9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - Travel Lush

Seriously, what is there to do in Jakarta?  That question has taken me a while to answer.  Jakarta is an incredibly tough city to get to know.  Measuring 662 square kilometers and consisting of over 30 million people (in the greater Jakarta area) exploring this megacity can be a daunting task – and that goes for tourists and newbie expats, like myself.  As someone who has lived in Jakarta for 11 months, I’ve learned how very little information exists about tourist attractions here.  And that’s especially true if you don’t speak bahasa Indonesia.  In my experience, finding things to do in Jakarta is kind of difficult.

I’m trying really hard to make more of an effort to get to know this city before my time here comes to an end.  In the past few months I’ve done a lot to branch out and explore more of this crazy city.  And I’ve been trying my best to visit as many of Jakarta’s top tourist attractions as possible before I move on from this city.  Since I know how tough it is to find fun things to do in Jakarta, I decided to put together a little guide about what to do in the city.

9 fun & weird things to do in Jakarta:

1. PASAR SANTA

Pasar Santa is definitely the new hot spot in Jakarta, and in my opinion it’s a must visit.  Pasar Santa is actually a traditional indoor market but in 2014 Jakarta’s young entrepreneurs had the genius idea of renting out its cheap stalls to house their startup businesses.  Today Pasar Santa is filled with dozens of trendy eateries, vinyl record stores, vintage clothing shops and cool coffee lounges.  It’s probably the only place in town where you can find things like a vegan sandwich shop, a Mexican cantina and a funky hot dog stand.  Pasar Santa is the epitome of cool and a great place go to eat and do some people watching.  (For a more in-depth post all about Pasar Santa head here.)

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

2. MONAS

A visit to Monas (the National Monument) is probably the number one tourist attraction in Jakarta.  I’ve driven past the monument countless times and even visited Merdeka Square, but I have yet to go to the top of the 137-meter-high monument.  Monas opened in 1975 and serves as a symbol of Indonesia’s independence.  It is known to offer one of the best views in town.  And with an admission fee of Rp 15,000 ($1.25 USD), there’s no excuse for not visiting the iconic monument.  The observation deck is open every day from 8am-3pm (it is closed the last Monday of each month).

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

Located right next to Monas is the National Museum.  If you’re visiting the Monas observation deck, admission to the National Museum is already included in your ticket.  I haven’t actually been, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about this museum which offers a glimpse into the diverse cultures, colonial history and natural wonders that make up the Indonesian archipelagoFor hours and more info go here.

3. KOTA TUA (OLD TOWN)

Aside from Monas, the Dutch colonial district of Kota Tua is the one other tourist attraction I was aware of when I first visited Jakarta in 2014.  Before I visited I hadn’t exactly heard great things about Kota Tua, but considering it still stands as a relic of Jakarta’s colonial past, I had to see it for myself.  This part of town boasts beautiful buildings leftover from the Dutch.  Because of the riots in 1998 much of the area is still pretty rundown, but in my opinion it makes Kota Tua all the more fascinating.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

Kota Tua is a great place to walk around, take a look at the old buildings and sample some street food.  There are also a few museums that offer a decent insight into Jakarta’s history.  If you visit on a Sunday (like I did) the square will be filled with Indonesians.  The scene was slightly bizarre, complete with magic shows and people dressed in Halloween costumes (look closely at the picture above)…and no it was not October when I visited.

4. ISTIQLAL MOSQUE & JAKARTA CATHEDRAL

It feels like there are literally mosques on every street corner in Jakarta.  But what makes Istiqlal Mosque special is that it’s the largest mosque in Southeast Asia.  It opened in 1978 in commemoration of Indonesia’s independence, hence it’s name (istiqlal translates to “independence”).  It’s also possible to arrange free guided tours of the grounds.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

Istiqlal Mosque was build directly across the street from Jakarta Cathedral in order to represent the tolerance between religions in Indonesia.  The neo-gothic cathedral dates back to 1901 and it is definitely worth a visit.  Both of these structures are located a short walk from Monas and Merdeka square.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

5. PASAR BARU

Dating back to 1820, Pasar Baru is the oldest market in Jakarta.  The pedestrian-only shopping area is filled with vendors hawking fabrics, vintage cameras and fresh flowers.  It is also home to a diverse mix of Javanese, Indian and Chinese so it’s the perfect place to go to sample all sorts of amazing Indonesian street foods.  I went here on a Sunday.  It was packed with Indonesians and there was no shortage of street food.  A word to the wise…do not eat before you go here.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - Travel Lush

