The Best Areas to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
The energetic Malaysian capital is certainly more appealing than most cities in the region, and with a comparatively small population of less than two million, it’s much more manageable than, say, Bangkok or Saigon. Although typically sprawling, the center of KL (as it’s known) is well designed and nicely compact; so that many attractions – museums, parks, or colonial-era buildings – are accessible on foot or via the excellent public transport system.
Economically and politically dominating the entire country, KL has undertaken a remarkable transformation in the past few decades. Dotted among markets, mosques, and temples are massive malls and trendy nightclubs to rival European capitals, as well as high-rise hotels for tourists, apartment complexes for affluent locals, and soaring office blocks (including one of the world’s tallest). Adding immensely to the appeal is the unique cultural blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian people and their broad mix of languages, traditions, and cuisines.
KL is packed with international-brand 5-star hotels and apartments mostly for business people, although some are ideal for families. A pleasing range of boutique hotels are sprinkled around more historic and culturally interesting areas, although they’re not easy to find. Budget-priced accommodations, however, are rarely recommended for location and safety.
In the middle of downtown KL, the fashionable and affluent area of Bukit Bintang is renowned for boutiques and malls as inviting as any in Singapore or Tokyo. Dominated by the Petronas Twin Towers, among various other skyscrapers, Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is very popular, not least for the mega-mall and magnificent parks. Bukit Bintang and KLCC are sometimes included in a region generally called the Golden Triangle, but for ease of reference, we have designated this area as the streets squeezed between Bukit Bintang, KLCC, and Chinatown.
Particularly convenient is Sentral, the hub for the excellent transport system around the capital and across peninsular Malaysia, while nearby are the Lake Gardens, the city’s much-loved ‘lungs’. Virtually attached to Sentral, Brickfields is a vibrant and more affordable area that includes the charismatic Little India. Showcasing the significant Chinese influence across the city are the markets, stalls, and cafés in Chinatown. Nearby, Pudu is equally Chinese but certainly less touristy.
Just west of the Lake Gardens, Bangsar is a prosperous residential area off the tourist trail, while Medan Tuanku and Chow Kit are more relaxed, but, in places, seedy. These two suburbs are populated by Indians and Chinese respectively, and home to many cheap hotels. For something entirely different, Genting Highlands is a Vegas-style complex with a casino and theme parks in the cool mountains only an hour from the steamy capital. And those with late arrivals, early departures, or overnight connections may consider staying at or near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA, with the domestic terminal nearby).
The Best Places to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
- Best Luxury Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
St. Regis • Shangri-La • Grand Millennium • InterContinental • Banyan Tree • Four Seasons
- Best Suites & Apartments in Kuala Lumpur
Parkroyal Serviced Suites • Dorsett • E&O Residences • Oasia Suites • Days Hotel & Suites Fraser Business Park
- Best Kuala Lumpur Hotels for Families
Ritz-Carlton • Mandarin Oriental • Le Méridien • Pullman City Centre • Westin • Swiss-Garden Bukit Bintang • Pullman Bangsar
- Best Kuala Lumpur Boutique Hotels for Couples
The Majestic • The Chow Kit • Traders • Impiana KLCC • Maison Boutique Theme Hotel • MOV Hotel • WOLO • Pacific Express Hotel Central Market
- Best Midrange Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
Ceria Hotel • Travelodge Bukit Bintang • MoMo’s • Prescott Hotel Medan Tuanku • Resorts World Genting • ibis City Centre • Holiday Inn Express City Centre • Hotel Summer View
- Best Budget Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
Hotel 1000 Miles • The Bed KLCC • Double M Hotel @ KL Sentral • Lotus Hotel Masjid India • Easy Hotel KL Sentral • Lantern Hotel
Best Areas in Kuala Lumpur for…
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Sightseeing: Sentral
The Malaysian capital offers a wide range of attractions, including fascinating museums, towering mosques, colorful temples, expansive parks, and world-class malls, and almost all are accessible by public transport. Sentral is a vast and easy-to-use inner-city hub for the excellent light rail and monorail services across the city and for trains to outlying attractions like Batu Caves. And just across the railway tracks, the charismatic Brickfields area is home to Little India.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Nightlife: Bukit Bintang
