Travel tips and advice for Jakarta, Indonesia: 10 things you must do


The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum MACAN) has been open only since late 2017 but it's already been named as one of the World's 100 Greatest Places by Time magazine. Hidden away on the upper floors of a tower building in West Jakarta, the contemporary 7000-square-metre exhibition space punches above its weight in terms of local and international art. At the time of our visit there was an Arahmaiani retrospective and several thought-provoking works by Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei. Guernica in Sand and the dance performance of Our Labyrinth were particularly impressive. The museum is closed Mondays. See


The Wayang Museum facing Fatahillah Square in the Kota Tua neighbourhood of Jakarta is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it has a brilliantly fascinating, weird, bizarre, grotesque, eerie collection of puppets, masks and dolls, including the beautiful Javanese shadow puppets. On the other hand, it's possibly the best collection displayed to the worst and most haphazard advantage I've ever seen. Go for the puppets. See


Ragil Imam Wibowo was named Asian cuisine chef of the year (regional) at the World Gourmet Summit in 2018 and can be found rattling the pans (or applying the tweezers) to his delicate but spicy specialities at Nusa restaurant. Taking inspiration from recipes from all over the vast Indonesian archipelago (with a soupcon of Dutch thrown in) he tells the story of the country in edible form. Don't miss the moreish krupuk kulit (cattle skin crackling). See


If you like a bit of batik, hanker after a headscarf or need to search for a sari, Thamrin City is a massive shopping complex in central Jakarta where, as far as I could see, every bit of batik, scarf or sari in the world goes in search of a buyer. Ten floors, 20 escalators, 14 elevators, food courts, souvenir stalls, electronics areas, you name it. Stroll, take your time, compare prices and bargain. See


Arrive hungry at Cafe Batavia

Arrive hungry at Cafe Batavia/ Photo: Alamy

Cafe Batavia (Jl. Pintu Besar Utara 14, Kota) is a charmingly historical restaurant in a corner of Fatahillah Square in the Old Town (Kota Tua). Built in the early 1830s, it is a beautiful two-storey colonial building that today houses an informal Grand Salon downstairs and a galleried restaurant upstairs that overlooks the square through shuttered windows. The classy and atmospheric interior is furnished in a 1930s style, with vintage photographs everywhere. The Rijstaffel menu is rightly praised and the es campur betawi dessert (coconut, sea weed, milk, syrup, jackfruit, shaved ice) is delicious. Arrive hungry.


The Monument of Indonesian Glorious Fight of Freedom is an obelisk in a popular park in the middle of Jakarta. There's a viewing deck at the top with great views of the city, a square platform around the base and a basement full of 51 dioramas representing various historical events in the country's history. The numbers 17, 8 and 45, representing the 17 August 1945 Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, have been incorporated in the dimensions of the monument. See


The Istiqlal (Independence) Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and the third largest Sunni mosque in terms of capacity (it can hold 200,000 people at a pinch). Opened in 1978, it sits next to Merdeka Square and Jakarta Catholic Cathedral (to which it lends its car park on busy Christian days such as Christmas). Architecturally, it's a bit monochromatic and brutalist for my tastes but nonetheless impressive. See


Fun, friendly and frenetic: Fatahillah Square.

Fun, friendly and frenetic: Fatahillah Square. Photo: Shutterstock

Fatahillah Square in the Old Town neighbourhood is the place to go if you want to see the locals at play, especially on a weekend. Full of picnicking parents, funky teenagers and even younger kids wobbling around on eye-wincingly bright-pink hired bicycles, it's fun and friendly and frenetic. You will be approached by shockingly polite students eager to practise their English or complete homework assignments. Take the time to stop and chat. See



Haven't got the time to dash around Indonesia's 17,000 islands, 26 provinces and meet members of its 300 native ethnic groups? Then Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is the place for you. The literal translation is Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park, which sums it up. Dozens of separate pavilions each showcase an aspect of the different regions – architecture, food, clothing, dances and traditions from West Sumatra to Bali and South Sulawesi. And it's all ranged around a lake with a miniature of the Indonesian archipelago in the middle of it. Nutty but nice. See

Keith Austin was a guest of Wonderful Indonesia.