Pasar Baru is also lined with some of the city’s older buildings.  You’ll notice that many remain damaged from the riots in 1998.  It’s a historical and truly fascinating part of town.  Pasar Baru is located within walking distance from Monas and the Jakarta Cathedral.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

6. SKYE BAR

When I moved to Jakarta, one of the first places I was told to visit was Skye Bar.  Located in the heart of the city and surrounded by Jakarta’s modern skyscrapers, the rooftop bar on this 57-story building is supposedly home to the best view in town.  Jakarta might not be the most beautiful city on earth but when it comes to skylines, Jakarta’s is ridiculously picturesque.  Driving around the city I’m still stunned whenever I glimpse skyscrapers in the distance.  And I definitely want to pay a visit to Skye Bar at least once…even if I do have to pay $10 for a Bintang.

7. SUNDA KELAPA PORT

Because Jakarta is such an enormous city, sometimes I forget that it’s actually located on the ocean.  After living here for nearly a year I’ve only glimpsed the ocean twice, which is why I was so excited when a friend suggested we take a drive to the harbor.  I’ll admit that there are no stunning vistas from the Sunda Kelapa Port.  The harbor might be polluted and dirty, but it was kind of cool.

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

It’s definitely not your average touristy thing to do in Jakarta, but I liked it.  The fishing boats are enormous and though it’s a little on the dusty side I enjoyed strolling past the colorful boats and smiling fishermen.  Many fishermen even offered to take us on their canoes to give us a little tour.  Though this would qualify as a weird thing to do in Jakarta, I regret not taking them up on it.  They were only asking Rp 30,000-50,000 and it would have offered a very different view of Jakarta.  If you ask nicely it’s also possible to take a look around one of the big fishing boats (you’ll likely be asked for a bit of money afterwards).

8. GLODOK (JAKARTA’S CHINATOWN)

After coming across this post, I was intrigued by Glodok, Jakarta’s historic Chinatown.  The chaotic and maze-like market is made up of narrow alleyways lined with food carts, temples and hawker stalls, selling everything from incense to electronics to traditional snacks.  I’m a big fan of wandering around markets – finding weird trinkets, sampling unique foods and doing some good ol’ people watching.  And Glodok is the perfect place to do just that.

9. MARTABAK BOSS

After a day full of sightseeing there is pretty much nothing better than visiting Martabak Boss.  This place is pretty much a food truck and there are a few locations around the city.  For those who don’t know what martabak is it’s like a super thick pancake that’s stuffed with anything from chocolate to cheese to chicken.  And they are so good!

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - The Travel Lush

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta - Travel Lush
So freaking good…

Martabak Boss is all the rage in Jakarta right now because they put a contemporary twist on this traditional street food.  You can get martabak filled with anything from Toblerone to Green Tea Kit Kat to Nutella.  I finally got a chance to visit Martabak Boss last week and tried the Nutella, cheese and peanut martabak.  The combination might sound weird but it was heavenly.  And it’s yet another fun thing to do in Jakarta!  (I believe these move around sometimes but the one I visited was located right down the street from the Artotel in Central Jakarta.)

Have you ever been to Jakarta?  Do you have anything to add to this list?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

46 thoughts on “9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta

  1. I went to Jakarta in ’97 and remember very little about it. I do recall visiting the port area and seeing masted wooden schooners being loaded and unloaded. I love ports and spent a couple of hours there watching all the goings on. We also took a water taxi across some of the dirtiest water I had ever seen. When we disembarked we were in a wooden hut housing estate with creaking wooden pathways built over the water. It was also the time of the SEA Games in Jakarta. We couldn’t work out how games to do with the sea could be held there but then realised that SEA stood for South East Asia. We moved on from there to Bogor and then crossed Java via the Indian Ocean to Bali. An absolutely superb trip. Wilbur.

    1. I was just talking about how I’d like to go to the port area. It’s so weird that Jakarta is located on the coast, yet I haven’t even seen the ocean since I moved here. I’ve heard that the water is really polluted, so I’m not at all surprised by what you saw. But still, I think it would be interesting to explore the port area a little bit.

      I traveled across Java and over to Bali last year and, I agree, it was a wonderful trip. Indonesia is a wonderful country to explore :)

    1. Thanks Renuka! I’m beginning to warm up to Jakarta. There’s just such a lack of information about what to do here. But there are actually some interesting things to see and do.

    1. Seriously, rooftop bars are my favorite things Mitzie! Jakarta’s skyline is one of the things I love most about this city. And there is nothing better than sipping a cocktail on a rooftop bar and watching Jakarta’s lights twinkle. It makes me very happy indeed!