As a vibrant Asian capital, the choice of things to do after dark across KL is impressive. Despite hefty taxes on alcohol and a Muslim majority, there are plenty of bars – especially in the fashionable and well-off area of Bukit Bintang. Some are on rooftops (even a helipad) of 5-star hotels offering heart-stopping views and jaw-dropping prices. At ground level, Changkat Bukit Bintang is a delightful street overflowing with bars and clubs with live music, open mic nights, and very Happy Hours.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Food and Restaurants: Golden Triangle
The remarkable variety of food across this culturally diverse city includes the cuisines of Malays, Indians, Chinese, and Nyonya/Peranakan (originating from descendants of Malays and Chinese). Many restaurants in the Golden Triangle are particularly elegant, often providing tables among tropical gardens at colonial-era buildings, while others in lofty high-rises have prices as heart-thumping as the views. Check for lunch-time specials and good-value buffets, and always book ahead for window-side tables.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Vibe and Culture: Medan Tuanku
Despite the frenetic freeways, glitzy malls, and concrete high-rises, it’s quite easy to soak up the amazing cultural blend of Malays, Indians, and Chinese within downtown areas. Kuala Lumpur is named after the confluence of two rivers (now mostly stagnant) in the area known as Medan Tuanku (which roughly translates to ‘My God’s Field’). Based around the Moghul-inspired Masjid Jamek, the city’s oldest mosque, and mostly populated by Indians, Medan Tuanku is also walkable to Chinatown and the cluster of heritage buildings at Merdeka Square.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Walking and Cycling: Lake Gardens
With relentless traffic, noise, and crowds, walking around the city is rarely pleasant, and locals use overhead pedestrian bridges and underground subways whenever possible. The definite exception is the majestic Lake Gardens (Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park), which is vast and very convenient. Cycling is also possible there, but otherwise limited to other parks like the one in the northern suburb of Titiwangsa. For further exploration on two wheels, join a tour with MikeBikes that includes Merdeka Square and Chinatown.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Outdoor Activities: Batu Caves
The majority of Malaysians and tourists (most of whom come from Singapore) are not outdoorsy sort of people, but some affluent and courageous locals do enjoy a few adventurous activities just outside the city fringes. These include zip-lining at Hulu Langat and water-sports at Philea Mines Beach Resort, 20kms south of downtown. Less than an hour by train from the city center is the spectacular religious site, Batu Caves. Nearby are rock-climbing, trekking at Bukit Tabur hill, and the Gua Damai Extreme Park for all sorts of adrenalin-pumping activities.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Malls: Bukit Bintang
While produce markets still sprawl across parts of Chinatown, Pudu, and Chow Kit, most locals these days prefer to visit malls and shopping precincts that rival Europe for size, quality, and choice. Around the high-class area of Bukit Bintang are mega-malls like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, with a cinema and fantastic food court, and The Starhill, which has a floor dedicated to arts/crafts galleries and exhibitions. These malls are terrific for families when the heat, humidity, and rain become too much. The KLCC district is also a fantastic area for shopping.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Markets: Chinatown
Around this frenetic district, produce markets overflow with undersized stalls selling meats, fruits, and foods probably unfamiliar to many tourists, while narrow alleys are crammed with medicinal herb shops, minimarts, and noodle cafés. The extraordinary Petaling Street Market springs up along a major road (Jalan Petaling) each afternoon and is dismantled at around midnight. And within the area, Central Market, inside an air-conditioned Art Deco building, is home to hundreds of inviting shops selling clothes, crafts, and souvenirs.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for History: Medan Tuanku
Although only about 160 years old, KL retains some historical reminders spared the onslaught of modernization. The inner-city area of Medan Tuanku is dominated by the Moghul-inspired and British-built Masjid Jamek, the city’s oldest mosque. Just over Gombak River, one of two that lent Kuala Lumpur its name meaning ‘muddy confluence’, is Merdeka Square, where Malaysia’s independence was declared in 1957. Based around a padang (field) where cricket is still played are the Tudor-style and members-only Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (with many historical exhibits), and modest St. Mary’s Cathedral. And over the road from Merdeka Square, the National Textile Museum is in a stunning heritage building.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Saving Money: Brickfields
