Are you looking for your next big destination? Well, look no further because Jakarta has a great adventure in store for you. Jakarta is the largest city in Indonesia with a population of around 10 million. For a long time, most people haven't witnessed the hidden gems in this country because it's not a popular destination. However, one thing you should know about this place is despite the continuous development of the urban city, Jakarta is still deeply connected to its traditional roots. With its rich culture, colorful history, friendly natives, and diverse ethnicities, Jakarta has truly become a spot worth exploration.
Join me as I travel to Indonesia's capital. Together, we will discover the places you must see and the experiences you should have in a day!
Hello, Jakarta City!
Hello, Jakarta City!
It was a usual late morning Saturday of September, and the rush of adventure hits me as I wake up. This month is a perfect time to be visiting Jakarta because June until September is the dry season.
With a Google map on hand, we head to the first place on our itinerary- central Jakarta. From our house in Alam Sutera, Tangerang City the trip via Grab Car took us around 45 minutes. From there, we hopped around different destination spots nearby. Here are the places we saw and the activities we did:
Our driver dropped us at the entrance of Mosque Istiqlal, Jakarta and Southeast Asia’s largest mosque. The word istiqlal means "Independence" in Arabic. That is why this building is a symbol of Indonesia's independence from Dutch. The enormous mosque was indeed breathtaking!
At 10 am on a Sunday, the whole place was packed with different nationalities coming in and out. Upon entering, we were asked to register as visitors before leaving our shoes and taking our robes. When we entered the prayer hall, the structure of the place was the first thing that mesmerized us. The prayer hall was a grand dome supported by twelve steel-covered columns. Every corner of the mosque is a beautiful sight of solemn prayer, that's why it made us feel very calm and at peace.
Unfortunately, the mosque was under renovation during our visit – some parts on the 3rd and 4th floors are closed. Luckily, we were still allowed by the kind mosque personnel to enter on the 3rd floor to take some photos. Of course, we made sure we did not disrupt the solemnity of the place- we did not use flash photography nor made any unnecessary noise.
Street Foods Galore!
Going to any place wouldn’t be complete without talking about food – I mean street foods! In front of Mosque Istiqlal are different food stalls and souvenir shops, which I luckily took some shots of. Yep, the blend of sweet smells, attractive trinkets, and chaotic sound blends create a beautiful experience you can only have in the streets!
St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral
Just in front of Southeast Asia's largest mosque is a beautiful neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Church named Saint Mary of the Assumption Cathedral. It's a surreal feeling to see these two beautiful structures neighboring each other. It displays an extraordinary symbol of unity, respect, and reality.
This cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta, Gereja Santa. It was consecrated in 1901 as a Roman Catholic cathedral. Upon entering, you will find a statue of Our Lady Mary. On top of it is a sentence that says, "Beatam Me Dicentes Omnes Generationes" which is Latin for "All generations shall call me blessed."
West Irian Liberation Monument
After a short photo walk in front of the cathedral, we mean to be on our way to MONAS, the freedom monument. However, an interesting monument meters away caught our attention. Turns out, this was the West Irian Liberation Monument, which is located in the center of Lapangan Banteng (formerly the Waterloo Square).
The monument itself stands 36 meters tall. What will surely catch your attention is the bronze statue on top of it. The figure shows a bare-chested man who is spreading his arms and legs free from the shackles. On his face, you can see him screaming and full of rage. This statue symbolizes the independence and rebellion of the country.
MONAS in Merdeka Square
We continue to walk from the west Irian Monument going to MONAS (National Monument of Indonesia). More or less a kilometer away from the Mosque Istiqlal and the Cathedral is this significant structure in the heart of Jakarta. Monas is truly one to catch your eye as it stands 433 feet in the middle of Merdeka Square.
One of the interesting things about this monument is the structure's cup and tower design. These objects are meant to represent two Hindi symbols called lingga and yoni. These elements are representative of male and female energies combined in harmony and balance. They also symbolize fertility and eternal life.
I eagerly took some landscape shots of this iconic structure but decided not to go up on the viewing deck. It was already past noon, and the scorching heat beat down on the long line of people waiting to get on the deck. I decided to carry on with the rest of the trip instead!
From Monas, we ride in a Grab Car going to Kota Tua or also called as Old Town Batavia. Due to the moderate traffic that we encountered, the ride took us around 15 minutes. It was fascinating to see preserved structures wherein the influence of Dutch is still strongly mirrored. The Old Town Batavia is truly a traveler highlight, especially with the historical landmarks that will surely take you to another world. But before exploring other hot spots in the town, we decided to grab some lunch in Café Batavia.
Café Batavia is a restaurant that carries so much history and culture within its walls. It was 1805 when the building broke ground. It was first an art gallery in 1990 before finally becoming a café in 1991. The ambiance of this place is comforting- it has colonial décor and smooth jazz to help you enjoy your dining. Its menu includes a wide range of both Asian and Western dishes that surely satisfied our hunger from walking around.
After having our fill, we went around Kota Tua, which seems to be the center for activities and travel spots. Here you can find the Fatahillah Square which features historical architecture, exotic street foods, and festivals full of art performances. There are also several museums around such as Jakarta History Museum, Wayang Museum, and the Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum. You can also find an eye-catching building that's all red- the Toko Merah. While this place is not open for the public without an appointment, it is still a landmark worthy of seeing.
Thamrin City Shopping Center
We ended this DIY Jakarta Tour at Thamrin City Shopping Center to buy pasalubongs. Yep, this particular mall is the best place to hunt the famous "batik" products in Indonesia. Believe me, the price here is way cheaper! You can also find several handicraft stores, food courts, and other great bargains!
Last year, we had the chance to explore Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a huge park in the southeastern part of Jakarta. It is a more or less 30 minutes ride from Mosque Istiqlal, where you will find models of all the traditional homes across the Indonesian archipelago. I will create a separate article about this interesting park – apologies for the delay!
These are the places and activities that I visited and experienced. But these are not that Jakarta has to offer! You can be sure that the information is accurate as of the published date.
I want to hear from you, too! Help me in updating this travel guide by commenting down below other interesting spots and things to do in Jakarta City.
- Bring along a camera - Jakarta is one of the best places for street photography!
- Bring cash around as some of the best stalls and services in Jakarta are cash-based and does not accept debit/credit card.
- You can exchange your country’s currency or US Dollar into Indonesian Rupiah at the money changers in the airport or shopping malls. The best exchange rate is usually at the shopping malls.
- Remember to wear appropriate clothes specially if you’re planning to visit religious places.
- The weather in Jakarta is generally hot and humid – consider wearing comfortable clothes and always bring a bottle of water.
- Eat where the locals eat! The best way to experience local culture is to eat with the locals.
- GrabCar, GoJek, Blubird taxi, TransJakarta/Busway, metro buses are safe and efficient way to get around the city. You can also rent a car for a more convenient way of exploring the city.