    1. I know! I’m not sure exactly what Bintangs cost but I’ve heard they are $10 a pop, which is ridiculous! I will be sure to report back once I finally make it to the Skye Bar.

    1. It really is fascinating. It’s just been a tough city for me to crack. It’s the second largest city in the world, after Tokyo. Isn’t that crazy? I always love Chinatowns so I’m especially excited about visiting Jakarta’s. Jakarta has a very interesting history with the Chinese population here, so that’s something I’ve tried to learn more about since I’ve lived here.

    1. Thanks! It’s taken me awhile to really start appreciating just how much there is to do in this city. But I think Jakarta is finally starting to click with me. I’m definitely eager to check all of these places out. And you’re right, there is an endless amount of things to do here. You just need to know where to go! If you have any recommendations, feel free to pass them along 😉

  2. Since you like architecture, definitely visit the old town because there are still colonial buildings modelled in the european style there. The atmosphere in the town square is good too, there’s usually a bazaar where people peddle souvenirs and street food. I personally didn’t really like TMI but it’s just me. I’ve friends who loved it but it’s probably cos it’s familiar information so it didn’t really capture my interest when I visited…just beware of crowds if you are going to these places during weekends, they like to gather in groups or as one big family :)
    Sha recently posted…Swimming with Wild Dolphins in Rockingham (Australia)

    1. Yes, I definitely want to go to the old town. I’ve heard it has a good atmosphere at times. I think TMI would be kind of fun. It’s definitely a quirky activity. But, you’re right, the crowds would be out of control on the weekends! Good advice 😉

  3. I would definitely go to the Skye Bar! I love city bars with a view. We went to one in Tokyo (from Lost in Translation) recently but the best view was one in Shanghai on 87th floor! I don’t know a lot about Jakarta and it doesn’t always seem like the easiest place to be, but it sounds like there are a few sites for you to explore. I’m glad you’re starting to like Jakarta now and can appreciate your time there. Some cities are definitely harder than others to warm to, that’s for sure!
    Joella in Beijing recently posted…I loved Japan, Of Course

    1. Jakarta has been a hard one for me to crack but I’m definitely starting to warm up to it. It’s just so big and daunting, plus the lack of information about what to do makes things that much harder. But, yes, I’m starting to realize just how much there is to actually do here! I still haven’t made it to Skye Bar but I plan to do so soon. I’m a sucker for bars with a view too 😉

    1. I really love the skyline. I’m still amazed whenever I turn a corner in a taxi and see the skyline unfold in front of me. When I was first traveling in Jakarta I don’t feel like I’d heard about most of the things on this list. It really is kind of difficult to figure out what to do in this city. But I think if there were more information out there for travelers, maybe people would be more inclined to spend more time here.

    1. Jakarta actually does have a lot to offer. I’m right there with you on wanting to visit Skye Bar. There nothing better than feeling you’re on top of a giant city!

  4. Hi Justine, it’s good to read about some fun or weird things to do in the capital city where I work Jakarta. I am an Indonesian and live in Bogor one of its satellite cities. However, there’re a few mistakes you let people know about. They are: Istiqlal mosque was not built in 1978 but was publicly opened that year. The foundation stone was laid by Sukarno–the first President of Indonesia on 24 August 1961. the construction took 17 years. And second, Monas was not erected in 1975, same as above: Construction began in 1961 under the direction of President Sukarno and was opened to the public in 1975. Gladok is more common here as Glodok. Thank you, hopefully you will come back here someday to pay a visit or to know me personally–man of humor.
    Nurman recently posted…Is Sam Harris Muslim Or Buddhism?

    1. Hi Nurman! Thanks for pointing out those mistakes. I went ahead and corrected them. I will definitely be coming back to Indonesia many times in the future. This country has become my home away from home. I don’t think it’s possible for me to stay away for too long 😉

    2. Hi Nurman –

      You said you are from Indonesia. I am coming for a week with kids, what are the fun places you recommend for kids to see, such beaches.

  5. We are traveling to Jakarta for the 1st time in November. Is it worth spending 2 days in Jakarta & then flying to Bali for 2 days?

    1. Hmm, how much time do you have in Indonesia? If you only have four days total they are probably best spent in one place. And that place is definitely Bali. But if you have a couple days to kill, then I would recommend taking two days to explore Jakarta. And then moving onto Bali. If you have any other questions feel free to ask!