Of course, areas with glitzy malls, upmarket residences, and 5-star hotels, such as Bukit Bintang and the Golden Triangle, are not cheap – nor are areas particularly convenient (e.g. Sentral) and increasingly redeveloped (e.g. Chinatown). However, some more affordable areas are a little seedy and potentially unsafe, such as Chow Kit, while others like Medan Tuanku can be noisy. Best of all for the budget-conscious is Brickfields, where a decent range of 4-star, 3-star, and cheap hotels and inexpensive eateries are dotted along comparatively quiet backstreets. Brickfields is home to Little India, a major attraction, and just over the railway tracks is the gigantic transport hub, Sentral.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Families: Lake Gardens
There is plenty to entertain the younger ones in KL, especially at the mega-malls. Most offer games arcades and cinemas with English-language films, while Berjaya Times Square (Bukit Bintang) also has an indoor theme park, and Suria KLCC features a science center and aquarium. But what makes KL really special is the truly magnificent and particularly convenient Lake Gardens.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Parks and Gardens: Lake Gardens
Vast enough for shuttlebuses, the massive yet remarkably convenient Lake Gardens (Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park) are also home to the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park; KL Bird Park with flamingos, ostriches, and hornbills; and a sanctuary for cute little deer. What’s more, there are botanical gardens, lakes for paddle boats, and an adventure playground – and along the fringes are the educational and engaging National Museum and National Planetarium.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Museums: Lake Gardens
The magnificent Lake Gardens are flanked by several fabulous museums, many within walking distance of each other. The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is worth visiting for the majestic building and the 7,000+ artifacts from across the Islamic world that it houses. The National Museum provides an outstanding overview of the country’s ancient history, remarkable multiculturalism, and colonial-era heritage. Also, the museum’s gardens are dotted with replicas of traditional houses, free tours are available, and the café is delightful. And the National Planetarium features fascinating displays and educational programs for children, as well as an observation deck and extensive picnic area with a space-age theme.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for Transport: Sentral
As the capital and largest city, KL’s world-class public transport system includes trains, light rail, and monorail – all radiating from the massive and easy-to-navigate hub in the city center called Sentral. This very reliable, cheap, and effective transport is wonderful for exploring the city as well as visiting likable regional towns (e.g. Seremban) and outlying attractions (e.g. Batu Caves). Also, to/from Sentral are buses to the Vegas-style Genting Highlands, express trains (and slower buses) for the international and domestic airports, and trains across peninsular Malaysia and on the way to Singapore and Thailand.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for the Airports: Sentral
The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (with the domestic terminal nearby) is about 60kms from the city center, so a few hotels there do cater for passengers. However, KLIA is very well-connected to the city center through the massive transport hub called Sentral. Direct buses (at least one hour) leave every few minutes, while express trains (less than 30 minutes) depart every 15-20 minutes. If exploring southern Malaysia, consider taking a bus from KLIA to Seremban, a likable regional capital with trains to downtown KL and buses to Melaka.
- Best Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur for First-Timers: Bukit Bintang
Although far smaller in size and population than other Asian capitals like Bangkok and Saigon, the noise, crowds, and traffic in KL can be overwhelming for some, especially those visiting Malaysia and Asia for the first time. The upmarket area of Bukit Bintang is home to a fabulous range of accommodations, and English-speaking staff work at the numerous world-class malls, restaurants serving Western food, familiar fast-food outlets, and moneychangers. The area is also very convenient to the city’s attractions via the easy-to-use public transport system.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur: Genting Highlands
Like most Asian cities, KL is often chaotic and not necessarily an ideal place for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. While it may seem odd recommending somewhere with theme parks and one of the world’s largest casinos, Genting Highlands is certainly worth considering – but only at quiet times when it can be eerily empty (see later). Close enough to day-trip from downtown KL, the Genting Highlands provide gentle walking paths among cool forests and stunning views – especially from the hilltop Chinese temple accessible by free shuttle bus. And luxurious rooms with mountain views can be exceptionally good-value outside of peak times.
