets the definition of “urban jungle,” that doesn’t mean the city is completely devoid of nature. Case in point: Taman Wisata Alam Mangrove Angke Kapuk, a verdant ecological preserve just outside Soekarno–Hatta International Airport. As the name implies, this sprawling park is rife with native Indonesian mangroves, with no shortage of fascinating fauna calling the forests home. During a stroll along the boardwalk, visitors can spot a plethora of birds ranging from Sunda teals to Javan bulbuls to coppersmith barbets, while massive monitor lizards stroll along the path. For best results, be sure to head to the property’s observation tower to bask in the beauty of the surrounding forest as you search for native wildlife.

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