  6. Hi Justine,
    I was born and raised in Jakarta and I just wanted to tell you that the Jakarta’s chinatown is Glodok. It’s really fun to see your posts about my hometown and all the things that you find interesting, since for us Indonesian it’s pretty dull and boring. Now, after reading your post, it makes me miss Indonesia so much (I’m currently in Switzerland). Love, love, love all of your posts related to Jakarta (because 99% of your post is so true! especially the traffic.)

    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks for commenting. And thank you for pointing out my error. I just went back and fixed it 😉 It’s so nice to hear from someone who grew up in Jakarta. I still can’t believe I’m not living there anymore. A year is definitely not enough time to get to know Jakarta. I feel like I was just starting to really love and appreciate it! Haha, I DO NOT miss that traffic. It really is so bad!

  7. Hi Justine… great article. A mate and I will be travelling to Jakarta tomorrow (Friday) from Australia and return on the following Monday, so we don’t have masses of time. Any suggestions for a couple of adventurous Aussie lads for a few days??
    Cheers,
    Simmo!

    1. Hmmm…as far as adventurous goes I know Jakarta is pretty famous for its clubs. Not sure if that’s your thing. Also, one thing I really wanted to do but never got the chance to do was the Jakarta Hidden Day tour, which shows the gritty “real” side of Jakarta. If you tell me more what you guys are looking for I might be able to give better advice!

  8. Hi Justine!
    I was born and raised in Jakarta and I really do have fun reading this post. it makes me feel like wanting to walk to these places! (which is actually kinda far from my home since i’m like 5 ams away from airport.) i haven’t visited a few of these places you pointed out but it sure sounds like a great idea to visit. hope you will come back soon!
    (p.s bintang beers cost $3 per can but skye bar do sell expensive things, i’ve been there when i was like 12/13 ish, my mom was having a brunch with her friends and i’m pretty sure the only thing i ordered was caramelised banana and it cost $7! kinda crazy but the food actually tasted good so i don’t really care about it, i was 12/13 after all haha)
    much love from indonesia :)

  9. Nice post. I have been moving to Jakarta since 6 years ago but never really visited Skye Bar despite all the good reviews. But now I am convinced to ty out.
    Recommendations for your upcoming visit to The Big Durian;
    1. Picnic in Taman Surapati while enjoying violinists practicing their music or some dog lovers play around with their cute puppies.
    2. Jimbaran Restaurant at Intercontinental Hotel has a cute decor, it is similar to Balinese wooden decorations, a nice spot to getaway for a couple hours from the bustling of the city.
    3. Sabang street for a late night snack or just a cheap option of street foods
    4. Visit one of the islands in thousand islands
    5. And many more…
    Have fun 😊

  10. Hi Justin, i like your post. Indonesia has a lot of places you need to go,like beautiful beaches,cave,rivers,etc (adventure) if you want to ask something or you want know Indonesia further just send an email or leave message. i will help you out, i like make friend with new people:)

  11. Hi Justin, i like your post. Indonesia has a lot of places you need to go,like beautiful beaches,cave,rivers,etc (adventure) if you want to ask something or you want know Indonesia further just send an email or leave message. i will help you out.

  12. Salam,

    very nice review ..

    and all i can focus is $10 for bintang? c’mon .. that’s blackmail..
    if you know the place and the right people, you only need to pay $2-3 /bottle ..
    but it’s not Sky bar of course ..

    i hope to seeing you again in Jakarta or probably in another city like Bogor or Bandung ..

    cheers,

    Juan

    1. Ha, I never actually visited Skye Bar so I’m not positive about the price. But my good friend told me that everything was quite pricey, including Bintang. But for that view it might be worth it. I hope to visit next time I’m back in Jakarta :)

  13. Hi there I am coming to Jakarta to visit some friends in May this year for two weeks and was just wondering if anyone could recommend things to do and places to see? Also any tips on meeting new people in Jakarta as I’d like to make the most of my two weeks there :) thanks in advance, Alex

    1. It definitely depends on what type of people you’re looking to meet. But if you’re looking for the backpacker scene then Jalan Jaksa is the place to go. Hope this helps and have a great time :)

    2. Hi, Alex, I will be in Jakarta 11-14.05.16 on business, but I will have a few days to look around.. If you have already got some ideas of any unusual place sin Jakarta, please share. Elenora

      1. Where do you want to go? Entertainment? Culinary? Historical? Nature? There are a lot of roof top lounge which is mostly in Central Jakarta, historical & lifestyle cafe in North, western-cafe/lounge in south

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