- Safest Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur: Genting Highlands
Malaysia is very likely to be significantly safer than the places tourists come from. Most possible dangers are related to alcohol (but Malaysia doesn’t attract hard-drinking tourists common in Bali and Bangkok) or from accidents while simply crossing the road (so use pedestrian bridges and underground subways whenever possible). Far from the city’s many freeways and crowded transport terminals, where pickpockets and bag-snatchers are not uncommon, are the Genting Highlands. Impossibly crowded at peak times, yet otherwise eerily quiet, the overwhelming majority of visitors are Malaysians, often with families, who are extremely unlikely to cause any problems.
- Least Safe Neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur: Chow Kit
As is often the case, the larger the city the more chance of getting into trouble – whether physical assaults (extremely rare anywhere) or vehicle accidents (more common). While traffic in KL is heavy, crossing the road is not as potentially deadly as, for example, Bangkok and Saigon. The sort of opportunistic petty crimes possible at major tourist regions throughout Asia can happen in crowded areas across KL, so take the usual precautions. And avoid minor streets after dark in downtrodden inner-city areas like Chow Kit where prostitution and drugs are not uncommon.
The 12 Best Areas in Kuala Lumpur for Tourists
This trendy neighborhood in the geographical center of KL is the city’s prime area for shopping and nightlife. The streets are crammed with sidewalk cafés, chic bars and clubs, and malls and department stores with neon lights as glitzy as anything in New York and Paris. With a fabulous range of accommodations, including the city’s finest selection of boutique hotels, Bukit Bintang – which translates as ‘Star Hill’ – is convenient to many inner-city attractions, well-connected by public transport, and ideal for those visiting for the first time.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Grand Millennium • Parkroyal • Hotel Royal • JW Marriott
- Best Luxury Suites & Apartments: Parkroyal Serviced Suites • Dorsett • Tribeca Hotel & Serviced Suites
- Best Boutique Hotels: Indie Hotel • Anggun Boutique Hotel • The Kuala Lumpur Journal • MOV Hotel • WOLO
- Best Family Hotels: Ritz-Carlton • Swiss-Garden Bukit Bintang • Gold3 Boutique Hotel • Westin
- Best Midrange Hotels: Ceria • Travelodge Bukit Bintang • InnB Park Hotel • Twenty 8B • Hotel Capitol
2. KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre)
Although not really in the middle of the city, KLCC is a major business and shopping district offering endless places to eat, drink, and shop – often trendy and mostly expensive. The skyline is dominated by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which represent the city’s and country’s recent economic growth and is alongside family-friendly attractions like the glitzy Suria KLCC mall and sprawling KLCC Park. Within walking distance of the city’s prime entertainment district, Bukit Bintang, KLCC is sprinkled with upmarket hotels. Many are very appealing for those traveling with children, but most apartments are privately owned, so quality can vary.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Four Seasons • InterContinental • Banyan Tree • DoubleTree by Hilton
- Best Luxury Suites & Apartments: The RuMa Hotel and Residences • Element
- Best Boutique Hotels: Traders • Royale Chulan • EQ • Impiana KLCC
- Best Family Hotels: Mandarin Oriental • Pullman City Centre • Grand Hyatt • Four Seasons
- Best Midrange Hotels: ibis City Centre • Holiday Inn Express City Centre
- Best Budget Hotel: The Bed KLCC
In some maps and guidebooks, the Golden Triangle is a huge expanse of Kuala Lumpur incorporating KLCC and Bukit Bintang. However, to make it easier, we have subdivided this section of the city and designated the Golden Triangle as the far smaller region based around the Menara KL Tower and northwest of Bukit Bintang and west of KLCC. This area is popular and convenient for those traveling on business, but offers few options for families and nothing recommended in the moderate and budget ranges. Adding to the appeal is the city’s finest selection of restaurants.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Shangri-La • Renaissance • W Kuala Lumpur • Concorde
- Best Luxury Suites & Apartments: E&O Residences • Oasia Suites
- Best Boutique Hotel: Hotel Maya
4. Sentral and Lake Gardens
Aptly named, Sentral is the gigantic hub for the light rail, train, and monorail services across the city, as well as express trains to the international/domestic airports, buses to Genting Highlands, and trains across the peninsula. Hotels in Sentral are within a 15-minute walk of the magnificent Lake Gardens, with its butterfly and bird parks, walking/cycling paths, and surrounding museums; and of Brickfields, the dynamic area incorporating Little India. There are a few international-brand hotels, but surprisingly no apartment complexes – and all are squeezed among freeways, so the area is noisy and unpleasant for walking at ground level.
