Home to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the Jungle Bird, and the world’s best bread – the roti canai – Kuala Lumpur is a fast-growing metropolis with much to offer the discerning traveller. From fabulous rooftop bars to world-class shopping malls to Michelin-starred dining, here’s how to spend a luxurious weekend in Malaysia’s cosmopolitan capital.
When it comes to opulence, it’s hard to beat The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur. The five-star hotel in the stylish Golden Triangle district offers some of the city’s largest and most well-appointed rooms and suites. We’re partial to the elegant Club Suites, which include 24-hour butler service and Club Lounge access and personalized VIP styling sessions at Balmain and Tom Ford in the neighbouring luxury mall The Starhill.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur
Indulge in a spot of afternoon tea at the sophisticated Lobby Lounge, or book a private dining room at award-winning Chinese restaurant Li Yen for authentic Chiu Chow cuisine paired with premium Chinese teas and 30-year-old Chinese rice wines.
For a more boutique but no less luxurious experience, there’s Else. Centrally located in the pulsing heart of Chinatown, this chic, design-forward hotel is housed in a thoughtfully refurbished 1930s building. Start the day with breakfast at the eclectic-chic Raw Kitchen Hall, an all-day Asian-Latin dining room that turns into a sensual cocktail lounge by night. The shakshuka with lamb sausage is a must.
Li Yen at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur
Seeking respite from the city’s frenetic energy? Retreat into the cocoon of Else’s unique sensory deprivation pods and tune the world out. All rooms are designed as private sanctuaries with marble-lined en-suites, but the 84sqm Else Suite, the hotel’s largest, wows with its wraparound balcony that offers sweeping skyline views.
Malaysia is renowned for its mouth-watering street food, but the midday sun can be relentless in the tropics, so it’s best to explore the pasar malams or night markets, like the nearby Petaling Street Market after dark. Instead, head to Sunway City to the swish Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill for lunch. Besides the celebrity chef’s signature classic beef wellington, we recommend the Arnold Bennett twice-baked soufflé, a Savoy Grill classic. If you’re looking for something more casual, Street Pizza, another Gordon Ramsay concept, opened in September just around the corner.
Don’t forget to make dinner reservations for Dewakan, the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant championing indigenous Malaysian ingredients. There’s much to discover on Chef Darren Teoh’s forward-thinking menu, which includes complex, exciting plates like duck tongue dumplings with ubi kemili. Progressive South Indian restaurant Nadodi, just across the park at Four Seasons Hotel, is equally noteworthy. Considered the spiritual successor to Gaggan, its degustation menus meld traditional flavours with contemporary techniques.
After dinner, head down to the award-winning Bar Trigona, also at the Four Seasons. Voted Malaysia’s best bar four years running, the sophisticated haunt takes inspiration from Malaysian produce sourced from local farms. Try the refreshing Limon Ais, featuring the Trigona honey the bar is named after, alongside Espolòn tequila and single estate peppermint.
Given Kuala Lumpur’s infamous traffic conditions, bar hopping is far breezier in Chinatown, where the density of first-rate bars means it’s easier – and more fun – to cover it all on foot. Start with the very hip Small Shifting Space, a natural wine and sharing plates bar designed with a backdrop of silver travertine and exposed brick.
Small Shifting Space
Next, move to PS150, a secretive, winding speakeasy hidden behind a retro toy shop. Follow it with a leisurely sightseeing walk towards Shhhbuuuleee, a rooftop bar atop the arts and culture hub, REXKL. The way up is not straightforward – it includes navigating through a vast, maze-like book store – but the breathtaking cityscape from the open balcony and quaffable Japanese-inspired tipples make it well worth the while.
In a city this dense, you never have to look far for excitement. REXKL, formerly a historic cinema, is also an inclusive event space popular with the local creative community, hosting immersive art exhibitions, electronic music concerts, wine tastings and more. Make friends with the regulars here; they have the lowdown on the best parties in town. Classical music lovers can catch the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, Malaysia’s first-ever classical music hall.
Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas
There are also plenty of shopping opportunities in the city, from high-end malls like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and Suria KLCC to artist-led urban rejuvenation projects like The Zhongshan Building – where you’ll find a natural apothecary, French-inspired boulangerie Tommy Le Baker, and an independent bookstore amidst art galleries and design studios.
If you’re keen to see the crowded capital from above, why not charter a private helicopter tour that takes you as far as the Batu Caves? Air is a stunning way to take in the sights from a different perspective.
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