- Best Luxury Hotel: St. Regis
- Best Boutique Hotel: The Majestic
- Best Family Hotels: Hilton • Le Méridien
5. Brickfields and Little India
Just over the railway tracks from Sentral (KL’s major transport hub), the low-key but charismatic area of Brickfields offers a genuine slice of city life, especially among its numerous Indian shops and eateries blaring out Hindi music. Brickfields includes Little India, a major attraction in itself, which becomes even more vibrant during festivals and when food stalls are set up Saturday evenings. The range of top-end hotels is limited, but there are plenty in the midrange-affordable and budget ranges more appealing than those in Chow Kit and Medan Tuanku. What’s more, Brickfields is very convenient for inner-city attractions and public transport.
- Best Luxury Hotel: Aloft Sentral
- Best Family Hotel: City Central Hotel
- Best Midrange Hotels: Hotel Summer View • M&M Hotel • Euro Life Hotel
- Best Budget Hotels: Metro Hotel @ KL Sentral • Double M Hotel • Easy Hotel KL Sentral • Cozy Hotel @ KL Sentral
Chinatown is not just a district but a tourist attraction in its own right – especially the Petaling Street Market that magically evolves every afternoon, and the city’s oldest Chinese temple, Sin Sze Si Ya. In recent years, more top-end hotels have been built, while those in the boutique and moderate ranges are particularly appealing. Convenient on foot to the colonial-era hub around Merdeka Square and only a couple of stops by train/monorail to the city’s many attractions and malls.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Four Points by Sheraton • AnCasa Hotel
- Best Family Hotels: City Comfort Hotel Bukit Bintang • Travelodge City Centre • The 5 Elements
- Best Boutique Hotels: Pacific Express Central Market • Rain Forest Hotel
- Best Midrange Hotels: Cosmo • Space Hotel
- Best Budget Hotel: Lantern Hotel
East of Chinatown and south of KLCC, Pudu is another authentic slice of Chinese life, but further from the tourist crowds and overpriced hotels. This area is renowned for the Pudu Wet Market, KL’s largest and most fascinating. Although a little distant from inner-city attractions, Pudu is reasonably well-connected by light rail and monorail. Accommodation is good value, but mostly apartment complexes catering for the upmarket Bukit Bintang precinct nearby.
- Best Luxury Suites & Apartments: Days Hotel & Suites Fraser Business Park
- Best Boutique Hotels: H Boutique Hotel Xplorer Loke Yew • Maison Boutique Theme Hotel
- Best Family Hotels: Sunway Velocity Hotel • Vivatel
KL’s most glamorous inner-city suburban area is handy to the major transport hub of Sentral as well as the magnificent Lake Gardens and its surrounding museums. The obvious affluence among residents ensures an impressive range of upmarket amenities, including rooftop bars, cocktail lounges, and nightclubs, while the shopping malls are particularly large and fashionable. Not a wide array of hotels and apartments, but most are comparatively priced.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Alila Bangsar • VE Hotel & Residence
- Best Luxury Suites & Apartments: Komune Living • Imperial Regency Suites & Hotel
- Best Family Hotel: Pullman Bangsar
9. Chow Kit
Mostly populated by Chinese, this energetic area is home to the enormous day-time bazaar packed with live chickens, pigs’ heads, and unrecognizable fruits. However, Chow Kit becomes less appealing after dark as some doorways and alleys are used by prostitutes and drug-takers. Although Chow Kit has several top-end hotels, many in the lower categories are seedy and safety may be a concern, so, obviously, be careful at night and stick to the main roads. Chow Kit blends into Kampung Baru, an enchanting old-fashioned suburb dominated by Malays and retaining a village vibe almost unseen elsewhere in the capital.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Hilton Garden Inn South • Hilton Garden Inn North • AC Hotel
- Best Luxury Suites: Tamu Hotel & Suites
- Best Boutique Hotel: The Chow Kit
- Best Midrange Hotel: MoMo’s
10. Medan Tuanku
Sometimes called Masjid India (‘India Mosque’) or, wrongly, Little India, this V-shaped area is flanked by the two rivers that lent Kuala Lumpur its name, which means ‘muddy confluence’. This frantic and historic suburb is dominated by the Masjid Jamek mosque and mostly populated by Indians, and within a short walk of the cluster of museums and colonial-era buildings at Merdeka Square. A few upmarket hotels spill over from the adjacent Golden Triangle area, and the range of 3-star and budget-priced hotels is more appealing than at adjoining Chow Kit.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Sheraton Imperial • Hotel Stripes • Premiera
- Best Boutique Hotel: Flora by Crossroads
- Best Family Hotel: K Hotel
- Best Midrange Hotels: Big M • Prescott Hotel Medan Tuanku
- Best Budget Hotels: Hotel 1000 Miles • Lotus Hotel Masjid India
Just an hour by bus from KL, this compact region is renowned for its casino (one of the world’s largest) and low-key theme parks among cool and foggy highlands. Other attractions are the walking trails, hilltop Chinese temple accessible by free shuttlebus, and golf course – and getting there part of the way by cable car is half the fun. The gigantic hotels are all part of the Resorts World Genting organization, but more affordable and far smaller options are in the foothills up to 12kms away. During weekends (Friday afternoons to Sunday afternoons) and local school holidays, Genting is impossibly overcrowded, but otherwise eerily quiet. Outside of peak times, hotel rates are slashed, offering much better value than anywhere in KL. (Hint: it is quietest when hotel rates are lowest.)
- Best Luxury Hotels: Resorts World Genting – Highlands Hotel • Resorts World Genting – Genting Grand
- Best Luxury Suites: 7Stonez Geo38 Luxury Suites
- Best Family Hotel: Geo Resort & Hotel
- Best Midrange Hotels: Resort Hotel • Genting Skyworlds
12. Near the Airport
The Kuala Lumpur International Airport and nearby domestic terminal are about 60kms from the city center, but exceptionally well-connected by bus (over an hour) and, better, express train (less than 30 minutes). However, some visitors with late arrivals, early departures, and/or overnight connections choose to stay at or near KLIA. Hotels are available inside the two terminals (some for 6-12 hours), but other accommodations close by, especially at the adjacent town of Nilai, are individually owned and of dubious quality. Otherwise, catch a bus from KLIA and stay at Seremban, a likable regional capital with trains to downtown KL and buses to Melaka.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Mövenpick Hotel & Convention Centre • Sama Sama Hotel
- Best Midrange Hotels: Tune Hotel KLIA-KLIA2 • Aerotel • Sama Sama Express • Sama Sama Express klia2
- Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide
- Kuala Lumpur Hotel Map
- Best Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
- Best Family Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
- Where to Go in Malaysia
- Best Hotels in Penang